Banff’s Sulphur Mountain is one of the best places to see breathtaking views and truly experience the beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The mountain was named in 1916 for the hot springs located on the lower slopes. It was originally used as the location for meteorological observations at it’s peak. Now the small building can be reached by walking along the SummitWalk, a short, easy and incredibly fun place to take the whole family.
The top of the mountain can be reached by foot or by taking an eight minute gondola ride. We opted for the gondola and were not disappointed! The enclosed gondolas move smoothly up the mountain at 10-13 feet per second to an elevation of 2281m (7486ft). Im not great with heights but it wasn’t scary at all, perfectly okay for young kids. It is a bit pricey and the hours vary so be sure to book ahead and keep an eye out for deals. The hike to the peak takes about 2.5 – 3 hours (5.5 km) with an elevation gain of 655m, following switchbacks through the trees until you reach the upper gondolas terminal. The trail head can be found in the upper hot springs parking lot. It is quite a climb, definitely moderate to difficult depending on your fitness level and the weather.
Once you reach the SummitWalk you are free to explore the top of the mountain. The views are the main features, but we saw a ton of wildlife up there including Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep, Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels, Pikas, Clark’s Nutcrackers and more. There are plenty of viewpoints, benches and garbage cans. Oh and most importantly, bathrooms!
Follow the path to the meteorological building, now set up like a mini museum. The peak is named after Norman Sanson, a meteorologist, naturalist and museum curator. He trekked to the peak for thirty years to gather weather data for the Banff area. And that was before they added a cushy trail and boardwalk. A very interesting man who is worthy of a post all his own, stay tuned for that!
Overall this was a great adventure and i’m glad I was convinced to take the gondola instead of hiking up. It was a new and exciting experience! Be sure to bring your camera with you and soak up all the beauty Sulphur Mountain has to offer.