Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Playing Tourist in Banff - Without the Crowds

A couple of summers ago I wrote a story called Playing Tourist in Banff National Park.  We did all of the "touristy" things from riding the Banff Gondola to taking the Lake Minnewanka boat cruise and hiking some of the busy summer trails.  What we discovered is that these tourist sites and trails are popular for a reason - They are beautiful, the busy trails are often the nicest hikes, and who doesn't like summiting a mountain via a gondola that can climb 700 metres in 8 minutes!  (To put that in perspective, the average adult can climb maybe 300-500 metres in an hour.  Add children and you're looking at maybe 200 metres in an hour.)

Peace and Tranquility on top of Sulphur Mountain in Spring

The key to playing tourist however, as I've learned over the past couple of years, is to do it in the off-season.  We rode the Banff Gondola this past weekend and I was blown away by how awesome the experience was without the summer crowds.  It was still a popular place to be on a warm Saturday afternoon but I could actually take photos without 50 other people in them!  The walkway to the top of the Sulphur Mountain summit was uncrowded and peaceful.  Imagine that!  (Anybody who's done the hike on a weekend in the middle of summer knows what a treat this would be.)

Climbing Sulphur Mountain from the Upper Gondola Station

The experience was also very beautiful with the winter snow on the mountains surrounding us.  In summer, the mountains don't look nearly as pretty but at this time of year, Cascade Mountain and the other surrounding peaks are absolutely spectacular!

Looking down on Banff and across to Cascade Mountain from the top of Sulphur Mt.
Enjoying a Quiet Walk at the Top of Sulphur Mountain

While the price of the Banff Gondola is a bit expensive for the average day trip, kids under 6 are free and there are some pretty fun package deals right now.  Visit on a Sunday for brunch and get your gondola ticket included with your meal on top of the beautiful Sulphur Mountain.  You can also take your sweetie up the gondola for a romantic date night on Fridays or Saturdays for the Banff Alpine Lights special.  Enjoy a fine dining experience on top of the mountain with gondola tickets included.  And if you are that family that does everything together, you can take the kids too.  (we would be that family.)

If you are an Alberta Resident, you are also entitled to further discounts , and there is a one-way  down price as well for those wishing to hike up Sulphur Mountain on their own and ride down.  The trail looked to be in good condition but I would still recommend bringing some ice cleats or snowshoes for slippery sections.

However you do it, the gondola is a special treat and a very memorable experience.

Romantic Gondola Ride with my Sweetie
For more information on the Banff Gondola, visit their website at
You'll find all the details on their current specials, pricing, and hours at the website.
There is a cafeteria open at the Upper Gondola Station through the winter and spring season and be prepared to shell out a few extra dollars for a photo of your family as you make your descent back to the bottom.  There is a professional photographer on site taking photos as you get into your gondola - and the photos are really good!  (still kicking myself that we didn't buy ours!)

The walkways were in great condition and not slippery at all

A big thank you to the great folks at Banff Lake Louise Tourism who made our visit possible last weekend.  I highly recommend taking the gondola before the crowds descend on Banff for the summer and we had a fabulous time on top of Sulphur Mountain. 

The Banff Penguin on his way up Sulphur Mountain

Disclaimer:  I wasn't compensated for writing this story beyond gondola tickets.  As always, all words and opinions are entirely my own. 

1 comment:

  1. Good post. My wife and I are also avid 'off season' tourist, Better discounts and smaller crowds are hard to argue with. Swing by and see our site at