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The Banff Gondola – With Tips from Locals

The Banff Gondola is one of the best things to do in Banff National Park. Visitors who take the Banff sightseeing gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain will be treated to 360-degree views of the majestic Canadian Rockies, a state-of-the art Upper Terminal with several excellent restaurants.

Of course, you must spend as much time outdoors at the mountaintop as you can. We highly recommend the short, easy walk along the ridgetop boardwalk to the Cosmic Ray Station, a National Historic Site of Canada.

Here is everything you need to know about visiting the Banff Gondola (also known as the Sulphur Mountain Gondola):

Banff Gondola - Sulphur Mountain

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Banff Gondola Lower Terminal

Your Banff Gondola experience begins at the Lower Terminal at the far end of Mountain Avenue. Within the Lower Terminal you’ll find the ticket counter, a well-stocked gift shop and a Starbucks. There’s a coffee shop up top as well, but if you are partial to Starbucks coffee, grab your Venti before going up.

Banff Gondola Lower Terminal

Before your gondola ride, keep in mind that the temperature at the summit is often 10°C ( 50°F) cooler up top than it is down at the Lower Terminal. You may wish to bring some extra layers if you are worried about the temperature.

The Banff Sightseeing Gondola Ride

After enjoying the amenities at the Lower Terminal, you’ll begin your exhilarating gondola ride to the summit. During your eight minute journey, you’ll rise from an elevation of 1,583 m to 2,281 m above sea level.

Banff Gondola Cable Cars and Lower Terminal

As you smoothly glide to the summit, keep your eyes peeled on the trails in the forest below for intrepid hikers or even one of Banff’s beloved forest creatures. There’s few experiences more exciting than spotting Banff wildlife in their natural habitat.

Note that although the gondola cabins are enclosed and protected from the wind, they are not heated, so ensure you dress appropriately if your gondola ride is in winter.

Couple Rides Banff Gondola

Sulphur Mountain Upper Terminal

All too soon, you’ll arrive at the newly transformed Upper Terminal, where you will find amazing food, a fun interpretive centre, and of course incredible views of the Canadian Rockies. The new Banff Gondola summit terminal has 4 levels:

Sign in Banff Gondola Upper Terminal

Level 1

This is the level where guests disembark from their gondola ride. You’ll be welcomed to the top with a chance to get a warm coffee or snack at Castle Mountain Coffee. Level 1 is also where you’ll board for your gondola ride back to the base, so it’s no surprise there is a large, well-stocked gift shop as well.

Level 2

The highlight of the second level is the amazing interpretive centre. Kids of all ages will love exploring this area and enjoying the many interactive interpretive exhibits.

In addition to the floor-to-ceiling windows, the interpretive centre is filled with lots of interesting information about Banff, but the real treat is the hands-on exhibits. Just wait until you put your hand inside a paw print of a grizzly bear – you won’t believe the size of it!

Interpretive Centre - Banff Gondola

It’s no surprise that there are plenty of fun things for kids to do in the interpretive centre. Our kids love playing in the little tent cabin, the tunnels to crawl through and the life-sized grizzly bear and cougar video projections.

Kids in Banff Gondola Upper Terminal Interpretive Centre

But, perhaps their favorite exhibit within the interpretive centre is the scat display. As funny as it is for kids, it’s also very helpful identifying the various animal poops you’ll encounter on the easy Banff winter hikes around town.

Another popular attraction on the Upper Terminal Level is is the new multi-sensory Above Banff Theatre. In this unique experience you’ll glide over the magnificent Canadian Rockies from the perspective of a bald eagle, then witness the raw power of Mother Nature over the rugged Bow Valley.

Level 3

You’ll find the two Banff Gondola restaurants on Level 3 of the Upper Terminal. Get more details on the Sky Bistro and Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen below.

two kids having hot chocolate at Sky Bistro in Banff

Level 4

We love the outdoor 360-degree rooftop observation deck on Level 4. From this elevated viewpoint, you can see all the way from Lake Minnewanka to Lake Louise.

View from Banff Gondola

You’ll find the iconic glass bear on the Level 4 observation deck, along with plenty of places to sit and take in the views. In wintertime, you’ll also find many comfy chairs around several firepits.

Fire pit atop Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk

In season, this is also where you’ll find Peak Patio, one of Banff’s best outdoor patio restaurants.

Can’t get enough of those incredible Banff views? Visit one of these other Banff Gondolas and Chairlifts!

Sulphur Mountain Outdoor Summit Area

Any mountaintop experience wouldn’t be complete without the chance to go outdoors and feel the exhilarating mountain air on your skin while enjoying the outstanding views of the Canadian Rockies. With a paved walkway wrapping all the way around the Upper Terminal, guests will love exploring the views of the Canadian Rockies from every angle.

If you’d like a close-up look at anything, there are plenty of coin-operated binoculars to enjoy.

View from the top of Sulphur Mountain - Banff Gondola

For guests wishing to make a day of their trip up the Sulphur Mountain gondola, there are many picnic tables outside – a perfect place for a picnic in Banff!

Picnic Tables on Sulphur Mountain

The Banff National Park Views

So, what can you see atop the Banff gondola? The answer is, what can’t you see?!?

Looking west, you can see all the way to the mountains of Lake Louise, including Mt. Bourgeau (2,930 m) and the massive Mt. Temple (3,544 m)

Sign showing Banff Mountains from the top of Banff Gondola

As you look northwest towards the national historic site, you’ll see Mt. Cory (2,802 m) poking it’s summit up on the left, while Mt. Norquay (2,522 m) is to the right.

Perhaps the view looking north is the best of all. From this vantage point, you’ll enjoy views of the townsite, Tunnel Mountain (1692 m), the Banff Springs Hotel and golf course, the Bow River, Cascade Mountain (2,988 m), Mt. Inglismaldie (2,964 m) and Lake Minnewanka.

View of Banff Townsite from Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk

The view looking east is dominated by Mount Rundle (2,949 m), one of the most beautiful of the peaks in the Canadian Rockies.

Looking south, you can see the true summit of Sulphur Mountain, with Mt. Rundle stretching all the way to Canmore on the left and the beautiful Sundance Range on the right.

See the Canadian Rockies views for yourself on the Banff Gondola Live Webcam.

The Sulphur Mountain Ridgetop Boardwalk

One of our favorite things to do after our Banff Gondola ride is to walk the Sulphur Mountain boardwalk to the Cosmic Ray Station on Sanson’s Peak, which is one of the best Banff viewpoints. The 500 m walk from the Upper Terminal to the national historic site is along a wide wooden boardwalk with many built-in benches.

Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk - Banff Easy walks

Take your time meandering up the Sulphur Mountain boardwalk and learn about Banff National Park through the abundant interpretive signs along the way. A fun activity for kids is to try and find Norman Sanson on 8 of the interpretive signs along the way.

The trees surrounding the ridgetop boardwalk gives visitors a good opportunity to see an endangered whitebark pine up close and learn about the challenges it faces to stay alive.

White Bark Pine on Sulphur Mountain

As you near the end of the boardwalk, the panoramic views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains from the viewing platform are even better than the view from the Upper Terminal.

A fun surprise at the the next platform up from the viewing platform are another pair of the iconic Parks Canada red chairs. It’s always a great photo opportunity sitting on these fun chairs.

Parks Canada Red Chairs at the Top of Banff Gondola

The wooden ridgetop boardwalk ends just a few meters shy of the Cosmic Ray Station and the trail suddenly becomes natural with many protruding rocks. Perhaps this is to give visitors a feel of what a real hiking trail is like atop a mountain in the Canadian Rockies? In any case, watch your step as the surface is uneven and it can get very crowded in this area.

Mountain Views from Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk - easy walks in Banff

Due to its national significance, the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station was named a National Historic Site of Canada. Take a walk along the a little balcony around the building for an opportunity to look inside through one of the windows. If the crowds are not too bad, take a moment to soak in the views – they are the best views you can find up top.

Cosmic Ray Station - Banff Gondola

Banff Gondola Restaurants

Sky Bistro

Featuring two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows, the award-winning Sky Bistro is your place for fine dining in the sky. Recently named the #1 restaurant in Banff by TripAdvisor, and the Most Romantic Restaurant in Canada by OpenTable, you simply can’t miss an opportunity to dine at the Sky Bistro.

Reservations are strongly recommended to dine at this top Banff Gondola restaurant. Reservations can be made as part of the Sky Experience admission and dining package or via OpenTable (separate to your admission ticket).

Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen

Not to be outdone, the Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen also offers floor-to-ceiling windows to showcase the spectacular views of Banff National Park. The Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen offers a creative menu, served buffet style for both lunch and dinner.

Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen - Banff Gondola Restaurants

Reservations for the Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen are available when you book the Northern Lights Nightrise Dinner package.

Peak Patio

Open seasonally, the Peak Patio offers light bites and tasty beverages to enjoy outdoors. The food just tastes better when enjoying the fresh air of Banff National Park.

Castle Mountain Coffee

There’s nothing like enjoying a piping hot coffee in the fresh mountain air on your walk along the ridgetop boardwalk. Located on Level 1 of the Upper Terminal, Castle Mountain Coffee is your home for hot drinks and quick snacks.

Banff Gondola Tickets

Banff Gondola Price

The Sulphur Mountain gondola has a variable pricing policy in effect. In a nutshell, the busier the Banff Gondola is projected to be, the higher the price will be. The time of day for your visit, the day of the week and how far in advance you book are all variables which impact the price of your admission ticket.

Prices are subject to change, but typical prices range from $53 to $61 per adult and $26.50 to $31.50 for children 6 and up.

To increase your chances of getting the best price for your Banff Gondola ride, book your tickets as early as possible and try to schedule your visit midweek.

Cable Car - Gondola in Banff

Banff Gondola Discounts

Alberta Locals Discount

Alberta residents enjoy a Banff Gondola discount. The variable pricing policy is in effect for Alberta residents as well, but the Banff Gondola Alberta resident discount can range between $10-12 for adults and $5-7 for children.

Family Experience

Alberta locals are not the only ones who can enjoy discounted Banff Gondola pricing; families can get discounts too if they visit the summit of Sulphur Mountain early in the day! Families who book Family Experience tickets enjoy one free child admission for every paying adult.

Sulphur Mountain Gondola in Banff National Park

Banff Gondola Gift Tickets

During the Christmas shopping season, the Banff Gondola offers gift tickets for sale. A unique gift idea for the Canadian Rocky Mountain lover in your life, the gift tickets offer up to a 10% discount on normal peak Banff Gondola ticket prices.

Package Deals

Visitors can save up to 25% by purchasing their tickets for several top area attractions as a package. The Banff Explorer package bundles tickets for the gondola ride and the Lake Minnewanka cruise, while the Banff Ultimate Explorer package also includes the Columbia Icefield Skywalk.

Rocky Mountain Sheep Statues at Lower Terminal - Banff Gondola

Banff Gondola Tours

Joining an organized tour is a great way to easily see the best of Banff. Here are some top tours which visit the Banff Gondola:

Banff: Sightseeing, Lake Minnewanka Cruise, & Banff Gondola: Offered seasonally, this excellent tour visits many of our favorites spots, including Bow Falls, Tunnel Mountain, Surprise Corner, the Hoodoos and the Two Jack Viewpoint. But the highlights of this tour will be the amazing Lake Minnewanka boat cruise and, of course, the gondola ride.

Sulphur Mountain Highline Trek: This unique hiking tour begins at the Upper Terminal and takes you on an exciting hike along the Sulphur Mountain ridgeline to the true summit.

Banff Mountains from Sulphur Mountain Gondola

Banff Gondola in Winter

Canada’s mountain parks may get the most visitors during the warm summer months, but in our opinion the Canadian Rockies are the most beautiful in winter. There are few places to enjoy the majesty of the snow capped mountain peaks of the Spray Valley than the Banff Gondola.

Banff Gondola - Winter

In addition to the incredible Rocky Mountain scenery, there are lots of fun things to do atop Sulphur Mountain in winter. After enjoying a leisurely walk along the ridgetop boardwalk, we recommend grabbing a warm drink and gather by an outdoor fireplace and just soak in the mountain vistas.

Kids looking through binoculars atop Banff Gondola in Winter

Banff Gondola Nightrise

Every evening from early December to mid-March guests can enjoy Nightrise, an after-dark adventure atop Sulphur Mountain. The Nightrise experience transforms the mountaintop experience through music and lighting, allowing guests to experience this magical winter wonderland in new and immersive ways. This unique Banff in winter experience was created with participation of the Stoney Nakoda Nation.

Banff Gondola Christmas

Mountaintop Christmas

One of our favorite things to do in Banff at Christmas is the Banff Gondola Mountaintop Christmas. Parents will enjoy the ice sculptures and the holiday cocktails bar, while kids will love the crafts, cookie decorating and of course, a visit with Santa! Best of all, kids go free if you buy your admission tickets before noon.

Getting pictures with Santa in Banff

Elf Express

The Elf Express is another fun way to enjoy the Mountaintop Christmas. Take a ride from downtown Banff to the lower terminal in a Christmas decorated coach while listening to stories from Santa’s helper. Once at the lower terminal, get whisked to the summit of Sulphur Mountain to enjoy the rest of the Mountaintop Christmas experience.

Additional Christmas Experiences

As if a visit with Santa isn’t enough, guests visiting the Banff Gondola during the Christmas season will enjoy sugar shack maple toffee, Christmas carolers, feature Christmas films and hot chocolate or mulled wine at the North Pole bar. Dates for each experience may vary.

Ice Sculpture at Banff Gondola

Sulphur Mountain Hike

The Banff sightseeing gondola is an undoubtedly fun experience, but to be very honest with you, we enjoy our time at the top even more when we hike up instead. In fact, because of the payoff at the top, the Sulphur Mountain Trail is one of our favorite hikes in Banff National Park and one of the best FREE things to do in Banff.

woman hiking sulphur mountain

The Sulphur Mountain trail isn’t for everyone, but in our experience most people with a good attitude and a smile on their face can make it to the top. If you love a good mountain hike, or are visiting Banff on a budget, learn more about the Sulphur Mountain hike to see if it’s right for you.

Getting to the Sulphur Mountain Gondola

If you are wondering how to get to the Banff Gondola ride, visitors to Banff National Park have several ways to get there:

Girl looking at snow covered mountains - Banff Gondola in Winter

Driving

It takes approximately 10 minutes to drive from downtown Banff to the Banff Gondola. Simply cross the bridge on the south end of Banff Avenue, turn left, then immediately turn right on Mountain Avenue. Follow Mountain Avenue all the way to the top, past the 5-star Rimrock Hotel (one of Banff’s best hotels), to the traffic circle. Take the second exit to find the large Banff Gondola parking lot.

Public Transit to the Gondola

Given that the Sulphur Mountain gondola parking lot is quite limited, you may wish to look at other ways to get there. It’s surprisingly easy to get around Banff without a car. The Roam Public transit bus is an easy and convenient way to get to the Banff Gondola from the Banff townsite.

The Roam Transit Route 1 begins at the far end of Banff Avenue near the Dorothy Motel (one of the best inexpensive hotels in Banff). From there, it travels along Banff Avenue through downtown, until it crosses the Bow River bridge. It finishes its route up Mountain Avenue, passing the Upper Hot Springs on its way to the Banff Gondola.

Free Banff Gondola Shuttle

Another way to get to the Banff Gondola without a car is the free gondola shuttle. The gondola shuttle makes life easy for you with convenient shuttle stops at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the Banff Park Lodge and Elk + Avenue Hotel. Check the current Banff gondola shuttle hours before you go.

Hiking to the Banff Gondola

Walking from downtown Banff is a wonderful way to get to the Banff Gondola. From the south edge of downtown, walk east along the Bow River trail to the pedestrian bridge. From there, it’s a very enjoyable 10-15 minute walk along the Bow River to the Bow Falls.

After enjoying the power and beauty of Bow Falls, walk up the stairs to the world-famous Banff Springs Hotel, which is a must-see attraction for all visitors.

The Bow Falls are one of the top things to do near the Banff Springs Hotel

There are two hiking trails from the Banff Springs Hotel to the Banff Gondola parking lot. The first departs just south of the parkade at the southern end of the Banff Springs Hotel while the other begins nearby at this location. After 0.8km of hiking, these trails converge and continue on for another 0.6km, passing below the luxury Rimrock Resort Hotel, ultimately ending at the gondola parking lot.

This beautiful 3 km walk from downtown to the gondola should take most people 30-45 minutes (not including the time you’ll want to spend at the Bow Falls and Banff Springs Hotel).

Banff Gondola Information

Banff Gondola Hours: The hours of operation vary by season, fluctuating with the amount of daylight hours and temperatures.

Banff Gondola Address: 100 Mountain Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1B2

Banff Gondola Parking: There is a large parking lot found here, but it can fill up during peak times. If the parking lot is full, there’s an additional parking lot (for the Hot Springs) is located nearby.

Sulphur Mountain Gondola in Banff National Park

The Banff Gondola FAQ

Is the Banff Gondola free to ride down

Yes, it is free to ride down the Banff Gondola, but only if you are a Bow Valley resident (with id) or you are under 5.

For everyone else, if you hike up the Sulphur Mountain trail, you can buy a one-way ticket down for 50% of the normal ticket price. Note, that one-way down tickets are subject to availability, so do not hike up if you don’t also have the ability to hike down.

Is there free child admission?

Yes, children aged 5 & under may ride the Sulphur Mountain gondola for free, but they still require a ticket.

Is the Banff Gondola wheelchair accessible?

Yes, the entire gondola experience is wheelchair accessible.

How long do you spend at the top of Banff Gondola?

With many excellent mountaintop restaurants, picnic tables, walking trails, etc. you could spend hours at the top of the mountain. To truly get the most of your mountaintop experience, we recommend planning on spending 1-2 hours at the top, or even more if you plan to enjoy a meal.

How high is the gondola ride in Banff?

You can answer this question two ways. On the ride up, the gondola reaches a maximum height above the ground below of 38 m (125 feet). At the top, you will be at an elevation of 2,281 m (7,486 feet) above sea level.

Do you need to book the Banff Gondola?

Given the Banff Gondola is one of Banff’s top attractions, we recommend you book your tickets in advance. If your plans change, you can make changes to your tickets (subject to availability and price differences).

Is there cell service at the top of the Banff Gondola?

Everyone’s phone and service provider will be different, but we get a cell signal at the top and assume that most visitors will as well.

Other Things to do in Banff

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Here's everything you need to know about the Banff Gondola. We include what there is to do at the top, hiking Sulphur Mountain, where to eat and more. Read this before you take the Sulphur Mountain gondola in Banff for some of the most impressive views!