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If you are looking for some of the best views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, you are going to want to take a trip up the Banff Gondola. Not only is riding the gondola a fun family-friendly activity, but you will be rewarded with stunning views of six different mountain ranges and the incredible Bow Valley.
In fact, we’ve done the Banff Gondola more times than I can count, visiting in just about every season of the year. It’s even spectacular during winter in Banff. Taking a gondola ride is a staple for us when friends come to visit!
If you are excited about the experience and are looking for the best place to buy Banff Gondola tickets, we’ve got you covered.
About the Banff Gondola
Transporting visitors high above Banff to the top of Sulphur Mountain, the Banff Gondola is one of the best ways to experience some truly breathtaking views. While there are actually four gondolas in the Banff area, this is the main one and the most popular.
While hiking up the mountain can be incredibly rewarding, there’s nothing quite like sitting back and taking in the scenery as you travel up high in a gondola. At 1,560 meters (5,120 feet) long, the gondola ride lasts around eight minutes each way.
There’s space for 4 riders in each of the 40 gondola cabins – as well as any little ones who can sit on laps!
When you reach the top of Sulphur Mountain, there’s a whole world of restaurants, cafés, and even a multisensory theater waiting for you. The 4-story complex has everything you could want to relax as you take in the amazing scenery.
Related Read: Traveling to Banff during the ski season? Here are our top places to stay in Banff for skiing.
How much does the Banff Gondola cost?
Tickets for the Banff Gondola can vary depending on which day you choose to visit, how far in advance you book, demand, and season. Here is a simple breakdown of the cost.
Adult (16+) tickets cost between $59-$72 CAD
Tickets for 6-15-year-olds cost between $37-$45 CAD
Kids under 6 years old can ride for free, so there’s no need to buy a ticket for them.
To get the cheaper tickets, we recommend going on a weekday rather than a weekend, avoiding going on holidays, and booking further in advance. You may notice when browsing the official website that tickets seem slightly cheaper than on Viator, which is our preferred way of booking tickets. However, the official website actually doesn’t include tax in the total until you proceed to book.
The Banff Gondola is weather-dependent, so if you hit a patch of bad weather, your tickets through Viator will be rescheduled or refunded. You can secure your tickets for the Banff Gondola online here.
Related Read: Don’t let bad weather get you down. There are still plenty of things to do in Banff when it rains!
Where to buy Banff Gondola tickets
While you can buy tickets to the Banff Gondola in person, this is one of the top tourist destinations in the Rockies. Lines are long and tickets often get sold out, especially in peak season. I highly recommend booking your tickets online in advance to make sure that your trip goes smoothly.
We always prefer booking tickets with Viator, especially when visiting popular places like this. Booking your Banff Gondola tickets online here includes taxes and fees, whereas booking through their website does not.
As an added bonus, booking your tickets this way lets you skip the lines which, trust me, can get quite long here!
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.
- 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.
How long is the Banff Gondola Ride?
A trip up the Banff Gondola is about eight minutes each way, just enough time to enjoy the beautiful scenery without your legs going stiff. The scenery changes dramatically throughout the seasons, more than enough reason to make a return trip (or two!) especially to see the trees change during the Fall season in Banff.
Moving at around 4 meters (13 feet) per second, the cable car ride is super smooth, transporting around 650 passengers each way every hour.
Related Read: If you’re itching to see as much nature as possible, here are some fantastic wildlife tours in Banff National Park.
What are the best things to do at the top of the Banff Gondola?
There’s so much to see and do at the top of Banff Gondola – take it from us that you’ll be spoiled for choice when you get there! That’s what I love about this destination, it’s full of fun activities, especially when compared to the Lake Louise Gondola. It’s so easy to spend a few hours taking in the sights and checking out the gondola complex.
Explore the boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak and the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station
Take a step outside the complex, and you’ll find several trails that will lead you out and around the mountaintop. However, our favorite route is the walk to Sanson’s Peak, a popular boardwalk route that’s just around 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) long.
Along the way, feel free to stop, take in the views, and snap more than a few photos! While there are quite a few steps along the way, they are very shallow and easy to walk along. At the end of the boardwalk, you’ll find the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station (try saying that three times), as well as the Weather Observatory, which was built in 1903 to monitor the climate of the Rockies.
The Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station was built in 1956 and dismantled in 1981. It played a big part in Canada’s study of cosmic rays. You’ll still find lots of information here about all the important work that took place, which makes for a fascinating read!
Even if you’re not so interested in the science side of things, it’s still worth walking down the boardwalk for the views alone. We love visiting in the winter (like during December in Banff) when the mountains are blanketed in undisturbed snow.
If you’re blessed with clear skies on a night trip up the Banff Gondola, you’ll be blown away by the cosmic jamboree taking place up above. Being so high up with so little light pollution, it’s easy to spot stars, galaxies, as well as a shooting star or two!
The Banff Gondola Stargazing program runs at certain times throughout the year on Friday and Saturday nights. As part of this program, you can look through high-powered telescopes into the wonders of the universe. The experienced astronomers who take part will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
Grab a coffee with a view
With two amazing cafés where you can grab your favorite hot drink, you can sip away while walking down the boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak, or simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.
Before you head up the mountain in the Gondola, you’ll find a great Starbucks (which is actually the highest Starbucks in Canada). We highly recommend getting a coffee before heading up, it’ll also help keep you warm during the journey!
At the Gondola complex at the top of the mountain, Castle Mountain Coffee has you covered. Not only is it one of my favorite cafés in Banff, but it also serves delicious treats that will keep you full of energy as you explore.
Check out the famous red chairs
As you travel around the mountain, you’ll come across several red chairs dotted around at unique and interesting locations. Put in place by Parks Canada, these chairs are made out of 100% recycled plastic from Canadian landfills and are designed to encourage passersby to take a moment to stop and enjoy the scenery.
Ever since they were first put in place, these chairs have been loved by locals and tourists alike, so it would be rude not to get a photo or two of yourself snug and comfortable sitting in one!
Visit the Above Banff Interpretive Centre
If you love visiting museums or are simply interested in learning more about the history of Sulphur Mountain, then the Above Banff Interpretive Centre has you covered! This is a fun little adventure, especially for families, with lots of interactive exhibits to try your hand at.
Immerse yourself at the Above Banff Theater
Entrance to the Above Banff Theater is included with your ticket, and we recommend checking it out! Here you can see a short, immersive film that shows you Sulphur Mountain like you’ve never seen it before. You can book your ticket for the Banff Gondola online here which includes the show!
Is the Banff gondola worth it?
Yes! We absolutely loved our time on the Banff Gondola, and we’re sure you’ll love it too.
Exploring the Rocky Mountains by gondola is an experience like no other, and we were pleasantly surprised by just how much there was to do atop Sulphur Mountain. Once again, you’ll have the best experience if you go on a clear day – the flexibility that Viator gives you in moving around your booking is essential.
So, what are you waiting for? Secure your dates now for the gondola ride of a lifetime!
Other Things to do While You’re in Banff
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!
- Hike Johnston Canyon – There are tons of amazing hikes in and around Banff, but I especially loved hiking Johnston Canyon and seeing its spectacular waterfalls. You can drive to the trailhead on your own or book a tour. This e-bike and hiking tour is excellent for those who want to combine both activities. Or if you just want transport, take the hop-on-hop-off bus that stops here. If you visit Johnston Canyon in winter, this Icewalk Tour will show you ice formations and frozen falls!
- Visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake – If you want to see more stunning lakes in the area, check out these two! Parking at Lake Louise can be tricky (and impossible at Moraine Lake!), so we’d recommend this Banff National Park Tour. You’ll get to visit Lake Louise as well as Moraine Lake in one go – with enough time to walk around, learn the local history, and snap postcard-worthy photos.
- Look for wildlife – Banff is home to some pretty incredible wildlife. You might just spot elk, bears, deer, foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and more! The best chance you have of seeing the most critters is on a wildlife tour in Banff. We really liked this small group tour where the guides tailor the itinerary to recent wildlife spottings and you get to see highlights of the national park along the way.
- Explore Banff town – While many nature-based activities are nearby, you shouldn’t neglect Banff town itself! Start your morning by visiting one of the cute local cafes, or grab patio drinks along Banff Avenue in the afternoon. To avoid traffic, check out the pedestrian-only Bear Street, with even more restaurants, cafes, and shops. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a Farmers Market every Wednesday in the summertime.
Where to Stay in Banff
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 with options for all budgets:
Samesun Banff Hostel – Budget-backpacker Hostel
Samesun Banff Hostel is a great budget choice with dorm rooms. Perfect for those who want to stay in the heart of Banff town. The rooms are modern and clean, and breakfast is included. This is only a backpacker place though, as there are no private rooms available.
Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – Mid-range Hotel
The Banff Rocky Mountain Resort is a mid-range hotel with a swimming pool, hot tub, and gym. Plus, all the rooms have either kitchenettes or full kitchens. It’s the perfect place for families since two and three-bedroom units are also on offer.
The location is peacefully located on Tunnel Mountain, yet only a 5-minute drive from Banff town. With prices starting at $107 CAD, this hotel is a great deal. You can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.
Fairmont Banff Springs – Luxury Hotel
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!
Depending on the season, you can find rooms for as low as $450 CAD – although they cost more in the summertime. 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 suggest booking a place ASAP! Using Booking.com is great too because lots of hotels offer free cancellation so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later!
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.
Single Daily Admission:
This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.
- Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
- Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
- Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE
Group Daily Admission:
If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)
- $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day
Parks Canada Discovery Pass
The “Discovery Pass”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
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!
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the Banff Gondola and the best way to secure tickets. We highly recommend purchasing Banff Gondola tickets in advance through Viator. You get your pick of dates, can skip the line of people buying tickets on the day, and you can cancel up to 24 hours in advance.
We’re sure you’ll have the BEST time at the Banff Gondola and exploring all Banff National Park has to offer. If you need help planning your trip, make sure to browse around our other Banff blogs. It’s an incredible part of Canada to explore!