Tunnel Mountain Banff National Park 4.3km return, 300m Elevation gain Ages: 3+ should be able to get to the top

When visiting Banff (you should camp at Tunnel Mountain Campround, btw) you can get your hike on right from the heart of the town straight up Tunnel Mountain, a mountain with no tunnel.

When the CPR surveyors came through laying track to unite Canada, a 275m tunnel was proposed through the small mountain that sits behind Banff.  Eventually, the track was laid around the rock instead of through it and millions of dollars were saved. Still, the name Tunnel Mountain stuck.

There is a short and long hike to get to the top of Tunnel Mountain. One trail starts at the foot of St. Julien Road near The Banff Centre, while the other is 400m further up the trail, just above the Banff Centre on Tunnel Mountain Road. Got kids? Do the shorter trail.

Staying in town, or up for a workout? Do the longer one. There’s really nothing about the first 400m, they both end up at the top.

Map of Tunnel Mountain Trail - Buzz Bishop

Charlie did very well on this, his first big hike. He has done Troll Falls, and Grassi Lakes, but he’s never really climbed before. The Tunnel Mountain hike trail is well used, and a series of switchbacks take you to the top. I had hiking poles in my trunk, and let Charlie use them, they’re not really necessary.

Charlie hiking Tunnel Mountain

Charlie hiking Tunnel Mountain

The Tunnel Mountain hike is popular, so people will pass and say hi going up or down, but it’s not so busy that you feel as if you’re stalling traffic by going with your kids.

The top of the trail has numerous places to stop and look around and enjoy the view. My favorite was looking back south east down the Bow River to see the beautiful carpets of the Banff Springs Golf Course below. Note to self: must play there.

Banff Springs Golf Club from Tunnel Mountain

On the other side of the hill, you can look out to the north west and see the Vermillion Lakes below, and even make out a ribbon of CPR track coming straight for Tunnel Mountain, before dodging around it on the outskirts of town.

View from top of Tunnel Mountain

This is a nice little break. It’s a *real* hike, and it’s one that kids can do. “You climbed a MOUNTAIN, Charlie!” I kept encouraging him the rest of our camping weekend. Oh, and the hike has a royal pedigree, as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth hiked the mountain on their visit in 1939. I wonder if Princess Baby Cuckoohead will ever come to the Rockies and try the Tunnel Mountain hike 😉


Buzz Bishop and Charlie at the top of Tunnel Mountain

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