Banff Gondola vs Lake Louise Gondola • Which to Choose?

If you’re planning your Banff itinerary, you’ve probably realized there are multiple gondolas and chairlifts to choose from. As they are expensive experiences in an already costly destination, it’s easy to feel pressure about selecting the right one.

Most people debate about choosing the Banff Gondola over the Lake Louise Gondola, or vice versa. If this is you, we’re here to help you make the right decision.

About The Banff Gondola

on the sulphur mountain boardwalk on the banff gondola in april

The Banff Gondola, which takes you up Sulphur Mountain, is easily the most popular gondola in the region. It is 8 minutes long and takes you up 2,292 ft of elevation. It provides epic views from inside the cabin and is the best way to get views from a mountaintop without actually hiking.

Once at the top, an entire experience unwraps. Multiple floors of indoor entertainment await you, but most people probably just want to get outside and enjoy the view. There’s an elevated boardwalk to walk along, which is one of our most recommended walks in the area.

On peak summer days, the Banff Gondola does sell out, and tickets should be pre-purchased if visiting in July and August. This experience does not come cheap, though, with tickets reaching as high as $70 a person on certain days.

  • Where: The Banff Gondola is located at 100 Mountain Ave, about a 5-10 minute drive from the Town of Banff. You can drive there or take Roam Route 1, which costs $2, but you can show your pre-purchased same-day Banff Gondola ticket to the bus driver for a free return ride
  • When: The Banff Gondola is a year-round experience.
  • Cost: Adult tickets for the Banff Gondola start around $65 and can reach up to approximately $70 at peak, as they use dynamic pricing. We find that booking on Viator is usually a couple of dollars cheaper.
  • Features: Enclosed cabin with 360 views. At the top, there is a four-story building with interactive displays, a theatre, restaurants, and an outdoor boardwalk.
  • Accessibility: The Banff Gondola is wheelchair accessible, but the boardwalk at the top is not.
  • Purchase Tickets

The Views

banff gondola

The views while riding up the 8-minute gondola are sure to impress. Even though I’ve been on the gondola over 10 times now, I always end up taking a million videos and photos of Cascade Mountain on the ride. Once you’re at the top, there are views in nearly every direction, but the most impressive is over the Town of Banff, with Cascade Mountain looming above it.

There are great views over Mount Rundle, and the Sundance Range is mesmerizing as you walk to Sanson’s Peak and back.

Restaurant Experiences

is the sky bistro experience worth it

Multiple restaurants are at the top of the Banff Gondola, including a small coffee shop and the Peak Patio, which is open in the summer. The most notable is Sky Bistro, a high-end restaurant with one of the best views in the Rockies. Reservations are essential, especially during the high season. The Northern Lights Kitchen offers a more affordable buffet experience and similar views to the Sky Bistro.

Things to Do At the Top

Banff Gondola Hike

At the top, you’ll find a huge summit building with several floors, a coffee shop, interactive displays that adults and children will love, observation decks, a gift shop, and the Sky Bistro and Northern Lights Kitchen.

There’s also the walk along the boardwalk, which will take 30-60 minutes to complete. During Christmas, the whole area is decked out in wonderful Christmas decor, and you can even find Santa at certain times.

In the winter season, The Banff Gondola hosts Nightrise. The Banff Nightrise is an interactive experience created by multimedia studio Moment Factory in partnership with the Stoney Nakoda Nation, that transforms Sulphur Mountain after dark with lights, projections, and riveting soundscapes.


Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Observatory.

The main “hike” you can do is more of a walk on the boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak. This is an easy kilometer-long walk along the summit ridge that provides phenomenal views and is well worth the walk. At its end, you’ll find Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Observatory.

How Long is the Experience?


We usually spend about 2-3 hours enjoying the entire Banff Gondola experience. This includes the gondola ride up, exploring all the interactive displays inside, and a walk on the boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak. If you are having lunch or dinner at the Northern Lights Kitchen or Sky Bistro, factor in extra time for this as well.

Winter Experience

banff nightrise

Unlike the Lake Louise Summer Gondola, you can enjoy the Banff Gondola year-round. Winter is a much quieter time than summer, though it does get cold at the top in the winter, so make sure to dress warm. Between December and March, you can experience Banff Nightrise at no additional cost.

Best Combined With


We always suggest that people enjoy the Banff Gondola in the early morning or late afternoon for the most crowd-free experience, with gorgeous light over the mountain. Since the Banff Gondola is just a short drive away from Downtown Banff, we recommend planning an entire day in the area that includes strolling Banff Avenue, walking to Cascade Gardens, and enjoying Bow Falls and Vermilion Lakes in addition to the Banff Gondola.

If you’re interested in the Lake Minnewanka Cruise, you can often purchase combo tickets that sell both the cruise and gondola for a discounted price.

Lake Louise Summer Gondola


Most people think of Lake Louise as just the lake itself, but there is a whole village here. Across the Trans Canada there’s also the Lake Louise Ski Resort, which is a ski resort in the winter and turns into a sightseeing gondola in the summer.

Here, you have the option to take either a chairlift or get in a gondola cabin and rise up to 2,102 m of Mount Whitehorn, offering stunning views along the way. The ride is 14 minutes long, one way offering plenty of air time. Once at the top you can take in the stunning views of Lake Louise, as well as walk to Whitehorn Bistro and have lunch, or embark on a short hike.

  • Where: The Lake Louise Gondola is located at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, about 45 minutes from the Town of Banff.
  • Cost: Adult tickets are $62
  • Features: Chairlift or gondola to load. Good wildlife viewing. Viewing platform out towards Lake Louise.
  • Accessibility: While the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola strives to be completely wheelchair friendly, they are not. Wheelchairs need to be folded to access the gondola. So if you think your wheelchair may be too big, it’s best to inform the staff or call ahead if you have questions or concerns about accessibility at the Lake Louise Gondola.
  • Purchase Tickets

The Views

views of lake louise from the summer chairlift
Courtesy of TravelAlberta.

It’s hard not to be amazed by the views out to Lake Louise here. It’s not only Lake Louise, though, as you’ll get a new perspective of Mount Victoria and Mount Fairview, too. Look to your left, and you’ll see Mount Temple and possibly even a glimpse of the Ten Peaks.

Restaurant Experiences


There are a few places to eat at the base of the mountain, but the main highlight is the Whitehorn Bistro, one of the most scenic restaurants in Banff. You can walk there from the top of the Summer Gondola.

Things to Do At the Top

Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola and Wildlife Interpretive Centre
Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola and Wildlife Interpretive Centre / TravelAlberta

Enjoy the views out to Lake Louise, go on a short hike, or have a meal at the Whitehorn Bistro.

Can You Hike?

Unlike the Banff Sunshine Gondola, there aren’t many hiking opportunities from the top of the Lake Louise Gondola. However, there are two notable short routes from Whitehorn Lodge if you want to stretch your legs, though neither hike is the most entertaining in Banff. You must hike with bear spray when hiking anywhere in Banff.

  • Kicking Horse Pass Viewpoint Trail: This trail is under 3km with 175 meters of elevation gain following a steep gravel road.
  • Pika Trail: This trail is just under 2 km round trip with 200 meters of elevation gain. You get great views over the Valley and can continue to the Ptarmigan viewpoint. Visit in July and August, and you’ll be surrounded by colorful wildflowers.

How Long is the Experience

lake louise gondola
Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola and Wildlife Interpretive Centre / TravelAlberta

The whole experience takes about one hour, unless you have lunch at the Whitehorn Restaurant.

Winter Experience

lake louise gondola in the winter

The winter experience on the Lake Louise Gondola is much different than the summer experience. In the winter, you can purchase sightseeing tickets at the Lake Louise Gondola. Once at the top of the gondola, you’ll share the views with all the skiers and snowboarders enjoying the Ski Resort for the day.

You can stay as long as you want and take photos, but there’s nothing additional up here for gondola riders to do. Unless you are skiing or snowboarding, I don’t think taking the Sightseeing Gondola up in the winter is worth it.

Best Combined With

lake louise canoe

Since the Lake Louise Summer Gondola is located at the same spot you must park and leave your vehicle to board the shuttles to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, it’s best to plan your Lake Louise and Moraine Lake day and go up the Sightseeing Gondola all on the same day.

Banff or Lake Louise Gondola? Our Thoughts


The only thing similar about these two gondola experiences is the price. If you can only choose one, we suggest the Banff Gondola over the Lake Louise Gondola. The Banff Gondola offers 360-degree views and has the most facilities at the top, including a few restaurants and a nicely constructed boardwalk to enjoy. Heading here is a full experience you can enjoy for a few hours, even in the dead of winter. There are also nice interactive displays inside if you need a break from the wind or cold. The Sulphur Mountain Gondola is also higher than the Lake Louise Gondola, and actually brings you to the near top of a mountain.

We have been up the Banff Gondola multiple times during all seasons. We typically bring friends and family when they visit, and everyone loves it. If you want to hike, The Lake Louise Gondola provides limited hiking opportunities and things to do comparatively. However, for the best hiking options, we recommend the Banff Sunshine Gondola.

However, if you want to dine at a restaurant with a view, you stand a higher chance of getting a table at the Whitehorn Bistro than the Sky Bistro. On a nice day, it’s hard to beat dining outside with views of Lake Louise. However, the Sky Bistro is a much more refined experience.

Both gondolas won’t disappoint in terms of views. However, the views of Lake Louise, with the Victoria Glacier, and Mount Temple are incomparable and much more “wild” than those of the Banff Gondola, though they are not 360 degrees. You also have a higher chance of spotting wildlife on the Lake Louise Gondola, and you can choose between riding a chairlift up OR a gondola cabin. It’s unlikely you’ll see many animals on the Banff Gondola.

Still in debate? Compare all the gondolas and chairlifts in the region!

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

If you have found the content on this site helpful to your trip planning please consider supporting The Banff Blog. You can say thanks directly by buying us a coffee. All support is much appreciated!

Leave a Comment