Enjoy summit views, no hiking required
The view from a mountaintop is unforgettable. But, let’s face it, not everyone is up for a climb to a summit. A much easier (and faster) way to the top is to take one of the sightseeing gondolas in the Canadian Rockies. Sit back, relax and soak in the scenery. Plus, the photo ops along the way are unlike anything else.
A tip for any gondola visit: It’s always cooler higher up, so dress in layers – even in the summer.
Banff Sightseeing Gondola
Get to the top of Sulphur Mountain in eight minutes flat. The Banff Sightseeing Gondola is a short drive (about five minutes) from the town of Banff, so it’s an easy add-on to a day spent exploring the hotspots around town. The gondola ride, which is offered year-round, will take you 2,281 metres (7,486 feet) up in an enclosed four-person cabin.
The quick ride means you’ll have more time to explore what’s waiting for you atop Sulphur Mountain. Once the initial awe of the panoramic mountain views subsides, you can explore the boardwalk to discover even more epic views on the way to Sanson’s Peak and the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, a National Historic Site. Give yourself time to take photos along the way.
Back at the state-of-the-art gondola building, you’ll find delicious food you’ll want to savour as much as the views. Who doesn’t want to check mountaintop dining off their bucket list? The award-winning Sky Bistro is perfect for a drink and appetizers or a decadent, multi-course dinner featuring the best in locally source Canadian cuisine.
Lake Louise Gondola
You’ve seen the breathtaking shoreline photos of Lake Louise, but the view is equally impressive a little higher up – 2,085 m (6,840 ft) up, to be exact. The Lake Louise Gondola, open year-round at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, located across the valley from the famous lake, provides seriously stunning views of Victoria Glacier (that’s the expansive glacier you see in the background of all the Lake Louise photos). Even better? The chairlift offers a great opportunity to spot wildlife – it’s not uncommon to see grizzly bears down below.
Banff Sunshine Sightseeing Gondola
The gondola cabins at Banff Sunshine can fit up to eight people, making them the largest in the area. The base elevation for this ride begins at 1,659 metres (5,442 feet) and whisks you to the top village terminal at 2,159 metres (7,083 feet). But there’s still more to see. Once you reach the top of the sightseeing gondola, hop aboard the Standish Chairlift and ride to 2,385 metres (7,825 feet) to take in the beauty that is Sunshine Meadows. Book a spot on a one- or two-hour hosted trail walk or explore the 360-degree mountain scenery at your own pace.
Mt. Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift
Want to follow in the footsteps of Marilyn Monroe? Head to Mt. Norquay. The iconic actress paid the ski resort a visit in the summer of 1953 while filming The River of No Return. She rode the North American Chairlift and visited the Cliffhouse Bistro, a historic tea room-turned-modern bistro serving Rocky Mountain-inspired dishes and local craft beer and wine. Channel your inner Hollywood starlet and take an open-air ride to an elevation of 2,133 m (7,000 ft) and get a view of the town of Banff you won’t find anywhere else. The chairlift only offers sightseeing trips during the summer, which also happens to be prime time for a bird’s-eye-view of wildlife.
If you’re looking for an added thrill, test your skills on Mt. Norquay’s Via Ferrata, Italian for “iron road.” It’s an assisted-climbing experience where an expert guide leads you along a steel cable pathway (routes range from 2.5 hours to 6 hours), complete with ladders and suspension bridges. It’s an experience well worth adding to your list and, don’t worry, it’s safe and secure because you’re attached to the pathway.