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 sulphurous hot springs found on the lower slopes and offers a nice hiking route to the summit at 2,281 metres (7,486 feet).
The Sulphur Mountain hiking trail is a popular route of moderate difficulty that goes up the mountain at 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 a boardwalk, view points, 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 combine 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 kilometres (1,000 miles) of well marked and maintained hiking routes exploring mountainous terrain, glaciers and spectacular alpine forests.
The trailhead to the Sulphur Mountain hiking trail is located just outside the town of Banff. See our extensive guide to hiking in Banff National Park for details on a large variety of hikes we did in Banff and Lake Louise.
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 for $6. Hike to the Lake Agnes Teahouse trail or do the Big Beehive hike when visiting Lake Louise.
Getting to Sulphur Mountain from Banff
There are three options to get to Sulphur Mountain from Banff town; drive, take a public bus or take a free shuttle bus.
It is a 10 minute drive from town. Park at park at the gondola or the Upper Hot Springs parking lot. They fill up quick in season.
There is a free shuttle bus departing daily from certain hotels.
The Banff Gondola is serviced year-round by Bow Valley ROAM Transit Services. Take the Roam Route #1 bus. Just take the bus from multiple pick up points in town to the Banff Gondola ($2 one way). Your ROAM ticket to the gondola is free if you show your Banff Gondola ticket to the driver. 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 Samson Peak
- Walking time – My time 1h30min up and 45 min down, allow 2h to 4h depending on fitness.
- Total ascent/descent – 700 m (2286 ft)
- Difficulty. Moderate.
- Trailhead. Banff Hot Springs (Gondola Parking Area)
The Sulphur Mountain hike 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 gorgeous views and a Castle Mountain coffee went down well before continuing down the other side of the mountain.
Trailhead Sulphur Mountain Hike
The Sulphur Mountain Hike trail head 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.
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 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.
IIn season the trail is busy, but walking up early October I only saw two other hikers. At the top it was crazy busy. The views from the top of the surrounding mountains is 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 board walk. 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.
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 – hiking time 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.
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 from 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 a moderately difficult trail loops through a water-filled canyon.
Take the Banff Gondola
Go up and down Sulphur Mountain with the Banff gondola and enjoy the amazing views of the surrounding valleys even if the hike is not for you. Do a shorter hike by hiking up and going down with the gondola.
Banff Gondola Price
The Banff Gondola return price varies from CAD$58 to $65 depending on 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 to take a look around, have a coffee and continue 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 Sulphur Mountain
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. Micro spikes 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 Canada
British Columbia has some very nice hikes, see our favourite hikes in Vancouver. Don’t miss hiking the Grouse Mountain when in Vancouver. The Stawamus Chief and the Garabaldi Lake hike, are great hikes to do from Squamish or find a buddy to do the challenging Black Tusk trail. On Vancouver island the tough West Coast Trail is an amazing trail along the coast, camping on the beach. In the opposite direction The Juan de Fuca trail is a bit shorter and more flexible, but still a spectacular hike and fantastic accomplishment to complete.
Packing to hike around Banff
My Garmin Fenix 5 GPS Watch is an amazing hiking tool; measuring speed, elevation, heart rate, mapping and more.
Hiking in the snow, waterproof gaiters are fantastic to keep snow and mud out of your boots!
My Salomon X Ultra Prime gortex boots, great pair of boots, all seasons. Keeps mud, snow and rain out. Comfortable, light and completely waterproof.
Ladies model, Alya loves her Ladies Salomon X Ultra boots .
BUFF Multifunctional Headwear – for sun and wind protection (doubles as a face mask).
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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.