Surprise Corner is a spectacular viewpoint of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and the Spray Valley and one of the most famous photo spots in Banff. The view is without a doubt one of the most iconic photo spots in Banff.
“The Castle of The Rockies” sits at the base of Sulphur Mountain with the roaring Bow Falls in the foreground. Since it’s only a few minutes outside of town along Tunnel Mountain Road it’s an easy stop for visitors to Banff.
Most visitors are probably familiar with the view as the iconic scene is often shared across social media and used for marketing. That being said a photo rarely conveys the scale and beauty like witnessing the natural setting in person.
The viewpoint sits high above the Bow Falls off of Tunnel Mountain Road. There is a small parking lot with enough space for about 10 cars. Across from the parking lot, there is a short flight of stairs and an elevated platform.
From the platform, you have an amazing view above the trees of the Banff Springs Hotel and the Spray Valley. However, it is not the famed photo location as the Bow River is not visible down below.
If you want to find the scenic spot head up the road a short distance until you see a barricade and a small area for pedestrians. Here you can stand along the cliff edge to snap a photo. However, be careful as the precarious cliff is covered in loose gravel and a fall would be perilous.
It’s a spectacular photograph and one of our favorite photo spots around the town of Banff along with Banff Ave and Vermilion Lakes. Once you see the amazing landscape in person it leaves little wonder as to why it’s on many visitors’ list of things to do in Banff.
When is the best time to visit Surprise Corner?
We’ve been to Surprise Corner a countless number of times and have seen it in all kinds of weather and seasons. A visit to the viewpoint is great any time of year, but our favorite time is after a fresh snowfall when the trees have a dusting of snow.
If you’re seeking the best time for photographs that would be in the morning when the sun lights up Sulfur Mountain. The sunsets over the hotel and mountain so it’s best not to photograph in the afternoon.
If you wait until late enough in the evening a photo with the Banff Springs lights can also be very nice. However, it’s not a good spot for astrophotography as the light pollution from the resort and town is too great.
Where is Surprise Corner?
It’s super easy to find Surprise Corner as it signposted off of Buffalo Street. From Banff Ave, turn left at the CIBC bank and follow the road until you reach the viewpoint — it’s pretty hard to miss!
It’s a fifteen-minute walk from town and there is a short tail for half the walk along the Bow River. However, we’d recommend other easy hikes around Banff like the Bow Falls, Cascade Gardens, or Hoodoos.
Walks and Hikes Near Surprise Corner
There are a number of walks and hikes that are nearby Surprise Corner. One of our favorite local hikes is Tunnel Mountain and the parking lot for Banff’s smallest mountain is not far from Surprise Corner. It’s a great hike that takes the average hiker just under an hour to reach the top!
You can also hike down to the shoreline of the Bow River or out to the Hoodoos from Surprise Corner.
Tips For Visiting Surprise Corner
- Be prepared for crowds if you’re visiting in the peak summer months. It’s a popular spot for social media and tour buses.
- Practice caution in the winter as the steep bank can be very slippery and the snow can cover steep drop-offs. The platform may not be cleared if the snowfall is recent.
- Please park in the parking lot or walk to the viewpoint, traffic is a common problem along with the viewpoint due to poorly parked vehicles.
- A visit to Surprise Corner is free of charge — of course, you will need your Parks Canada pass to do anything in Banff National Park.
- We love to visit in the winter when things are nice in quiet, especially in the morning.
- If you’re spending a day seeing the sights around town I’d highly recommend a quick hike up Tunnel Mountain for some exercise and great views. (There is a spectacular view of Mt Rundle!)