Hike the Sulphur Mountain Trail in Banff Canada – 2023


Sulphur Mountain is a mountain in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains just outside the town of Banff in Alberta, Canada. The mountain gets its name from the two sulfurous hot springs found on the lower slopes and offers a nice hiking route to the summit at 2,281 meters (7,486 feet). The most popular way to the top of Sulphur Mountain is with the Banff Gondola.

Banff Gondola Sulphur Mountain
The Banff Gondola above the Sulphur Mountain Trail, hiking in September.

Popular Tours in Banff National Park

  • Banff Gondola Ride – A round-trip gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Enjoy great views of six different mountain ranges, nearby rivers, and the surrounding area aboard a state-of-the-art gondola.
  • Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway – Full-Day Tour – Round-trip travel from Banff with hotel pick up to some highlights that are far apart including Lake Louise, the Icefield Parkway,g Bow Falls and Moraine Lake, guide, small-group tour—limited to 15 people.
  • Bow River ride on Horseback – Guided horseback riding adventure along the trails of the Bow River or the Spray River. Learn about the history of the national park from a nature guide
Sulphur mountain gondola stationlaSulphur mountain gondola stationla
The Sulphur Mountain Gondola Station, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada in September

From the gondola car, you have a beautiful view of the Canadian Rockies, the Spray & Bow Valleys, Lake Minnewanka, and the Town of Banff. From the Sulphur Mountain summit experience jaw-dropping views of Banff National Park.

The Sulphur Mountain trail is a popular hiking route of moderate difficulty that goes up the mountain, below the gondola and is a free way to the top of this icon of Banff. The trail is a continuous uphill with a series of switchbacks crossing underneath the Banff Gondola. Located mostly between the trees views are limited, but there are some amazing vistas from the open patches that you hit every once in a while and great views from the summit. The trail itself is not too busy, but expect a lot of people at the top that made their way up the mountain in the gondola!

You can also take the gondola up and down or just one way making this beautiful mountain accessible to everyone. There are extensive facilities on top of the mountain; a nice boardwalk, viewpoints, some hiking trails, and even restaurants, and a gift shop. For a caffeine junkie like me, coffee on the top of a summit always puts a smile on my face.

Do a shorter version of the hike by taking the gondola one way or extend your hiking route by walking over the mountain and combining the trail with some other trails to Banff town.

Hiking in Banff National Park

Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park and is an incredible place for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers with over 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) of well-marked and maintained hiking routes exploring mountainous terrain, glaciers, and spectacular alpine forests.

The majority of trails are easily accessible from 2 different towns, both located inside the national park, the Town of Banff, and the village of Lake Louise 57 km apart by road. The Regional Service is a quick and cheap bus service that runs 5 times per day between Banff and Lake Louise. 

Prepare to Hike the Sulphur Mountain Trail

Banff National Park is located in Bear Country. Grizzly bears are seen on Sulphur Mountain, especially in the summer months. It is recommended to always carry bear spray.

A National Park Pass is required when entering a Canadian National Park. The towns of Banff & Lake Louise are located in the Banff National Park and a Park Permit is required, Parks Canada can ask for your permit. Entry and service fees help support visitor services and facilities. Buy a Park Permit Here

lake louise near banfflake louise near banff
The spectacular Lake Louise is the trailhead where multiple amazing hiking trails start in Banff National Park.

Getting to Sulphur Mountain from Banff

The trailhead to the Sulphur Mountain hiking trail is located just outside town and is easy to reach from Banff Avenue. See our extensive guide to hiking in Banff National Park for details on a large variety of hikes around Banff and Lake Louise.

The Banff Gondola is located at the base of Sulphur Mountain at the end of Mountain Avenue in Banff. There are three options to get to Sulphur Mountain from Banff town; drive, take a public bus, or take a free shuttle bus.

Driving

It is a 10-minute drive from town. Park at the gondola or the Upper Hot Springs parking lot. The Banff Gondola parking lot has a lot of space, but it fills up quickly in the season.

Shuttle Bus

There is a free shuttle bus departing daily from certain hotels.

Public Bus

The Banff Gondola is serviced year-round by Bow Valley ROAM Transit Services. Show your Banff Gondola ticket between May 20 and October 9, 2023, for free fare to and from Sulphur Mountain. Take the Roam Route #1 bus. Just take the bus from multiple pick-up points in town to the Banff Gondola ($2 one way). Use the regional service bus to get from Lake Louise to Banff.

Sulphur Mountain Hike Details

  • Distance – 5.5 km (3.4 miles) one way, 11 km return (6.8 miles) – extra 1 km return to Sanson Peak
  • Walking time – My time is 1h30min up and 45 min down, allowing 2h to 4h depending on fitness.
  • Total ascent/descent – 700 m (2286 ft)
  • Max Altitude – Sanson Peak 2451 m (8041 ft) above sea level
  • Difficulty. Moderate.
  • Trailhead. Sulphur Mountain trailhead  at Banff Hot Springs (Gondola Parking Area)

The Sulphur Mountain trail offers a good workout with an ascend of 700 meters over 5.5 kilometers rewarding you with some great views at the top.

The trail is popular for hiking, trail running and snowshoeing and the best time to make your way up the trail is from June through October. Dogs are allowed if on a leash. Hiking the trail alone in October I only saw 2 other hikers, but it was crazy busy at the summit. The beautiful mountain views and a Castle Mountain coffee went down well before continuing down the other side of the mountain.

mountain views from Sulphur mountain gondolamountain views from Sulphur mountain gondola
Amazing views from the surrounding mountains from the Sulphur mountain hike.

Trailhead Sulphur Mountain Hike

The Sulphur Mountain Hike trailhead is next to the Banff Hot Springs at an elevation of 1,580 M (5,200 ft). The trailhead is located close to the bus stop and is well-marked. and can be reached by car or by public transport from downtown Banff.

Sulphur Mountain Trail

In season the Sulphur Mountain trail is a busy trail that is easy to follow and it is a relatively safe route to hike alone because it is so busy. The trail snakes up the mountain with 27 switchbacks going zig-zag up the relatively dense wooded slope ending at the top of the Banff Gondola. It is possible to continue walking at this point. Gaps in the forest allow for some nice views along the trail.

The Sulphur Mountain trail starts out relatively wide and dry, but on the upper slopes, it can have muddy and icy sections, microspikes can come in handy. It is a relatively steep 5.5 km hike up the mountain. The views from the top of the trail across the park are excellent. I will recommend waterproof shoes and bring enough water to make it to the top, there is no water on the way.

In season the trail is busy, but walking up in early October I only saw two other hikers. At the top, it was crazy busy. The views from the top of the surrounding mountains are nice.

Hiking from Banff Gondola to Sanson Peak

The trail links with a boardwalk at the summit. To continue hiking to Sanson Peak walk around the gondola building to the boardwalk and continue on the boardwalk for about 500m until you reach Sanson Peak, at an elevation of 2289 meters. There are some nice views from the boardwalk. There is a Mountain Weather Observatory and a meteorological station called the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site at Samson Peak with great views of the Bow Valley, Spray Valley, and the Sundance Canyon. 

hiking to Sanson Peak from the Banff Gondolahiking to Sanson Peak from the Banff Gondola
Hiking from the Banff Gondola to Sanson Peak on the boardwalk.

Sulphur Mountain extended hike – continue to Sundance Canyon and Marsh loop

For a great full-day hike I combined Sulphur Mountain with two other trails. There are not many people that walk down the other side of the mountain, so carry bear spray.

You can walk over Sulphur mountain and combine the trail with walking to Sundance Canyon and the Marsh loop for a total hike of 18 km – my hiking time was 4h 25min, Elevation gain 807m.

After hiking to the top of Sulphur Mountain I had a coffee, explored the boardwalk, Sanson Peak, and walked down the other side. I saw some hikers on the way up, hundreds of people that took the gondola at the top, but on the way down the other side of the mountain I did not see anybody and had the whole mountain to myself, only seeing hikers again on the Sundance canyon trail. Walking in October the mountain was covered in snow, the golden larches were beautiful with a mix of green and golden leaves over the mountain.

Hiking over Sulphur Mountain to Sundance CanyonHiking over Sulphur Mountain to Sundance Canyon
Hiking over Sulphur Mountain to Sundance Canyon with some awesome golden leaves in fall.

It was quick going down the mountain on the other side. The Marsh Loop is a flat 2.8 km trail that encircles a wetland filled with hot springs flowing out of the lower slopes of Sulphur Mountain.

The Sundance Canyon trail starts at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. This trail provides nice panoramic views of the mountains across the Bow River. Easy, steady climb away from the river, the paved section ends, and the moderately difficult trail loops through a water-filled canyon.

Extended Sulphur mountain trail 18kmExtended Sulphur mountain trail 18km
Map of Extended Sulphur Mountain Trail from the Banff Gondola, over Sulphur Mountain through the Marsh Loop and Sundance Canyon, 18 km. Map generated with my Garmin Fenix 5 GPS Watch

Take the Banff Gondola

You can go up and down Sulphur Mountain with the Banff gondola with great views of the surrounding valleys. The Gondola is nice but is very pricy for a 10-minute Gondola ride. The Banff Gondola is a great activity to do with kids in Banff. Do a shorter hike by hiking up and going down with the gondola. 

Banff Gondola up Sulphur MountainBanff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain
Going up Sulphur Mountain with the Banff Gondola.

Banff Gondola Price

The Banff Gondola return price varies from CAD$58 to $65 depending on the time of the day. The price of a ticket is based on projected visitation. Hiking up the mountain and taking the Gondola down is possible at half the price of a return ticket. There is no discount for hiking down, if you would like the take the Banff Gondola up and hike down, you must purchase a full-price ticket.

Sulphur Mountain – The Summit

There are more than just breathtaking views at the top of Sulphur Mountain. All hikers won’t enjoy arriving at such a commercial center at the top of the mountain, but I enjoyed taking a look around, having a coffee, and continuing hiking. If you take the gondola up and down there are some nice facilities to enjoy on top. The upper terminal has a state-of-the-art interpretive center with interesting displays for kids. The multi-sensory Above Banff Theatre let you experience the magnificent Canadian Rockies from the perspective of an eagle. Explore the summit with the Sulphur Mountain boardwalk, the outdoor 360-degree rooftop observation deck, 2 restaurants, a coffee shop, and a gift shop.

Best Season to Hike the Sulphur Mountain Trail

Sulphur Mountain can be hiked all year round. In Summer this trail is very popular with many hikers. There is a waterfall where you can freshen up in summer about 3/4 up the mountain. In winter it is fairly quiet with many gondola users going up the mountain. There is a campfire on the observation deck in winter with a great view. Microspikes and hiking poles will be of great help if the slopes get icy in cold weather. In September when I hiked the trail there were only a handful of other hikers walking up the mountain.

Amazing Hikes in Banff

Banff National Park is an incredible place for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers, with thousands of kilometers of unreal trails around the towns of Banff and Lake Louise. There are trails ranging from flat easy trails to more challenging trails involving some scrambling. The Tunnel Mountain trail is a nice family-friendly route we enjoyed, walking from Banff town. The Big Beehive trail was a beautiful hike from Lake Louise that is a bit more of a challenging route. 

Packing to hike around Banff

Ice crampons/cleats are handy to prevent slipping when hiking in cold weather.

My Garmin Fenix 5 GPS Watch is an amazing hiking tool; measuring speed, elevation and fitness parameters and we use it to map all our hikes.

Hiking in the snow, waterproof gaiters are great at keeping snow and mud out of your boots!

My Salomon X Ultra Prime gortex boots are great pair of boots, for all seasons. Keeps mud, snow, and rain out. Comfortable, light, and completely waterproof.

Ladies model, Alya loves her Ladies Salomon X Ultra boots.

I always carry a light rain jacket in my daypack, the North Face for ladies or North Face Resolve for men

BUFF Multifunctional Headwear – for sun and wind protection.

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The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.

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