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The Banff Gondola: 23 Essential Tips for Visiting in 2024

The Banff Gondola: 23 Essential Tips for Visiting in 2024

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If you’re looking for those incredible mountaintop views that Banff National Park is so famous for, but don’t necessarily want to hike, we have the perfect solution! The Banff Gondola takes you straight to the top of Sulphur Mountain for awe-inspiring 360 scenic views of the Rockies, Banff town, and the vast Canadian wilderness.

Since it is one of the best things to do in Banff, it can get really busy! We have taken this gondola ride more times than we can count, so we have worked out all the details for a seamless visit. This blog will serve as a practical guide to give you all the essential information on visiting the Banff Gondola.

We’ll cover everything from where to buy your tickets, the best time of day to avoid crowds, tours that visit the Banff Gondola, and more! So once you get to the top and take in the views, you can breathe that fresh alpine air and relax in this beautiful place.

Don’t have time to read the full article? The 8-minute gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain is not only scenic but also a bit of a thrill! You can book admission tickets in advance or visit with a guided tour which will make your visit incredibly simple. Don’t forget to check out their special events, like the Nightrise experience in winter!

Table Of Contents
  1. 1. About the Banff Gondola/Sulphur Mountain Gondola
  2. 2. Where is the Banff Gondola located?
  3. 3. How do you get to the Banff Gondola?
  4. 4. How much does the Banff Gondola cost?
  5. 5. Do you need to purchase tickets in advance?
  6. 6. Is there parking at the Banff Gondola?
  7. 7. What are the best tours that stop at the Banff Gondola?
  8. 8. Is the Banff Gondola open all year round?
  9. 9. How long is the Banff Gondola ride?
  10. 10. Is it scary for those afraid of heights?
  11. 11. Is the Banff Gondola safe?
  12. 12. What are the best things to do at the top of the Banff Gondola?
  13. 13. Where are the best places to eat at the Banff Gondola?
  14. 14. What yearly events are on at the Banff Gondola?
  15. 15. Is the Banff Gondola wheelchair friendly?
  16. 16. Is the Banff Gondola pet-friendly?
  17. 17. Can you hike to the top of the Banff Gondola?
  18. 18. What are the facilities at the top of the Banff Gondola?
  19. 19. How long do you need to visit the Banff Gondola and Sulphur Mountain?
  20. 20. Is the Banff Gondola suitable for children?
  21. 21. Are there other Gondolas in Banff?
  22. 22. Tips for visiting the Banff Gondola
  23. 23. Is the Banff Gondola worth it?
  24. Other Things to do While You're in Banff
  25. Where to Stay in Banff, Canada
  26. Thanks for reading!
  27. Why We Book Tours with Viator
  28. Renting a Car in Alberta

1. About the Banff Gondola/Sulphur Mountain Gondola

fours cars some up the cable of the Banff Gondola with mountain views
The Banff Gondola is in the most beautiful of locations!
Cable cars travel up the Banff Gondola
Up we go!

The Banff Gondola is a sightseeing gondola/cable car that takes visitors up high above Banff onto the top of Sulphur Mountain for some epic views. It’s arguably the best vantage point in Banff National Park that you can get without having to hike at all!

The gondola cable is just under a mile long – or 1,560 meters (5,120 feet long) to be precise. The total elevation gain is 698 meters (2,292 feet) and the ride lasts for approximately 8 minutes each way. There are 40 gondola cabins, each of which accommodates 4 riders at a time, plus any infants who can sit on laps.

Once you reach the top, there’s a 4-story complex to explore, where you can find restaurants, cafes, observation decks, a scenic boardwalk, and even a theater. We spent hours there!

2. Where is the Banff Gondola located?

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

The Banff Gondola is located on Sulphur Mountain in the province of Alberta, just 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) south of the Banff townsite. 

The mountain itself is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountains range and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Banff National Park. At the top, you’ll have panoramic views of Banff, the Bow Valley, and the surrounding mountains like the infamous Mt Rundle.

3. How do you get to the Banff Gondola?

a view of Mt Rundle from the top of the Banff Gondola
This is the view that you can expect from the top!

If you’ve got your own vehicle or rental car, it takes just under 10 minutes to get from town to the Banff Gondola. Take Banff Avenue south towards the Bow Bridge, and after crossing, turn left onto Mountain Avenue. Keep right and follow the road until you reach a dead end, which is the Banff Gondola parking lot. We found this drive super straightforward.

The parking lot at the Banff Gondola is also huge, and free! However, during the busy summer months it does completely fill up, so you will want to arrive early and avoid visiting on the weekends.

Alternatively, you can take the Banff ROAM bus from downtown to the gondola. You’ll need to take Route 1, and buses depart every 25-60 minutes throughout the day, from 6 am until 11 pm. It’s $2 CAD per person each way, so it’s super cheap, and it only takes around 17 minutes. During the summer months, you can buy a one-way ride and then show your Banff Gondola ticket to the driver on the way home to get a free return!

There’s also a free shuttle between downtown and the gondola during peak tourism season. From May 21 until June 12, this is only available on weekends, and then from June 13 to October 9th, it runs every day. It runs every 30 minutes from 9 am until 6 pm.

The bus and shuttle are both super handy because you don’t have to worry about parking. Who wants to be queuing for a parking lot when you could already be enjoying yourself atop a mountain? 

The Banff Gondola is also a popular add-on to many tours of the Canadian Rockies.

4. How much does the Banff Gondola cost?

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

The price of tickets for the Banff Gondola depends on the day of the week that you visit. Adult tickets range from $59 to $72 CAD. Meanwhile, children’s tickets (6 to 15 years old) vary from $37 to $45 CAD. Kids 5 and under ride for free.

Tickets sometimes appear slightly cheaper on the official website than on Viator (where we always book), but this is because the price quoted doesn’t include tax. In reality, you’ll pay the same amount whichever way you purchase, and booking through Viator gives you the added bonus of booking ahead of time to skip the queue!

The Banff Gondola is weather-dependent, so if you hit a patch of bad weather, your tickets through viator will be rescheduled or refunded. We always book through Viator because it gives us a lot of flexibility while ensuring that we don’t miss out on our bucket list activities, or have fun experiences ruined by bad weather!

You can book your Banff Gondola ticket online in advance here!

5. Do you need to purchase tickets in advance?

Banff gondola building and boardwalk on a early spring day with lots of snow
In winter, you don’t usually need to book in advance!
A Banff Gondola Cabe car heads up Sulphur Mountain
Photo credit: Jewhyte Depositphotos

I strongly suggest purchasing tickets in advance, especially during summer. The Banff Gondola is a super popular activity (with good reason, we hasten to add!) and the line to purchase tickets when you arrive can be very long – and I mean long! So it’s best if you can purchase your tickets in advance here, that way one piece of the activity is already taken care of.

If you’re visiting during Christmas in December, it can also be quite busy so purchasing tickets beforehand is a good idea. And if you’re visiting outside of these peak seasons, you don’t necessarily have to book them so far out.

The best way to purchase Banff Gondolas tickets is to book through Viator because you can reserve your tickets months in advance to secure your spot.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

6. Is there parking at the Banff Gondola?

The Banff Gondola parking lot
This is my shot of the parking lot as seen from the gondola of course!

Yes, but there are limited spots and the parking lot fills out fast, especially during the summer months in Banff (June to September). There is no overflow parking, so if you want to get a spot either come first thing when they open, during the week, or in the late afternoon/evening. Avoid the weekends at all costs if you’re driving!

Alternatively, you can take the bus or a guided tour that provides transportation. You could technically walk from downtown Banff to the gondola, but it’s about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) uphill, and on a busy road, so it’s not the best option.

If you choose to take public transportation, then it’s best to take the ROAM bus or free shuttle instead of worrying about parking. Both are very wallet-friendly options and although they take slightly longer to get there, you’ll save a lot of time and stress by avoiding the hassle of queuing up to get into a busy parking lot.

During the winter months in Banff, finding a parking space shouldn’t be an issue unless it’s Christmas time, but it’s still better to err on the side of caution and try to get there early or later in the evening to secure a space.

Related Read: If you are driving, check out the best stops on the drive from Banff to Jasper – it’s an epic road trip!

7. What are the best tours that stop at the Banff Gondola?

the bottom of the banff gonda
The Banff Gondola is quite the operation. Photo Credit: bornin54 on Deposit Photos

Banff Day Trip from Calgary

Just because you’re staying in the city doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the Banff Gondola and the scenic views of the national park! This full-day tour from Calgary provides hotel pick-up and transportation to Banff National Park and includes stops at iconic Banff locations, so you can get a quick taste of all this park has to offer. 

Your first stop is at the Banff Gondola on Sulphur Mountain – the highlight of the day! The tour includes your admission ticket and you won’t have to deal with the nightmare parking situation. This really takes all the stress out of visiting the Banff Gondola, so you can simply enjoy those mountaintop views. You’ll have an hour here before heading to Bow Falls for more scenic views. 

This tour has the option to stop in Banff town to explore before returning to Calgary, or you can upgrade to add a cruise on Lake Minnewanka. Tickets for this full-day tour including the gondola only are $320 CAD or to add the lake cruise is $360 CAD. 

While I hope you can spend more than one day in Banff, if you’re on a tight timeline this is the best way to go! You can check the details and reserve this tour, which offers cancellation 24 hours before departure, in advance here

Banff Gondola and Lake Cruise from Banff

This is one of my favorite tour options to visit the Banff Gondola. It departs from Banff town, so you can still enjoy all the national park has to offer during your trip, but it provides transportation, the gondola tickets, and you can add the lake cruise for a full day of fun. The best part is that it lets you bypass dealing with parking and purchasing tickets at the Banff Gondola.

They will pick you up at your hotel in Banff or surrounding areas, and head straight to the Banff Gondola to beat the crowds. As I said earlier, the tour provides your gondola ticket, so you will skip the lines and journey up the mountain to enjoy the incredible views. After an hour at the top, you will take the scenic drive along Tunnel Mountain Drive seeing Mount Rundle, the hoodoos, and Bow Falls. 

You’ll make your way to the Two Jack Viewpoint and Lake Minnewanka, where you can choose to add on the lake cruise here if you’d like! This is the largest lake in Banff, so a 1-hour cruise is a great way to see the gorgeous lake and learn about the area. 

This 6.5-hour tour operates from May through mid-October. It is $205 CAD for the standard tour (including transportation and the gondola ride) or $243 CAD to include the cruise. 

I think this tour is totally worth the cost, as it will save you so much hassle at the Banff Gondola! You can book this highly-rated tour here

Banff Area & Johnston Canyon 1-Day Tour from Calgary or Banff

To see the absolute highlights of the Banff area in a convenient day trip from Calgary, our pick is this 1-day tour from Calgary or Banff as the best way to do it! It hits the most highlights of the area, including the Banff Gondola, so you can maximize your sightseeing time.

The tour provides pick-up from a meeting point in either Calgary or Banff, depending on where you’re staying. You will first visit the Banff Gondola for 1.5 hours, which leaves plenty of time to explore. Just like the other tours mentioned, visiting here early, getting your tickets in advance, and avoiding parking are all perks of taking a guided tour to the gondola – what’s not to love about that!? 

This tour will also spend time in Banff downtown, take an hour to explore Johnston Canyon, and make quick stops at Surprise Corner, Hoodoos Trail, and Bow Falls. It includes your gondola ticket and all national park fees, in addition to transportation. It doesn’t include lunch or any personal expenses, so be sure to bring some extra spending money!

This tour is offered year round and availability changes depending on the season. You can book tickets for $260 CAD per person, including the gondola ticket. Please note that prices are a bit cheaper during the winter months and you can also opt to purchase the gondola tickets on your own (but I recommend getting them through the tour simply for convenience’s sake). 

Best of all, this tour offers buy now and pay later, so you can budget your trip’s expenses! Check out all the details and book this popular tour to Banff in advance, here.

8. Is the Banff Gondola open all year round?

A fire pit at the top of the Banff Gondola during winter on Sulphur Mountain
It’s cold in winter so find yourself a fire pit and relax!

Yes, except for two weeks in mid-January during which the gondola closes for annual maintenance. Exact dates vary from year to year so make sure to check the schedule in advance if you want to ride the gondola in January. You don’t want to get all excited about the gondola ride, only to discover that it’s closed!

Open times are fairly consistent throughout the year, but they do vary slightly according to season. Usually, the Banff Gondola is open from 10 am – 9 pm on weekdays, with the last ride up at 7:30 pm, and 10 am – 10 pm on weekends with the last ride up at 8:30 pm.

The views are stunning all year round and there’s really no bad time to visit (unless the gondola is closed, of course!).

9. How long is the Banff Gondola ride?

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

The Banff Gondola ride is 8 minutes each way, so it’s not a super long ride, but it still gives you plenty of time to take in the stunning views of Banff National Park. Depending on the season, you might even spot some wildlife along the way!

The cable car travels at a maximum speed of 4 meters (13 feet) per second, and takes 650 passengers each way every hour – not bad going!

Related Read: See more of the animals around here by joining one of the best wildlife tours in Banff!

10. Is it scary for those afraid of heights?

A view down the cable of the Banff Gondola from the top showing the cable cars
Ok, so it’s a little scary!

I won’t lie to you – yes.

My mom is super afraid of heights and she did struggle with the ride. However, it’s definitely not the scariest gondola ride out there and you’re usually fairly close to the ground. If your fear of heights is rather mild, then you should be okay, but if it’s severe then the Banff Gondola might not be for you!

My mom made it, though, and she is petrified of heights. The cabins are enclosed and safety is a top priority at the Banff Gondola, keep reading to find out more!

11. Is the Banff Gondola safe?

A car on the Banff Gondola heads up the mountain to the sop
Photo credit: Jewhyte Depositphotos

Yes, riding the Banff Gondola is safe. The carriage is completely enclosed, so it feels much more secure than your traditional ski lift. They do routine maintenance and checks to ensure that the lift system is running properly and even test it daily before it opens. 

There was an incident where the whole facility lost power, causing the gondolas to stop working. While several hundred people were stranded at the top overnight and many were in the gondola cabins, the gondola employees were able to get everyone out of the cabins quickly. Those who stayed the night at the top were provided food and blankets, and while it was a rather inconvenient event, no one was unsafe at any point.

So even in the case of an emergency, there is a contingency plan in place! 

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

Walk the boardwalk to Sanson's Peak and the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station
The boardwalk is, without a doubt, the number one thing to do!
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

There is a TON to do at the top of the Banff Gondola, so you definitely won’t be bored once you reach the top. This isn’t a quick trip up and down the mountain – you’ll be entertained for hours at the gondola complex at the top! It’s no wonder taking this gondola is one of the best things to do in downtown Banff!

Walk the boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak and the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station

You don’t have to stay inside the complex at the top. There are several hiking trails that you can take to explore the mountain, but the leisurely walk to Sanson’s Peak is the most popular as it’s along a boardwalk.

It’s 0.5 kilometers (0.3 miles) long and only takes 20-30 minutes each way. To be honest, you probably could do it even faster, but you’ll want time to stop and soak up the views and snap photos. There are lots of steps, but they’re shallow, so this is still an easy walk.

The boardwalk runs along the summit ridge and you’ll have amazing views from all sides. You can check out the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station at the end of the boardwalk and the Weather Observatory. This is the observatory that Norman Bethune Sanson (who you’ll remember from earlier in this blog if you’ve been paying attention!) began using in 1903 to monitor the climate of the Rockies.

The Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station is a National Historic Site that had a big role in Canada’s contribution to the study of cosmic rays. It was built in 1956 and eventually dismantled in 1981, but the foundations remain as a tribute to the important work done there.

But even if you’re not interested in any of this, the walk is still worth it for the stunning mountain views. It’s especially beautiful during the winter when the landscape is sprinkled with snow, but be sure to wrap up warm. Also, small spikes or cleats might come in handy as sometimes the boardwalk can get slippery and icy!

Shop for souvenirs

There’s a gift shop inside the gondola complex with loads of souvenirs, so you can pick up something cute to remember your trip up the mountain. Or, if you’re feeling generous, it’s a good place to grab a gift for friends and family back home.

There are lots of cozy hoodies here, which is handy if you arrive at the top of the mountain and realize it’s colder up there than you expected!

Go stargazing

If you take the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain on a clear night, you will be treated to a spectacular show of stars, planets, and galaxies. The altitude helps you to get an even better view of the night sky, so you will be able to spot constellations you’d never have seen from the city.

There’s also the stargazing program, which runs at certain times of the year on Friday and Saturday nights. You can peek through high-powered telescopes and see deep into our universe. The program is run by experienced astronomers who are passionate about stargazing, and they will be on hand to answer any questions you have and help you to understand what you’re seeing.

The Banff Gondola stargazing program has actually won an award from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, so you know you’re going to get some premium stargazing up here!

Enjoy a coffee with a view

If you’re anything like us, coffee isn’t a want but a NEED. Luckily, there are two cafes to choose from at the Banff Gondola, so you can enjoy your cappuccino with a gorgeous mountain view – can you imagine anything better?!

At the gondola station at the bottom, there’s a Starbucks where you can either grab a takeaway to take on the ride up, or sit and enjoy the view, which is pretty special even at the base of the mountain. This is actually the highest Starbucks in Canada, so you will pay a bit of a premium on your usual order here.

Meanwhile, inside the Gondola complex at the top, there’s Castle Mountain Coffee (one of the best cafes in Banff, if you ask me), where you can sit in and enjoy a cup of joe while admiring the Rocky Mountains, or take it out and enjoy it as you stroll along the boardwalk.

Relax in the famous Red Chairs

In 2014, Parks Canada placed red chairs in several scenic spots throughout national parks, to encourage visitors to take time out of their day and relax in nature, and then share their special moments on social media (a little PR never hurt anybody right?).

These red chairs are now iconic, especially the ones along the Banff Gondola boardwalk, which are perfectly placed against the dramatic mountain backdrop. It’s a great photo opportunity and the perfect moment to sit down and take a couple of minutes to appreciate the beauty of where you are.

Visit the Above Banff Interpretive Center

The Above Banff Interpretive Center is a state-of-the-art facility featuring interactive exhibits and displays that teach you about the history of Sulphur Mountain and its unique ecology. You can even try your hand at being a mountain explorer and practicing different rope knots, and there’s a fun mobile game for kids to play to learn more about the mountain and those who have explored it.

See a show at the Above Banff Theater

After you’ve explored the Interpretive Center, you can enjoy an immersive, multi-sensory show at the Above Banff Theatre. It’s a short film that shows you the Canadian Rockies through the eyes of a bald eagle as it soars above the mountains. It’s a great way to learn about the local environment and get inspired by its beauty.

We only went to see this because it was included in our admission ticket, so we figured we might as well, but it actually proved to be one of the highlights of our visit!

You can book your ticket for the Banff Gondola online here to avoid waiting in lines and enjoy the show!

13. Where are the best places to eat at the Banff Gondola?

There are plenty of delicious restaurants in Banff, and a couple of them are actually located at the top of the Banff Gondola. So if you’re hungry, you’re in luck! Check out the below places to grab some grub.

Sky Bistro

Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection Sky Bistro
Photo credit: Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection Sky Bistro

There’s dining in style, and then there’s taking a gondola ride up a mountain to dine at an upscale restaurant with panoramic views of multiple mountain ranges at once.

The Sky Bistro is a swanky, multi-award-winning restaurant located at the top of Sulphur Mountain. It’s a great place to treat yourself after a day of sightseeing, or simply to enjoy some local specialties while taking in the views. The bistro is supplied by some of the finest producers in Western Canada, so you can expect fresh and delicious dishes.

You’re looking at between $23-$28 CAD for lunch here, $30-$45 CAD for a main course at dinner, and $16 CAD for a cocktail, so it’s not exactly the cheapest option around. However, it’s totally worth it for the experience and the views!

You can even combine your gondola tickets when you reserve your table, either with an a la carte reservation or a combo package called the Sky Dining Experience. With this experience, you can choose between a 2-course lunch or a 3-course dinner, including food, drinks, gratuities, and your gondola ride. So you can simply show up and enjoy! The Sky Dining Experience is $105 CAD for lunch and $144 CAD for dinner, but such a unique experience, and the menu is exquisite!

This place is very popular and you’ll need a reservation if you want to eat here. You can only make reservations up to 30 days in advance, so we recommend setting a reminder on your phone 30 days ahead of your visit so that you don’t miss out! You can book online through the Sky Bistro website. Try and time your meal with the sunset for a truly spectacular experience.

Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen

View out of the windoes of a restaurant at the top of the Banff Gondola on Sulphur Mountain
What a view!

For something a little more casual than the fancy Sky Bistro, try the Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen, an amazing buffet serving up Canadian favorites, like buttermilk pancakes and maple syrup BBQ chicken. There’s also a carving station, usually serving beef brisket, as well as several pizzas and desserts on offer. Make sure you show up with an empty stomach!

In addition to the mountains of food, you also get to dine with a great view here and there are floor-to-ceiling windows so that you can really make the most of it. A buffet meal here costs around $45 CAD per head, and the kitchen usually opens between 10 am – 12 pm daily, depending on the season, and closes at 8 pm.

Peak Patio

Only open in summer, Peak Patio is the perfect place to enjoy a drink and a bite to eat out in the fresh air atop Sulphur Mountain. Grab a plate of chicken, vegetarian, or lamb and beef donair for $24 CAD and then wash it down with a craft cocktail or beer for $11-$12 CAD. There’s literally nothing we love more than enjoying a local beer with an amazing view, so we highly recommend checking out this spot – especially at sunset.

14. What yearly events are on at the Banff Gondola?

Daniel and Bailey in the snow at the top of the Banff Gondola
Christmas is beautiful in Banff!


Every winter, the Banff Gondola hosts Nightrise, a unique event that honors the mountains and recognizes their cultural and spiritual significance, especially to the Stoney Nakoda First Nation.

There are usually 4 digital art installations that make use of music, video, and light to create a totally mesmerizing experience that conveys four different meteorological phenomena – aka the Four Wonders. From Cosmic Ray Projections to a Diamond Dust station, Nightrise is always a special occasion that showcases the immense beauty of the Rockies.

Nightrise usually runs from the beginning of December until the end of March or early April, so there’s plenty of time to check it out. It starts at 5 pm and ends at either 9 or 10 pm, depending on the date that you visit.

Tickets for Nightrise usually cost the same as normal Banff Gondola tickets, but you can also combine Nightrise with one of the dining experiences we talked about earlier. Either way, we thought this event was really awesome and you should definitely check it out if you’re in Banff during the winter!

To elevate your Nightrise experience, you can book this Winter Wonder tour from Banff. This tour includes transportation, your gondola ticket, dinner, snowshoeing at the top of Sulphur Mountain, the Nightrise art exhibit, and your local guide. Having a guide makes this experience even more immersive because they can give you all the information about the area and take you around to some hidden gems. It really is a unique way to experience the Banff Gondola, so you can book tickets in advance for $200 CAD.

Banff Mountain Top Christmas

Nightrise is undoubtedly an amazing experience, but if you’re looking for festive family fun, then Banff Mountain Top Christmas is what you need!

The whole of the mountaintop transforms into a winter wonderland, with Christmas trees, festive decorations, and plenty of activities for kids. Plus, if you visit before December 24, kids can even pay a visit to Santa Claus himself before he saddles up the reindeer and flies back to the North Pole.

There are Christmas crafts, movie showings, cookie decorating sessions, and toy workshops for the family to enjoy. But it’s not all about the kids – there’s also a festive cocktail bar where adults can enjoy a Christmas spirit (get it?!) or two.

Exact dates change every year, but the event usually runs from 10 am – 3 pm on weekends from mid-November until mid-December and then continues daily until December 30th. Again, the Mountaintop Christmas entry is included with your Banff Gondola ticket when the event is on. If you’re visiting with kids then we definitely recommend getting there early, because you get a free kids’ ticket with every adult ticket before noon!

15. Is the Banff Gondola wheelchair friendly?

view from the platform at the top of the banff gondola in summer
The boardwalk is not but the rest of the experience is!

Yes, the Banff Gondola is a wheelchair-friendly experience, with the exception of the boardwalk as it involves over 300 stairs.

There’s handicapped parking close to the gondola entrance and since the cabins actually come off the track to let passengers on and off, you can take as long as you need to board. The gondolas have room for most standard-sized wheelchairs and other assistance devices, so space shouldn’t be an issue. In fact, they can even accommodate chairs with heavier weight limits, up to 320 kilograms (705 lbs).

All of the facilities at the top are also wheelchair-friendly. There’s ramp access to the Banff Gondola complex at the top and there are elevators and plenty of seating inside. The only part that’s not suitable for wheelchairs is the boardwalk.

16. Is the Banff Gondola pet-friendly?

Bailey and her mum with their dog rex at the top of the Banff Gondola
2016 with little Rex! Dogs are no longer on the Banff Gondola.

No, sadly, the Banff Gondola isn’t pet-friendly anymore, so your furry companion will have to stay at home for this one. It’s sad because when we first took the gondola up in 2016, we were allowed to take Rex, my 8-pound Yorkie. He loved his visit to the top and so did everyone who met him! But this is no longer the case.

Service dogs are the exception to this rule, and if you have one, you’ll need to bring their paperwork for verification before you get on the gondola.

The top of the gondola is also pet-free, so you won’t be able to bring them up even if you want to hike up instead.

17. Can you hike to the top of the Banff Gondola?

Sulphur-Mountain-Trail below Banff Gondola
It’s not a short walk but you’ll save some money!

Yes, you can! In fact, it’s one of the most popular hikes around Banff.

The Sulphur Mountain trail is 10.9 kilometers (6.8 miles) out and back if you include the Sanson’s Peak boardwalk. It starts at the Banff Upper Hot Springs parking lot, which is the one above the main lot for the Banff Gondola and consists mainly of switchbacks. This does mean that you don’t get a ton of great views during the hike, but you’ll still be able to enjoy those incredible panoramic vistas at the top.

This is a popular and well-worn trail, so you can even hike up during winter. You will need microspikes or crampons and a pole to complete the Sulphur Mountain trail during winter, but that’s about it. It should take you about 1-1.5 hours during summer, and 1.5-2 hours during the winter.

The first section of the trail is pretty steep, but it gets much easier after that. It may prove challenging (but doable) if you’re a novice hiker, and experienced hikers shouldn’t struggle.

Plus, you don’t have to hike up and back down again if you don’t want to – you can hike one way and then take the gondola the other way! If you want to do this, we recommend hiking up and taking the gondola back down because you’ll get a half-price ticket, whereas if you do it the other way around you’ll have to pay full price for your gondola ride up. It’s just good economics and a good workout!

You might hear people saying that you can take the gondola back down for free during the winter, which was the case prior to the pandemic, but alas, no longer. Still, a half-price ticket down ain’t bad!

18. What are the facilities at the top of the Banff Gondola?

binoculars at the top of Sulphur Mountain
Oh, and there are binoculars too!

You could practically live at the top of the Banff Gondola (unless you like showering and sleeping in a bed). There’s a cafe, two restaurants, a pub, and even a theater up there, plus a gift shop and lots of fun exhibits to explore. Plus, you can see 6 – that’s right, 6 – different mountain ranges from the observation deck.

As we discussed earlier, all of the facilities – but the boardwalk – are wheelchair-friendly, so accessibility shouldn’t be an issue.

19. How long do you need to visit the Banff Gondola and Sulphur Mountain?

The view of the cables and cars of the Banff Gondola as they make their way up to Sulphur Mountain
Until next time!

In our opinion, you’ll need a minimum of 2 hours to visit the Banff Gondola and Sulphur Mountain, but if you’re planning to take advantage of all their facilities or want to eat at one of the restaurants, you should probably set aside 3-4 hours. Of course, if you’re planning to hike up and down too, then you’ll need to budget even more time.

In general, we’d say set aside around half a day to make sure you have enough time to enjoy the experience – but it’s totally up to you how much longer you want to linger!

It’s also worth noting that during the summer when the gondola is busiest, you’ll be assigned a time for your rides up and down Sulphur Mountain. Usually, this gives you 2 hours to explore the mountaintop, but you can speak to the staff at the ticket window and give yourself a longer time period if you need to – it’s more about ensuring the flow of gondola rides is managed than restricting your time.

20. Is the Banff Gondola suitable for children?

Daniel pretends to throw and snow ball at Bailey at the top of the Banff Gondola on Sulphur Mountain
Daniel is a child… so yes!

Yes, the Banff Gondola is a super family-friendly experience and there are lots of exhibits, displays, and activities that are geared towards kids. The only downside is that the gondola and mountaintop facilities aren’t stroller-friendly due to limited space, so you’ll need to bring a carrier with you if you’re visiting with an infant.

However, there’s plenty of seating inside the complex and the restaurants all have high chairs available.

21. Are there other Gondolas in Banff?

The Lake Louise sightseeing gondola
The Lake Louise Gondola.

Yes, there are actually 4 gondolas in Banff! While the Banff Gondola is the most convenient from Banff town and has arguably the best views, the fact that it gets so incredibly busy during the summer can be a bit of a deterrent for some travelers. But, you aren’t totally out of luck – there are three other gondolas you can check out!

Banff Sunshine Gondola

I love the Banff Sunshine Gondola because it’s a 22-minute ride, so you truly get the most out of your experience. At the top, you can hike to three alpine lakes, take an additional standing chairlift (for free), and even stay the night on top of the mountain at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge – the only mountaintop hotel in Banff! You can easily spend a full day or two up here and immerse yourself in nature. 

Similar to the Banff Gondola, the Banff Sunshine Gondola can get extremely busy during the summer. I highly recommend booking tickets in advance. However, unlike the Banff Gondola, this one offers free cancellation 24 hours before you depart, so you can book it in advance and if plans change (as they often do) you can still get a full refund. I also love that they all you to purchase tickets now and pay later when you book through Viator, as I know how expensive a vacation in Banff can be!

Mt. Norquay Gondaola

During the winter Mt Norquay is a popular ski resort, but during the summer you can ride the chairlifts to the top for an open-air gondola ride. You can take in the views of Cascade Mountain, Mount Rundle, and Mount Inglismaldie while you ride, then enjoy a pint of beer and a hike at the top – there is a lot to do here during the summer! Best of all, when you book your Mt Norquay Gondola tickets on Viator, they also offer free cancellation 24 hours before going. They even have the “buy now pay later” so you can spread out the costs of your Banff trip. 

They also have a Via Ferrata on Mt Norquay, which is a thrilling harnessed rock climbing experience that gives remarkable views! It’s great for the adrenaline junkies, and suitable even if you’ve never done anything like this before. 

Lake Louise Gondola

Lake Louise is easily one of the most stunning parts of Banff National Park, so you can imagine how scenic the gondola ride is. This 14-minute gondola takes you high above the lake and into the wilderness, this is the best gondola choice to spot wildlife! This area is a hub for grizzly bears, so if you go hiking at the top, be sure to use the proper bear caution.

If you’re having trouble choosing which gondola to visit, you can read our blog on the Banff Gondola vs the Lake Louise Gondola here. They both have their pros and cons!

The Lake Louise Gondola can also get very busy, as it is only open during the summer. Booking tickets in advance is recommended, or else you might get there and realize it is all filled up!

Related Read: Riding the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola is one of the best things to do in Lake Louise in the summer.

22. Tips for visiting the Banff Gondola

Scenic view of Banff National Park as seen from the Banff Gondola
Bring your camera!
The top of Sulphur Mountain in Banff National Park
And be prepared for snow even in early summer!

Wear layers

The temperature at the top of the Banff Gondola is always several degrees colder than it is at the bottom, so whatever time of year you’re visiting, we highly recommend dressing in layers. It can also be very windy up there!

In the summer, we recommend bringing a light windbreaker with you – preferably a waterproof one, as the weather in the Rockies is changeable and rain clouds can appear out of nowhere! A sweatshirt is also a good idea for keeping warm when the temperature dips in the evening.

In winter, dress warm as it can get really cold up at the top of the gondola. We suggest wearing multiple layers of warm clothing, and don’t forget your hat, scarf, and gloves! Microspikes/crampons are also a good idea if you plan on walking the boardwalk in winter.

Arrive early or late in the day

The gondola is a really popular Banff attraction, so beat the crowds by arriving earlier or later on in the day. This is especially important if you’re driving yourself, as the parking lot gets very full around midday.

Plus, if you visit later in the day you can enjoy a spectacular sunset over the mountains. And if you’re brave enough to do an early morning hike before the gondola ride even opens, you can watch the sunrise from up high!

Book ahead at the Sky Bistro

Dining at the Sky Bistro is really special – in fact, it was one of our best dining experiences ever! So if you want to eat here, make sure that you book ahead. You can reserve your table up to 30 days in advance, so don’t leave it until the last minute as you’re unlikely to get a walk-in.

In summer, plan ahead

If you’re visiting during the summer months, you’ll need to book a time to go up and down the gondola, so think carefully about how much time you want to spend at the top and plan out your day in advance. This way, you won’t miss any of the activities or attractions! Book the Banff Gondola online here.

The boardwalk can be slippery in winter

Strolling along the boardwalk is one of the best experiences at the top of Sulphur Mountain, but it can get slippery during winter, so be prepared. It’s best to wear shoes with good grip and always be prepared to take it slow. You don’t want to miss out on those beautiful views because you went for fashion over function!

They shut in January for two weeks

The Banff Gondola closes for annual maintenance every January, usually for 2 weeks at a time. This normally happens during the first half of the month, but the dates vary from year to year. If you’re planning to visit Sulphur Mountain in January, make sure you check when the gondola will be open before booking your tickets.

23. Is the Banff Gondola worth it?

View out the window of the Banff Gondola
With views like this, it’s a no-brainer!

Yes, 100%!

The Banff Gondola is an absolute must-do – in fact, it’s easily one of our favorite Banff activities. We even wrote a full review of our Banff Gondola experience. Spoiler alert: we think it’s well worth it!

We had so much fun riding up and exploring the top of the mountain. It really is a great way to get an aerial view of the Canadian Rockies, and there are so many fun things to do when you reach the top. Definitely don’t miss this amazing attraction!

You can book your ticket for the Banff Gondola online here – it even lets you reserve now and pay later!

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 the Banff 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!

  • 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 or Hostelworld.

Banff Inn – Budget-friendly Hotel

The Banff Inn is in 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 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.

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 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. Read our honest review of Discover Cars here for more details!

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 you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable! Check out my review of Motorhome Republic here for tips before you book.

Thanks for reading!

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

The Banff Gondola is one of the most popular activities in Banff. Once you go on it for yourself, you’ll see why! I hope you now have all of your questions about the Banff Gondola answered and that this guide helps you have the best time up there – it really is an amazing place!

If you found this blog helpful as you plan your itinerary, be sure to check out some of our other blog articles about Banff including:

The BEST Free and Cheap Activities in Banff

19 Things to KNOW Before Visiting the Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola

33 EPIC Things to do in Canmore

Guide to Driving from Banff to Lake Louise