Lake Louise Gondola: Everything You Should Know

Author: Celine Brewer

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The Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the most famous ski resorts in Banff National Park. Did you know that the Lake Louise Gondola operates in summer as well? The Lake Louise Gondola is one of the best Lake Louise attractions and makes the perfect activity to include in a Lake Louise itinerary.

The gondola at Lake Louise is an exceptional opportunity for visitors to Banff to see local wildlife and enjoy unparalleled vistas of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. You’ll even get a bird’s eye view of the famous Lake Louise nestled between the trees and the Victoria Glacier.

Lake Louise Gondola ride in Banff National Park.
The view from a gondola car looking back at Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier.

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Spot Grizzly Bears at Lake Louise Gondola

The Lake Louise ski area is one of the most important habitats for female grizzly bears in Banff National Park. Taking an open-air chairlift or enclosed gondola at Lake Louise is a safe and fun way to look for grizzly bears in Banff National Park, as you travel over the Whitehorn Wildlife Corridor. In the wild, no bear sighting is ever guaranteed, but the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola offers one of the best chances to see grizzly bears in Banff National Park.

a Grizzly Bear.
This isn’t an image from our experiences, but we keep looking every time we return to the Lake Louise Summer Gondola!

In the morning, the grizzly bears often lurk in the trees, then start to emerge into the meadows as the day gets warmer. The grizzly bears wait for the vegetation to open back up before emerging onto the open ski runs to start their daily feast on plants like dandelions, grasses and buffaloberries.

Seeing a grizzly bear is one of the most exciting wildlife spotting experiences you can have in Banff National Park. To give yourself the best chance to see a grizzly bear on the Lake Louise Summer Gondola, ensure everyone has their eyes peeled. Don’t just look down, but off to the side, in the forest and even behind you. A grizzly bear sighting is worth the effort!

That said, even though we haven’t (yet) seen a grizzly bear on the Lake Louise Summer Gondola, we recently had one of our most exciting wildlife encounters ever near the upper gondola station. We had just finished visiting the Wildlife Interpretive Centre and were about to take the gondola back down when we spotted a Lynx in the trees!!

a lynx walks through the forest near Lake Louise, Banff National Park.

I’ve lived near Banff my whole life and have never seen a wild cat before! Spotting a lynx was incredibly exciting for us and is a wildlife encounter I will never forget!

Lake Louise Gondola in Summer

The Lake Louise gondola is one of four sightseeing gondolas in Banff National Park. Visitors to Lake Louise Sightseeing 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 Banff wildlife.

Chairlift and Gondola at Lake Louise Ski Resort.
You can choose between a chairlift or an enclosed gondola.

The enjoyable ride to the top in a chairlift or gondola a very enjoyable 14 minutes. 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.

Wildflowers on Lake Louise Gondola Hikes.

As amazing as the ride up the Lake Louise Gondola is, the ride down is simply incredible. The 180-degree views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains are mind blowing. In addition to views of Lake Louise, you’ll love the views of the glacier covered Canadian Rocky Mountains. The view from this Lake Louise sightseeing gondola It’s a sight you won’t soon forget.

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the view of the Victoria Glacier and Mount Temple from the lake louise summer gondola is incredible.
The view of Lake Louise and her surrounding mountains on the trip back down the gondola.

Lake Louise Gondola with Kids

Riding the Lake Louise Gondola is one of the best things to do in Banff with kids. It’s a incredibly fun experience for the whole family.

We take the kids up the Lake Louise Gondola every summer. We try to ride the quad chairlift since this gives us the most fun experience. They love the experience of riding a chairlift in the summer, looking at all the easy Lake Louise ski runs they enjoy in the winter.

two kids enjoy the epic Canadian Rocky Mountain views from a summer chairlift at Lake Louise, Banff.
Our kids enjoy the views from a summer chairlift at Lake Louise.

Children under 42” or 107cm must ride in a closed gondola for safety reasons. In addition, children under 12 must ride with an adult.

a family rides a chairlift in summer at the Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff National Park.
The Brewer clan getting ready to spot grizzlies!

The first time we rode the Lake Louise sightseeing gondola, our youngest was only 5. The gondola staff were quick and clear with the instructions and made it super easy for the kids to get on and off the chairlift. The chairlift was stopped, so we easily lifted our youngest onto the chair and they both jumped off when instructed to do so after the ride.

Lake Louise Gondola Hours

The Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola operates daily in the summer (July through early-October). It begins operation at 9 am each day, but the closing time varies throughout the season – ranging from 4 pm to 6 pm.

You can arrive before the gondola begins as guest services, the Slopeside Coffee shop and the Ten Peaks Cafeteria all open before the gondola.

Always check the latest hours for the Lake Louise Gondola here.

2024 Lake Louise Gondola Ticket Options & Prices

Gondola Tickets Only

To purchase a ticket to ride the Lake Louise Gondola only, it’s $62 for adults, $51 for seniors (65+), $26 for youth (13-17) and $14 for a child (6-12) with 5 and under riding free. If you buy online at least 24 hours in advance, you’ll save 10%.

taking kids on Lake Louise Summer Gondola.
Our kids brought their binoculars to help them look for bears.

Ride & Dine Tickets

There are also other Lake Louise Gondola prices that include breakfast or lunch:

  • For the Ride & Breakfast option, add $15 to the ticket price. With this option, your breakfast is available at the Ten Peaks Cafeteria in the base area of the Lake Louise Ski Resort.

  • Ride & Lunch is an additional $15 for a hot lunch at the Ten Peaks Cafeteria.
Coffee shop at Lake Louise Gondola.

Lake Louise Gondola and Lake Shuttle Combos

Parks Canada has recently made several changes to how you can get around the Lake Louise area. For example, the road to Moraine Lake is now closed to the public requiring visitors to arrange a shuttle bus. If you are new to the area, we suggest you read about the Lake Louise shuttle buses and the Moraine Lake shuttle buses.

Visiting these iconic Banff lakes doesn’t have to be complicated though. If you buy a gondola and lake shuttle combo ticket, you can visit either Lake Louise or Moraine Lake -and- get to ride the sightseeing gondola. Convenience and amazing scenery – a great combo in our books!

Seeing Moraine Lake at Sunrise with Kids
Us at Moraine Lake at sunrise.
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Winter Pass Holders

If you live in the area and have a Lake Louise Winter Season Pass, then you can ride the summer gondola for free – making this one of the best free Banff activities in summer for you!

Lake Louise Gondola Location

The Lake Louise Gondola is located at the Lake Louise Ski Resort. Driving is the most convenient way, but there are many ways to get to Lake Louise.

From Banff, take Highway 1 west towards Lake Louise and exit on the Banff 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 Location - Lake Louise Ski Resort.

Given the Lake Louise area is a fair distance from the Town of Banff, visitors to the Lake Louise area may wish to spend a portion of their Banff vacation at one of the best hotels in Lake Louise. If you enjoy a little luxury, you can learn about one of Banff’s best hotels in our Chateau Lake Louise review.

Lake Louise Gondola Parking

Given that the Lake Louise Gondola is at the ski resort, there is plenty of free Banff parking to be had.

Louise Gondola Viewing Area

At the top of the chairlift, visitors can enjoy exploring a safe viewing 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 are worth the price of admission alone. There’s a very helpful interpretive sign helping you know which mountains you are looking at from the viewing platform. Try to count the number of glaciers – there’s a lot!

the viewing platform - Lake Louise gondola summer.
The views from up here are incredible!

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.

Inside, you’ll be treated to a display of the main animals of the Lake Louise area, with a wide variety of stuffed specimens, ranging from grizzly bears, black bears, cougars, lynx, mountain goats and much more.

a boy stares at a stuffed moose at the wildlife interpretive centre at the lake louise summer gondola.
Our son having a staredown with a moose.

Our kids both really enjoyed the Wildlife Interpretive Centre, where they got to get up close to some of the animals in our area. The staff at the interpretive centre were incredible with the kids, answering all their questions and ensuring they enjoyed every moment of it.

a vicious looking stuffed wolverine at the wildlife interpretive centre atop the lake louise summer gondola.

You’ll also find toilets and a refilling station for your water bottles. Sometimes there’s even complimentary hot coffee and hot chocolate!

Lake Louise Gondola Restaurant – Whitehorn Bistro

Also found safely within the electric fence and 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 Whitehorn Bistro has a massive outdoor patio treating its patrons to incredible views of the Rocky Mountains around Lake Louise. The patio is surrounded by glass, allowing unimpeded views from any table.

A family eats lunch on the massive patio at Whitehorn Bistro Patio at the Lake Louise Ski Resort in summer.
A special birthday lunch at the Whitehorn Bistro!

We enjoyed the local game and cheese platter, while our kids had a very fancy macaroni and cheese off the kids menu. The service was excellent and the food was amazing.

kids meal at Whitehorn Bistro - Lake Louise Gondola.

The Whitehorn Bistro is not for people visiting Banff on a budget, but it’s an experience atop the Lake Louise Gondola which we’d highly recommend.

Other Restaurants

The Whitehorn Bistro is the only restaurant at the top of the sightseeing gondola at Lake Louise, but there are other options down at the base area. The Ten Peaks Cafeteria has hot lunches and the Banded Peak Base Camp smokehouse offers another opportunity to eat on a patio with incredible views.

Lake Louise Gondola Picnic Area

If you’d like to eat while atop the Lake Louise Gondola, a fun alternative to the Whitehorn Bistro is the set of picnic tables near the viewing platform. There are a few picnic tables under umbrella tents, while some picnic tables are exposed to the sun. Every table will enjoy amazing mountain views.

a family enjoys epic Rocky Mountain views while having a picnic at the top of hte Lake Louise summer sightseeing gondola.
A family picnic with an incredible view of Mount Temple.

Lake Louise Gondola Hikes

Aside from a chance to see grizzly bears and other Banff wildlife, our other reason to take the Lake Louise Gondola was for the opportunity to hike.

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 hiking trails to choose from.

Hiking the Pika Trail - kid-friendly Lake Louise gondola hikes.
Our kids hiking the Pika Trail at Lake Louise in summer.

The Kicking Horse Pass Viewpoint hike is a short 1.7 km out-and-back hike to a viewpoint just northwest of the viewing platform. This is the shorter and easier hike of the two Lake Louise gondola hiking trails.

The second hike atop the Lake Louise Summer Gondola is the Pika Trail to the Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint. This Lake Louise Gondola hike is twice as long as the Kicking Horse Pass hike at 3.4 km out-and-back. Hiking to the Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint can be steep in spots, but it pays off with a viewpoint much different to the one you get from the top of the sightseeing gondola trailhead.

Banff in Fall

September in Banff is when the larch trees turn golden and a prime time for hiking. With the gondola operating until early October, you will have a chance for easy banff larch hikes here if you are visiting between mid to late September.

hikes from sightseeing gondola in Lake Louise.
Celine hiking the Pika Trail.

The Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint looks down over the backside of the Lake Louise ski area. From this vantage point on a ridge, you enjoy a brand new vista of beautiful Rocky Mountains.

The valley down below is where the popular Hidden Lake trail is. To have an opportunity for not just one, but two incredible Rocky Mountain vistas on a single, easy-to-moderate hike is an amazing opportunity for visitors to Banff National Park.

View from Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint - Lake Louise Gondola hikes
The views from the Pike hiking trail.

We hiked to the Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint with our two kids during our visit up the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola. The trail starts on a short section of narrow trail before joining a wider road, which you’ll follow the entire way. Though the road got steep at times, this hike was easily manageable with our kids (8 and 5 years old).

Two happy kids near the Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint - one of the easy Lake Louise Gondola hikes in summer.
Our kids celebrate getting to the top of the Pika trail.

Given the width of the road, it gave us an opportunity to hike side-by-side, which we don’t often get to do. Even better, were the views this open trail offered the entire time.

hiking with kids at Lake Louise Gondola in summer.
It’s important to dress in layers as it can get cold up high.

We had originally planned to do both hikes, but were getting pressed for time. We were glad to have chosen the Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint hike as it gave us the most variety from what could already be seen from the viewing platform.

Given that this is prime grizzly bear territory, it’s recommended to hike in groups of 4. It’s important to educate yourself on bear safety in Banff National Park before venturing out. We always carry bear spray in an easily accessible place (not in your backpack) and make plenty of noise (easy to do when hiking with kids).

a Grizzly bear emerges from the forest.
Not an image from our experience.

Wildlife Safety

When hiking in Banff National Park, you are responsible for your own safety. Before hitting the hiking trails we highly recommend you read our 10 Essential Banff Hiking Tips for information about bear safety, trail conditions, wildlife warnings and possible closures.

There are also guided hikes available for anyone who is interested in learning more about the area, about bears or just for added comfort.

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While you are in the area, don’t miss the Best Hikes in Lake Louise and the Best Hikes in Moraine Lake!

Looking for the PERFECT Lake Louise Souvenir?

Rooftop Illustrations - Lake Louise in Summer

If you love Lake Louise as much as we do, you’ll want to bring a piece of it home with you. This Lake Louise in Summer illustration by Diana Boyle at Rooftop Illustrations is the PERFECT souvenir!

See more Banff Souvenirs by local artists here.

What to Bring for the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola

If you plan to leave the safety of the fenced-in area at the top of the sightseeing gondola, you should be properly prepared. If you’re unsure of what you need, we detail all the important hiking gear for Banff National Park in this post.

The summer gondola at Lake Louise.

Other Things to do in Lake Louise

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Experience the Lake Louise Summer Gondola! One of the best things to do in Lake Louise in the summer. Visitors can enjoy a sightseeing chairlift to spot grizzly bears, an interpretive centre, dining and even guided hikes.

Celine Brewer - Travel Banff Canada

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.