5 Ways to Get Above Banff with Little to No Effort
There’s no better way to take in the sheer scale of the mountains than getting above them. Since drones are a big no-no in the national park and scrambling peaks isn’t for everyone, we’ve pulled together five different ways to get an aerial view – with a lot less effort.
Fairmont Banff Spring’s Lookout Patio
We promised little to no effort, so we’ll ease you in with a no-effort-needed option first. The iconic Fairmont Banff Springs offers stunning views of the Bow River and Bow Falls. Stop in to the Lookout Patio, during the summer, or Rundle Lounge, during the winter, for astounding views. Only a few minutes’ drive from downtown, you’re removed from the bustle of Banff Ave and can treat yourself to their hand-crafted cocktails. If you’d like to up the ante, walk up from town. There’s a lovely paved path that follows the Bow River to Bow Falls, it’s just a short walk to the Banff Springs from there.
You caught us, this one isn’t technically in the park. But, we don’t discriminate against our neighbouring mountains, and neither should you! Most flights take off from just outside the park in Canmore (20 minutes east of Banff) and they’ll take you on some pretty epic adventures. Whether you’re up for a leisurely sightseeing flight or want a drop off amongst the peaks for hiking, yoga, fishing, or skiing, they’ll take you to places rarely seen by other people.
Mt Norquay’s Sightseeing Chairlift
We couldn’t create a list of the best views of Banff and leave out the best of them all, which is our own, of course! During the summertime, arrive at Mt. Norquay’s North American Lodge (by car, bike, or shuttle), and pick up your tickets to the sightseeing chairlift. Crossing between forested and open areas you’ll have the opportunity to catch glimpses of Banff on your way to the sightseeing platform and maybe even some creatures among the trees.
After an eight-minute ride to the top, you’ve arrived at the platform. From here, you’ll not only be greeted with the iconic view of Mt. Rundle overlooking Banff Avenue, but it’s also frequented by our neighbours, the resident big horn sheep.
We wouldn’t blame you if you’re hungry from the efforts of getting on and off the lift, which is why we’ve created an irresistible summer menu at our mid-mountain restaurant, the Cliffhouse Bistro, mere steps from the platform.
Hike Tunnel Mountain
Tunnel Mountain, also affectionately known as Sleeping Buffalo, is located in the heart of Banff. A short walk from downtown will put you at the base of the mountain; it’s a 1-1.5-hour roundtrip hike, covers 4.3 km of distance, and 300 m of elevation gain. In comparison to the towering mountains that surround Banff, this one’s a baby.
Following graded switchbacks (a path that zig-zags across the mountain to make the elevation gain more gradual), you’ll arrive at what’s known as the false top.
This overlooks the town of Banff and offers stunning views of the valley. If you continue on towards the east side of the mountain you’ll pass views of the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course to the true top, where the Parks Canada red chairs rest.
The beauty of this hike? Aside from the views of course, is the little amount of time it takes to get high enough to afford the views. Bonus, if you’re heavy on the “less effort” part we noted in the title, you can drive and park at a middle point, cutting your hiking in half.
We are people of our promises and if the drive halfway up Tunnel isn’t even floating your boat, we’ve got just the place: Hoodoo Trail, just down Tunnel Mountain Road. This viewpoint gives you expansive views over the Bow River and the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course. There’s also a paved trail that lines the embankment you can follow to different viewpoints.
Hoodoos, naturally shaped by wind and water, are pillar-like formations of sandstone that contrast the rugged limestone mountains. While you’re on this trail, keep an eye out: elk are often spotted along here, especially during the fall rutt. You may even hear their bugling from a distance.