Complete Guide To The Banff Gondola

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Located within the heart of the Rocky Mountains and one of the many exciting amenities of Banff is the the Banff Gondola, situated on the eastern slopes of Sulphur Mountain. It’ll take you on a round trip up and down the mountain, or for the more adventurous you can hike up and take the gondola down. At the top of the Banff Gondola are several observation decks with some of the most incredible views in the world that people travel across the world to enjoy. In addition to the world-class scenery, the Banff Gondola offers an interactive museum and information center, a multi-sensory theatre, a gift shop full of really nice merch and souvenirs, places to get food and drink, even chairs and a big outdoor firepit you can relax beside with a glass of wine or a cold beer. There is also a wooden boardwalk that connects the observation decks to an old weather monitoring station that you can climb up to, on the top of Sanson’s Peak. Be careful if you do, it’s very windy up there and can be icy in the winter. Make sure to keep an eye out for wild life! You may see rams, sheep, marmots, and many other critters all over the mountain if you’re lucky. Banff is located within Treaty 7 territory, the traditional territories and home of the Blackfoot Nations peoples, including the Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, the Tsuut’ina Nation and Stoney Nakoda First Nations.

This guide will attempt to answer any questions you may have about visiting the Banff Gondola. Please drop comments/memories in at the bottom of the post – thank you.

Bring a camera.

About The Banff Gondola

The Banff Gondola is an outdoor cable car system that transports people up and down the side of Sulphur Mountain, from their lower terminal to the upper terminal. Each cable car is designed to hold 4 adults (2 seats on each side) and they’re fully enclosed in glass, with a small book-sized window you can open. The doors lock when you get in and stay locked until you reach the terminal and the attendants release them. The surrounding area views are beautiful on all sides and the ride takes about 8 minutes to complete, which will take you 2,281m (7,486 feet) above sea level. The Banff Gondola is open all year and can offer quite a different experience depending on which season it is when you visit, what time of day, and what day of the week it is. The gondola is the busiest on weekends holidays and during the middle of the day. Attending outside of those times will offer a better experience, especially if there’s poor weather and you don’t mind dealing with that.

  • The Banff Gondola has a 360° webcam!
  • Pets are not allowed in the gondola cars or buildings
  • Bikes, skis, snowboards, and strollers are not allowed
  • Visit in the daylight and at night for a totally difference experience
  • Use #BanffGondola when sharing photos/videos on social media
  • There is a rooftop firepit in the upper terminal
  • Uber and similar ride sharing services do not operate in Banff
  • Sulphur Mountain was named in 1916 for its hot springs
  • The original Banff Gondola was built in 1958-59 and reconstructed in 1997-98
  • In 2016 a 26 million dollar new upper terminal was opened to the public
  • The Banff Gondola is busiest between 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM each day
  • They have space for weddings and corporate events

Who Runs It?

The Banff Gondola is operated by a company called Pursuit. They also run several other attractions in Banff, Jasper and elsewhere in Alberta, including the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, Maligne Lake Cruises, Maligne Canyon Icewalks, Lake Minnewanka Cruises, Open Top Touring and more, give them a follow on Instagram.

Have you taken the Banff Gondola?

Guide To The Banff Gondola Lower Terminal Building
Banff Gondola Lower Terminal Building – Photo taken in 2018

 

Banff Gondola Technical Information

System: Wallmansberger
Lower terminal elevation: 1,583 m (5,194 feet) above sea level
Upper terminal elevation: 2,281 m (7,486 feet) above sea level
Total elevation gain: 698 m (2,292 feet)
Total number of Gondolas: 40
Gondola capacity: 4 passengers each
Length of track: 1,560 m (5,120 feet)
Horizontal length: 1,370 m (4,498 feet)
Average incline: 51%
Track rope diameter: 34 mm (111/32 inches)

Hauling rope diameter: 28 mm (13/32 inches)
Track rope weight: 21,103 kg (46,587 lbs)
Hauling rope weight: 9,490 kg (21,091 lbs)
Normal lift speed: 3.0 m (10 feet) per second
Maximum lift speed: 4.0 m (13 feet) per second
Length of trip: 8 minutes
Hourly capacity: 650 passengers, each direction
Number of towers: 3
Maximum height above ground: 38 m (125 feet) at Tower #2
Driving unit: 250 H.P. Electric Motor & Diesel stand-by/electric stand-by
View Of Town Of Banff Valley from The Banff Gondola Observation Deck
View from the Banff Gondola upper terminal observation deck, overlooking the Town Of Banff in the Bow Valley
Guide To The Banff Gondola Old 1st and 2nd generation cable gondola cars
Photo taken around Halloween, 2018
Guide To The Banff Gondola View of Sulphur Mountain range and Sanson's Peak and The skywalk boardwalk
View of the skywalk boardwalk reaching across the Sulphur Mountain range to Sanson’s Peak.
A Banff Gondola Cable Car Overlooking The Town Of Banff
Overlooking The Banff Springs Hotel, 2018

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How To Get To The Banff Gondola

The Banff Gondola is located approximately 2.5 km outside the main downtown area of Banff, but up pretty incline. Outside of the Banff Gondola is a large paved parking lot, which is free to use, so you can just drive right up to it if you’re in Banff with a vehicle. You can walk there from downtown Banff but it’ll take you quite a while, and it’s all up hill. The best option would be to take public transit as it’s cheap, it runs often and it’ll take you right to the front door of the Banff Gondola.

Taking the bus to the Banff Gondola is the best way to get there!

Tip: If you’re staying at a hotel in Banff, ask their concierge if they provide transport up to the Gondola – some do!

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Guide To The Banff Gondola Directions to the Gondola

Driving Directions

It takes about 10 minutes to drive from downtown Banff, up to the Banff Gondola. There is a lot of parking, and it’s free, but it may be all used up if you arrive late in the day during the busy times (weekends mostly).

  1. Head south on Banff Ave, cross the Bow River
  2. Turn left on to Spray Ave
  3. Take the next right on to Mountain Ave
  4. Take Mountain Ave all the way to the Banff Gondola

To get back just reverse the directions. Super easy!

If you were to bike, this is the same route you would take. There aren’t sidewalks, just dirt on the side of the road, so be careful.

Guide To The Banff Gondola Driving Directions from downtown Banff Ave to The Gondola

Take A Taxi

You can take a taxi from anywhere within the Town of Banff up to the Gondola for around $10 to $15. You can pay in cash or using a debit/credit card and they’re available 24 hours a day. There is a dedicated taxi phone inside the lower terminal, if you want to take a taxi back to Banff. Also, In Banff they do things old-school, so none of the taxi companies have mobile apps – you actually have to phone them and speak with a person.


Take The Bus

Once you’re in the Town of Banff, taking ROAM Public transit is the best way to get to and from the Banff Gondola, as well as to the Banff Hotsprings, since it’s right next door to the Gondola. ROAM Transit is cheap, accessible, environment friendly, frequent and very easy to navigate. ROAM Transit is owned and operated by the Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission.

Bus Fare

To use ROAM Transit you’ll need to buy a ticket, either by paying with cash when boarding the bus, with their re-loadable Smartcard, or through their online Token Transit app.

  • Adults (19+): $2 one way, $5 for day pass
  • Youth (13-18): $1 one way, $2.50 for day pass
  • Seniors (65+): $1 one way, $2.50 for day pass

See full list of fares: https://roamtransit.com/fares. ROAM Transit also provides service in the regional area too!

  • ROAM Transit is free for children 12 and under
  • If paying cash, try to pay the exact fare as they cannot provide change
  • ROAM buses have bike racks on the front
  • The buses are wheelchair, stroller, ski and snowboard friendly
  • Pets are allowed for free but they must be in a crate (service animals don’t need to be in a crate)
Guide To The Banff Gondola inside ROAM transit bus on the way to the gondola
Taken in 2018

Guide To The Banff Gondola ROAM transit bus outside


Hike To The Gondola Lower Terminal From Downtown Banff

If you prefer to hike up to the Banff Gondola, you can take the Upper Hot Springs Trail. The trail starts at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and takes you right to the Gondola Terminal. It’s very scenic and is moderately busy, and you can bring your dogs, just remember to keep them on a leash and away from other people as best you can. If you’re driving and want to hike up, you can park in the Spray River West trailhead area parking lot.

Hike To The Top: Sulphur Mountain Hiking Trail

Sulphur Mountain Trail is a 5.5 km maintained trail that runs from the Banff Gondola lower terminal on the ground, all the way to the top of Sulphur Mountain, down around the backside of the mountain and all the way to the Cave and Basin. It’s free of course, and it’ll take you on with a zig zag pattern through the forest and brush under the gondola cars in switchbacks, offering some unique and decent views of the town and valley below, especially on a clear day. A lot of the hike is just trees, and you go right under the gondola cars (wave to the people!). It takes about 1.5 – 2 hours for most people to complete the hike in good weather. During the winter you can still hike the path but it will be covered in snow and ice and much more challenging.

Please make sure you bring enough food, water, first aid kit or other supplies you’ll need for a hike. It can get cold and storms can move into the area quickly.

COVID-19 2020 Changes

  • If you hike up on foot, you can NO LONGER take the gondola down for free
  • If you hike up on foot, you can NO LONGER access the upper terminal observation deck or it’s washrooms

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Admission Prices, Hours

This information is current for the year 2020.

If you need to reach Pursuit customer service: 1.866.756.1904 or e-mail at [email protected].

Banff Gondola Hours

  • Last ride up: 30 minutes prior to close
  • Last ride down: at closing time
  • Last seating at Sky Bistro: 1 hour prior to close for lunch, 2 hours prior to close for dinner.
  • Last seating at Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen: 3:30 PM for lunch, 1 hour prior to close for dinner.
  • Last call for food and drinks at Peak Patio at 9:00 PM
  • Hikers can no longer take the gondola down for free, or enter the upper terminal

AUGUST 4 - SEPTEMBER 7


Banff Gondola


Open Daily 10:00 AM - 10:30 PM

Sky Bistro

Monday - Thursday
4:30 PM - 10:30 PM

Friday - Sunday
11:00 AM - 10:30 PM


Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen

Monday - Thursday
11:00 AM - 3:30 PM
4:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Friday - Sunday
11:00 AM - 3:30 PM
4:30 PM - 8 PM

Castle Mountain Coffee Co.

Open Daily 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM


Peak Patio

Friday - Sunday 12:00 PM - 8:00 PM


SEPTEMBER 8 - OCTOBER 12


Banff Gondola

Open Daily 8:00 AM - 9:30 PM

Sky Bistro

Open Daily 11:00 AM - 9:30 PM

Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen

Open Daily 11:00 AM - 8:00 PM

Castle Mountain Coffee Co.

Open Daily 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Peak Patio

Closed

OCTOBER 13 - DECEMBER 17


Banff Gondola

Monday - Tuesday
10:00 AM - 4:30 PM

Wednesday - Sunday
10:00 AM – 8:30 PM

Sky Bistro

Monday - Tuesday Closed

Wednesday - Sunday 11:00 AM – 8:30 PM

Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen

Open Daily 11:00 AM - 4:30 PM

Castle Mountain Coffee Co.

Closed

Peak Patio

Closed

Guide To The Banff Gondola cable car overlooking the lower terminal and Rimrock Hotel

Guide To The Banff Gondola Inside terminal


Admission Prices

They also offer various deals and packages where you can save money by combining attractions and things to do.You can pre-purchase tickets online or just buy them in person at the ticket counter in the lower terminal. I would recommend you pre-purchase them ahead of time so you can secure your desired timeslot. If you wait until you’re there to buy tickets, you may need to wait for those that pre-purchased to go up first. Better safe than sorry!

The price of tickets depends on the time of day you book, and which day of the week it is. Save money by booking tickets mid-week instead of weekends, and in the evening instead of during the day. Prices are cheaper after 5:00 PM. You can also save money by combining attractions, or by adding a dinner package on to your gondola visit. Groups of 15 or more people can be booked at discounted rates for conferences, meetings or other special events. Lastly, Alberta residents can save 20%! Don’t forget to bring your Alberta ID!

  • Adults (16+): $44 to $62
  • Children (6-15): $22 to $30
  • Infants (0-5): free
Buy Tickets  Book Group

 

Guide To The Banff Gondola inside observation deck upper terminal overlooking bow valley and town of Banff
Inside the upper terminal, taken in 2018

The Banff Gondola And COVID-19

There have been a few changes with the Banff Gondola since COVID-19 became a thing, the biggest being that for safety reasons people who hike up Sulphur Mountain are no longer allowed to enter the upper terminal or take a gondola back to the ground. Also, the gondola cars, surfaces inside buildings, high touch areas, the washrooms and anything else that can be sanitized is now rigorously cleaned by their staff. Plus, every 5 days the cars go through a complete deep fog sanitization with disinfectants that help protect surfaces for at least 10 days.

Pursuit has outlined every step they’ve taken with their new COVID-19 dining protocols, including new physical distancing rules, ramped up cleaning and precautions, keeping staff and guests informed and educated about the latest changes, and more.

https://www.banffjaspercollection.com/attractions/banff-gondola/safety


What To Expect When You Visit

Inside the lower terminal is a Starbucks cafe, a giftshop, and a ticket counter. There’s some places to sit and charge your devices and there’s washrooms downstairs. If you haven’t already purchased your tickets online, you can do so at the ticket counter. You need to pick a specific time you’ll be going up in the gondola,  you just make your way into the line to take a gondola car up. Staff will guide and direct you into the cable cars, then they’ll take a group photo just before the doors close – and you’re off! The gondola travels at a pretty brisk pace but it’s not too fast that you’d fall over but do make sure you’re seated throughout the trip. It does feel kinda freaky when your car goes over one of the towers and the entire gondola car shakes, but it’s totally safe! Take lots of pictures and videos on the way up (and down), just don’t drop your camera out the window.

Expect to spend around 2 hours at the top, or more if you’ll be eating at the restaurant or doing some hiking.

What’s At The Top?

Some of the best views in the world (not kidding), restaurants, rooftop patio bar and firepit, a gift shop, an interpretative interactive natural history museum, a 40 seat multi-sensory theatre that shows educational films, hiking trails, and an outdoor wooden walkway across the mountain to an old weather monitoring station. Most people visit just for the breathtaking views.


 

 

 

 

 


Banff Gondola Upper Terminal 

Once you arrive and disembark at the top of Sulphur Mountain, you’ll be directed down an interpretive hallway with all kinds of information and Banff history on the walls and some exhibits. From here you can make your way through to the observation decks, the interpretive discovery center, restaurants, washrooms, gift shop or outside to the Banff Skywalk boardwalk. Every step of the way will have iconic views of surrounding Banff National Park and world class beautiful scenery. From atop Sulphur Mountain you can take in a 360 degree view of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, including 6 separate mountain ranges! Mount Rundle, Mount Girouard, Cascade Mountain, Mount Norquay, Mount Bourgeau, and the Sundance Range.

Guide To The Banff Gondola upper terminal looking at the Gondola cars and Rundle Mountain range

Things To Do At The Banff Gondola

  • DATE NIGHT After taking in the observation decks together, make your way out to the boardwalk for selfies and pictures of the Bow Valley and the Spray Valley. Walk the boardwalk and read the placards of information they have throughout, making sure to take pictures of any wildlife that happens to walk under you. Ascend to Sanson’s Peak, take a million pictures, then head back to the upper terminal for dinner. Eat at Sky Bistro, have drinks, and then sit beside the fire for a bit. Once you’re done, hike back to town via the Sulphur Mountain Hiking Trail rather than taking the gondola.
  • FOR THE KIDS There’s an entire floor devoted to things fun for kids to do in the Banff Interpretive Centre. Plus, The Banff Gondola has an app for kids! It’s called Agents Of Discovery for Android/iOS and it’s a free interactive mobile app designed to keep them engaged, entertained and educated while visiting the Banff Gondola with missions and exploration around the place. It includes all sorts of local history, from who the first pioneers were, to geology, natural history and fun facts about the Rocky Mountains. Must have if they’re old enough to use a phone. Kids also love the outdoor boardwalk and it’s spectacular views. Keep an eye out for mountain goats and other wild life!
  • TAKE PICTURES The views in every direction are amazing, make sure to take pictures from every vantage point. There are some specific places people normally use for selfies and backdrops so don’t be too surprised if you need to wait a little bit for the best shots.
  • GONDOLA UP, HIKE DOWN Why not take the Gondola up, then hike down later? Spend some time taking in the panoramas, grab a bite to eat then start heading down the mountain. It’ll take under 2 hours and you’ll come out the other end by the Banff Springs Hotel. The trail is heavily trafficked, well maintained and beautiful. It’s not the easiest trail in the world however so make sure you’re properly fitted for doing some hiking. Water, hiking poles, hiking boots, beef jerky, sunscreen and a nice warm parka if it’s cold are recommended.

Sky Bistro

Located on the third floor of the upper terminal observation decks is Sky Bistro, a romantic and fancy restaurant with beautiful views of the Bow Valley and Banff townsite below. They offer a variety of menus, including Soups And Salads, Lunch, Dinner, Desserts, Cocktails And Beer, and a Wine menu. They also do offer vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, nutfree and all of their seafood options are oceanwise.

Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen

Offering a lighter and more casual dining experience than Sky Bistro, Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen provides visitors with a self-serve selection of Lunch and Dinner food, plus dessert and drinks. Pop, coffee and tea are included at no extra charge, and half sized portions are available for kids. The views are once again excellent.

Peak Patio

While you’re exploring the observation decks, head to the roof top and drop by Peak Patio to enjoy a relaxing beer or glass of wine. You can get a draft beer to sip while watching the sunset from the top of the world! They’re not a full restaurant so the menu is quite limited, but you aren’t going here for food – you’re here for the view and ambience.

  • Food menu: Corn Chips & Fresh Salsa, Pretzels and Warm Cheddar Dip
  • Drink menu: Draft Beer and Cider, Eau Claire RTD Cocktail, (Red, white, rose) Rocky Mountain Wine, Water, pop and juices.

Note: Peak Patio closes during the winter months.

Banff Gondola Gift Shop

The Banff Gondola gift shop is packed full of high quality authentic merchandise, including all sorts of souvenirs and apparel (some locally made), magnets, keychains, socks, shirts, hoodies, jewelry, mugs, hats, books and all sorts of other trinkets and keepsakes. The gift shop also sells ammolite in various forms, which is a beautiful gemstone found in Alberta. They also have a huge variety of traditional Canadian goods such as maple syrup, Moose Droppings, red flannel, touques, and parkas capable of withstanding frigid winter temperatures. Spend some time looking around and find something truly unique.

Skywalk Boardwalk

The Banff Skywalk Boardwalk is a self-guided wooden platform trail that leads from the upper terminal building, across the Sulphur Mountain range, past the cosmic ray station, all the way to the old weather station at Sanson’s Peak. As you can see from the photo, it is not wheelchair friendly. The walk isn’t very difficult but the weather can change that in an instant – be very careful when it’s windy, which is all of the time.

Guide To The Banff Gondola skywalk boardwalk in the summer time 2018
The Banff Skywalk Boardwalk, 2018
Guide To The Banff Gondola trail to Sanson's Peak, on top of Sulphur Mountain. Looking towards the Bow Valley mountain ranges
The view from Sanson’s Peak, looking north, winter 2018
Guide To The Banff Gondola Sulphur Mountain range, boardwalk and Sanson's Peak
Sulphur Mountain range, boardwalk and Sanson’s Peak in 2018

 

Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site

In 1957-1958 a cosmic ray station laboratory was built on the top of Sulphur Mountain to monitor cosmic rays coming from the sun and how they affected Earth’s environment. This was one of 9 stations built throughout Canada as part of our commitment to the International Geophysical Year project. Being the highest cosmic ray station in Canada, it sat at an altitude of 2383 meters above sea level and was at one point expanded and operated by the University of Calgary. The lab operated until 1978 when it was decommissioned, and the building finally being removed in 1981. All that’s left today is the building’s concrete foundation and a bronze commemorative plaque.

You can access it via the Skywalk boardwalk.

The Weather Station

Located opposite of the Banff Gondola, across the Skywalk boardwalk is a small building which was once used to collect weather data for the Banff area. The weather station is situated atop Sanson’s Peak, named after Norman Bethune Sanson, a curator of The Banff Museum, and whom suggested building it in the first place. It has been there for a very long time, which becomes evident when you look at some of the names etched into the concrete and in the wood of the building. It’s sad people have vandalized it, but, it is like looking at a timecapsule into the past. The oldest date I’ve seen is 1963 from a visitor! The building is locked but you can look inside to see what things used to be like for Norman when he used it. It’s old fashioned, rustic, but cozy.

Guide To The Banff Gondola Sanson's Peak side of building names and dates etched and drawn on the wall
The side of the weather monitoring station on Sanson’s Peak, 2018

Footnotes

  • Looking for directions on traveling from Calgary to Banff?
  • You can view the Banff Gondola webcam to see what the weather is like on top before buying tickets
  • The gondola cars have solar panels on them to keep an emergency radio powered, should it be needed in an outage
  • Banff rules
Travel Guide to the Banff Gondola for Pinterest
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