There are seemingly endless ways to take in the sweeping landscape of Banff National Park. The good news is, you don’t have to be a mountaineer or rock climber to get an elevated look at the mountains as the gondolas that bring skiers to the slopes in winter open up in summer for sightseeing. Trust us -- these are views you won’t want to miss! Of course, all the fresh air will make you hungry, so why not also stop for some food? Lucky for you, these scenic gondolas also give you access to amazing -- and off-the-grid -- dining options.
The Banff Gondola
The Banff Gondola, nestled in the townsite of Banff, takes you up Sulphur Mountain for a 360-degree view from the top. A boardwalk lets you meander along the mountaintop and is a perfect option for families or anyone looking for a more accessible way to enjoy a breathtaking view of the mountains. Don’t forget to make your reservation for Sky Bistro, which boasts a sleek dining room with a menu full of ingredients from Alberta and British Columbia.
Drive a quick 15 minutes from the Banff townsite to Mt. Norquay in early June to take the North American Chairlift for a bird’s eye view of the mountains. This chair will take you to 2085 metres (6840 ft) of elevation without breaking a sweat! Below, you’ll see luscious green hills and, if you’re lucky, you might even spot a bear below you. There’s no rush to come down quickly -- from the top, you can nip into the Cliffhouse Bistro, a converted tea house from the 1950s, for a bite to eat and a local craft beer or a glass of Canadian wine while you marvel at the peaks outside your window. It’s no wonder Marilyn Monroe stopped by the former tea house when she was shooting The River of No Return in Banff National Park in 1953.
Meander your way along the Sunshine access road off of the Trans-Canada (Highway 1). Park at the gondola base, and enjoy the scenic 20-minute ride to the Sunshine Village. From here, take the Standish chairlift for dazzling views of Sunshine Meadows and Mount Assiniboine in B.C. Snag a Sunshine Sightseeing and BBQ Package, which includes your scenic gondola and Standish lift tickets, as well as a classic Canadian BBQ lunch of a cheeseburger or veggie burger and your choice of sides.
Lake Louise Summer Gondola
Visit the Lake Louise Sightseeing Lift, Gondola & Interpretive Centre where you can grab a summer gondola ticket. Keep your eyes on the landscape as you make your way to the top of the peaks -- this is grizzly bear country and if you’re looking, you may catch a glimpse of one. From a vantage point of 2042 metres (6699 ft) of elevation, stop for a bite at the Whitehorn Bistro. Grab a seat on the restaurant’s balcony and take in a panoramic view of the Rockies. Leave your vehicle parked at the base and catch the free shuttle to the Lake Louise lakeside.