If you are looking for some gondola-assisted hiking in an alpine valley amongst wildflowers and mountain views, a trip up the Sunshine Gondola in the summer might just be for you!
The Sunshine gondola ride takes you to Sunshine Village, where you will have access to a number of restaurants, the Sunshine Mountain Lodge, and Sunshine Meadows hiking trails. It’s the perfect way to spend a summer day in Banff!
About the Sunshine Gondola
The Sunshine Gondola is an eight-passenger gondola (the largest in Banff National Park) that takes you from the base elevation of 1659m to the Sunshine Village terminal at 2159m. The gondola ride takes approximately 25 minutes and offers beautiful mountain views (and possible wildlife sightings) the entire way. For a couple of months in the summer, the Sunshine Gondola offers visitors access to the beautiful Sunshine Meadows hiking area.
Once you reach the Sunshine Village terminal, you will have access to a number of trails, restaurants, and the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. There is also the Sunshine Meadows Interpretive Center and Sunshine Sports Shop.
From Sunshine Village, you can then take the 8-minute Standish Chairlift ride to an elevation of 2385m to reach the Standish Viewing Deck. The viewing deck will give you incredible views of the surrounding mountains, including Mount Assiniboine (nicknamed the ‘Matterhorn of the Rockies’). Both the Sunshine Gondola and Standish Chairlift are included in your lift ticket.
Interestingly, Sunshine Meadows is situated along the continental divide as well as the provincial border between Alberta and British Columbia. When following the hiking trails in the area, there are times when you will be crossing between the two provinces!
Sunshine Village boasts the highest elevation of any ski and snowboard resort in Canada, and is a popular winter destination as one of the ‘Ski Big 3′ resorts in Banff National Park (along with Lake Louise and Mt. Norquay resorts). In the summer, the alpine valley between Mount Standish, Lookout Mountain, and Goat’s Eye Mountain makes Sunshine Meadows the perfect spot for viewing colorful wildflowers along well-maintained hiking trails.
The History of the Sunshine Gondola
Banff Sunshine Village was originally established as a summer lodge by the CP Rail Company in 1928-29. In the late 1920s and early 30s, the area became a draw for ski pioneers looking to explore the area.
Sunshine Village expanded its offerings as downhill skiing became a more popular activity. This included the resort’s first t-bar in 1962 and first chairlift (Standish) in 1965. The resort continued to grow into the 1970s as visitors were drawn to the soft and dry Rocky Mountain snow.
The Sunshine Gondola was built in 1980 as a way for visitors to access Sunshine Village. Prior to this, the village could be accessed by bus. The Scurfield family purchased Sunshine Village in 1981 and expanded the resort into the popular ski destination that it is today. It continues to be one of the most popular ski destinations in the Canadian Rockies.
Where is Sunshine Gondola?
The Sunshine Village Access Road is located 8km west of the town of Banff along the Trans-Canada Highway. To reach this road, follow the sign indicating the exit for Sunshine Village. Once on this road, another 8km will have you reach the parking lot for the Sunshine Gondola.
From Downtown Banff, the trip to Sunshine Gondola will take approximately 21 minutes. If you are visiting from Canmore, the Sunshine Gondola can be reached in 33 minutes. From Calgary, the trip will take approximately 1 hour 35 minutes. Traveling with your own or a rental car is an easy way to access the Sunshine Gondola.
However, a daily free shuttle between Banff and Sunshine is also available and is the best way to access Sunshine if you are visiting Banff without a car. Pickup locations include a number of Banff hotels and Brewsters Depot. If you are staying in Banff, this free shuttle is a convenient option. The summer 2023 bus schedule can be found here.
Parking at Sunshine Gondola
You will find that there is plenty of parking available at Sunshine Gondola at the end of the Sunshine Village Access Road. There is no charge for parking and the parking lot provides easy access to the main building and gondola terminal.
How Much Does the Sunshine Gondola Cost?
The summer 2023 prices for the Sunshine Gondola & Chairlift are listed below. The ticket prices include both the Sunshine Gondola and Standish Sightseeing Chairlift. Tickets can be purchased online in advance from the Banff Sunshine Meadows website or at Guest Services on the second floor of the Sunshine Gondola base building.
|Family (2 Adults & 6 Youth/Children)||$145.00+|
How Long is the Sunshine Gondola Ride?
The Sunshine Gondola ride is approximately 25 minutes, and will take you from an elevation of 1659m to 2159m. The Standish Chairlift is an additional 8 minute ride, ending at an elevation of 2385m.
In order to make the most of your Sunshine Gondola experience, it is recommended that you arrive at the Sunshine Village terminal no later than 3:30pm. This way, you will be able to explore all that the area has to offer!
When Can I Visit the Sunshine Summer Gondola?
Although you can visit Sunshine Village throughout the winter for some great skiing and snowboarding, the gondola is only open for a limited time in the summer months. The operational dates are typically announced in the spring.
For the 2023 season, the Sunshine Gondola is open daily from June 23rd to September 10th. The hours of operation for the summer gondola are 8:00am to 6:00pm, with the Standish Chairlift operating from 8:00am to 5:00pm.
Do I Need to Book Tickets in Advance for the Sunshine Gondola?
You do not need to book tickets in advance to visit the Sunshine Gondola. However, if you have a particular date or time that you are wanting to visit, booking your tickets in advance may be a good idea as it can get crowded on a nice summer weekend day in Banff.
If purchasing online, you can receive a direct to gondola access ticket with a QR code that allows you to skip any lines at the base terminal building.
Is the Sunshine Gondola Family-Friendly?
The trip up the Sunshine Gondola is great for travelers of all ages. With the large gondola cabins and options for easy hiking at Sunshine Meadows, it’s a great way for families to experience the higher elevation of the mountains regardless of hiking experience.
Is the Sunshine Gondola Pet-Friendly?
Visitors are not able to bring pets on the Sunshine Gondola, with the exception of service animals. You will have to leave your pets at home when visiting the Sunshine Gondola.
Is the Sunshine Gondola Wheelchair Accessible?
Unfortunately, due to the rugged mountain terrain at the gondola terminal and in the Sunshine Village area, the Sunshine Gondola is not wheelchair accessible. If you are looking for a wheelchair accessible gondola in Banff, try the Banff Gondola on Sulphur Mountain!
Do You Need a Parks Canada Pass to Visit the Sunshine Gondola?
As Sunshine Village and the gondola are located in Banff National Park, you will need to have a valid park pass in order to visit the area. You can find out more about purchasing a Parks Canada pass here.
Can I Swim in the Lakes at Sunshine Meadows?
From the Standish Viewing Platform, visitors will notice that there are three alpine lakes in the Sunshine Meadows area. These are Rock Isle Lake, Laryx Lake, and Grizzly Lake.
While it may be tempting to take a swim after spending time on the hiking trails, swimming is not permitted in any of these three lakes. In fact, visitors must stay on the trail and away from the fragile shoreline of these lakes.
Hiking from the Sunshine Gondola
One of the benefits of riding the Sunshine Gondola is that it can allow visitors to experience epic mountain views without having to hike the entire way. Once you reach the top of the gondola and chairlift ride, there are a number of Sunshine Meadows hiking trails for visitors to enjoy that have minimal elevation gain.
There are a number of routes and trails available and they are well-maintained and easy to follow. When purchasing your tickets at the base terminal, you can ask for a trail map with information about the distance, elevation gain/loss, and location of each of the hiking trails. You can also view the trail map online here.
|Rock Isle Road||1.8 km||+121m/-32m|
|Standish Viewing Deck Loop||0.8km||+16m/-16m|
|Standish Viewing Deck to Rock Isle Junction||0.7km||+9m/-119m|
|Grizzly / Laryx Loop||3.6km||+146m/-146m|
|Twin Cairns to Monarch Viewpoint||2.2km||+49m/-26m|
|Meadow Park Trail||1.8km||+6m/-176m|
With the variety of trails available, you could spend the entire day here exploring the area. Alternately, you could select just a few trails depending on how much time you have available. However, we would recommend taking the Standish Sightseeing Chairlift to the Standish Viewing Deck to start your journey and then selecting a trail from there.
If you would prefer to take a guided hike, there are 1 and 2 hour hosted trail walks available. These walks are limited to 12 participants (with the 2 hour walk being restricted to visitors 6 and up); if this is something you are interested in, it’s best to book in advance. You can find more information on booking these experiences here.
Psst: Another great Banff hike nearby is Healy Pass!
Sunshine Gondola Restaurants
There are a number of restaurant options with a variety of offerings in Sunshine Village once you reach the top of the gondola ride. These restaurants are found in the Sunshine Village area before embarking on the Standish Chairlift. Why not relax with a snack and a drink before or after completing the hiking trails?
|Mad Trappers Grill||Pub & BBQ classics|
|Chimney Corner Fireside Dining||Full service breakfast & dinner|
|Java Lift||Fresh fare & coffee|
|First Tracks Cafe||Quick bites & coffee|
Tips for Visiting Sunshine Summer Gondola
- Stay on the trail: The wildflowers of Sunshine Meadows are delicate and fragile. When hiking, it is important to stay on the trail at all times in order to protect these beautiful and fragile plants.
- Dress appropriately: Any visitor to the mountains knows that the weather can be unpredictable. Remember to always dress in layers, including a water/windproof layer. Also, there are very few trees along the hiking trails here – wear sunscreen and a hat for sun protection.
- Be bear-aware: It is always a good idea to carry bear spray when traveling and hiking within Banff National Park. Bear sightings do happen in the Sunshine Meadows area, and it is important to be prepared. Read more of our bear safety tips here!
Is the Sunshine Gondola Worth It?
Whether you are looking for some easy Banff hiking or just want to take in the beautiful mountain views, a trip to Sunshine Gondola is worth your time and is one of the best things to do in Banff. Included in your ticket price is a ride on both the Sunshine Gondola and Standish Chairlift. Overall the Sunshine Gondola is a great way to spend a summer day and is a nice addition to any Banff trip itinerary.
One of the most enjoyable things about the Sunshine Gondola is the opportunity to see the numerous wildflowers in bloom along the hiking trails, something that is unique to this gondola location.
The price is comparable to other summer gondolas in the area, and was well worth the money for a day in the mountains. See below for a price comparison with other gondola experiences in the area.
- Sunshine Gondola: Adult $65, Child $32
- Banff Gondola: Adult $65, Child $42 (prices fluctuate)
- Lake Louise Summer Gondola: Adult $60, Child $25
- Mt. Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift: Adult $45, Child $28
So, Which Banff Gondola Should You Choose After All?
|Banff Gondolas Best Option|
|Cheapest option||Norquay Chairlift|
|Dog-friendly options||Jasper Skytram (Jasper) & Norquay Chairlift|
|Most popular||Banff Gondola|
|Highest elevation||Sunshine Village Gondola|
I Can Only Splurge on a Few Activities in Banff? Which One Should I Choose?
All of these Banff attractions cost upwards of $50+ per ticket, so it’s understandable that you cannot do all of them, nor should you – there are plenty of free things to do in Banff!
We suggest you pick one gondola experience and one lake experience!
Hopefully this guide helped you to plan your trip to Sunshine Summer 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.
- 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.
- 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. We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!