After a quick lunch, we wanted to squeeze in another hike before heading to Calgary for the night. Tunnel Mountain is a great and quick option near downtown Banff that offers a lot of “bang for its buck” with views of Bow Valley and Mt. Rundle.
Time: 2-3 hours
Distance: 2.7 miles, round-trip
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 948 feet
Where’s the tunnel?
The OG name given to the mountain was Sleeping Buffalo Mountain. The mountain was renamed to Tunnel Mountain in 1882 when a proposed route for the Canadian Pacific Railway was to be blasted through the mountain creating the tunnel. An alternate route was ultimately chosen due to lower costs, but the name never changed.
This hike offers convenience, accessibility, and views— All of my favorite things! It starts out climbing up switchbacks with the pine and fir forests common in this area. As you climb upward, the trees thin in places allowing views of the Banff Springs Hotel in some areas.
As you climb higher, you’ll reach viewpoints to admire the town of Banff, the Vermillion Lakes and down the Bow Valley. We were eventually brought to the summit with two of the famous red chairs scattered throughout Canada’s parks system.
Even though we went on an overcast/gloomy day, we still enjoyed the views of the nearby mountains from seemingly every direction.
Since it was winter when we visited, we navigated to the trailhead and parked at the winter gate with the other cars lined up on the road.
Lower Trail Head: On foot it’s an easy walk from downtown Banff. From Banff Avenue head east on Wolf Street until you come to a T intersection, turn right on Grizzly Street and stay left as it splits to St. Julien Road. Continue on for a few hundred meters past Wolverine St. A parking lot will be on your left where a sign marks the trail head. It climbs through the forest up to the Tunnel Mountain viewpoint parking. Cross the street and continue on the upper trail head.
Upper Trail Head: The trail head is on the opposite side of the road from the Tunnel Mountain viewpoint parking area. You can park here to shorten the hike slightly. In the busy season it is best to use the lower parking area on St. Julien Road. The small upper parking area is meant for people to stop and take in the viewpoint while driving on Tunnel Mountain Road.