Millions of visitors flock to Banff National Park every year to enjoy the raw and rugged beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. As beautiful as the mountain ranges are from the Bow Valley floor, there’s no better way to appreciate the size and magnitude of the Canadian Rockies than from the top of a Banff mountain. The easiest way to enjoy these mountaintop views are via one of these excellent Banff gondolas.
There are four gondolas and chairlifts operating within Banff National Park, each providing visitors with a different perspective. No matter which one you choose, you will be treated to spectacular views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
If you are physically capable, you will enjoy your mountain views much more if you hop onto one of the many hiking trails to the summit of a Banff mountain. However, there are those days where you’ll want to simply enjoy the ride to the top in one of the Banff National Park gondolas.
We are locals who live in Canmore, just outside the Banff park gates. So we’ve had plenty of opportunities to try out all 4 gondolas in Banff National Park. What you’ll find in this post is our personal experience with each of these gondolas and what we love most about each one.
Best Banff Gondolas – Table of Contents
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.
Your Banff Gondola experience begins at the Lower Terminal and ends 8 minutes later, having risen from an elevation of 1,583 m to 2,281 m above sea level. Each gondola car holds 4 adults.
The Upper Terminal is where you will find amazing food, a fun interpretive centre, and of course incredible views of the Canadian Rockies. There are 4 levels in the Banff Gondola Upper Terminal:
Level 1 has Castle Mountain Coffee, a gift shop and is where you’ll board the gondola for the ride back to the base.
Level 2 has an interpretive centre and the multi-sensory Above Banff Theatre. Kids of all ages will love exploring this area and enjoying the many interactive interpretive exhibits.
Level 3 of the Upper Terminal is where you’ll find the two Banff Gondola restaurants: Sky Bistro and Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen.
Level 4 has the outdoor 360-degree rooftop observation deck with the iconic glass bear. You’ll find plenty of places to sit and take in the views. In wintertime, you’ll also find many comfy chairs around several firepits.
Also from the Upper Terminal is where you can walk the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk to the Cosmic Ray Station on Sanson’s Peak. The 500 m walk from the Upper Terminal to the national historic site is along a wide wooden boardwalk with many built-in benches, abundant interpretive signs along the way and jaw-dropping views!
It’s important to 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 while visiting Banff in winter. You’ll want to bundle up for heading out on the boardwalks in the winter time and don’t forget appropriate shoes!
All year long, you’ll find it much cooler at the top so plan to have extra layers if you want to walk the boardwalk.
Looking for the PERFECT Banff Souvenir?
If you love Banff National Park as much as we do, you’ll want to bring a piece of it home with you. This View from Sulphur Mountain illustration by Diana Boyle at Rooftop Illustrations is the PERFECT souvenir!
See more Banff Souvenirs by local artists here.
Banff Gondola Tickets:
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 $61 – $71 per adult and $39 – $46 for children 6 and up.
To increase your chances of getting the best price for your visit, book your Banff Gondola tickets as early as possible and try to schedule your visit midweek.
Banff Gondola Hours:
The Banff Gondola operates year round but the hours of operation vary by season, fluctuating with the amount of daylight hours and temperatures.
Banff Gondola Spring Hours in 2023 are from May 1 to June 27 and run from 8am to 9pm daily. Banff Gondola Summer Hours in 2023 are from June 28 to September 4 and run from 8am to 10pm daily. Starting September 5 to October 9 the fall hours for the Banff Gondola are 8am to 9pm.
Banff Gondola Address:
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) located nearby.
Other Ways to Get to the Banff Gondola:
- The free Banff Gondola shuttle runs daily from mid-June to mid-October.
- Roam Transit Route 1 stops at the Banff Gondola. The return ride is free is you show your Banff Gondola ticket to the driver.
- Walk to the Banff Gondola, it’s a 2.5 km walk from Banff Town Centre. Alternately, it’s just a 7 minute walk from the luxury Rimrock Hotel.
Always check bus and shuttle schedules before leaving:
Why Choose the Banff Gondola:
- It’s wheelchair accessible, so everyone can take part in this favorite thing to do in Banff. Keep in mind that while the Upper Terminal is wheelchair accessible, the boardwalk has over 360 stairs and is not accessible. Strollers are not recommended.
- If you want to make it a longer outing, you can hike Sulphur Mountain to the top and take the gondola down for half-price. We always enjoy the hike up!
- The boardwalk has some of the most incredible views and is well worth the time.
- You can easily get to the Banff Gondola even if you are visiting Banff without a car.
- The restaurants at the top offer some of the most incredible views.
Things You Might Not Like About the Banff Gondola:
- Don’t expect to have a quiet time. It’s busy!
- You should plan ahead for your tickets and any restaurant reservations.
- While you might get lucky, this isn’t the best for wildlife sightings.
Need Help Planning Your Trip?
Our Banff Travel Guide has everything you need to get the MOST out of your trip to Banff!
Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola
After the snow has all melted, the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola continues to operate taking visitors up a 14 minute ride to an elevation of 2101 m (6893 ft) with an opportunity to see not only spectacular views but grizzly bears as well!
Visitors to Lake Louise Summer Gondola have the choice of taking a quad ski chairlift or a closed gondola to the upper grizzly bear viewing area. We recommend the open-air chairlift as it gives you the most visceral experience. Being in the open air allows you to enjoy unimpeded views, smell the fresh mountain air and gives you the best chance to see a grizzly bear.
Along the way, you’ll enjoy beautiful fields of wildflowers, rushing mountain streams and dense evergreen forests. The scene is so magical it’s hard to concentrate on watching for grizzly bears. The ride down is equally exciting with 180-degree views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and Lake Louise. We think this is the perfect activity to add to any Lake Louise itinerary.
At the top of the chairlift, visitors can enjoy exploring a safe area protected from the massive grizzly bears by electric fence. Just downhill of the Lake Louise Summer Gondola is the viewing platform. The vistas of Lake Louise and her surrounding mountains from the observation deck are worth the price of admission alone.
Also within the safety of the electric fence is an interpretive walking trail down to the Wildlife Interpretive Centre. The Lake Louise Gondola Interpretive Centre is a small, but very enjoyable experience. Just above the interpretive centre, is the Whitehorn Bistro.
The views from this upscale Lake Louise restaurant could be some of the best restaurant views in the world. The patio is surrounded by glass, allowing unimpeded views from any table.
Visitors to the top of the Lake Louise Summer Gondola do not have to remain within the safety of the enclosed electric fence. There are two enjoyable hikes to choose from.
Lake Louise Gondola Tickets:
To purchase a ticket to ride the Lake Louise Gondola only, it’s $54.99 for an adult, $24.99 for a youth (13-17) and $9.99 for a child (6-12) with 5 and under riding free.
Lake Louise Gondola Hours:
The Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola operates daily in starting May 19 until October 9 for 2023. The Lake Louise Gondola hours do change slightly throughout the summer (with the longest hours in August from 8am to 6pm). Check hours here.
Lake Louise Gondola Address:
1 Whitehorn Road, Lake Louise
The Lake Louise Gondola is located at the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
From Banff, take Highway 1 west towards Lake Louise and exit on the Bow Valley Parkway exit towards Lake Louise. Rather than turn left to Lake Louise, stay right at the fork onto Whitehorn Road/Bow Valley Parkway. Stay on this road (turns into Whitehorn Drive) until you reach the ski resort.
Lake Louise Gondola Parking:
Other Ways to Get to the Lake Louise Gondola:
There is a free shuttle that runs from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Samson Mall to the Lake Louise Summer Gondola. This service is free to those who have a receipt from one of the Lake Louise Ski Resort restaurants (for an amount greater than $15 for individuals, $20 for couples and $25 for families/groups) or have a gondola lift ticket.
Always check the shuttle schedule before leaving!
Why choose the Lake Louise Gondola:
- The Lake Louise Summer Gondola has the option of either a gondola car or a chairlift. Those who have a fear of heights, will like the added safety of the gondola car. Also note: children under 42” or 107cm must ride in a closed gondola for safety reasons. In addition, children under 12 must ride with an adult.
- The Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola is your best chance to see grizzly bears in the wild.
- The Lake Louise Gondola has restaurants at the base PLUS the Whitehorn Bistro up the mountain, offering plenty of options for everyone.
- If you are a Lake Louise Ski Resort season pass or spring pass holder, the gondola is free!
- Lake Louise Ski Resort has a daycare that operates during the week in the summer.
- While the Lake Louise gondola is not 100% wheelchair accessible, they make every effort to help everyone enjoy this experience. This page offers all the details on using a wheelchair or scooter at the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola.
- There are two hiking trails for those interested in adding a hike to their experience. You can do these on your own or as a guided hike. Follow all precautions if hiking here, including carrying bear spray.
Things You Might Not Like About the Lake Louise Gondola:
- There’s no guarantee you’ll see grizzly bears. But even if you don’t (we didn’t), you’ll still love the experience.
The Sunshine Gondola is one of the best things to do in Banff in the summer! Operated from the Sunshine Village Ski Resort, the Sunshine Gondola takes visitors in an 8-person gondola on an 15 minute gondola ride from the parking lot up to Sunshine Village.
From the Village at 2,159 m (7,083 ft) of elevation, the Standish Chairlift takes visitors on an 8 minute ride up to 2,385 m (7,825 ft) of elevation and the Standish Viewing Deck – one of the best viewpoints in Banff National Park!
From the top of the Standish Viewing Deck, visitors will find themselves in a hikers paradise with over 11 km of hiking trails through Sunshine Meadows. With incredible wildflowers, viewpoints and alpine lakes, you’ll never want to leave this Canadian Rockies mountaintop experience!
Before you head up the Standish Chairlift, don’t forget to refuel! There are restaurants up at the Village in the Sunshine Mountain Lodge and the Old Sunshine Mountain Lodge. Check here for the opening hours.
Sunshine Meadows Tickets:
Admission tickets for Banff Sunshine Meadows are roughly equal in cost to the Banff Gondola. 2023 pricing is as follows:
- Adult (16+): $65
- Senior (65+): $59
- Family (2 Adults / 2 Youth): $159
- Youth/Child (6-15): $32
- Toddler (0-5): FREE
Summer season passes are also available.
Sunshine Meadows Gondola Hours:
For the 2023 summer season, the gondola is open from June 23 – September 10. Operating hours are from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Sunshine Gondola Address:
#1 Sunshine Access Road, Banff
The Sunshine Gondola is located at the Sunshine Village Ski Resort. To reach Sunshine Village, take the Sunshine Village Access Road west of Banff (8 km / 5 miles) along the TransCanada Highway.
Sunshine Gondola Parking:
There is ample parking at Sunshine Village Ski Resort.
Other Ways to Get to the Sunshine Gondola:
You can take a free bus from Banff to the Sunshine Gondola with the purchase a Gondola and Chairlift Package. This shuttle runs daily.
Why choose the Sunshine Gondola:
- The views from the Standish Viewing Deck are spectacular and worth it alone. Add to that the opportunity to hike amongst wildflower filled meadows to alpine lakes!
- Visitors get the opportunity to ride the Sunshine Gondola plus the Standish Chairlift – the perfect opportunity to sit back and enjoy the views!
- There are plenty of options to refuel before or after hiking.
- This is one of our top rated hikes in Banff you can reach without a car.
- Choose to stay at the top of the gondola at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge.
Things You Might Not Like About the Sunshine Gondola:
- Not everyone will be comfortable with the open chairlift, although it is possible to hike up and not take the chairlift.
- The operating season is very short from late June to early September, so it will be busy!
Mt Norquay Chairlift
Mount Norquay is a ski resort just minutes from the town of Banff, but visiting Mount Norquay isn’t just for the winter! In the summer months you can ride the Mount Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift.
The Mount Norquay Chairlift is worth it alone for the views, they are spectacular, but even better is enjoying the mountain scenery over lunch at the incredible Cliffhouse Bistro!
Being in the open air allows you to enjoy unimpeded views, smell the fresh mountain air and gives you the best chance to spot Banff wildlife along the way. The ride to the top of the Mt Norquay Chairlift takes about 10 minutes. The 180-degree views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains are impressive to say the least. You’ll get views of the town of Banff, Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain.
At the top of the chairlift, is a viewing platform where visitors can take in the mountain views. You’ll get incredible views of Stoney Lookout, Cascade Mountain, Mt Rundle, Mt Inglismaldie and the Town of Banff.
Located up a series of steps from the chairlift is the Cliffhouse Bistro. This renovated 1950’s tea house offers not only incredible food but scenery to match.
Unfortunately, there is no hiking at the top of the Norquay Chairlift. Though you can make a reservation for the Via Ferrata.
If you wanted to do a hike as well, the Stoney Lookout hike and the Cascade Amphitheatre hike (while this post describes the snowshoe, the hiking trail is the same) can both be accessed from the main Norquay Ski Resort parking lot. Hiking is one of our favorite free things to do in Banff!
Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift Tickets:
To purchase a ticket to ride the Mt Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift, it’s $41 for an adult (16+), $26 for a child (6-15) and free children 2-5 years old.
There is also a Family Pass available for $120, which includes 2 adults and 2 children (6-15 years old).
Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift Hours:
The Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift operates daily in the summer (June 10th to October 8th) from 9 am to 7 pm. The hours do change slightly in the fall with the hours in September and October reduced to 10 am to 6 pm.
Always check the latest hours before planning your trip. The hours for Mt Norquay Chairlift can be found here.
Norquay Chairlift Address:
#2 Mt Norquay Rd, Banff
The Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift is located at the Mt Norquay Ski Resort.
Take Highway 1 west and exit at Mt Norquay Rd, continue right onto Mt Norquay Scenic Drive. Continue past the first large parking lot for the Mt Norquay Ski Resort and follow the signs to a smaller parking lot at the North American Lodge.
The Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift is located at the Mt Norquay Ski Resort, so there is ample parking.
Other Ways to Get to the Norquay Chairlift:
From June 10th to October 8th, Norquay operates a free shuttle from Banff to Norquay. See schedule and stops here.
Why choose the Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift:
- You’ll love the views over the town of Banff and the Bow Valley.
- The Cliffhouse Bistro is a fun dining experience with delicious food and even better views.
- It’s easy to get here without a car, with the free daily shuttle.
- The Via Ferrata is a mountain experience for the adventurous that you can do at Mt Norquay (and includes the Sightseeing Chairlift).
- While there isn’t hiking from the top of the chairlift, there are two nearby hikes that leave from the ski resort.
Things You Might Not Like About the Norquay Chairlift:
- There’s no hiking at the top or anything besides the viewpoint and restaurant (unless you are doing the Via Ferrata).
- The only option is to ride the open-air chairlift. You’ll be riding on a double open-air chairlift, so if visiting Banff with kids, be sure your kids will be comfortable with this. Kids under 12 must be accompanied by an adult and minimum age for riding the chairlift is 2 years old.
Banff Gondolas FAQ
Which is the Best Gondola in Banff?
It’s no easy feat to declare one of the four Banff gondolas or chairlifts as the best gondola in Banff. They each have something different to offer, from amazing restaurants to different perspectives over the Bow Valley.
The main factors to consider when choosing which Banff gondola or sightseeing chairlift is best are: restaurants, mountain views, wildlife, hiking trails and interactive exhibits.
Given the different locations of the gondolas and chairlifts in Banff National Park, they all have amazing views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains from a different perspective.
If we had to declare one as our favorite, it would the Banff Sunshine gondola to Sunshine Meadows. Between the views and hiking in Sunshine Meadows, we love this experience.
Which is Better Banff Gondola or Lake Louise gondola?
If you are comparing the Lake Louise Gondola vs the Banff Gondola, it would depend on the season. We would choose the Lake Louise Gondola in the summer, especially with the chance to see grizzly bears.
The Banff Gondola is a better choice in the winter, since there’s not as much to do at the Lake Louise Gondola aside from nice views in the winter (assuming you aren’t skiing or snowboarding!).
The Banff Gondola has more options for walking around on the observation decks and the boardwalks in the winter.
Other Things to do in Banff in Summer
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Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.
As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.