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17 Things to KNOW About the Lake Louise Gondola

17 Things to KNOW About the Lake Louise Gondola

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If you’re visiting Lake Louise in the summer, then the Lake Louise Gondola is a must-do activity! Not only does it offer breathtaking views of the lake itself and the nearby Victoria Glacier, it’s also a great chance to spot wildlife (I’ve seen grizzly bears!) and explore the hiking trails on Mt. Whitehorn.

During the winter, the gondola takes visitors to the ski resort and tickets are ride-only, but in the summertime, it’s all about sightseeing. While skiing is one of the top winter activities in Lake Louise, summer is actually my favorite time to visit and this gondola is part of the reason why! There are viewing platforms, hiking routes, and even a restaurant at the top, so you can really make a day of it.

We’ve put together a guide containing everything you need to know before you strap on your seatbelt and head up in the Lake Louise Summer Gondola to do some epic sightseeing in the Rockies.

1. About the Lake Louise Gondola

Close up of Lake Louise Gondola car during summer
You can choose between a chair or a gondola cart.
Lake Louise Gondola in summer
Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

Lake Louise has been a popular skiing destination since the 1920s, and the gondola opened in 1959. It takes passengers from 1,646 meters (5,400 ft) to 2,088 meters (6,850 ft) above sea level, so the total elevation gain is 442 meters (1,450 ft).

The gondola was originally designed to take skiers to the top of Mt. Whitehorn during the winter, but nowadays it’s also open in summer for sightseeing, and there are facilities up top to keep visitors entertained.

The gondola is now famous for bear sightings in summer – in fact, the area at the top is fenced off for this reason. We were lucky enough to spot a few grizzlies on our last visit!

When you get to the bottom of the gondola you can choose between riding in a chairlift or a gondola cart. It’s completely up to you but on a beautiful day, I much prefer to ride in the chairlift.

2. Where is the Lake Louise Gondola?

Daniel rests his feet inside the Lake Louise Gondola
Even on a cloudy day, it’s stunning!

The Lake Louise Gondola is located in the Bow Valley inside Banff National Park, and it takes you up Mount Whitehorn, which is part of the Canadian Rockies range.

It’s 7 kilometers (4.4 miles) from Lake Louise and about 60 kilometers (37.5 miles) from Banff, so it’s easy to visit from either town. If you’ve got time, I definitely recommend visiting both – the drive from Lake Louise to Banff is an epic mountain road trip you won’t want to miss!

Related Read: Even if you don’t have long to explore the Rockies, we have ideas on how to spend 1, 2 or 3 days in Banff!

3. How much does the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola cost?

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

Tickets for the summer gondola at Lake Louise can be purchased online.

The gondola ticket prices are as follows:

  • $55 CAD for adults
  • $25 CAD for teens aged 13-17
  • $10 CAD for children aged 6-12
  • Free for children 5 and under

Related Read: For travelers on a budget, you can grab tickets for a few special experiences like the gondola and then check out the best free activities in Banff!

4. Do you need to purchase tickets in advance?

Lake Louise Gondola during a warm summers day
Photo credit: Ski Louise
Lake Louise Gondola travels over a bear
Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

It depends on the time of year. You definitely need to book in advance during July and August, when Canadian schools are off on summer holidays, as the gondola gets super busy around then – especially on weekends.

It’s also a good idea to double-check public holidays and special events because the gondola also gets busy on those days.

At other times, you don’t necessarily need to book in advance to secure a ticket, but you still might find yourself waiting a long time at the ticket office if you don’t. When you book in advance, you can just show up and climb aboard! 

5. Is there parking at the Lake Louise Gondola?

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

Yes, there’s a huge parking lot next to the day lodge at the base of the gondola. In the winter, this parking lot caters to the entire ski resort, so there’s plenty of space and you don’t need to worry about whether or not you’ll get a spot. Plus, parking is free!

Note: There’s also a free Park and Ride between the parking lot and Lake Louise Lakefront. Parking at Lake Louise is expensive right at the lakeshore, so many visitors leave their cars in the lot after the gondola ride and use the return shuttle to go and explore the lakeshore.

6. What are the best tours that visit the Lake Louise Gondola?

Lake Louise gondola travels up the mountain during summer
It can get cold on cloudy days!

Hop-On and Hop-Off Banff Bus

We love a good hop-on, hop-off bus tour like this one because it gives you the flexibility to explore at your own pace. Plus, there’s always interesting commentary along the way, and the views from the open-top deck are unbeatable.

The Banff Bus runs from early June to late September and its route includes the Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, and Samson Mall, as well as the Lake Louise Gondola. It costs $80 CAD per person, although you’ll need to purchase your gondola ticket separately. You can either do this online or your bus tour guide can help you.

Half-Day Private Tour

If you’d prefer a private experience to a bus tour, then why not customize your own half-day tour?

You’ll head out early in the morning to see Banff National Park during golden hour (which makes you look AMAZING in photos, just FYI). You can enjoy views of the Emerald Lake, drink wine next to a glacier, and of course, soar high above Lake Louise on the summer sightseeing gondola. Just book online here and then craft your perfect day around Banff so you can see the Canadian Rockies your way.

Full-Day Private Tour

The only thing better than a half-day private tour is a full-day private tour. You can charter a luxury 4×4 vehicle and create your own itinerary from a choice of amazing locations.

With 8 hours at your disposal, you can take in all the beauty that Banff National Park has to offer, including the world-famous Lake Louise Gondola. Not to mention that you’ll be with a knowledgeable and experienced guide who will help you make the most of your day.

We honestly think that Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world, so if you’ve got the budget to stretch for this full-day private tour, we say go for it!

7. How long is the Lake Louise Gondola open?

Two people travel down the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola
Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

The Lake Louise Summer Sightseeing Gondola is usually open from late May until early October, for a total of 5 months. The open times change from month to month and do vary slightly from year to year. However, in general, the hours are as follows:

  • 9 am – 4 pm from late May to late June
  • 8 am – 5:30 pm from late June to late July
  • 8 am – 6 pm from August to early September
  • 8 am – 5 pm from September to October

The cafeteria at the day lodge opens 30 minutes before the gondola does, so if you arrive early you can always grab breakfast and a coffee there. 

8. When is the best time to visit the Lake Louise Gondola?

Lake Louise sightseeing gondola on a cloudy day in summer with some snow
The first time I went it snowed in September!

It’s best to avoid the midday heat and go either as early as possible in the morning, or later on in the afternoon. Not only does this make for a more comfortable experience, it also increases your chances of seeing bears.

In general, we think the perfect way to visit is to get there early, grab coffee from the day lodge, and head up on one of the first rides of the day. Then, when you come down, you can take full advantage of the free shuttle that heads from the car park into Lake Louise and spend some time exploring the lakefront, too.

9. What facilities are at the top 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

Unlike some of the gondolas in Banff National Park, there aren’t a ton of facilities at the top of the Lake Louise Gondola. However, there are still some cool attractions.

For one, the Whitehorn Bistro is a stunning restaurant with the most epic of views. It’s the perfect place to come for a bite to eat. I recommend trying their famous Whitehorn burger or the cheese fondue. This is one of the best restaurants in Lake Louise for a reason!

Next is the viewing platform which comes complete with binoculars and one of the best views in Banff National Park. I mean, just check out the picture above!

Finally, there is a small interpretive center where you can learn more about the wildlife and natural history of Mt. Whitehorn. It’s filled with animals and gives you a great lesson on natural history.

There are also toilets, a water bottle refill station, and a sheltered picnic area where you’ll see some cute chipmunks running around.

10. How long is the Lake Louise Gondola ride?

Lake Louise Summer gondola viewpoint
It takes a long time to get this high! Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

The ride lasts for 14 minutes each way, so you get about half an hour in the sky in total. Make sure to face outwards and take in the amazing views of the bright blue lake below you!

Plus, you can’t really distinguish the Victoria Glacier from ground level because it’s so huge, but as you ascend the mountain it comes into full view, which is pretty amazing to see.

11. Can you see bears from the Lake Louise Gondola?

Two Bears below the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola
How cool! Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola
Two Bears below the Lake Louise Gondola
Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

Yes – the Lake Louise Summer Gondola is actually one of the best ways to see bears in the Canadian Rockies, so keep your eyes peeled! Don’t just stare directly down, though – look around in all directions, and keep your binoculars handy if you have some.

You can spot both grizzly and black bears as you ascend the mountain from the safety of the gondola, especially at cooler times of day when they tend to be most active. Grizzly bears are lighter in color and have a noticeable shoulder hump, while black bears are darker (duh) with larger ears and straighter, flatter facial profiles.

You’re also encouraged to report sightings to the staff at the top, so they can share it with other visitors and note it down for research.

Related Read: Bears aren’t the only facsinating creatures around here, keep your eyes peeled for other must-see animals in and around Banff National Park!

12. What are the best things to do at the top of the Gondola?

Bailey with a stuffed bear at the interpretive center at the top of the Lake Louise Gondola
Bailey at the Interpretive Center!

Go hiking

There are 3 hiking trails at the top of the Summer Sightseeing Gondola, all of which are relatively short. If you do want to hike at the top of the gondola, we recommend visiting in the early morning or late afternoon when the temperature is cooler because you’ll definitely work up a sweat!

The Kicking Horse Pass Viewpoint Trail is 1.7 kilometers (1 mile) out-and-back, which is a fairly steep hike along a dirt and gravel path that leads to a viewpoint with sweeping views of the valley below. It took us just over an hour to complete the trail, and we were definitely out of breath at the top.

The Pika Trail is a 2.5-kilometer (1.5-mile) round trip, and it follows a steady incline along a gravel road. It’s a pleasant walk and you’ll pass through wildflower meadows, spotting cute pikas as you go. Pikas are adorable little rodent-like animals that are native to the area, and they’re always a delight to spot.

To make the Pika Trail even better, though, we recommend continuing on further to the Ptarmigan Valley viewpoint, which makes for a 3.4-kilometer (2.1-mile) round trip. The final section is a bit steeper but you’ll get amazing valley views, and we thought the extra effort was totally worth it.

Enjoy a meal at the restaurant

We had a delicious lunch at the Whitehorn Bistro, which serves up gourmet meals made from the best local ingredients around. Not only is the food great, but you get to enjoy panoramic views of Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier as you dine, which is a super special experience.

Plus, they serve a great range of cocktails and craft beers – and in my opinion, it really doesn’t get better than enjoying an ice-cold beer against an amazing alpine backdrop!

Visit the Interpretive Center

The Interpretive Center is a great place to learn more about local wildlife and ask questions. Here, you can see life-sized animals, read information boards, and check out animal pelts, skulls, and claws. In fact, you can even feel fake animal droppings, if you’re so inclined! The center is definitely worth checking out and it’s great if you’re visiting with kids. There’s also a small shop here where you can buy books and wildlife guides.

You can also head to the viewing platform to listen to a 15-minute talk about the area’s bears, wildflowers, and glaciers at either 10 am or 2 pm. It’s pretty interesting, so do try and catch it if you’re at the top at either of these times.

Related Read: For more incredible views and fun activites, hit the road to drive from Lake Louise to Jasper!

13. Is the Lake Louise Gondola wheelchair friendly?

The Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola travels up the mountain
Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

Not completely. It’s definitely possible for certain wheelchairs to fit into the gondola cabins, but you will need to check with staff before boarding or call ahead.

There are designated wheelchair spaces in the parking lot, and a yellow phone box where you can call for assistance by pressing 0. 

Wheelchairs need to be folded in order to fit into the gondola cabins and assistance can be provided upon request. The gondola can also be slowed down or stopped in order to help passengers get on and off.

Once you reach the top there’s a complimentary shuttle that can take you from the station to the Interpretive Center and the Whitehorn Bistro. You’ll need to advise the lift attendants at the bottom of the gondola if you need to use this so that they can make the necessary arrangements. The viewing deck at the top also has a wheelchair ramp.

14. Is the Lake Lousie Gondola pet-friendly?

No – pets are not allowed on the gondola. Only service animals such as guide dogs are permitted, and you’ll need to bring their paperwork with you. If your service animal has any special requirements, you can speak to the ticket staff or call ahead to make any necessary arrangements.

15. Can you hike to the top of the Lake Louise Gondola?

Lake Louise gondola in summer travels up the mountain

No, unlike the Banff Gondola, you can’t hike to the top of the Lake Louise Gondola.

Hiking isn’t allowed on the lower mountain because it’s part of a protected wildlife corridor. Plus, there are often bears roaming around, so it’s not exactly safe! If you want to hike, then you’ll need to take the gondola up and choose one of the routes at the top that we mentioned earlier.

16. Which is better, the Banff Gondola or Lake Louise Gondola?

view from the platform at the top of the banff gondola in summer
The top of the Banff Gondola

When you’re comparing gondolas near Banff, both of these offer amazing views and are totally worth doing, but to be honest, I did prefer the Banff Gondola – there’s just more to do up there. Don’t get me wrong, going up the Lake Louise Gondola was an awesome experience, and we took some amazing photos, but once you’re up there, there’s not as much to do as there is at the Banff Gondola station. 

With that said, I’ve seen tons of bears, so those really wanting to see a bear should still do the Lake Louise Gondola. It offers a fantastic chance as sightings are so regular! 

So although I still recommend you make the trip up on the Summer Sightseeing Gondola, the Banff one remains my favorite.

Related Read: If you’re going to be in Banff, read up on the best places to stay in Banff before you go!

17. Is the Lake Louise Gondola worth it?

Beautiful day at the Lake Louise Gondola
Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

Yes, absolutely. The views are just fantastic and really will take your breath away!

Plus, you can enjoy some great food and drinks up at the top, learn about the area’s wildlife at the Interpretive Center, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot some bears! So yes – the Lake Louise Gondola is definitely worth it and I would 100% recommend a ride. 

Where to Stay in Lake Louise

A foggy morning at Lake Louise
A foggy morning at Lake Louise

Staying in Lake Louise is the perfect way to take in more of the amazing activities on offer and soak up those mountain views. Luckily there are some good choices of where to stay that cover all budgets. These are my top recommendations!

Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center – $

I am often on a budget and stay at the Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center. The location is right in town, they have a shared kitchen, basic but comfortable rooms, and friendly staff.

This hostel comes with everything you need and the location is within walking distance of shops and restaurants. The private rooms are cozy, clean, and comfortable. Better yet, the onsite cafe called Bill Peyto’s Cafe is a local favorite. Check availability and book a room here online.

Lake Louise Inn – $$

The Lake Louise Inn is still a budget option but a little fancier than the above hostel. The location is really good and most of the rooms are freshly renovated and modern. There is also an onsite pool and restaurant and apartments for larger groups.

Book a room at the Lake Louise Inn online here.

Fairmont Château Lake Louise – $$$

For those with a bigger budget or looking to treat themselves, you can’t look past the Fairmont Château Lake Louise. The hotel sits on the shoreline of Lake Louise with epic views in the most stunning of locations. I’ve added spending a night or two here to my personal bucket list!

Check availability and book your getaway at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise here!

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks 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 one day.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $11.04 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.41 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.)

  • $21.36 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) – $93.81 CAD
  • Senior (64+) – $80.18 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $188.59 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 of booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Renting a Car in Alberta

The Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park
The Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park

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.

Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap, 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!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie with friends on the Lake Louise Sightseeing gondola
Thanks for reading!

There you have it, all you need to know to ride the Lake Louise Gondola and have a great time! This area of Canada is one of my favorites because of those incredible views everywhere you look. The Lake Louise Gondola is one of the best ways to see those views and maybe even a few bears too.

If you’re heading to Lake Louise to ride the gondola, feel free to let me know if you have any questions. Also, check out some of our other Lake Louise and Banff guides before you leave:

Guide to Planning the Most Romantic Honeymoon in Banff & Lake Louise

10 BEST Hotels in Banff Town (Downtown!) for all Travelers & Budgets

40 EPIC Things to do in Banff in Summer

12 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Canmore
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