The Tunnel Mountain Trail is a great easy to moderate hike that can be hiked from downtown Banff. With a gentle grade all the way up, hiking this trail is a perfect activity for families or beginner hikers. Tunnel Mountain is Banff’s smallest mountain, peaking at about 300m, with some moderate descents leading up the mountain. There are two red Parks Canada chairs at the top of Tunnel Mountain that are great for taking a break and make for nice photos while sitting and taking in the great view.
Where did the name Tunnel Mountain come from? Tunnel Mountain does not have a tunnel, the Canadian Pacific Railway had plans to blast a tunnel through the mountain in the 1800s. The tunnel was never built, but the name stuck. The mountain is also known as “Sleeping Buffalo Mountain” because that is what it looks like. The mountain seen from a distance looks like a sleeping buffalo. The summit of Tunnel Mountain offers beautiful views of the surrounding Spray and Bow River valleys.
Tunnel Mountain Trekking Details
- Distance – The distance is 4.8 km (2.8 miles) round trip from the hiking trail.
- Walking Time – The return walk takes 1.5 to 2 hours depending on fitness.
- Total Ascent / Descent – 270 meters (885 feet)
- Difficulty. Easy to moderate.
- path Tunnel parking lot
This is a fairly easy hike close to downtown Banff that is kid-friendly. It’s not a flat hike, but the trail has a gentle grade almost the entire way. Remember you are climbing the mountain at about 300m so you will be walking uphill. See our guide to easy hikes in Banff National Park for a variety of hiking trails that aren’t too difficult. Located in the Bow River Valley at the confluence of the Bow River, the mountain is almost surrounded by the town of Banff, offering beautiful views of the Hot Springs on Sulfur Mountain. This short hike in the Canadian Rockies will reward you with panoramic views of Banff. An early morning hike to the top of the mountain and to the Tunnel Mountain Lookout was one of the best things to do in Banff.
We reach the Tunnel Mountain Trailhead
There are three ways to get to the Banff Tunnel Mountain hiking trail from downtown Banff. drive, take a public bus or walk. The Tunnel Mountain Trailhead (Location Pin) is located on Tunnel Mountain Drive.
- Hiking – the trail is very close to the city center (1 km) so you can easily start hiking in the city.
- Driving – There are two parking lots at the trailhead, the upper and lower parking lots, less than a 5 minute drive from downtown Banff.
- Bus – Take the Roam Transit Route 2 bus from downtown to Tunnel Mountain.
By car Tunnel Mountain Drive is a good option for scenic views of the Banff Hoodoo by car and is a nice short drive. Tunnel Mountain Road provides a relatively short trip, taking you over Tunnel Mountain. The journey begins In Banff, at the intersection of Banff Avenue and Buffalo Street, making a 5.5 mile turn to Banff Ave. Surprise Corner is a great view of the spectacular Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and Spray Valley just off Tunnel Mountain Road.
Description of the tunnel mountain trail
The Tunnel Mountain Trail is a busy trail that’s easy to follow, and it’s a relatively safe route to hike alone because there are so many other hikers. A variety of animals including; Black bears, wolves and cougars are occasionally seen on the mountain (rare), so for safety it is recommended to carry bear spray and a bell and keep it in an area with easy access.
The Tunnel Mountain Trail is well marked and climbs the eastern slope of the mountain with moderate switchbacks to the summit of Tunnel Mountain. The trail starts in the forest, but breaking through the trees on the trail offers beautiful views of the city. Enjoy views of the Banff Springs Hotel and Bow Valley along the way. Closer to the top there are beautiful overlooks with great views of Mt Rundle. The summit offers a good view of the surrounding mountains, including Sulfur Mountain and Cascade Mountain.
At the top there are 2 red chairs installed by Parks Canada, the Tunnel Mountain Red Chairs, this is a great spot with great views of the gushing river valleys. 11 red chairs were placed in national parks, including Banff Red Chairs, as a way for people to connect with their surroundings.
Enjoying the view from the Parks Canada Red Chairs atop Tunnel Mountain. There are 11 sites with these chairs in Canada’s national parks.
Best time to hike Tunnel Mountain
The Tunnel Mountain Trail can be hiked year-round, but the best hiking season is summer, when the trail gets very busy. It’s a great place for a sunrise hike. Walking here is very possible in the winter, but ice cleats are recommended when the trail can get icy and very slippery. During the winter months, this is a beautiful trail for snowshoeing. As this is a very popular trail, I would advise you to start the trek early in the day to avoid heavy traffic.
Hiking in Banff National Park
Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park, with over 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) of well-marked and maintained hiking trails, it’s a hiker’s dream destination. See our guide to hiking in Banff National Park.
Many of the park’s trails are easily accessible from 2 different towns, both located within the national park, the town of Banff and the village of Lake Louise, 57 km by road. Regional service is a fast and inexpensive bus that runs 5 times a day between Banff and Lake Louise for $6.
Banff Town is surrounded by many easily accessible hikes of varying difficulty. Easy lowland riverside boardwalks to more strenuous full-day hikes through scenic Rocky Mountain passes. There are many easy hikes that start within the city, and you can also combine several trails. The Sulfur Mountain Trail is a popular 11km hiking route in Banff if you’re up for something a little more challenging.
Get ready to hike the Tunnel Mountain Trail
Banff National Park is located in Bear Country. For the Tunnel Mountain Trail, the odds of encountering a bear, even in the summer months, are low but not impossible. It is safer to always carry bear spray so you can protect yourself in the event of an encounter with a bear.
A National Park Pass is required to enter a Canadian National Park. The towns of Banff and Lake Louise are located within Banff National Park and a park permit is required. Entrance and service fees help support visitor services and facilities. Purchase a park permit here.
Popular tours in Banff National Park
- Banff Gondola Ride – Gondola ride to the top of Sulfur Mountain. Breathtaking views of six different mountain ranges, nearby rivers and the surrounding area on a state-of-the-art gondola.
- Lake Louise and Isfields Parkway – Full Day Tour – Round-trip travel from Banff hotel to some of the highlights that are far apart, including Lake Louise, Isfield Parkway, Bow Falls and Moraine Lake, Guided, Small Group Tour. – limited to 15 people.
- Bow River Ride on Horseback – Guided horseback riding adventure on the Bow River or Spray River trails. Learn about the history of the national park from a nature guide
Packing for a hike around Banff
Ice crampons/cleats are essential for walking on ice on cold days (when the snow freezes).
My Garmin Fenix 5 GPS Watch is a fantastic hiking tool. speed measurement, altitude, heart rate, mapping, etc.
Hiking in the snow, waterproof studs keep snow and mud out of your boots and keep your feet dry.
My Salomon X Ultra Prime gortex boots are a great pair of boots for all seasons. Keeps out mud, snow and rain. Comfortable, lightweight and completely waterproof.
Female model Alya loves her Ladies Salomon X Ultra shoes.
I always carry a lightweight rain jacket in my daypack, the North Face for women or the North Face Resolve for men
BUFF Multi-functional Hat, a good idea for sun and wind protection
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The strong half of the stingy nomads, the nomadic Aquaman, who would happily spend his entire life diving, surfing, and spearfishing, but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our sea adventures and keeps track of them with notes. He enjoys travelling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wet suit.