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The Banff Gondola Ride Experience

Looking for top attraction in the Rockies? Experience spectacular mountaintop views on the Banff Gondola — your vantage point from 700 meters in the air gives you a gorgeous view from Sulphur Mountain's summit. While the ride on the gondola itself lasts for eight minutes, the entire mountain adventure lasts between two and three hours.

Banff gondola and Sulphur Mountain

Banff Gandola Ride

The local travel experts at canadiantrainvacations.com can help you plan your trip to Canada. Many of our itineraries include the Canadian Rockies and the Banff Gondola.  

This guide contains all the information you need to plan your trip, including when to go, how to get there, things to do, and the many reasons why the gondola ride in Banff is an amazing adventure to include on your vacation in Canada.

What Is the Banff Gondola Ride?

Taking a gondola ride in Banff is a unique opportunity to glide over the treetops and feast your eyes on views of six different mountain ranges. It's starting point is located at the base of Sulphur Mountain in Alberta, Canada, and the very heart of the Canadian Rockies. Located just five kilometers from Banff and 62 kilometers from Lake Louise, the ride is open year round.

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Why Should You Take a Gondola Ride in Banff National Park?

Take the ride of a lifetime to make your visit to Banff National Park truly memorable. The Banff gondola ride takes you to the top of the 7,486-foot mountain, where you can take a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk and spend some time admiring the mountain views from the rooftop observation deck. 

Stunning panoramic views aren't the only attraction. Once you reach the top of the gondola ride, you also have the chance to enjoy a show at the multi-sensory theater, check out some interactive exhibits, or enjoy a meal at the Banff Gondola Restaurant. 

Getting there is no problem with the convenient parking options, free shuttle, and ROAM bus line that makes regular stops. Parking tends to be limited during the summer, but you can avoid the crowded parking lots by scheduling your trip during the winter months. The nearby Rimrock Hotel is a wonderful choice for accommodations that puts you close to the mountain sights and activities. 

[ Explore: Best Canadian Rockies Train Trips ]

Tips to Make the Most of Your Experience

  • Give yourself plenty of time to explore the amenities at the summit, like coffee shops, restaurants, and gift shops.
  • Take advantage of the knowledgeable hosts available on-site who can offer some excellent trivia, insights, and tips on what to do.

Planning Your Trip

Get the most out of your trip by planning it out in advance. In this section, we'll discuss how to get there, what to bring, where to stay, and when to go for the best experience.

How to Get There

Visitors to the gondola can choose to drive their own vehicle. The gondola is located at the base of Sulphur Mountain and accessible via Mountain Avenue. To get there, travel south from Banff Avenue, make a left onto Spray Avenue after the bridge, and then stay right onto Mountain Avenue. Follow this road to the end to park in the Banff Gondola parking lot. 

The approximate driving time to the Banff gondola from downtown Banff to the Upper Hot Springs parking lot is about 9 minutes. If you plan to drive to the Banff gondola, make sure you know where to park along with your other transportation options. Parking spaces are limited during the busy summer months. Check Banff Now to get parking updates or take the free shuttle bus to avoid filled parking lots. 

Another option is to take the Roam Route 1 local bus route that makes regular stops on Banff Avenue, where the gondola is located. Better yet, take the free Banff Gondola shuttle. The public shuttle bus runs daily from July through September. 

What to Bring Along

Before you set out for your Banff Gondola Ride, make sure you have all the essentials to make your experience amazing. One item you must remember to take is your camera to capture the breathtaking scenery. 

Dress appropriately in warm clothes to ward off the chill of the breeze. Make sure you check the weather beforehand and put on enough layers to stay toasty while you enjoy the stunning views. The Live Webcam relays current conditions so you can plan ahead and stay comfortable.

Where to Stay

Wondering where to stay? There are plenty of hotels near Banff gondola in Banff National Park. The closest hotel is Rimrock Hotel. It's an excellent option for couples and families alike. This popular accommodation provides a view of the serene surrounding wilderness as well as luxuries, including wellness experiences and a spa. 

Another choice is the Fairmont Banff Springs, an iconic Canadian hotel. Summer is a busy time of year given the ideal Banff gondola weather. If you choose to go to Banff during the warmer months, make sure to book your accommodations and tickets early. 

When to Go and Ticket Prices

Operating dates for the Banff gondola are year-round, although the ride may schedule closure dates due to maintenance. Hours can also fluctuate depending on the time of year you plan to go. Check the exact dates of your planned trip to get specific ticket prices and information on hours. The ride usually runs from 10 AM until 9 PM or PM daily, with the final ride up beginning one and a half hours prior to closing. The last ride down is 10 minutes before closing. 

It's best to purchase tickets in advance whenever possible. Book your ticket at least 48 hours before you plan to take the Banff gondola to ensure availability on your chosen date and time. Children ride for free when you book the Family Experience. Each paying adult can take one child. The summer rates for gondola Banff tickets start at $60 per person.

On-Site at the Banff Gondola Ride

Make the most out of your trip to Banff. Plan to spend time exploring the amenities and sights at the top of the ride.

1. Mountain Avenue and Gift Shop 

Visitors can enjoy browsing for souvenirs at the gift shop situation conveniently on Mountain Avenue. Along with mementos to commemorate your trip, the gift shop has a variety of clothing and local artwork. You can also find great outdoor gear and accessories to help you bundle up if you take the gondola ride during the winter, and to use on your other outdoor adventures on your vacation in the mountains. 

2. Service Dogs on the Gondola Ride 

The current policy at Banff, the gondola ride, and other facilities includes restrictions on pets. Dogs and other animals are not allowed, with the exception of service dogs. You must meet the requirements to bring your service dog along on the gondola ride. Expect to present the appropriate accreditation on-site to verify your service dog. Keep in mind that emotional support animals are not permitted. 

3. Spectacular Views and Panoramic Vistas from Observation Decks 

No matter what time of year you visit the Banff Gondola, you get to see amazing 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains, both from the ride itself and the observation deck once you reach the summit. 

The view you see varies depending on the time of year and weather conditions. Choose to take your trip during the summer if you love to spot wildlife and take in the greenery of trees and plant life. The winter offers equally amazing scenery when everything is covered in a pristine blanket of white. 

4. Interpreting Exhibits and 360-degree Views at the Interpretive Centre 

The views at the Banff Sulphur mountain gondola are impressive. The 360-degree view of the surrounding mountain views will take your breath away. Marvel at the panoramic vistas of iconic mountain peaks like Mount Temple, Mount Norquay, Mount Rundle, Cascade Mountain, and Lake Minnewanka. 

Enhance your sightseeing with visits to the various interpretive exhibits at the Interpretive Centre. If you are a history buff, you can even explore the rich history and ecology of Sulphur Mountain. Browse the exhibits and speak with the on-site guides to learn about the mountain explorers and their achievements.

Enjoying Food During Your Visit

Don't forget to fuel up to keep yourself energized during your trip. Banff Gondola has several cafes where you can enjoy a hot drink, refreshing beverages, and a variety of food options from quick bites to a full meal. The cafes have delicious food, made all the better by the stunning mountain views. 

At the top of the ride at the Gondola complex, you can find Castle Mountain Coffee, which is detailed below. At the bottom of the gondola ride, you'll find a Starbucks. This location is the chain's highest elevation in all of Canada. 

Castle Mountain Coffee 

Another popular spot for visitors heading to the Banff gondola ride or another local spot is Castle Moutain Coffee. Its location is on Level 1 of the Upper Terminal. Castle Mountain Coffee offers a variety of food and drinks, from breakfast to quick snacks, to hot drinks to help you warm up after viewing the mountains in the crisp and cold air. 

Castle Mountain Coffee is open from 8 AM to 8 PM, making it a convenient option to grab an early breakfast before your gondola trip or to drop in throughout the day to fuel up. Make time to drop in and enjoy a piping hot coffee in the fresh mountain air. You can also find souvenirs made by local artists on display at the coffee shop. 

Comparing the Gondolas: Banff vs. Lake Louise

If you are interested in a gondola ride in the Canadian Rockies, you may wonder which gondola ride is better in Banff. Let's explore the difference between the Lake Lousie gondola vs Banff gondola to discover which one suits your preferences. 

The Banff gondola takes you to the top of Sulphur Mountain where you can enjoy amazing views, a fun-filled interpretive center, and excellent restaurants. The Banff gondola ride lasts for eight minutes and each enclosed car holds four adults. The Upper Terminal at the top of the ride has four levels: 

  • Level 1 has a gift shop and the Castle Mountain Coffee 
  • Level 2 is home to the interpretive center and exhibits 
  • Level 3 has two restaurants: Sky Bistro and Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen 
  • Level 4 gives you access to the 360-degree outdoor rooftop observation deck 

The Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola consists of a 14-minute ride to an elevation of 6,893 feet. 

Along with awesome views, the Lake Louise gondola offers a grizzly bear viewing area. You can choose between a closed or open-air chairlift. 

After the Gondola Ride 

There's more to see even after your Banff gondola ride. Book accommodations near the Banff gondola to enjoy the nearby attractions. A popular spot is the Banff Hot Springs for some relaxation and pampering. You can also opt for a walking tour, wildlife tour, and many day trips. Foodies should check out the Banff Food Tour to sample delicious local treats. 

The Banff Gondola experience is a breathtaking adventure you won't regret. Travelers who enjoy the outdoors and spectacular scenery will love the amazing views and nearby attractions that make this a fun-filled vacation idea anyone will love. Plan your trip today to embark on an incredible journey that will provide you with photos and memories to cherish for a lifetime. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the ride up on the Banff Gondola?

The ride up Sulfur Mountain on the Banff Gondola is eight minutes long.

What is Banff Gondola known for?

The Banff Gondola is known for its spectacular views of the area around Sulfur Mountain.

How much does it cost to go up the gondola in Banff?

It costs $60/adult to go up the Banff Gondola during the summer. Each adult can bring one child for free. Rates do vary by season.

About the author: Katherine is Product Manager with Fresh Tracks Canada. Having worked in the Canadian travel industry for almost 20 years, she enjoys sharing her local expertise with visitors. She is based in Calgary and one of her favourite Canadian destination is the... Read more

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