Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola - Great for All Ages

by - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

View from the top of the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola
The Lake Louise Gondola is the place to go for epic views of Lake Louise, the best patio in the Rockies, and phenomenal short hikes (some of the best short hikes in Banff!). We headed out on a beautiful, bluebird day when the larches had turned to enjoy the fall colors.

While everyone else was rushing to Larch Valley, we made our way to the less busy side of Lake Louise: the ski hill! We got rock star parking steps from the door, and purchased the Gondola & Gourmet Package since we we were all starving. It's a good value if you want a fancy meal at the top! Dining options are also available at the base of the gondola, but the views are better at Whitehorn Bistro.

View from the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola
The sightseeing gondola is set up with lift chairs and enclosed gondolas. If you are travelling with small children, or have large backpacks, I recommend taking the gondola. That way you don't worry about losing anyone or anything. The 14-minute ride was comfortable and the views increased rapidly. We didn't see any wildlife (bears are often spotted), but it was still fantastic.

Our first stop was lunch at Whitehorn Lodge, a two minute walk from the gondola. We ordered the cheese fondue, game platter, and gluten free pasta. The kids' menu items were $10 including a beverage and cookie. We felt the cost was reasonable given the size of meal and venue, and the food and service were fantastic. Again, I can't stress how incredible the views are just from the restaurant! From your seat on the patio, you can see Mount Temple, Victoria Glacier, and Lake Louise.

After lunch, we popped downstairs to the Wildlife Interpretive Centre to get some hiking info.There were some interesting displays and a presentation was due to start in half an hour, but we were keen to do a hike before the gondola closed. Since all three trails had been recommended as "Fall Larch Hikes", and we were getting over a bad virus, we chose the shortest one: Kicking Horse Viewpoint, 1.7 km return.

Lake Louise Gondola Hiking Trails
To access the trails, you leave the electric bear fence so hiking in a group of at least 4 people is recommended. We carried bear spray and had 40 lb noisemakers (our kids, LOL) with us, so we didn't see anything except a herd of mountain sheep.

The Kicking Horse Viewpoint Trail goes steadily up to a magnificent viewpoint. There is an open area on the way to the top that affords a view, but the rest of the way your view is obstructed by trees. No bother as it is a very short way to the viewpoint, or "heaven" as my husband called it. The good thing about the trees, is that you get a bit of shade on a hot day! The last section of the trail is through lovely larch forest. We could have stayed here all afternoon; it was a perfect, uncrowded photo spot. Despite the beauty of the spot and short distance, there was only one other group there at the same time as us.

Almost at the Viewpoint!
The last wee climb
We did it!
Kicking Horse Viewpoint

Accessibility

If you are unable to hike for any reason (sick, very pregnant, newly postpartum, bad joints, on crutches), but want to experience the views an all-day hike would give you, I highly recommend the gondola trip. I noticed a pregnant woman, a family with a new baby, and many elderly folks making use of the free van shuttle between the gondola and restaurant. 

Efforts have been made to accommodate wheelchair users; more info available here.

Fare Saving Tips

  • Check discount sites such as Groupon and Travelzoo for discounts; both were offering 50% off in late August.
  • Some hotels offer Stay and Ride (gondola) packages: Great Divide Hotel, Lake Louise Inn, Mountaineer Lodge, Banff Caribou Lodge & Spa, Paradise Lodge & Bungalows
  • Gourmet package not available in hotel packages; you may upgrade at the mountain. 
  • Go while your kids are little. The gondola is free for children 5 and under.

For More Information 

For more information, visit Lake Louise Gondola

All in all, a great, easy day. Which Rocky Mountain gondola do you like best?

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