Banff - Gondola & Tunnel Mountain

Day 2 - Banff

With all coronavirus restrictions popping up here and there, to be on a safe side, we decided to book at least some activities in advance this time and purchased online a Banff Ultimate Explorer Combo which includes Banff Gondola, Columbia Icefield and Minnewanka Lake Cruise. We are early birds, plus 2 hours time zone difference, so we woke up early and had some time before the 1st adventure.

Surprise Corner

Yesterday, when we were at the Bow Falls Viewpoint we figured that there must be something interesting across the river, and it turned out to be completely fair assumption.

Right after breakfast we drove to the Surprise Corner and found there a nice tiny parking lot, trail head and the iconic view of the Fairmont hotel:

After taking a couple of selfies for the report to our daughter we still had about an hour to spare before Gondola upload time, and we took the trail, where we enjoyed the morning Bow River from a different perspective

Banff Gondola

Of all 3 "adventures" we purchased from Pursuit, in our opinion, Banff Gondola is the only one which worth it. 

Views from the top of Sulphur Mountain are breathtaking (in the middle of the picture you can actually see the Tunnel Mountain, where we'll go in the afternoon),

and there is a boardwalk going even higher to the Cosmic Ray Station.

When we booked upload and download time we figured that probably 2 hours would be enough, and apparently it was a very accurate estimate; we took upload at 10AM and download at 12AM, and had enough time to enjoy pretty much everything they have on that summit, including coffee at Sky Bistro.

In our TO-DO list for the next time in Banff there are 2 hiking trails (alternative to Gondola uplift): first one goes up from Sulphur Mountain Trailhead to the Sky Bistro (5km, 1.5 hours), then half way boardwalk, and then the second trail which starts below the boardwalk, goes down through Sundance Canyon to Cave and Basin National Historic Site, which was closed this time due to pandemic and ends at Marsh Loop Trailhead (or vise versa). There supposed to be views of Bow River and Vermillion Lakes half way down, and the historic site, from what we saw on Youtube, is also awesome. The second trail is 8 km and should take about 2 hours. If you left your car at the Sulphur Mt trailhead, you may need a third leg to get there again after the Cave, and it's another 5 km 1 hour walk. Alternatively, you can take any or both of the trails up and then take Gondola for download, or Gondola upload and then walk down (we found for ourselves that walking up is actually easier). One way or another, plan one entire day for this 2 trails itinerary.

Another thing you cannot miss is Banff Upper Hot Springs but they were closed this time due to COVID and also go to out next time TO-DO list.

More pictures of Gondola and Sulphur Mountain are here.

Tunnel Mountain

After lunch and short rest in the room we drove to the lower parking of Tunnel Mountain trailhead and took the trail up. The Tunnel Mountain is not that high, and the hiking is not hard. On thw way up close to the summit, and especially on the summit, it pays off with nice views of the Bow River from above

and Vermillion Lakes:

This little guy lives on the summit and enjoys the view right from his porch:

On the way down we saw this mom with a baby:

Locals always patronize you with scary stories that elk moms can be very aggressive and dangerous, but in my experience, it you don't approach too close and don't do stupid things like trying to pet the baby, they could not care less about your presence. Just take a picture and run away, and you will be just fine.

More pictures of Tunnel Mountain are here.

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