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The Four Banff Gondolas – Our Comparison After Riding Them All!

The Four Banff Gondolas – Our Comparison After Riding Them All!

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A visit to Banff National Park delivers some of the most stunning, untouched natural beauty that Canada has to offer. As one of the best places to visit in Alberta, you are guaranteed pristine mountain views and instagrammable spots no matter where you go. One way to take in all the beauty of the area is by getting a bird’s eye view from a gondola.

As one of the best things to do in Banff, a ride up one of the four gondolas in the park gives you some amazing aerial views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and fun activities once you reach the top.

But with four gondolas to choose from in Banff, how do you know which ones to do and which ones to skip? Let’s be honest, you aren’t going to ride all of these Banff gondolas during your trip, so you’ll need to narrow it down to just one or two.

We’ve gone on all four gondolas in Banff to help you pick which one is the best option. I’ll go into detail about everything you can see and how to visit each one. Then you can easily compare them and choose the best gondola for your trip!

1. The Banff Gondola

fours cars some up the cable of the Banff Gondola with mountain views
The Banff Gondola is in the most beautiful of locations!
Banff gondola building and boardwalk on a early spring day with lots of snow
The top of the Banff Gondola
  • Price: Adults (18+) cost: $59-$72 CAD, kids (5-17) cost $37-$45 CAD, and children under 5 are free.
  • Location: Sulphur Mountain, 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) south of the Banff townsite at 100 Mountain Avenue
  • Open from: Summer hours: 8 am – 10 pm, Fall 9 am – 9 pm, Winter 10 am – 9 pm
  • Best for: Families with young children, people who don’t want to travel far from Banff, and those looking for more of an overall experience with plenty of things to do at the top! 

The Banff Gondola takes you on a ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain and delivers stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. The panoramic views start the second you set foot into the gondola cabin that has large windows delivering 360° views of the surrounding mountains and valley. 

The 8-minute gondola ride will have you climbing 2,290 feet (698 meters) to the top of Sulphur Mountain to put you at a total elevation of 7,486 feet (2,281 meters) above sea level.

We have a full guide on everything you need to know to ride the Banff Gondola if this one is your pick!

The gondolas hold up to 4 adults each as it climbs up to the peak of the mountain. The gondola cabins are enclosed which helps to shelter you from the weather, making it one of those Banff activities you can do in the rain!

Once you reach the top of the mountain, you will be dropped in the upper terminal where you will find a 4 level building packed full of coffee shops, restaurants, an observation deck, and lots of family-friendly activities. The top of the gondola rewards you with views of Mount Rundle, Tunnel Mountain, the mountains of Lake Louise, Bow River, Lake Minnewanka, and much more. 

Best features of the Banff Gondola

Bailey walks down the boardwalk at the top of the Banff Gondola at th top of Sulphur Mountain

At the peak of the Banff Gondola, you will find the Summit building which is a multi-level building offering lots to see and do. The top floor houses an impressive 360° observation deck where you can take in all the stunning views of the area.

The other levels house interactive displays which offer unique information about the park, a multi-sensory theatre, coffee shops, a gift shop, and two restaurants to choose from. I personally love getting my caffeine fix from Castle Mountain Coffee (one of the best cafes in Banff), where you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee while admiring the view, or take it outside and stroll along the boardwalk.

The Above Banff Theatre has a short film that’s included with your admission ticket that shows you the Rocky Mountains from the eyes of a bald eagle. We originally just popped in because the experience was included with our ticket, but it turned out to be so good, it was one of the highlights of our visit!

Don’t just stay inside the building here though, the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk is one of my favorite things to do at the top of the gondola. It will take you to Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station at the end of the boardwalk and the Weather Observatory which was used from 1903-1945 to monitor the climate of the Rockies.

The walk is a must-do no matter what time of year you are visiting. You will be walking down a boardwalk similar to a pier that does have some stairs but overall the walk is leisurely and easy for most fitness levels. The views of the Sundance Range you will see are stunning and make the 30-40 minute round trip walk worth the trip. 

If you’re looking for more exercise, you can choose to hike the South East Ridge Trail. This trail takes you to the true peak of Sulphur Mountain and requires quite the trek so I only recommend it for adventurers who are familiar with hiking. 

If you ride the gondola up on a clear night, the night sky is the star (ha!) of the show! You’re far from any city lights and the view of stars, planets, and galaxies is pretty incredible. If you happen to be here on a Friday or Saturday night at certain times of the year, the Banff Gondola Stargazing Program gives you access to high-powered telescopes and astronomers who will help answer any questions. The program has won an award from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, it’s that good!

Buying tickets to the Banff Gondola 

Daniel pretends to throw and snow ball at Bailey at the top of the Banff Gondola on Sulphur Mountain
Don’t forget to have a snowball fight!

Ticket prices for the Banff Gondola are dynamic – meaning that the prices change based on the season, the demand, and the day of the week you are booking for.

Prices will often go up in peak seasons, such as weekends in summer months when tourism to the area is at its highest. You can expect adult ticket prices to range between $59-$72 CAD with youth tickets for those between 6-15 years old starting at around $37 CAD and kids 5 and under are free. 

The gondola gets quite busy so I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance to secure the best pricing and ensure you get a ticket. When you’re figuring out the best place to buy tickets for the Banff Gondola, I highly recommend buying tickets online here.

Related Read: If you’re flying to this part of Alberta, we have a guide on how to get from the Calgary Airport to Banff!

Pros of the Banff Gondola 

Sanson Peak Weather station on Sulphur Mountain at the top of the Banff Gondola
Sanson Peak Weather Station on Sulphur Mountain at the top of the Banff Gondola
Cable cars travel up the Banff Gondola
Up we go!

You can hike up or down – If you want to get more of a workout in, there is the option to hike up or down the trail. The 5.5 km (3.4 mile) trail is well marked and takes between 1.5 – 3 hours to complete. If you hike to the top and want to take the gondola back down, you will be rewarded with half-priced fares however if you choose to take the gondola to the top and hike down, you will still need to pay full price. As you will be hiking up switchbacks through the trees, you will not get the stunning aerial views you get with the gondola so I recommend taking the gondola one way to get the most out of the experience. 

It’s close to Banff town – The Banff Gondola is a short 2.5 km (1.5 miles) from Banff town center making it incredibly accessible. You can drive to the gondola or take the Banff ROAM Bus Route 1 from downtown Banff to the gondola. This costs only $2 CAD each way with return fare being waived in summer months when you show your gondola pass. Between May 21 and October 9th, there is also a free shuttle you can take from downtown Banff.  

Wheelchair accessible – The Banff Gondola has wheelchair accessibility including accessible parking close to the entrance, a ramp up to the building, and elevators throughout the complex at the top. It is important to note that the summit boardwalk is not accessible. 

Open all year round – Whether you are visiting in the more popular summer months, or looking to take in the beautiful snowy views in the heart of winter, the Banff Gondola is open year-round to deliver unbeatable views. While there is never a bad time to visit, I highly recommend visiting Banff in winter when there’s lots of snow and the mountains are in their prime. 

Close to hot springs – While this is not actually a pro for the gondola experience itself but rather the location, I absolutely love the Banff Upper Hot Springs (also called the Sulphur Hot Springs) located right across the street from the Banff Gondola. These are among the best hot springs in all of Alberta and are open daily from 10 am to 10 pm. It costs $16.50 CAD for adults, $14.25 CAD for youth 3-17, and free for children under 3. 

Winter Nightrise experience – Between early December and the end of March, the Banff Gondola offers a Nightrise experience where you can enjoy a unique after-dark gondola ride. Music and special lighting help to create a magical experience that feels like you are walking through a winter wonderland. 

Cons of the Banff Gondola 

Snow covered trees and the Bow Valley as seen from the Banff Gondola'
What a view from the gondola!

Limited parking – There is limited parking at the base of the gondola. This gets especially busy in the summer months when tourism in the park is at its peak. If you are worried about parking, I highly recommend looking into the free shuttle that runs every 40 minutes from Banff. 

Often very busy, especially in the summer months – As I consider this gondola to be one of the best things to do in Banff, it can often get really busy. I highly recommend visiting the Banff Gondola mid-week and early in the morning for the best chance to beat the crowds. 

Not much of a nature experience – With the exception of a few walking trails including my favorite: the Banff Skywalk, the top doesn’t offer a lot in the way of a nature experience. You cannot ski here and there aren’t many opportunities to explore freely. With that being said, the views in the area are sure to deliver all the natural beauty you could ask for. 

What we think

Daniel and Bailey pose for a photo on the Banff Gondola
It’s not a long ride, but the views are spectacular!

Overall we love the Banff Gondola. It’s easily one of our favorite Banff activities and we even wrote a full review of our Banff Gondola experience. Spoiler alert: we think it’s well worth it! The ride up is beautiful and there’s so much to do at the top. This is one of those Banff staples that gives you incredible views that don’t require any long or tiring hikes!

I will say that it does get busy during peak times on weekends and in the summer when we think it’s slightly overpriced. So I’d recommend trying to go on a weekday if possible.

You can book your ticket for the Banff Gondola online here!

2. Mt Norquay Gondola

The Mt Norquay chairlift during summer
What a view!
  • Price: Adults (16+): $41 CAD, Youth (6-15): $26 CAD. 5 and under: free. Family (2 Adults, 2 Youth): $120 CAD.
  • Location: Less than 15 minutes from Banff on the Mount Norquay Ski Resort
  • Open from: June 11 – September 11: 9 am – 7 pm (last return chair lift is 7:30 pm). September 12 – October 9: 10 am – 6 pm (last return chair lift is 6:30 pm)
  • Best for: Those who want to try Via Ferrata, or those who are looking for a less popular gondola ride (fewer people around) at the cheapest price!

Mt Norquay is well known in the area for being a top ski mountain close to Banff which brings in flocks of tourists in the winter months. In the summer though, this area offers just as much to be explored with the help of the beautiful open-air chairlift that delivers panoramic views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

This was a surprising find for us and the breathtaking views of Banff town and the mountains had me never wanting to leave. This has actually become one of my all-time favorite photography spots in Banff National Park!

The Mt Norquay Gondola seats 2 adults at a time and is the same chairlift style you may be used to if you’re a skier. You can expect a 10-minute ride up the chairlift as you keep an eye out for local Banff wildlife until you reach the top which sits 6,840 feet (2,085 meters) above sea level. 

The chairlift delivers stunning views of the Spray and Bow Valleys as well as Banff town. While the ride up delivers unbeatable views, I found the ride down even more impressive.

When you reach the top of the chairlift, you will be on a viewing platform where you can take in the stunning sights of the area, including Cascade Mountain, Mount Rundle, and Mount Inglismaldie. At the top, I highly recommend enjoying an ice-cold beer and panini as you marvel at the views from the Cliffhouse Bistro. 

Best features of the Mt Norquay Gondola

Bailey walks down some steps at the top of the Mt Norquay Chairlift
Bailey sits with a beer at the top of Mt Norquay at the Cliffhouse Bistro
Not a bad place to enjoy a beer!

At the top, you will find a series of lookout points with chairs set up for you to sit and enjoy the beauty of the area. I highly recommend packing a picnic along for the trip to enjoy or heading to the Cliffhouse Bistro to enjoy lunch with a view. 

If you are visiting in the summer and looking for an intro rock climbing experience, there is the Via Ferrata on Mt Norquay which is a heart-pumping activity offered at the top of the mountain. You will be climbing ladders and crossing narrow suspension bridges all with stunning views of the mountains around you. There are multiple routes you can take depending on your skill and how much time you have. 

There are also a few hiking and mountain biking trails. My favorite is the Upper Stoney Trail – a 4.2 km (2.6 miles) return trail that takes about 2 hours to complete and takes you past some beautiful lakes and mountain ranges. There is also the longer Cascade Amphitheatre Hike which is a 12.8 km (8 miles) round trip.

Take note though that both of these hikes are accessed from the bottom of the hill, in the Norquay Ski Resort parking lot, and not at the top of the gondola. 

Buying tickets to the Mt Norquay Gondola

The view of Banff from the top of Mt Norquay
The view of Banff from the top of Mt Norquay

There are multiple options for the Mt Norquay Gondola that can be purchased online. Regular adult admission for those 16+ is $45 CAD and $28 CAD for children 6-15 years old.

The minimum age to ride the chairlift is 2 and children 2-5 years of age ride free. Kids under 12 years require an adult to accompany them on the chairlift. 

There is a free shuttle that runs hourly from downtown Banff to take you up to Mt Norquay. If you’d prefer to drive yourself, you can expect the 6 km (4 miles) drive to take about 15 minutes. 

Easily book your Mt Norquay Chairlift tickets online here!

Pros of the Mt Norquay Gondola

View of Mount Rundle from the Cliffhouse Bistro at the top of the Mt Norquay Gondola

Great skiing, snowboarding, and tubing trails – If you are lucky enough to visit in the winter months, be sure to bring some skis along and take to the slopes to enjoy the 60 runs available in the area. If you don’t have your own gear, you will be happy to know that rentals are available. There is also a tube park at the top for those looking to go tubing in the snow. 

Lots of summer adventure experiences – If you are outdoorsy, the Mt Norquay Gondola is a great option for you. There are multiple hiking trails at the base of the mountain to be explored. The top of the gondola offers the adrenaline-inducing Via Ferrata climbing experience

Great food and entertainment – Whether you are looking to enjoy a cold beer in a pub after a day on the slopes or indulge in a high-quality meal, you will find it all at the top of the Mt Norquay Chairlift at the Cliffhouse Restaurant. 

Lots of nature – Mt Norquay has been declared a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life. Here you will find lots of deer, bighorn sheep, wolves, grizzly and black bears, cougars, squirrels, and more. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled as you’re riding the chairlift to see what kind of wildlife you can spot. 

Related Read: If you are planning a winter visit, find out where to stay in Banff for the best access to skiing!

Cons of the Mt Norquay Gondola

View from the bottom of the Mt Norquay Gondola looking up at Mt Norquay
View from the bottom of the Mt Norquay Gondola looking up at Mt Norquay

Not suitable for families with children under 2 – As this gondola experience is an open aired chairlift rather than an enclosed gondola, taking small children isn’t ideal. This gondola does not allow children under 2 to ride for safety reasons making it not a great option for families with young children. 

No hiking at the top of the mountain – With the exception of the amazing Via Ferrata (which I highly recommend), there is no actual hiking at the top of the mountain. If you are looking to get some exercise, you can enjoy the Stoney Lookout Hike and the longer Cascade Amphitheatre Hike which are accessible from the ski resort parking lot at the bottom.  

Not accessible – If you have mobility limitations such as wheelchairs or walkers, you will be disappointed to know that the Mt Norquay Gondola is not a good option for you. In addition to the chairlift itself not being accessible, the top of the mountain has a series of steps that are not wheelchair accessible. 

What we think

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at the top of the Mt Norquay Gondola
Mt Norquay Gondola travels up Mt Norquay

I must say, I think the Mt Norquay gondola is my least favorite of all four gondolas. It’s not that it’s a bad gondola, but when compared with the rest, it can be a little underwhelming.

With that said, tickets for the Mt Norquay sightseeing chairlift are cheaper than the rest and it typically doesn’t attract the same crowds. I also really love the view of Banff from the top; it’s stunning. Oh, and don’t forget the opportunity for Via Ferrata – it’s on my must-do list this coming summer!

Related Read: For more fun trip ideas, check out the best tours in Banff!

3. Lake Louise Gondola

Lake Louise Gondola in summer
Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola
Two Bears below the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola
How cool? Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola
  • Price: Adults (18+): $63 CAD. Youth (13-17): $27 CAD. Kids (6-12): $14 CAD. Children under 5: free.
  • Location: Located at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, 7 km (4.4 miles) from Lake Louise, 60 km (37.5 miles) from Banff
  • Open from: Mid-May to early September 8 am – 6 pm, September – October 8 am – 5 pm
  • Best for: Anybody wanting a chance to see wildlife, also very different views than the other gondolas that are closer to Banff town

The Lake Louise Gondola offers breathtaking views of Lake Louise itself and the nearby Victoria Glacier. I rank it as one of the top Lake Louise activities since it’s also a great chance to spot wildlife (I’ve seen lots of grizzly bears!) and explore the hiking trails on Mt. Whitehorn.

At the top there are viewing platforms, hiking routes, and a restaurant, so you can really make a day of it. If this is your pick, read our tips on taking the Lake Louise Gondola before you go!

The gondola will have you riding 14 minutes up the mountain to reach a height of 6,893 feet (2,101 meters) above sea level. While you will get the choice between riding in an open-air chairlift or an enclosed gondola, I highly recommend the chairlift if weather permits as it gives you unobstructed views of the area.

This is a great pick for those looking to have wildlife sightings around Banff. Keep your eyes peeled when riding the gondola as there is a good chance you may see grizzly bears in the summer.

While the area is densely populated with grizzlies, you will be happy to know that the top of the chairlift is protected with large electric fences to ensure that you are safe.

Related Read: Another great way to see grizzly bears and other animals is by joining one of the best wildlife tour in Banff National Park!

Best features of the Lake Louise Gondola

View looking down the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola
What a stunning place! Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

At the top of the Lake Louise Summer Gondola, you will find a large protected area that is sheltered by electric fences that keep your experience bear-free. The viewing platform even has binoculars, although you don’t need them to appreciate this view.

You will find an interpretive walking trail in the area that is very popular amongst families that leads to the small Wildlife Interpretive Centre which is a favorite for those traveling with kids.

For those looking to get closer to nature, there are some walking trails outside of the electric fence that will immerse you in all the beautiful nature found in this part of the Rocky Mountains. 

There are plenty of dining options to choose from including a restaurant at the base of the gondola but a much more impressive restaurant at the peak. Whitehorn Bistro offers stunning mountain views as you dine and is one of my favorite restaurants in Lake Louise. The famous Whitehorn burger or the cheese fondue are my picks!

This gondola, along with the Banff one are the two of the most popular in the area. If you’re deciding between them, read our guide comparing the Lake Louise Gondola and the Banff Gondola here.

Please Note: During the cold winter months, all of the above facilities are closed. You can still take a sightseeing gondola up and down the mountain if desired, but there won’t be anything to do at the top. For this reason, we think this gondola is only worth the money during the warmer months.

Buying tickets to the Lake Louise Gondola

Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola
Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

I highly recommend buying tickets for the Lake Louise Summer Gondola ahead of time to ensure the experience doesn’t fill up. This experience is only available in the warmer months and since Lake Louise in summer is incredibly popular, you can bet that this gondola attracts a lot of visitors.

The gondola prices are reasonable with adults over 18 costing $63 CAD. Youth riders aged 13-17 enjoy a discounted rate of $27 CAD while kids 6-12 ride for only $14 CAD. If you are traveling with children 5 and under, they ride free. Be sure to note that any kids under 42” (107cm) must ride in the enclosed gondola rather than the chairlift for safety reasons.

We prefer to book our tickets with Viator because they allow you to reserve your spot now and pay later. So you don’t get charged until just before you go! You can also cancel or reschedule up to 24 hours before you go, making it super easy to rearrange things if your plans change or the weather doesn’t cooperate.

The price is the exact same as buying tickets directly from Lake Louise, the only difference is that the Viator tickets look like a bit more money because the prices shown already include the taxes and fees. We always book with Viator because we feel so protected due to their amazing cancellation and rebooking policies, which you don’t get when you book directly with many companies!

Related Read: The drive from Banff to Lake Louise is super scenic and has some amazing stops along the way. Whether you choose to drive it yourself or take a Lake Louise tour from Banff, you don’t want to miss out!

Pros of the Lake Louise Gondola

Food from the Whitehorn Bistro at the Lake Louise Gondola
Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola
Viewpoint at the top of the Lake Louise Gondola
Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

High chance of wildlife sightings – Riding the Lake Louise Gondola is one of the best chances to spot a grizzly bear in the wild as this area is frequented by both black bears and grizzlies. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the bears! For your best chance, I recommend taking the open-air chairlift rather than the gondola. More than just bears, this area is also home to deer, bighorn sheep, wolves, and other wildlife. 

Can choose your experience – You can choose between riding in an enclosed gondola or an open-air chairlift. The gondolas are great for those that are afraid of heights or are traveling with young children. The chairlift is best for those looking to take in the views and wanting to better their chances of bear sightings. 

Safety enclosure at the top – At the top of the gondola you can feel safe to roam the area knowing you are in a protected enclosure away from any animals. There is a large electrical fence providing added safety and peace of mind. This is an especially appealing option for families traveling with young children.

Hiking trails – If you are comfortable leaving the enclosed area, there are a few different walks and hikes in the surrounding area that you can choose from. There are a few guided hiking tours offered in this area as well making it a great option no matter your skill level.  

Cons of the Lake Louise Gondola

Mountain views with the lake Louise summer gondola in Banff National Park
The gondola takes you high up the mountain!

Accessibility – While the team at Lake Louise Gondola makes great efforts to assist those with wheelchairs and scooters, the area is not 100% wheelchair accessible. 

No bear sighting guarantee – While this area is densely populated with bears, there is no guarantee that you will spot these beautiful creatures while riding the chairlift. If you aren’t lucky enough to spot a bear, you will still be impressed by all the beauty of the area. 

Nothing to do up top during the winter – The Lake Louise Gondola is mainly a summer activity. You can pay to take the sightseeing gondola up and back down in the winter, but it really isn’t worth the money because there are no facilities open at the top (not even washrooms). In my opinion, it is only worth visiting in the winter if you are going skiing/snowboarding.

Not open Late – During the warmer months, the gondola is only open until 6 pm. This is quite early compared to the Banff Gondola’s closing time of 10 pm. This means you won’t be able to watch the sunset from the top of the mountain.

What we think

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie with friends on the Lake Louise Sightseeing gondola
So much fun with friends!

The Lake Louise Gondola is certainly the wildlife lovers’ choice. The entire mountain is a hot spot for grizzly bears. Of course, it’s never guaranteed, but if you want to see the best wildlife in Banff, you need to give yourself as many chances as possible.

I’d also recommend enjoying lunch at the top or going for a hike. The overall experience can be a little boring without participating in those activities compared with the Banff Gondola. So, get up there and enjoy a meal or explore the mountain trails!

4. Banff Sunshine Gondola

Banff Sunshin Gondola travels over pine trees
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village
View from the Sunshine Village gondola window in summer
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village
  • Price: Adults (16+): $65 CAD. Youth (6-15): $32 CAD. Seniors (65+): $59 CAD. Children 5 and under are free. 
  • Location: 25 minutes from Banff town at the Sunshine Village Ski Resort
  • Open from: June 25 – September 11 from 8 am – 6 pm for the summer gondola, open in the winter too.
  • Best for: Anyone looking for a full-day adventure in a unique place and people who want to hike!

If you are looking to immerse yourself in nature and plan a full day of fun in the Rockies, the Banff Sunshine Gondola is your ticket! This 22-minute gondola ride takes you from the parking lot all the way up to Sunshine Village.

In the winter, Sunshine Village is a prime skiing destination (and the highest skiing and snowboarding resort in Canada!). In the summer, the gondola is a great way to get up here and enjoy the views along the way as well as the activities at the top.

So I mentioned there’s a lot to do up here – of course, there are restaurants and shopping, but the neat part is being able to spend a night at the top with a room at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. This is the only mountain-top hotel in Banff and waking up to those views is honestly pretty incredible.

Another cool part of the Banff Sunshine Gondola experience is the free Standish Chairlift. Once you are in Sunshine Village, you can take this chairlift an additional 8 minutes up the mountain. From the viewpoint at the top, you’ll be at the highest sightseeing elevation in all of Banff and Lake Louise!

If riding the chairlift up isn’t for you, you can also hike up to the viewpoint. Or get the best of both and ride the Standish Chairlift and then once you get off you can tackle one of the gorgeous Sunshine Meadows hiking trails.

The hiking at Sunshine Meadows takes you to not 1, but 3 alpine lakes – Rock Isle, Grizzly, and Larix Lake. Plus, the wildflowers in the summer are spectacular. You’ll feel like you’re in The Sound of Music! If you’re visiting Banff in the fall, there won’t be flowers, but you’re in time for “Larch” season – think golden pine trees. It’s equally as stunning!

The hikes (and views) up here are among my favorite attractions of all the gondolas, so it’s worth taking this one if you’re looking for those picture-perfect Rocky Mountain views.

Best features of the Banff Sunshine Gondola

Banff Sunshine Meadows on the Banff Sunshine Gondola
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village

If you are looking to get some exercise and dive deep into the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, the stunning hiking trails at the top of the Banff Sunshine Gondola are next-level amazing. Plus, the gondola is a bit of a 2-for-1 experience with the Standish Chairlift as an option to reach those hiking trails and the higher viewpoint.

I love this gondola experience as it offers the most immersive wilderness experiences allowing you to get lost in the mountains. There are more than 11 kms (6.8 miles) of trails to explore with lookouts along the way delivering unbeatable, colorful views of the mountains, wildflowers, lakes, and rich greenery of the forest you’re in. 

The Sunshine Mountain Lodge at the top feels like you’re staying on top of the world. It’s also pretty cool to have to take a gondola to your hotel room!

Buying tickets to the Banff Sunshine Gondola

Banff Sunshine Gondola above us
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village
Banff Sunshine Gondola and chairlift
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village

The Banff Sunshine Gondola is one of my favorite experiences in the area and is incredibly popular, I highly recommend buying your tickets well in advance.

If you are outdoorsy and looking for a good hike around Banff, the Banff Sunshine Gondola is a must-do. Buying gondola tickets will also include access to the Standish Chairlift for those looking to go even deeper into the mountains.

To get to the gondola, you can choose to either drive yourself and enjoy ample parking at the gondola, or take the free shuttle that runs daily from downtown Banff. 

Pros of the Banff Sunshine Gondola

Sunshine Mountain Lodge Banff Sunshine Gondola
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village
Food at Trappers at the top fo the Banff Sunshine Gondola
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village

Lots of hiking trails – If you are looking to do some hiking through the stunning Rocky Mountains, there are over 11km (6.8 miles) of hiking trails located throughout the beautiful Sunshine Meadows. With multiple alpine lakes in the area, stunning viewpoints, and a lush forest, this is one of the best areas for hikers to explore. 

Two-in-one experience – With your purchase of the Sunshine Gondola ticket, you will get to enjoy the 22-minute gondola ride up to the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. You will also get access to ride an additional 8 minutes up the Standish Chairlift. This experience will bring you deep into the Rocky Mountain wilderness.

You can stay overnight – If a short day trip isn’t enough time for you, you can choose to extend your stay by staying overnight at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. This is a great way to get the most from your experience as you can enjoy the area even after the crowds are gone. 

Great skiing and snowboarding – If you’re planning a winter trip, Sunshine Village is one of my favorite ski resorts near Banff because of its larger size, incredible views, and great terrain. It’s the highest elevation of any ski resort in Canada which is pretty cool. Plus, if you stay at the lodge, you’ll be first on the trails here every morning.

Cons of the Banff Sunshine Gondola

Banff Sunshine Gondola barre and Fitness class
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village

Can get quite busy – As the Sunshine Gondola is only open for a limited time in the summer and offers so much beauty, you can expect it to get quite busy. I recommend aiming to visit mid-week when possible and trying to get there early to try to beat the crowds. You will want to book your tickets in advance as well to ensure your experience goes smoothly. 

Only operates during certain hours – If you’re staying at the lodge at the top, you’ll need to plan around the gondola hours so you aren’t stuck at the bottom if you leave for part of the day. The gondola only operates from 8 am to 6 pm in the summer and from 8 am to 5 pm (or 10 pm on Fridays) during the winter.

Open-air chairlift – If you are weary of heights or traveling with very small children, you may not be comfortable with the open-air chairlift style of the Standish Chairlift ride. 

What we think

Sunset at Banff Sunshine Village in summer
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village
Banff Sunshine Gondola
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village

To me, the Banff Sunshine Gondola is one of the best gondolas on this list. It’s perfect for those wanting to get a full day out of their experience. Take the gondola up, explore the trails and area, stop for lunch and then explore some more.

It’s truly in one of the most beautiful areas in Banff and takes you deep into the mountains. The panoramic views here are something you need to see to believe! Plus, with a hotel up here, a stay at the top of the mountain is a bucketlist experience!

Related Read: For more fun exploring the area, check out the best free things to do in Banff!

The Best Banff Gondola

Scenic view out the window of the Banff Gondola
Scenic view out the window of the Banff Gondola

The best Banff gondola for you depends largely on the type of experience you are looking for. 

Overall, I would say that the Banff Gondola is one of the best all-around gondola experiences. It’s the most popular gondola experience for good reason! There’s so much to do and see at the top and the ride up is enjoyable too. Plus, it’s available all year long. For those traveling with families, you will love the multi-level upper terminal that offers lots of activities all in one place. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the option to hike up or down the mountain or enjoy access to walk the boardwalk. 

For those looking for an outdoorsy experience full of nature, wildlife and hiking trails, I highly recommend the Banff Sunshine Gondola. The ride up the second Standish Chairlift will take you deep into the Rocky Mountain wilderness and give you access to stunning outback trails. Plus you can spend the night at the top, which is a fun experience for families or couples, especially if you’re planning a honeymoon in Banff and Lake Louise!

The Lake Louise Gondola is another great option for outdoor enthusiasts as it offers a high chance of seeing bears and other wildlife as well as a good amount of hiking trails. Plus, the aerial view of the turquoise-blue Lake Louise is something you’ll always remember.

What to Bring on the Banff Gondolas

Bailey on the baordwalk at the top of the Banff Gondola
To me, the Banff Gondola is cheap for the experience you get!

Because the temperature at the top of all these gondolas is always several degrees colder than at the bottom, make sure to dress in layers! No matter if you’re visiting Banff in December or the middle of summer, it’s always a good idea to have a few extra layers with you. Plus, it can be windy at the top of these mountains!

If you’re planning a gondola ride in the spring or summer, I like packing a light windbreaker that’s waterproof. The weather in the Rockies can change on a dime and you might get a rainshower you weren’t expecting.

If you’re planning an evening gondola ride, it’s a good idea to have a sweater or sweatshirt with you for when the temperature dips when the sun goes down.

In the winter, dress warmer than you think you’ll need to! Lots of layers of warm, comfy clothes along with a hat, scarf, and gloves. The gondolas aren’t heated, so you’ll need that extra warmth.

The boardwalk and trails at the top of the gondolas can also be slippery during the winter, so make sure you have shoes with good grip. You can also be extra prepared with microspikes/crampons so ice won’t take you down!

This may seem obvious, but make sure you have a camera along too. The views on the ride up the gondolas and once you’re at the top are totally photo album worthy. Plus, you’ll want to remember your trip!

Other Things to do While You’re in Banff

Banff gondola building and boardwalk on a early spring day with lots of snow
The top of the Banff Gondola
Bailey and her mum pose for a photo at Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake!

Taking a ride up one of the gondolas around here is just one of many things to do in Banff. But with so much to choose from, it might feel overwhelming. So below, I’ve picked some of my other favorite activities in the area to help you out!

  • Hike Johnston Canyon – There are tons of amazing hikes in and around Banff, but I especially loved hiking Johnston Canyon and seeing its spectacular waterfalls. You can drive to the trailhead on your own or book a tour. This e-bike and hiking tour is excellent for those who want to combine both activities. Or if you just want transport, take the hop-on-hop-off bus that stops here. If you visit Johnston Canyon in winter, this Icewalk tour will show you ice formations and frozen falls!
  • Visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake – If you want to see more stunning lakes in the area, check out these two! Parking at Lake Louise can be tricky (and impossible at Moraine Lake!), so we’d recommend this Banff National Park Tour. You’ll get to visit Lake Louise as well as Moraine Lake in one go – with enough time to walk around, learn the local history, and snap postcard-worthy photos.
  • Look for wildlife – Banff is home to some pretty incredible wildlife. You might just spot elk, bears, deer, foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and more! The best chance you have of seeing the most critters is on a wildlife tour in Banff. We really liked this small group tour where the guides tailor the itinerary to recent wildlife spottings and you get to see highlights of the national park along the way.
  • Explore Banff town – While many nature-based activities are nearby, you shouldn’t neglect Banff town itself! Start your morning by visiting one of the cute local cafes, or grab patio drinks along Banff Avenue in the afternoon. To avoid traffic, check out the pedestrian-only Bear Street, with even more restaurants, cafes, and shops. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a Farmers Market every Wednesday in the summertime.

Where to Stay in Banff, Canada

At the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Me, at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

This is one of the most important parts of your trip and in Banff, the selection can be overwhelming and expensive. There are lots of different areas to consider when it comes to deciding where to stay in Banff National Park. There are also plenty of great hotels in Banff town to consider. Below are some amazing hotels we recommend:

Samesun Banff Hostel – Budget-backpacker Hostel

A great budget hostel with dorm rooms. Perfect for those on a tight budget who want to stay in the heart of Banff town. This is only a backpacker place though, as there are no private rooms available. Dorms can be booked on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Banff Inn – Budget-friendly Hotel

The Banff Inn is the perfect mix of comfort and affordability. It has a budget-friendly price tag but also comes with lots of luxuries. The hotel is located right on Banff Ave and all rooms are air-conditioned. In the hotel, you’ll find a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, as well as a restaurant and bar. You should book the Banff Inn well in advance as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff.

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – Mid-range Hotel

Pushing up into the mid-range budget, this hotel has a swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and all the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens. It is the perfect place for families since two and three-bedroom units are also on offer. The location is peaceful on Tunnel Mountain but yet only a 5-minute drive from Banff town. You can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.

Fairmont Banff Springs – Luxury Hotel

This is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff. It’s not cheap but the place is simply incredible – it seriously looks like a castle! Inside the hotel, you’ll find 11 restaurants, 14 shops, bowling, bars, a top-rated spa, a couple of pools, and so much more. It’s a luxury resort-like stay and the only one of its kind in Banff. If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon then this should be the hotel you choose! You can check prices and room availability for Fairmont online here.

Important info: Accommodation in Banff can be tricky. For starters, you need to book well in advance if you want to have a large selection.

I still suggest booking a place ASAP! Using Booking.com is great too because lots of hotels offer free cancellation so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later!

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)

  • $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
  • Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!

Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey play in the snow at the top oif the Banff Gondola on Sulphur Mountain
Thanks for reading!

If you are looking to get the best views of all the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, taking a trip up one of the four gondolas in Banff is a great way to do it! While each gondola offers a different experience, they all serve up breathtaking views of tall mountain peaks and stunning valleys. You really can’t go wrong with choosing any of them!

We’ve spent a lot of time exploring this part of Canada, so we have tons of blogs full of travel inspiration for you. Before you visit, make sure to check out some of our other blog articles about Banff including:

BANFF ITINERARY – How to Spend 1, 2, or 3 Days in Banff

7 BEST Tours of the Canadian Rockies (+ how to pick one!)

15 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Banff

How to get Parking at Lake Louise