Sunrise at the Summit

Sunrise at the Summit on Where Rockies

Photo by Ceara Maguire

Play on Where Rockies Onlin

Rise and shine! There’s nothing quite like a sunrise in the Rocky Mountains, but the Summit Sunrise Package at the Banff Gondola simply elevates the experience (7,486 ft to be exact).

I’m not a morning person. My housemates know that they can’t engage in conversation with me in the morning until I’ve had at least one cup of coffee. But the unique opportunity to celebrate the sunrise from the summit of Sulphur Mountain made it easier to get out of bed on this frosty, fall morning. With our boots laced up and toques donned, we left in the darkness of early dawn and made our way to the Banff Gondola lower terminal.

As soon as we entered the Gondola base, we were met with complimentary travel mugs filled with hot chocolate. To make it extra cosy, the gondola car came equipped with blankets for each passenger; perfect for a snowy September day. We soared through a magical winter-wonderland of pine trees covered in snow from the first snowfall of the season, with our blankets and hot chocolates keeping us warm and toasty. A short, 8-minute ride covers a track length of 1,560m and an elevation gain of 698m.

I'm sitting on the Banff Gondola, bundled in a Pursuit blanket with snow covered trees behind me.

Photo by Gabrielle Noel

Once we had disembarked, we wandered around the state-of-the-art building and topped up our mugs with complimentary tea and coffee. We headed straight to the 360-degree Rooftop Observation Deck, which provides guests with breathtaking views of the six surrounding mountain ranges and is the perfect place to watch the sun rise through the ice-clad peaks (weather permitting).

Next, we proceeded to breakfast at Northern Lights Café, a light buffet which included freshly made bread from local company, Uprising Bakery, who use wild yeast sourced from aspen trees in Banff National Park. Lined with floor to ceiling windows, Northern Lights has incredible views of the iconic Canadian Rockies around us. After breakfast, we were free to roam around the interpretive centre, hang out by the fire pits and mosey down the scenic 1km boardwalk to Sanson’s peak; home of the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, a National Historic Site of Canada. Despite the thick layer of snow, we were still able to reach the meteorological observatory built in 1903 and peer through its windows to see the rustic living quarters inside.

Two people walk along the snowy boardwalk at the top of the Banff Gondola

Photo by Gabrielle Noel

After an adventurous morning, it was time for our descent. Energised and ready for the rest of the day, we wrapped our blankets around us and chatted excitedly about our plans for the afternoon while we glided downhill over the treetops.

Top Tips:

Dress Warmly! 

It’s colder at the summit than it is on ground level, so make sure you layer up!

Be Prepared! 

Make sure you bring a camera for those sunrise snaps, and don’t forget sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s rays in summer and the reflection of the snow in winter!

The Early Bird Gets the View! 

Rise and shine in time to get there for sunrise and beat the crowds.

Continue the Adventure! 

Why not stop at the Hot Springs on your way down for a relaxing soak to complete the perfect morning.

Jasmine Holmes