If you desire the unforgettable bird’s eye views of Banff and Lake Louise without the physicality or time required of a strenuous hike, then take a seat and soar into the alpine in a gondola. On a clear day, taking a gondola is a great activity for families, groups, and couples. Once up top, savour the sweeping vistas, explore the many hiking opportunities, or relax with a meal on the roof of the Rockies.
There are four sightseeing gondolas and chairlifts in Banff and Lake Louise: the Banff Sightseeing Gondola at Sulphur Mountain, the Lake Louise Sightseeing Lift, Gondola & Interpretive Centre at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, the Sunshine Gondola and Standish Chairlift at Sunshine Village Ski Resort, and the Banff Sightseeing Chairlift at Mt Norquay. Each offers a unique experience.
Banff Sightseeing Gondola
Floating its way up Sulphur Mountain, the Banff Sightseeing Gondola is located five minutes’ drive from the town of Banff. The eight-minute ride takes guests to a lofty altitude of 2,281 metres (7,486 feet) in cabins that seat up to four people. Once at the top, enjoy the restaurants, cafés, short hiking trails and new interpretive centre. If you are feeling adventurous, walk along the ridge line of Sulphur Mountain to see the Cosmic Ray Station, a historic site of Canada built to study cosmic rays.
Lake Louise Gondola
The Lake Louise Gondola lifts sightseers into the alpine to experience the expansive beauty of Lake Louise. From the top at 2,088 metres (6,850 feet) elevation, gaze upon the stunning views of Victoria Glacier, or take an award winning interpretive tour to learn more about the area’s natural history and wildlife. Many visitors also remark upon the wildlife that can be seen from the sightseeing lift including grizzly bears that are often seen grazing under its path.
If you’re looking to hike, Lake Louise offers an extensive network of hiking trails for all ability levels. Guided interpretive hikes are available ranging from short walks to all-day excursions.
Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola
The eight-person Banff Sunshine Village Gondola and Standish quad chairlift are open for sightseeing each weekend (Friday to Monday). Ride the Standish lift to over 2,400 m (7,875 feet) and experience 360 degree views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. From there, catch even more breathtaking scenery from the Standish viewpoint platform or connect to the Sunshine Meadows hiking trails - 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) of trails connecting to three high-alpine lakes: Larynx, Grizzly, and Rock Isle.
Banff Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift
The sightseeing chairlift at Mt Norquay takes guests on an open air ride to the summit of Mount Norquay. Enjoy the unique perspective of the Bow Valley as you explore the network of viewing platforms, walking trails and restaurants. For the particularly daring, take on Mt Norquay’s gripping Via Ferrata adventures to climb even higher up the mountain on a series of metal rungs and ladders.
Many hotels and tour operators offer package deals for meals, gondola admission, and tours. Gondolas remain open in the winter for sightseeing, however, be sure to dress warmly and pick a clear day! It is recommended to dress warmly, even in the summer – the air is cooler at a higher altitude.