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19 Things to KNOW Before Visiting the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola

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There are four gondolas in Banff, but the Banff Sunshine Gondola is the best for a full-day adventure. A ride on the Banff Sunshine Gondola is about so much more than a quick trip up and down a mountain, in fact, it’s a 22-minute ride to the top!

During the winter, the gondola will take you to Banff Sunshine Village, one of the top ski destinations, and a gorgeous mountaintop stay. Meanwhile, in the summertime, it is a hiker’s paradise! I visited in both seasons and you can’t go wrong with a ride on this gondola at any time of year.

With so much on offer up here, we felt that it was only right to compile a complete guide to everything you need to know before visiting the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola!

Table Of Contents
  1. 1. About the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola 
  2. 2. Where is the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola?
  3. 3. How much does the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola cost? 
  4. 4. Do you need to purchase tickets in advance?
  5. 5. Is there parking at Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola? 
  6. 6. Is the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola open all year round?
  7. 7. How long is the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola?
  8. 8. Is it scary for those afraid of heights? 
  9. 9. What are the best things to do at the top of the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola?
  10. 10. Can you stay at the top of the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola?
  11. 11. Is the Banff Sunshine Gondola wheelchair friendly? 
  12. 12. Is the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola pet-friendly?
  13. 13. Can you hike to the top of the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola? 
  14. 14. What are the facilities at the top of the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola?
  15. 15. How long do you need to visit the Banff Sunshine Gondola?
  16. 16. Is the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola suitable for children?
  17. 17. What is better, the Banff Gondola, Lake Louise Gondola, or the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola?
  18. 18. Tips for visiting the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola
  19. 19. Is the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola worth it? 
  20. Where to Stay in Banff
  21. Other Things to do While You're in Banff
  22. Thanks for reading!
  23. Renting a Car in Alberta

1. About the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing 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

Banff Sunshine Village started out as a summer resort in the late 1920s, but its excellent slopes soon attracted the attention of local skiers. Now it’s the highest ski resort in Canada!

Skiers were transported up and down the mountain by bus until 1980 when the gondola opened. It was installed pretty late compared to the other gondolas in Banff! 

The Banff Sunshine Village Gondola was replaced in 2001, although the same line and many of the original towers were used in the reconstruction. It was actually the fastest cable lift in the world at the time it was built. Now, more than two decades later, it no longer retains that title, but with a max speed of 22 km/h (13.5 mph), it’s no slowpoke, either.

The gondola is 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) long, and it takes 22 minutes to get from the parking lot to the top. There’s an elevation gain of 1,654 feet (504 meters), but the ride doesn’t really feel that steep since it’s spread out across a fairly long journey. The cabins are enclosed and each one can fit eight people. 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.

One thing we like about this gondola is that the cabins are painted the seven different colors of the rainbow. Apparently, the purple and blue cabins are the most popular! 

2. Where is the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola?

The Banff Sunshine Gondola travels up to Sunshine Village in summer
Photo credit: Anderson.nancy Depositphotos

Sunshine Village covers three different mountains on the Continental Divide, and the sightseeing gondola takes you from the parking lot and bus terminal to the Upper Village, where you can explore Sunshine Meadows. 

The base of the Banff Sunshine Village Gondola is located about a 20-minute drive from Banff, 35 minutes from Canmore, and 40 minutes from Lake Louise.

There’s also a free shuttle you can take from Banff to Sunshine Village. You can catch the bus from several locations around Banff, including the Caribou Lodge, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, and the town parking lot behind the Mount Royal Hotel. Buses to Sunshine Village run from 7:50 am – 12:15 pm, and then the return shuttles depart every 75-90 minutes between 1 pm – 6:30 pm. 

Related Read: If you don’t have a car to drive around Banff, don’t worry! There are great bus tours in Banff to get around to all the best sights.

3. How much does the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola cost? 

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

Tickets for the Banff Sunshine Gondola cost $69 CAD for adults, $62 CAD for seniors, and $34 CAD for kids aged 6-15. Children who are under the age of 6 can ride the gondola for free.

The price on Viator initially appears to be higher than the one on the official website, but that’s because Viator includes tax, whereas the website doesn’t. In reality, it will cost you the same amount of money either way, but with Viator, you also get the option to change or cancel your booking up to 24 hours beforehand. We think this is a huge benefit because you definitely want to visit the gondola on a nice, sunny day so that you can enjoy the views and hiking trails to the max! 

Another thing to note is that anyone over 18 also needs a Park Pass to be inside Banff National Park in the first place. It’s $11 CAD for a day pass, which is valid from the date of purchase until 4 pm the next day. If you’re traveling in a group, you can also save money with a group pass, which covers up to 7 people inside the same car for $22 CAD. 

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.

4. Do you need to purchase tickets in advance?

Yes! The Banff Sunshine Gondola gets pretty busy during the summer – in fact, it’s one of the busiest gondolas in Banff National Park.

If you’re visiting during the summer months, or over a weekend, you should definitely make sure that you book your tickets in advance, or you might miss out! 

This is where buying tickets on Viator comes in handy. They offer “reserve now pay later”, which helps balance out the costs of all of your Banff activities. You can also take advantage of the 24-hour free cancellation, just in case plans change. We always book on Viator when we can because it’s so simple!

5. Is there parking at Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola? 

Yes, there’s loads of parking, so you don’t need to worry about getting a spot. Parking is also free!

During the winter, Sunshine Village is a thriving ski resort and it has parking for thousands of skiers, so despite the popularity of the Sightseeing Gondola, you won’t have to fight for a parking spot.

I don’t know about you, but I hate spending my precious travel time circling the parking lot. Luckily, we didn’t have to worry about it here! We loved visiting this gondola because it made for a completely stress-free day, which is exactly how you want your trip to Banff to be!

Related Read: While you won’t need to plan ahead for parking here, other sights in Banff are a different story. Read our guides to parking at Lake Louise and parking alternatives for Moraine Lake so you’re prepared!

6. Is the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola open all year round?

Bailey on the Banff Sunshine Gondola in winter
Winter is more popular for skiing!

Absolutely! From late June through mid-September, it’s more about sightseeing. The wildflowers are in bloom and you can see the Rocky Mountains stretching in the distance – it’s quite a sight. There are also tons of hiking trails, the Standish chairlift, and restaurants to enjoy, but we’ll get into those details later!

During the winter months, skiers also use the gondola to access the mountain and other chairlifts. If you’re looking for an epic ski destination, this is the place to be! You can also use those summer hiking trails for snowshoeing if skiing isn’t your thing.

Regardless of what time of year you’re visiting Banff, you can enjoy the Sunshine Gondola!

7. How long is the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola?

Pretty long! The gondola is 4.5 km (2.8 miles) long in total, with an elevation gain of 1,654 feet (504 meters).

A one-way ride lasts around 22 minutes in total, so it’s the longest ride of all the gondolas in Banff. I actually love how long this gondola ride is. Some other popular gondolas are only 8 to 15 minutes, so the Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola gives you more time to catch the views and enjoy the ride (literally!).

8. Is it scary for those afraid of heights? 

Probably the scariest thing about the Banff Sunshine Village Gondola is its duration. It’s not exactly a short ride, so if you’re afraid of heights, sitting on a gondola for over 20 minutes might not be your idea of fun. At the gondola’s tallest point, you’ll be about 200 feet (60 meters) above ground, which might feel quite scary. 

Bailey’s mum is really scared of heights and she struggled with the gondola. It’s a relatively long ride and it moves pretty fast, so although it’s not an extreme experience, it might not be the best for people with a significant fear of heights. 

Related Read: If heights aren’t your thing, the cruise on Lake Minnewanka is another option with beautiful views closer to the ground (or water!).

9. What are the best things to do at the top of the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing 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

Ride the Standish Chairlift

Your Banff Sunshine Gondola ticket includes a ride on the Standish Chairlift, and we recommend taking advantage of this! The views are way better from here than they are in the Upper Village.

In case you’re confused (like I was) it’s not a standing chair lift, instead, it takes you to the top of Mount Standish (ooooh!).

After you arrive in Sunshine Village, the Standish Chairlift will take you even higher up the mountain to an incredible viewpoint. This second ride lasts for 8 minutes, and it’s an open-air chairlift rather than an enclosed gondola pod.

From the viewing platform, you’ll have amazing panoramic views of not only the surrounding peaks but also the area’s three different alpine lakes. In fact, the Standish Viewpoint actually boasts the highest sightseeing elevation in all of Banff and Lake Louise, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find better views anywhere else! 

Stay in the Sunshine Mountain Lodge

Spending a night at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s a pretty incredible experience if you have room in your budget. For one thing, it’s the only mountain-top hotel in Banff and you’ll find yourself waking up to some seriously insane views. 

Plus, it gives you way more time to explore the Upper Village and all of its beautiful hiking trails, because you don’t need to worry about catching the last gondola down the mountain again. Then you can start exploring again early in the morning before day-trip visitors start to arrive.

The Sunshine Mountain Lodge has cozy, modern rooms, a hot pool to relax in after a day of exploring, and some rooms even have waterfall views! Queen rooms usually range between $350 – $400 CAD during the summer season.

Enjoy a delicious meal

Several of the Sunshine Village restaurants stay open during the summertime, so you can enjoy some great food with even better views at the top of the gondola. 

The Chimney Corner is located inside the Sunshine Mountain Lodge, but you don’t need to be a guest to rock up and enjoy some comfort food. It’s open from 7:30 am until 10 pm, so it’s a great stop for breakfast or lunch, and its menu includes fluffy pancakes, poutine, lasagna, and more!

There’s also the Eagle’s Nest Canadian Bistro at the lodge, which is more of an upscale lounge serving fancy food, like Atlantic salmon, black truffle and parmesan risotto, and a rack of lamb with an orange and lavender crust. It’s open from 5 to 10 pm, so it’s really only an option if you’re staying at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge!

And if you need an energy boost, I love the Java Lift Patisserie right next to the base of the Standish Chairlift. Starbucks fans will be happy to know that they can get their fix here, and the cafe also serves paninis and crepes if you’re just looking for a quick lunch. It’s open from 7 am to 5 pm.

Hike Sunshine Meadows 

one of the lakes in Sunshine Meadows on a cloudy summer day, Banff National Park
One of the lakes you can check out in Sunshine Meadows.

We love hiking, and in our opinion, Sunshine Meadows is home to some of the best trails in Banff. There are about 11 km (6.8 miles) of trails at the top of the gondola, which offer you the chance to explore forests, wildflower meadows, and beautiful alpine lakes. Check out the trail map here!

If you’re just looking for a quick hike, you can hike to Rock Isle Lake and back. Rock Isle Lake is a small and scenic lake with a rocky islet in the middle, and it’s the most visited of the three alpine lakes in Sunshine Meadows because it’s the closest one to the village itself. The lake is about 1.8 km (1.1 miles) from Sunshine Village and the trail has 120 meters (394 feet) of elevation gain, so this is a nice, easy hike that the whole family can enjoy together.

However, if you’ve got time, we do think it would be a shame not to visit all three lakes. After you reach Rock Isle Lake, you can continue through more flower meadows towards Grizzly and Laryx Lakes. The trail then takes you on a loop around the edge of Laryx Lake, and there’s a rest area where you can stop for a picnic. You’ll also see Grizzly Lake and get to visit Simpson Viewpoint for more amazing alpine views. 

This trail is 10.6 km (6.6 miles) long in total, and it should take you around 3.5 hours to complete. If you’ve got the time, then we really think that it’s worth exploring this trail, because it’s absolutely beautiful and also pretty easy! 

Guided trail walks

If you’re keen to explore the top of the Banff Sunshine Gondola but are nervous about going it alone, or just want to learn more about the area, there are different guided trail walks on offer. 

The Sunshine Meadows guided hike is about 5-7 hours long and what we love about this tour is that everything you need is part of it! Pick-up from your hotel in Banff is included in the price, and so are the tickets for the gondola and a picnic lunch. You’ll also have a knowledgeable guide who can tell you about the area and answer any of your questions. This particular tour can be booked for $175 CAD per person.

The 1-hour walk starts at the Interpretive Centre and takes you on the Standish Chairlift, where you’ll head to the viewing deck and learn more about the history, geography, and wildlife of Banff National Park and Sunshine Meadows in particular. Then, it’s up to you whether you hike back to Sunshine Village or take the chairlift. It costs $79 CAD for adults and $49 for kids aged 6-15, and runs daily at 12:30 pm from late June until early September.

The 2-hour walk also takes you on the chairlift to the Standish Viewing Deck, but after you head back to the village you’ll also walk to the super scenic Rock Isle Lake. These walks leave twice a day at 9:30 am and 2 pm during the summer, and children need to be at least 6 years old to participate. It’s not that much more expensive to do the 2-hour walk as opposed to the 1-hour version at $99 CAD for adults and $59 CAD for kids, so if you’ve got the energy then we say do this one. 

10. Can you stay at the top of the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola?

Sunshine Mountain Lodge
Banff Sunshine Village

Yes, but you’ve only got one accommodation option! Fortunately, the Sunshine Mountain Lodge is a lovely place to stay. It’s a beautiful 4-star hotel and we think it would be perfect for a romantic getaway in Banff!

Plus, staying here will really help you maximize your time at the top of the gondola, and afterward, you’ll be able to say that you’ve stayed in Banff National Park’s only mountaintop hotel. 

11. Is the Banff Sunshine Gondola wheelchair friendly? 

Yes, the Banff Sunshine Gondola is wheelchair friendly and the staff will help you to load and unload your wheelchair. The Sunshine Mountain Lodge is also wheelchair accessible, as are the interpretive center and the free shuttle buses from Banff town.

However, the Standish Chairlift that takes you to the very top of the mountain isn’t wheelchair friendly since it’s an open-air chairlift. 

12. Is the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola pet-friendly?

No, four-legged friends aren’t allowed on the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola. Registered service dogs can come on board, but you’ll have to visit Guest Services at the bottom to get a ticket for them. Once you’re at the top, service animals aren’t allowed on the Standish Chairlift. 

13. Can you hike to the top of the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola? 

Sunshine Meadows in Banff National Park
Sunshine Meadows in Banff National Park

You can, but to be honest, it’s not ideal. You’re not allowed to hike next to the gondola due to the risk of grizzly bears, and you can even be fined for doing so. However, there is a road that leads from the parking lot up to Sunshine Village, so you can buy a one-way ticket from Guest Services at the base of the gondola and then hike up along that way. 

The route is all uphill and there aren’t really any views along the way, since you’re just following a road through the forest. It’s just over 5 km (3 miles) from the parking lot to Sunshine Village, and it should take you about 1.5 hours to walk it. 

14. What are the facilities at the top of the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola?

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

Restaurants

There are a couple of cafes and restaurants at the top of the Banff Sunshine Gondola. The Chimney Corner and Eagle’s Nest restaurants are both located inside the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. The former is a casual eatery, while Eagle’s Nest is more of a fancy dinner spot that’s only open from 5 pm onwards, so it’s best to visit if you’re staying at the lodge, otherwise your meal will be very rushed! There’s also the Java Lift Patisserie next to the bottom of the Standish Chairlift where you can grab coffee, pastries, and paninis. 

Toilets

There are toilets inside the Interpretive Center, which is also where hosted trail walks depart from. The facilities here are also wheelchair accessible. And of course, you can also use the bathrooms if you’re eating or drinking at one of the cafes or restaurants that we talked about above.

Interpretive Center  

The Interpretive Center has an information desk where you can book your trail tours, find information booklets if you’re hiking by yourself, and ask staff any questions that you might have about Sunshine Village and Meadows. There are also interactive exhibits here where you can even practice using bear spray – a skill that might just come in handy later on! 

15. How long do you need to visit the Banff Sunshine Gondola?

You’ll need a minimum of 2 hours to visit the Banff Sunshine Gondola, but this would be pretty rushed. We recommend spending at least half a day visiting so that you can enjoy everything there is to do at the top, including the Standish Chairlift and exploring the hiking trails.

If you want to stay longer and explore all of the trails on offer, you can even spend the night at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge

16. Is the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola suitable for children?

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

Yes! Children of all ages are welcome on the gondola and we think it’s a really nice activity that the whole family can enjoy together. Some of the trails at the top, such as the walk to Rock Isle Lake, are fairly short and easy for kids to do. The gondola is stroller friendly which is a big bonus, although the Standish Chairlift is not.

Related Read: If you’re planning a family road trip, the drive from Banff to Jasper is one of our faves!

17. What is better, the Banff Gondola, Lake Louise Gondola, or the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola?

We think that the Banff Gondola is the best one overall. It definitely wins in terms of views, and there’s also a ton to do at the top. With that being said, we really love the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola! It’s perfect for outdoor lovers to explore some truly stunning trails, so if you enjoy hiking as much as we do then you should definitely ride this one. 

You can read our full comparison of all four Banff gondola’s here!

18. Tips for visiting the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola

Banff Sunshine Village
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village

Wear layers:

The weather in the Rockies is unpredictable, so come prepared. It can sometimes be pretty cool at the top of the gondola, even if it’s warm at the base. It’s best to wear layers, including a light waterproof in case it rains! 

Arrive early or late in the day:

The Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola gets very busy during the summer, especially on weekends. It’s best to arrive early and catch the first gondola up at 8 am, or head up around 3 pm so that you can miss the midday crowds, but still have a couple of hours to explore. It’s also a good idea to go during the week if you can. 

In summer, plan ahead:

If you’re riding the Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola during the summer, then make sure you plan your visit rather than just winging it. Buy your gondola tickets online beforehand and make restaurant reservations in advance, and try to avoid going around midday because this is when the gondola is at its busiest. If you’re doing a hosted trail walk, it’s recommended that you get to the base of the gondola at least an hour before your walk departs so that you don’t miss it.

Bring snacks if you don’t want to buy food:

Food can be pretty pricey at the top of the Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola, so bringing your own snacks is a good way to keep costs down. If you’re only planning on heading up for a couple of hours, bring some snacks to tide you over. Bananas, cereal bars, nuts, and dried fruit all make for good hiking snacks.

Bring bear spray if you want to hike:

Yup, there are bears around at the top of the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola, so be prepared and bring bear spray with you. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! If you don’t know how to use bear spray, you can even head to the interpretive center to practice before you head out on the trails. 

19. Is the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola worth it? 

Banff Sunshine Gondola hiking trail
Banff Sunshine Gondola hiking trail
Banff Sunshine Village 1
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village

Yes, it’s one of the best things to do in Banff. It’s especially amazing for those who love to hike, although you don’t need to be an experienced hiker to tackle these trails as most of them are pretty easy. We think it’s absolutely stunning up there, so we say it’s a total must-do! 

Where to Stay in Banff

At the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Me, in front of the Fairmont.

Now that you know all about the Banff Sunshine Gondola, you’re going to want to plan a trip to Banff! While staying at the top of the gondola at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge is an option, there are plenty of hotels in Banff to choose from in a variety of budgets.

These are our top picks!

Fairmont Banff Springs – $$$

The Fairmont Banff Springs 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! Rooms range from $550 CAD to over $1,000 CAD (or more) during peak summer for a night.

You can check prices and room availability for the Fairmont online here.

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – $$

Pushing up into the mid-range budget, the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort 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 stay for a night for about $120 CAD in the low season and around $500 CAD during summer.

You can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.

Banff Inn – $$

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. Rooms range from $143 CAD to about $440 CAD.

You should book the Banff Inn well in advance as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff.

Samesun Banff Hostel – $

A great budget hostel with dorm rooms. The Samesun Banff Hostel is 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. Dorm rooms start around $40 CAD and can get to $120 CAD.

Dorms can be booked on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Important info: I suggest booking a place in Banff 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!

Other Things to do While You’re in Banff

Banff Ave on a summers day
Banff Ave!
Bailey and her mum pose for a photo at Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake tours are a must!

Riding up the Banff Sunshine Gondola 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 including at the top of the Sunshine Gondola, but I especially loved hiking Johnston Canyon. 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.

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is mesmerizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie at the Banff Sunshine Gondola in winter
Thanks for reading!

Riding on the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola is not only a must-do in Banff, I’d rank it among the best things to do in Alberta! The views are breathtaking and the hikes at the top or the skiing in the winter are hard to beat. Hopefully, this guide to the gondola has helped you plan your visit and make sure you buy tickets online in advance so you’re not disappointed!

If you’re heading to Banff soon, make sure to browse our other Banff blogs. There are road trip guides, tour ideas, and restaurant recommendations. We love visiting the Rockies and want to share all our secrets with you!

Our 16 FAVORITE Tours in Banff (and Why We Love Them!)

11 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Morant’s Curve

ONE Day Icefields Parkway Itinerary: 15 Epic Quick Stops