Sulphur mountain is best known for the scenic Banff Gondola that takes you up it’s flanks to a magnificent viewpoint, a state-of-the-art facility with mountaintop dining, and a great interpretive center. This is one of the top hiking attractions in Banff.
A Little Hike In Banff You Never Knew About
Little do most people know, from the top of the Banff Gondola there is an incredible adventure awaiting those who step off the beaten path. A ridge walk along the crest of Sulphur mountain takes you up and down from forest to several rocky summits before reaching the true summit (2451m). This is known as the Sulphur Mountain Highline trek. Along the way you experience breathtaking views of Banff and the surrounding area, while discovering the unique and fragile environment of Banff National Park’s subalpine. It’s a relatively easy hike appropriate for people of any ability level, but there are no trail markers and it can be challenging to find the way. It’s a true wilderness adventure!
Jeff, the lead guide at Alpine Air Adventures, recently suggested that I check out this ridge walk on Sulphur mountain. Having lived and hiked in the Banff area for many years, I had never even thought of doing this before. It’s a real hidden gem. I invited a couple friends along, packed my bag, and off we went!
The Banff Hike Up To The Skies Begins
Upon arriving at the top of the Banff Gondola, we stepped off the wooden platform and onto a faint trail leading through the forest. Before long we had left the crowds far behind, and the only sound was birds chirping and a gentle breeze rustling the trees. Walking along, I noticed many of the tree species that make their home in this high ridgetop environment: Subalpine fir, Engelmann spruce, and the rare and endangered Whitebark pine. As a guide I spend a lot of time in these environments, and I’m constantly reminded of how fragile they are. It’s very important to minimize your impact while exploring these places.
Continuing along the ridge, the trees became sparse as we climbed higher and the views opened up magnificently. Scrambling up the limestone slabs, it really felt like a walk in the sky, with the town of Banff far below. My friends and I were all thrilled to have come here. It felt like such a privilege, and we couldn’t keep the smile off our faces.
The ridge led back down to the shelter of the forest before coming up again. This pattern repeated itself several times, with each new summit higher than the last. Near the top of the last summit, I noticed some rocks engraved with intricate patterns: Fossils! Sulphur mountain is made up of sedimentary rock formed hundreds of thousands of years ago on the bed of an ancient sea. Fossils are a common site here, but you need to know where to look.
Eventually we reached the highest peak at 2451m! Having lunch on the summit, we marvelled at where we were. A dusting of snow coated the high peaks around us like frosting on a cake. One of my friends had only been living in Canada for the past few months and was scheduled to leave back home again soon. I pointed out the summits to her: Mt Rundle, Cascade mountain, Mt Aylmer, Mt Bourgeau, Mt Louis, Mt Edith, and the list goes on and on. Later that evening, she told me that it was the best day she had spent in Canada. Those moments are why I love guiding.
If you’d like to experience the Sulphur Mountain Highline trek during your visit to Banff, please get in touch with us or simply book directly through our website. It’s a fantastic way to combine the Banff Gondola experience with something a little more adventurous! If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them, so just get in touch.
ACMG Apprentice Alpine Guide
Alpine Air Adventures