Sulphur Mountain is easily one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park. It’s a beautiful hike up that provides visitors with astonishing views over the Bow Valley.
Due to it’s proximity to Banff town, and the fact that you can take the Banff Gondola up to the peak instead of sweating it out on the trail means that Sulphur mountain becomes very busy. Here is all the info you need to know about hiking Sulphur Mountain.
Sulphur Mountain Hike
How Long Does Hiking Sulphur Mountain Take?
Sulphur Moutain trail is a 10.1 kilometer out and back trail. We hiked up the Sulphur Mountian switchback trail in about 1.5 hours in the winter. We had a hiking pole and a few members of our party had crampons on which definitely helped with the sliding.
In the summer I think ascending Sulphur Mountain is doable in one hour, and you could descend in about 45 minutes. We spent about one hour enjoying the views from the top of Sulphur Mountain.
If you are really taking your time this whole circuit could be completed in four hours with a nice coffee at the Sky Bistro at the top.
There aren’t any WOW views on the hike until you reach the top, but if you like to take a lot of photos like us then factor in an extra 10 minutes.
How Hard is the Sulphur Mountain Trail?
AllTrails has rated this hike as moderate, and I would have to say I agree with them. There is nothing technical or challenging about this hike, but it is a steady incline the entire way up with little to no flat spots.
If you’re in reasonably good shape this will be no problem for you and is one of the easier hikes that you can do in the park. Don’t think that means it’s a complete walk in the park! You’ll still gain an elevation of 744 meters through what seems like neverending switchback trails.
Which Way Should I Hike Sulphur Mountain?
There is only one trail up! You’ll find it off to the left of the parking area right near the Sulphur Mountain and Hotsprings sign. You’ll take this way down too if you decide to hike.
In the winter anytime or after 7 pm in the summer the Banff Gondola is FREE to take down. So if you want to hike up for sunset and have a breezy way back down you can plan on taking the gondola for absolutely no charge. Make sure to pay attention to the times of the last ride. In the summer this means 10:30 pm, while in the offseason it is generally 9:30 pm.
Any other time the ride down will cost you $30.
When Can You Hike Sulphur Mountain?
Sulphur Mountain is doable all year! If you decide to tackle this in the winter you will need crampons to get you through. It’s steep and slippery. Hiking poles are never a bad idea either. See my section at the bottom for what to wear hiking.
We hiked Sulphur Mountain in early May and there was still plenty of snow on the ground (if you can’t tell from these photos!). While crampons weren’t necessary at this time they definitely were helpful for a few members of our group!
Hiking Sulphur Mountain in the winter means that you won’t find many other people on the trail. We saw maybe 10 other people in May. During peak summer season this trail is heavily trafficked given its ease and proximity to Banff.
How Busy is Sulphur Mountain Trail?
AllTrails rates this as a heavily trafficked trail, and it is. It’s a moderate hike that is exceptionally close to the town of Banff and offers breathtaking views over the Bow Valley.
Don’t come here expecting to be alone, except on a mid week winter day.
What About Dogs and Kids on Sulphur Mountain?
Bring the dogs and the kids! Sulphur Mountain is a doable trail for all. Remember to keep the dogs on a leash and make sure the kids don’t slip in the winter.
Wildlife Awareness On Sulphur Mountain
If you’re on any hikes in Banff you should practice proper wildlife awareness. In the region, there are frequent sightings of black bears, grizzly bears, moose, coyotes, and cougars. They all a potential threat to humans and we should reduce our impact on their natural lives.
Before any hike or walk in Banff National Park or Kananaskis Country, you need to have bear spray. Remember that the bear spray is worthless if it’s in your pack, you’ll need to be able to grab this in two seconds or less in an emergency. We wear our bear sprays on our hip.
The likeliness of seeing wildlife on this trail is rare. It’s heavily trafficked and there is a loud gondola floating above the trail the whole time. Undoubtedly scaring away most wildlife. Still – you need to be prepared for any situation in the Canadian Rockies!
When you’re on the trail make noise by banging hiking poles, talking, whistling, clapping, or singing. This is particularly important around blind bends and corners. You’re through the deep woods during these times, and it’s prime time to sneak up on a bear. Once you’re on the ridge, you’re safer as you can see wildlife from afar, but still, don’t let your guard down and keep the bear spray on you just in case.
As always while hiking, you need to stay alert, travel in a group, mind children and pets, and finally carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. If you’ve come to the park without bear spray Valhalla Pure Outfitters in town sells spray and holders with employees who will demonstrate how to use properly.
Summiting Sulphur Mountain
Once you reach the top of Sulphur Mountain, you may be in for a treat, depending on what kind of person you are.
The views are breathtaking, but there is also a well-built viewing and walking platform. The Sulphur Mountain boardwalk takes you across the summit comfortably and safely.
You’ll also find an interactive interpretive center for families, a small theatre, rooftop viewing platform, a mountain restaurant, and a coffee shop to relax at after your hike up. It’s fully wheelchair accessible and great for the elderly who want the views without the strenuous climb.
The way that Sulphur Mountain is built up at the top is certainly not for every adventurous hiker, but it is great for many visitors to Banff who want to learn more!
The Banff Gondola
The Banff Sightseeing Gondola is located just five minutes from the Town of Banff. It’s really one of the most popular things to do in Banff all year round.
The Banff Gondola is there for you if you want to get those amazing six mountain range views from the top of Sulphur Mountain without the climb up or down.
The Banff Gondola runs year round and provides the chance to relax and hang over the trees.
The Banff Gondola is not a cheap experience at $62 Round trip. In my opinion, the gondola is great for those that are not physically able to do the hike. This may mean people with disabilities, the elderly, or large families.
If you are able, I highly recommend hiking up Sulphur Mountain. The beautiful view will feel much more rewarding!
What To Wear On A Day Hike?
The most basic principle of what to wear hiking is layering. Anyone that has spent time in wilderness or mountains can speak to the fact your temperature can fluctuate a lot on a hike. With Tent Ridge, in particular, it was sweltering while working our way through the woods at the bottom, and then cold and windy at the top. I was thankful for my windbreaker and down jacket.
The goal of hiking clothing is to help regulate your body temperature, element protection, and moisture management. Temperature management is best done through a layering system if you want to learn more about what to pack for a day hike or what to wear on a hike, you can see our full post!
Outdoor Research Shirt Echo Series
I have six Outdoor Research Echo shirts and rotate them on all my hikes. They are lightweight and moisture wicking. Seriously, you don’t want to be stuck with a cotton shirt while hiking it traps all your sweat and then when you get cold it becomes a problem.
Outdoor Research shirts provide full coverage with their long sleeve collections, but you won’t get hot under the sun. These shirts are built with UPF sun protection, AirVent™ moisture management, and ActiveFresh™ odor control technology.
We always have a down jacket with us on every single hike. It’s a just in case jacket that I usually end up wearing when I reach the summit, and it gets cold. Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag.
Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites.
We always carry a water-resistant shell jacket on hikes in the mountains. You never know when inclement weather is just around the corner. We have never regretted having a jacket in our packs. It’s a piece of clothing that is lightweight and could save your life.
We wear a wide range of hiking jackets dependent on style and objective. To learn more about our favorites jackets check out our article.
Fjallraven’s Keb Pant
Our favorite pants for rough hikes and climbs are Fjallraven’s well known Keb pants. Fjallraven’s Keb pants are a mountaineering staple with tough materials and excellent temperature management.
The active panels and a. These are, without a doubt, my favorite pants to hike in the Canadian Rockies. If you think it’s going to be a cold day you can easily wear long johns under these as well.
Your Guide To Banff
If you want more tips on Banff National Park and the Canadian Rockies head over to our other blog. The Banff Blog covers everything in the region in detail with lots of great tips and suggestions to plan your trip.
Thanks For Reading
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