Banff National Park is a renowned national park in Alberta. It is visited by many from year to year for its beauty and wide options of fun activities to choose from. One of the best ways to soak in the benefits of your trip to Alberta is by taking a gondola/ chairlift ride.
Check out our ultimate Banff gondola comparison guide to help you choose the best fit for you!
There is no shortage of options when it comes to gondolas in this region. This includes Banff Gondola, Sunshine Village Gondola, Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola, Norquay Chairlift and the Jasper SkyTram/ Gondola (located in Jasper, but included to assist you).
Each of these gondolas offers a unique experience and incredible views and would be a great addition to your travels!
*cover image courtesy of Pursuit
The Ultimate Banff Gondola Comparison Chart
|Lake Louise||Sunshine Village||Jasper|
|Is it super busy in the summer?||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Should you bring bear spray?||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Are there hikes available from the top?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Are there dining options?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Is it open in winter for sightseeing purposes?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Should you dress in layers?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Do you need a Park Pass?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Is it costly compared to the others?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Is it dog-friendly?||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
The Banff Gondola
The Banff Gondola is this region’s most renowned gondola and we can totally understand why. The Banff Gondola is located in Banff National Park and takes you up Sulphur Mountain, one of the most popular Rockies in this region.
This gondola ride takes you up 2,292 ft of elevation. The trip is 8 minutes long. Sometimes, you are able to enjoy a few extra minutes in your gondola cabin when it stops to accommodate guests. On your journey up, you will get to experience breathtaking views of the surrounding Banff beauty and build anticipation for what is yet to come.
Where is the Banff Gondola?
The Banff Gondola is located at 100 Mountain Ave in Banff. It is accessible by car at a 10-minute drive from Downtown Banff. We find that the parking lot fills up quickly in the summer, so keep that in mind when planning your trip!
The most strategic, cost-effective and environmentally friendly option is to take the bus. Route 1 on the Roam Transit Bus will take you from Downtown Banff up to the Banff Gondola. The bus schedule changes depending on the season and the time of day, so be sure to plan your schedule in advance!
Because of the incline and the hills that there are on the way to the base of the Banff Gondola, we don’t recommend biking or walking.
Restaurants at the Peak
Are you feeling hungry? If so, you have many options to choose from.
The Sky Bistro is a “sanctuary in the sky”. They have curated a Canadian menu, using local ingredients. We loved coming up the gondola and heading to the Bistro for dinner time as a romantic date.
We highly recommend booking a table as spots fill up quick, especially in the summer months. They also offer different dining and experience packages, depending on what you’re looking for.
The Northern Lights Alpine Kitchen is a buffet-style restaurant that offers a range of food from hearty options to alpine cuisine. This is our favourite spot for lunch as they have quick and easy options. We believe that it is the best option for families with kids that need a quick bite.
Though booking a table isn’t always necessary, it wouldn’t be a bad idea in the summer months, as the Banff Gondola does get very busy.
The Peak Patio is an excellent summer experience. It is a great spot to grab some light bites and enjoy a patio drink. We love this spot because you are in a super relaxing atmosphere, surrounded by Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The patio is closed during the winter season but will reopen in the summer.
Things to do While You’re On Top of the World
Once you’ve reached the top of the gondola, you’ve arrived in a Rocky Mountain “paradise”. You will be overlooking six different mountain ranges.
As you walk along the boardwalk, you will get the chance to stop at different informative displays on a self-guided tour.
Continue up the boardwalk to reach Sanson’s Peak. This peak is named after a man named Norman Sanson. Sanson hiked up Sulphur Mountain every day for approximately 30 years to check the weather. He did this until 1945, when he was 84 years old!
Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll get to enjoy the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station. This station is a National Historic Site in Canada.
Otherwise, walk through the building at the gondola summit to enjoy interpretive exhibits, a multi-sensory theatre and an observation deck that offers breathtaking views.
Before leaving, be sure to check out their gift shop and grab a coffee on your way out at the on-site Starbucks.
Pricing & Hours of Operation
The prices and hours of operation for the Banff Gondola fluctuate based on the time of the year. Tickets are more expensive in the summer months and on the weekends.
Tickets are also more expensive when you buy them on-site as opposed to buying them online in advance. Though you would save a few bucks to buy them in advance, we always found that buying them the day of is worth it, seeing as the weather is so unpredictable in Banff.
Another option to consider would be purchasing Pursuit’s Ultimate Explorer Combo Ticket, which gives you a ticket to the Banff Gondola, Lake Minnewanka Cruise, and Columbia Icefield Adventure which includes the Columbia Skywalk.
Here is what you can expect when it comes to pricing:
|Youth (6-17)||$25 and up|
|5 and under||Free (must carry a ticket)|
HOT TIP: If you want to enjoy the amenities at the top of the Banff Gondola, but don't want to pay the ticket price, consider hiking Sulphur Mountain. Once you're at the top, you're able to enjoy all that the facilities have to offer. The hike is 10.1 kilometers, gaining 698 m of elevation. We consider it a moderate hike in Banff.
Winter on the Banff Gondola
If you are visiting Banff in the winter, the Banff Gondola provides the best winter experience out of all the gondolas. This is especially true around Christmas time when they transform the whole area for their Mountaintop Christmas events.
While you can still go up the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola and Sunshine Gondola in the winter, we consider the Banff Gondola to have the best activities and attractions, including Nightrise. The Sulphur Mountain hike is also a fun winter hike in Banff, and a free option for enjoying those looking to save some money.
Banff Gondola Tips
Here are our top tips and tricks to make for an incredible day:
- Consider visiting in the off-season to save on tickets.
- Visit the gondola in the morning or evening to avoid crowds.
- Dress in layers as the temperature will be lower at the top.
- Group rates are available for 15 people or more.
- Arrive early as parking fills up quickly in the summer months.
- Strollers are not permitted.
- Once you have reached the top, you have unlimited time up there.
- Expect approximately 2 hours for the full experience.
- Be sure to buy your Banff Park Pass before arriving.
TOP TIP: ONLINE TICKETS CAN BE MODIFIED UP TO 48 HOURS BEFORE YOUR TIMESLOT! DID YOU BOOK YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE AND NOW MOTHER NATURE ISN'T COOPERATING? CALL TO MODIFY THEM (A FEE MAY APPLY)!
Lake Louise Gondola
Lake Louise is a gorgeous destination in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, which is made up of beautiful views and countless activities for those that love the outdoors.
One of the top activities is to take a ride on the Lake Louise Sightseeing gondola. This scenic ride brings guests up 2102 m or Mount Whitehorn, offering stunning views along the way. The ride is 14 minutes long, giving you ample time to snap photos to your heart’s desire and soak in the beauty that surrounds you.
The Lake Louise Gondola is open year-round. In the winter, it is a ski lift, bringing skiers and snowboarders up to enjoy one of SkiBig3’s pristine hills. Offering over 4,200 acres of skiable terrain and 145 runs, It is one of the top ski hills in the region.
Where is the Lake Louise Gondola?
The Lake Louise Gondola is located in Banff National Park, more specifically, in Lake Louise.
The address is 1 Whitehorn Rd in Lake Louise, Alberta. It is a 45-minute drive from Banff, 57 minutes from Canmore and approximately 2 hours from Calgary.
There is also the option to take the Roam Transit bus from Banff to the Lake Louise Gondola. The schedule varies, so be sure to take a look at their website to plan your trip.
Dining at the Lake Louise Gondola
There are a few options to choose from when visiting the Lake Louise Gondola. The Whitehorn Bistro, located at the top of the gondola is known for its local and seasonal ingredients and for having one of the best restaurant views in Banff. It is accessible in the summer with your gondola ticket or in the winter with your ski pass.
If you’re looking for more of a grab-and-go option, we recommend stopping into the Lodge of Ten Peaks Cafeteria at the base.
Accessibility at the Lake Louise Gondola
The Lake Louise Gondola mentions that its venue is suitable for visitors of all ages and abilities. The large cabins make for a space that is accessible to some. The gondola cabins have an accessible loading area.
That being said, mobility aids must be folded up as you enter the gondola. This can make for a difficult experience for some and we recommend calling ahead of time to ensure that your aid will fit.
If your mobility aid does fit, there are also accessible washrooms at the base and the top as well as a variety of options such as restaurants, cafes, exhibits and displays.
Things to do at the Top of the Lake Louise Gondola
In the winter, the Lake Louise gondola is used to transport skiers and snowboarders up the Lake Louise ski hill, one of the iconic SkiBig3 hills. In the summer, the gondola is one of the best things to do in Lake Louise.
There are many options to choose from once you’ve gone up the Lake Louise Gondola, including grabbing a bite to eat, checking out the Wildlife Interpretive Centre, joining a guided tour, or doing a hike.
Hikes at the Top of the Gondola
Once you’ve reached the top of the gondola, you can choose between three hikes. Whichever you choose, it is imperative to stay bear safe by packing your bear spray and staying aware of your surroundings!
- Kicking Horse Pass Viewpoint – 1.7 km round trip
- Pika Trail – 2.5 km round trip
- Ptarmigan Valley viewpoint – 3.4 km round trip (extension to the Pika Trail)
Prices & Hours of Operation
|5 and under||Free|
|Family (2 adults and 2 kids)||$140|
The Lake Louise Gondola will be open from May 19 to October 9, 2023. At the time of writing their hours of operation haven’t yet been released. Keep your eye on their website to stay up to date!
Lake Louise Gondola Tips
We want you to have a stress-free and enjoyable time a the Lake Louise Gondola! Here are some tips to help you achieve just that.
- You don’t need to book your tickets in advance. This means you can keep your eye on the weather.
- There is ample parking.
- This gondola isn’t as known by tourists as the Banff Gondola. It’s a great way to try and avoid the big crowds.
- Lake Louise is part of Banff National Park. Be sure to get your park pass before arriving.
- Extend your trip at the top of the gondola by enjoying one of the hikes. Always stay bear-safe.
- Dress in layers as the temperature will be lower at the top.
Sunshine Village Gondola
Sunshine Village Gondola is located in Banff National Park and is another great option as a year-round activity. This gondola is known for its beautiful views of the Canadian Rockies and its access to outdoor enthusiasts.
Sunshine Village is mainly known for its winter activities. In the winter, it is a ski hill. It is part of the SkiBig3, one of the three world-class ski resorts in the region. That said, their gondola is a great option for visitors in any season.
The gondola base starts you off at an impressive elevation of 1,659 m. Once you go up the gondola, you are taken to 2,159 m, arriving to the Village terminal. Once there, you have the option to continue up the Standish Chairlift, taking you to an elevation 2,385 m. We highly recommend doing the extra leg, as you will be immersed in breathtaking 360-degree views. You’ll definitely want to add this to your summer bucket list!
The Sunshine Village Gondola is Banff National Park’s biggest one, holding up to an impressive 8 people per cabin! We appreciate visiting the Sunshine Village Gondola in the summer, where we can spot an assortment of wildlife, go for a hike, take in the incredible views and appreciate the fresh air.
Where is the Sunshine Village Gondola Located?
The Sunshine Village Gondola is located in Banff National Park at 1 Sunshine access Rd. It is a 21-minute drive from downtown Banff (18.3 km), 35 minutes from Canmore (40.7 km) and 1 hour and 45 minutes from Calgary (144 km).
There is ample parking available. It is a beautiful drive up to Sunshine Village. There is also the option of renting a car if you do not have access to your own. Rental car services are very popular in the town of Banff in the summer months. Try and book ahead when you can!
Are You Hungry?
There are various food options to choose from at Sunshine Village.
|Summer Hours||Type of Cuisine|
|Mad Trappers Grill||11am – 11pm||Pub & BBQ|
|Chimney Corner Fireside Dining||7am – 5pm||Full-service breakfast and dinner|
|Eagle’s Nest Canadian Bistro||5pm – 11pm||Upscale Canadian flare|
|Java Lift Alpine Patisserie||7am – 5pm||Fresh fare & Starbucks coffee|
|First Tracks Café||8am – 6pm||Quick bites & coffee|
Sunshine Gondola Hours of Operation and Pricing
The hours for the 2023 season have not yet been released. That said, in 2022, the hours were as follows.
June 24 - September 11, 2022 8:00 am - 6:00 pm
Prices for the gondola are as follows:
What to Do Once You’ve Reached the Top
Once you’ve ridden up the iconic summer gondola ride, you are surrounded by beauty everywhere you look. This is a great opportunity to enjoy nature, immersed in the tall trees, wildflowers and wildlife.
Starting your ride at 1,659 m and getting up to over 2,159 m of elevation, this is the highest lift in the Banff and Lake Louise area!
Once you’ve reached the top of the Standish Chairlift, it’s time to enjoy the Standish Viewing Deck. It offers 360-degree views of the majestic peaks, the vibrant wildflowers and the fresh mountain air. One of the main reasons people enjoy the Sunshine gondola is to get some lift-assisted hiking in.
Sunshine Meadows Hike
The Sunshine Meadows hike is a great option for those that are looking to explore further by hiking. Once you’ve ridden the gondola, head up the Standish Chair lift.
Once at the top, find the Standish Viewing Deck and down the stairs that are found to the right. There will oftentimes be Sunshine Village employees around to help answer any questions you may have.
From the Sunshine Meadows hike, you can branch off to enjoy the view of various other lakes. This includes Rock Isle Lake, Grizzly Lake and Larix Lake.
Sunshine Village Gondola Tips
Here are some of our top takeaways from our time at the Sunshine Village Gondola.
- Make the most of the trip by allocating time for the Sunshine Meadows hike.
- Bring bear spray and stay bear-safe.
- It’s worth heading all the way up to the Standish viewing deck.
- Dress in layers as the temperature will drop.
- Expect fewer people than at the Banff Gondola.
- Sunshine Village is part of Banff National Park. Don’t forget to buy your park pass!
The Norquay Chairlift is definitely a hidden gem in Banff National Park. Though it is a chairlift, not a gondola ride, however, we still wanted to bring it to your attention in this Banff gondolas comparison guide. The Mount Norquay chairlift still has a lot to offer at a lower price point, when compared to the other gondola options.
What to do Once You’re at the Top
Once you’ve reached the top, enjoy dining at the Cliffhouse Bistro, taking photos of the “Instagram-worthy” views, or trying the Via Ferrata.
Adults (16+ years) - $57.30 Youth (6-15 years) - $30.35 Child (Under 6 years) - Free Dog Ticket - $6 Family Package (2 Adult + 2 Youth) - $131.50
|June 11th – October 9th||9:00am MST – 7:00pm MST|
*The last chair goes down at 7:30pm
|September 12th – October 9th||9:30am MST – 6:00pm MST|
*The last chair goes down at 6:30pm
We have always enjoyed our time spent on the Norquay Chairlift. It offers the best prices of all competing options, has a great restaurant at the top and isn’t as busy as the most popular option, the Banff Gondola.
Norquay Chairlift Tips For Visiting
Here is what we feel is noteworthy about the Norquay Chairlift.
- The lowest price point of all options mentioned.
- The Cliffhouse Bistro is a great restaurant just at the top of the lift.
- The Via Ferrata is a unique and thrill-seeking experience, easily one of the best things to do in Banff in the summer for those looking to get their adrenaline pumping.
- It is a less busy option when compared to the other experiences.
- It is dog-friendly.
Jasper Skytram/ Gondola
If you’re looking to explore Jasper National Park, stopping at the Jasper Skytram/ Gondola is a must-do. The Jasper Skytram/Gondola takes you up Whistlers Mountain at an astonishing elevation of 2,277 m. What’s impressive about the Jasper Skytram/ Gondola is that it is both the highest and the longest tram in Canada!
It offers fantastic views and offers the opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the Jasper area. Though the Jasper Skytram/ Gondola is outside of Banff National Park, it is a great option for someone that was looking to add the Icefields Parkway drive to their Banff itinerary.
Once at the top, you will find a small gift shop and restaurant.
Looking to Hike?
The Jasper Skytram/ Gondola is a great option for those who are looking to do a bit of Jasper hiking. From the top of the Skytram, you can access Whistlers Peak or continue on to a scramble of Indian Ridge.
From the peak, you will get astonishing views of the glacier-clad Mt. Robson to the North, the tallest mountain in the Rockies, and Mount Edith Cavell to the South.
Adults (16+ years) — $57.30 Youth (6-15 years) — $30.35 Child (Under 6 years) — Free Dog Ticket – $6 (Yes, you can bring your furry friends!) Family Package (2 Adult + 2 Youth) — $131.50
Hours of Operation
|March 25 – May 19||10:00am – 5:00pm|
|May 20 – June 23||9:00am – 8:00pm|
|June 24 – Sept 5||8:00am – 9:00pm|
|Sept 6 – Oct 30||10:00am – 5:00pm|
Overall, the Jasper Skytram/ Gondola is a good option for those that were already planning on heading out to the Jasper area. That said, for the price you will be paying, you will get more bang for your buck at some of the other options, like the Banff Gondola.
Jasper Skytram Tips
Here are some of our top takeaways:
- The gondola is dog-friendly.
- Besides hiking to Whistler summit, there aren’t as many other activities at the top compared to the other gondolas, though the views are still amazing.
- You will need to buy a National Park Pass for the Jasper area.
- Be sure to dress in layers.
- Plan for 2 hours for the whole experience to enjoy the views and boardwalk.
So, Which Alberta Gondola Should You Choose After All?
There is really no right or wrong answer when visiting one of the gorgeous gondolas in Banff. We recommend making your decision based on your personal needs.
|Banff Gondolas Best Option|
|Cheapest option||Norquay Chairlift|
|Dog-friendly options||Jasper Skytram & Norquay Chairlift|
|Most popular||Banff Gondola|
|Highest elevation||Sunshine Village Gondola|
Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Hiking in the Rockies: Purchase an AllTrails subscription to have a mobile map on you as you hike.
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out Safetywing or HeyMondo offers competitive rates for all travelers.
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Pack for the Rockies: See our complete Alberta packing list here.
- Get Around: We suggest either renting a car to get around, you can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip with companies like Outdoorsy or WickedCampers.
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards.