Are you ready for a hiking trip with wildflowers, alpine lakes, and endless mountain views? Then Sunshine Meadows Gondola is just for you!

Sunshine Meadows Gondola in Banff National Park takes you to epic ski destinations in winter and alpine lakes, vibrant wildflowers, and mountain vistas in summer. Whether you prefer a day trip or staying overnight in a mountaintop hotel, you can enjoy stunning hiking trails.

I highly recommend visiting the Sunshine Meadows Gondola, one of the best things to do in Banff if you’d like to avoid summer crowds.

We loved visiting Sunshine Meadows Gondola in summer and winter, hiking through the sea of wildflowers, and staying at Sunshine Mountain Lodge overnight to fully experience the beauty. 

Sunshine Meadows Gondola & Hike in Banff

In this blog post, I share our first-hand experience visiting Sunshine Meadows Gondola with our son with all the details so you can plan your visit, including:

  • Summary of Sunshine Meadows Gondola
  • Where is Sunshine Meadows Gondola
  • Parking at Sunshine Gondola
  • Sunshine Meadows Gondola prices
  • Hours and open dates in 2024
  • Best time to visit Sunshine Meadows Gondola
  • Sunshine Meadows hikes
  • Tips for visiting Sunshine Meadows Gondola
  • Is the Sunshine Gondola worth it – my recommendation
  • More activities in Banff

Sunshine Meadows Gondola & Hike in Banff: our experience

After a fun day spent in Banff, we made our way to the base of Sunshine Meadows Gondola in the late afternoon.

We parked in the secure parking lot designated for hotel guests. After a quick check-in, we left our luggage behind (which they arranged to be brought straight to our hotel room) and headed to the gondola.

 

Riding the gondola is always such a fun and unique experience for kids. While our son was excited to watch the gondola cabins go by, we enjoyed the spectacular mountain views.

We explored Sunshine Village and had dinner at Sunshine Mountain Lodge. Then, we checked out the most amazing outdoor hot tub. It’s one of the largest hot tubs in the Rockies, and we had it all to ourselves, even though we were visiting in early August.

We were lucky that it was also a s’mores night. The bonfire just outside our room was our opportunity to try s’mores for the first time and find out what all the fuzz was about. The verdict was clear quickly—none of us is a fan. We would gladly trade the sticky sugar for a sausage if that was an option. Nonetheless, it was a fun night activity for hotel guests.

 As we woke up to a beautiful sunny day, we opened our balcony door and were greeted with green meadows and a running chairlift. Just sitting outside and taking in the views would be a day well spent, but there were even more gorgeous views awaiting us on top of the mountain.

Riding the chairlift, the views opened up, and we saw fields of wildflowers and towering mountain peaks. After a short walk from the chairlift, we saw the famous view from the viewing deck – it did not disappoint (see below).

Sunshine Meadows Gondola & Hike in Banff

Our son was happily running on the trails as we explored the alpine lakes closely. The views were stunning the whole time. We had a few short picnic stops on our way down the trail and back to Sunshine Village.   

As we were eating burgers on the Trapper’s patio and observing other hikers coming down the mountain, it was clear what we all had in common – a giant smile from another day in the mountainous paradise.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola: a gateway to alpine paradise

The Sunshine Meadows Gondola takes visitors from the base at 1,659 meters to Sunshine Village at 2,195 meters, providing panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.

The gondola ride takes 25 minutes, and as you ascend, the landscape transforms before you, transitioning from dense forests to open meadows filled with wildflowers.

Once you reach Sunshine Village, you can explore several hiking trails, dine in several restaurants, visit Sunshine Meadows Interpretative Center, shop at Sunshine Sports Shop, and extend your trip by staying in Sunshine Mountain Lodge, Banff’s only mountaintop hotel.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola & Hike in Banffv

The most popular view with alpine lakes and wildflowers is from the Standish Viewing Deck. You can get there by taking the Standish Chairlift from Sunshine Village. In 8 minutes, it takes you to an elevation of 2,385 meters, where several hiking trails start.

If you’re traveling with kids, it’s important to note that while the ride to Sunshine Village is in an eight-passenger closed-off cabin, the Standish Chairlift is a typical open ski chairlift – both are included with your gondola ticket. Kids of all ages are allowed on the chairlift; just be prepared to hold them tight or use a front carrier for babies.

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Where is Sunshine Meadows Gondola

Situated conveniently just 8km/20 minutes west of Banff, the Sunshine Meadows Gondola is easily accessible. From Banff, take the Trans-Canada Highway and then exit at the Sunshine Village sign. After about 8 km drive, you reach the base and parking lot for the gondola.

You can drive to the Sunshine Meadows Gondola base or take advantage of the free shuttle from Banff (no reservation required). Check out their bus schedule for times and pick-up locations.

If you’re traveling from Calgary, it takes about 1,5 hours to reach Sunshine Meadows Gondola.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola & Hike in Banff

Parking at Sunshine Gondola

When you reach the end of Sunshine Village Access Road and arrive at Sunshine Gondola, plenty of free parking is available. If you have a night booked at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge, there’s secure overnight parking available close to the main building.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola prices

The gondola ticket includes a ride on Sunshine Meadows Gondola and the Standish Chairlift. You can purchase tickets in advance here or at Guest Services once you reach Sunshine Gondola’s main building.

Prices in 2024 are as follows:

  • Adults (16+ years) – 65 CAD (+5% GST)
  • Youth (6-15 years) – 32 CAD (+5% GST)
  • Senior (65+) – 55 CAD (+5% GST)
  • Child (Under 5 years) – FREE
  • You can book your tickets here

While you do not need to purchase tickets in advance, I recommend doing so if you plan to visit during summer weekends. Your pre-purchase ticket lets you skip the lines and head straight to the gondola.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola & Hike in Banff

Is the Sunshine Meadows Gondola family-friendly?

Yes, the Sunshine Meadows Gondola is family-friendly, providing a safe and comfortable journey for visitors of all ages. Several hiking trails are easy for young children or adults hiking with a carrier. Our 2-year-old son usually hiked by himself and enjoyed riding the gondola and chairlift.

Hours and open dates in 2024

Sunshine Meadows operates during the summer months when the snow has melted, typically from late June to early September (exact dates are announced each year in spring and depend on the snowfall).

The gondola operates daily from 8 am to 6 pm. If you stay overnight in a hotel, you can catch one of the last gondolas. Since the summer sun sets after 9 pm, you still have plenty of time to enjoy the views.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola & Hike in Banff

Best time to visit Sunshine Meadows Gondola

The best time to visit Sunshine Meadows is during the peak summer months when the wildflowers are in full bloom and the hiking trails are free from snow. I’d recommend staying in July or August.

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Best time to visit Banff National Park

Sunshine Meadows hikes

Sunshine Meadows is located on the continental divide between Alberta and British Columbia. While hiking, you cross the provinces several times. The Sunshine Village is in Alberta, but you can see all the gorgeous alpine lakes in British Columbia.

Most visitors start hiking once they reach the top of the Standish Chairlift. As you exit the chairlift, a short trail leads to the famous Standish Viewing Deck, which is pictured below.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola & Hike in Banff

The most popular trail is the one we hiked as well.

Starting at the Standish Viewing Deck, the trail continues towards the lakes to Rock Isle Junction, where you can continue further to the lakes or make a loop – stop at Rock Isle Viewpoint for a picnic, then head down to Sunshine Village via Rock Isle Road. It’s a 4 km hike, easy enough for kids as well.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola & Hike in Banff

For more hiking options, download the hiking map here.

TIP
I highly recommend the Healy Pass Hike if you’d like to hike for wildflowers without spending money on a gondola.

Can I swim in the lakes at Sunshine Meadows?

While you can swim at almost all lakes in Banff National Park, swimming at Sunshine Meadows alpine lakes is not allowed.

The pristine alpine lakes are essential ecosystems, and swimming could disturb the delicate balance of these environments. You can enjoy the lakes from the trails, as hiking off-trail and close to the shore is not allowed either.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola & Hike in Banff

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Tips for visiting Sunshine Meadows Gondola

  1. Prepare for the weather

Weather conditions in the mountains can change rapidly. While the village was sunny and hot at the start of the hike, it was very windy while we were riding the chairlift. I recommend dressing in layers and carrying a waterproof jacket.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola & Hike in Banff

  1. Hiking Gear

Wear comfortable and sturdy hiking shoes, especially if you plan on exploring the hiking trails. Sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses are also recommended to protect against the high-altitude sun.

Check out our hiking packing list for the Canadian Rockies.

  1. Hydration

Since you can’t get to lakes to fill up your bottle, carrying enough water with you is essential. That being said, drinking water is just a short chairlift ride down the mountain. Several restaurants in Sunshine Village offer meals and drinks.

  1. Bear aware

Banff National Park is home to diverse wildlife, including bears. Parks Canada recommends carrying a bear spray and obeying trail closures to protect wildlife.

Is the Sunshine Gondola worth it – my recommendation

I highly recommend staying overnight if you’d like to visit Sunshine Meadows Gondola. The next day, you can enjoy a chill evening in a hot tub and superb hiking among wildflowers.

Because there are several gondolas in Banff National Park, here’s a quick summary of each so you can choose the right one for you:

  • Lake Louise summer gondola – for hiking, wildlife watching, seeing Lake Louise and glaciers above
  • Norquay – for a bird’s eye view of Banff and climbing via ferrata
  • Banff gondola to Sulphur Mountain – the most popular one due to its stunning views of Banff and Bow Valley, mountaintop restaurants, interpretative center, and boardwalk
  • Sunshine Meadows gondola – for hiking and wildflowers

Sunshine Meadows Gondola & Hike in Banff

More activities in Banff

With endless outdoor activities in Banff, choosing where to go is hard when your time is limited. These are my top 5 recommendations:

 

About Maya Steiningerova

Heyo, I’m Maya! An adventure athlete currently living near the Canadian Rockies with my partner in crime Michal. I love running in the mountains, jumping in the ice cold lakes, mountain biking and trying not so common activities, such as mountaineering. By showing that an ordinary person can live an extraordinary life, my hope is to inspire you to live an adventurous life and provide you with tips and tools for your own adventure.

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