Sulphur Mountain - Take a Hike and Ride the Banff Gondola for Free 

You don’t always have to pay for the Gondola to enjoy the top of Sulphur Mountain. Hike up and enjoy these beautiful views for free!

Rating: Easy 

Time: 2 hours ( One Way)  Take the Gondola down for free 

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We recently found out that during the winter season until early May, you can hike up Sulphur Mountain and take the Banff Gondola ride down for FREE. The price to ride the Gondola is around $47 CAD. It is not the cheapest but if it is your first time, totally worth it. However, if you have extra time allowance and want to exercise those leg muscles, I totally recommend hiking Sulphur Mountain. You can save some coins in your pocket and enjoy some healthy exercise. 

Here’s link for the Banff Gondola to learn more about their hours of operations and rates. Banff Gondola Official Page

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Getting There:

The Sulphur Mountain trailhead is located in Banff in the parking lot of Banff Upper Hot Springs. Enter this on you GPS locator. You can park in the parking lot for the hot springs. Walk towards the hot springs, but before hitting paved the road, Mountain Ave to go up to the hot springs. Go towards the trees and you will see an opening. 

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Address: m, 1 Mountain Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1KU

Lex Go Hike Experience

We went on this hike in March. The weather was perfect around -5 degrees Celsius.  We parked our car in the same parking lot as Banff Upper Hot Springs. The trailhead is located in the opening between the trees to left side on before you hit the paved road that goes towards the hot springs.

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There was still snow on the ground when we did this hike. Snow cleats were necessary to find grip on slippery areas especially where snow has compacted. The beginning ascend gained some steepness but after that it’s a long gradual switchback where you can enjoy each other’s company.

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The switchbacks will take you right underneath the Gondola cables. From time to time you will see the Gondola go up and down as it transports visitors. Friendly passengers often waves to you, so don’t forget to look up and wave back! 

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This time of the year there is only  light traffic on the trail. However during the summer months the trails can get very busy. We also saw a few people training. We moved to the side to give way as they run up and down the hill. One of the guys said it was their 4th circuit already.Very impressive! 

The trail  is well marked and can be done by almost everyone in all ages. There were kids along the trail and dogs too. It  is a perfect day hike for families, friends and beginners. 

It took us about 2 hours to get to the top. Nothing extraordinary on the trail on the way up except for some occasional glimpse of the town of Banff. Most areas were covered by trees. In the summer you will always have shade. The gradual walk made it easy for us to chat and immerse on each other’s conversations. Light  effort to our breathing and easy strides for our legs. 

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Once we reached the top, a panoramic view of the mountain ranges surrounding Sulphur Mountain greeted us. The end of the trail brought us to the hiker’s landing where we removed our crampons and stretched our legs. We also explored the observatory at the top. They have a restaurant, gift shops, washrooms, observation deck and the boardwalk. 

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We walked across the boardwalk to the Cosmic Ray Station. This area are more crowded from visitors coming up using the Gondola. We stopped on a few spots for pictures. The boardwalk is about 10-15 mins walks at the top of Sulphur Mountain but time relative to your speed or if you want to take some time and enjoy the breathtaking view. You will also often see some squirrels running around and occasionally a few mountain goats in the summer. 

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The Cosmic Ray Station is a historical site at the peak of Sulphur Mountain. It was used in 1957 as a research facility by Geophysicist studying particles entering the atmosphere. This location is one of the most important as it is the highest station in the Canadian location. You will be able to glimpse back to the past looking through the glass window of the preserves station. 

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The peak of Sulphur Mountain offers different viewpoints to surrounding mountain ranges. There are signs with information about the different peaks that you can see. 

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They also have the famous red chairs where you can sit and enjoy a bird's eye view of the town of Banff. 

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I highly recommend this hike for everyone who is visiting Banff who wants to experience hiking the Canadian Rockies. Taking the Gondola is a faster way up, but if you have time to spare, take the hiking route and you will have a greater appreciation and pride of the mountain you just conquered. Lex Go Hike! 

Recommended Gears: 

  • Hiking Shoes 

  • Poles 

  • Snow Cleats/  Crampons ( Winter)