Certainly an old one but a good one, this hike has been around since the early days of Banff National Park . The trail is well maintained, easy to access, and ideal for visitors. A panoramic view from the top of the town site, the Bow Valley and Mt. Rundle make this the perfect “get-to-know-the-area” excursion.
Time: 2-3 hours Distance: 4.3 km (2.7 miles) round-trip Level of Difficulty: Easy Elevation Gain: 300 m (948 feet) Map: Banff , 82 0/4 East
Starting Point: In downtown Banff , from the southern end of Banff Ave. , turn east on Buffalo St. (turns into Wolverine) to St. Julien Rd. Trailhead begins on north side of St. Julien Rd.
A shorter option of the same hike (3.6 km / 2.2 miles return) begins from Tunnel
Mountain Dr. , just north of The Banff Centre.
Summary: Begin in the pine and fir forest typical of the area. A wide and well-maintained trail leads you up the hillside with switchbacks to ease the vertical gain. Views open up to Mt. Rundle near the top. Enjoy lunch with a view of the town site below from the broad rocky outcrop that marks the summit. If you have a bit more energy, follow the trail down from the east side of the summit to a wide-open grassy meadow about 5-10-minute walk away.
And perhaps the most-asked question on the hike: Where’s the tunnel? There isn’t one. The mountain earned its name from a proposed route of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) back in 1882. A blunder in surveying led to the suggestion that a half-mile tunnel be blasted through the hillside – an idea that would have cost the CPR millions of extra dollars. The plan was quickly discarded and an alternative route was found around the mountain (which, incidentally, shortened the rail line by a mile and avoided two long hills, and most importantly, rid of the notion of a tunnel).
Consider Tunnel Mountain for a late afternoon/early evening walk (leave yourself enough time to get down before dark). Other hikes near downtown Banff : Vermilion Lakes , Sundance Canyon , Fenland Trail, Cascade Ponds (also ideal for a swim and a picnic)
Keep in Mind:
Bring a water bottle and snack. Quick water stops are important every 20-30 minutes (more often if it is hot), especially if you are not used to higher elevations. You are in the mountains – always carry an extra layer of clothing and rain gear. Wear appropriate day-hiking shoes. Slow your pace; slow your breathing. Smell the wildflowers, enjoy the view, identify surrounding peaks.
Plan your trip
Stay on marked trails
Pack garbage out
Be cautious of wildlife
Be safe, be smart – hike within your limits
Walking and hiking in the Canadian Rocky Mountains is inherent with risk due to a number of constantly changing conditions. These conditions include (but are not limited to) unpredictable weather, rain, flash floods, falling rocks, mudslides, falling trees and more.
Other dangers include (but are not limited to) wild animals such as black and grizzly bears, elk, sheep, goats and insects, all of which can be aggressive.
These hiking descriptions are designed to provide you with a good idea of what the hike will have to offer and some general guidelines about the hike. You are responsible for your own safety and well being while hiking! While these details have been put together through research by local professionals, you may encounter conditions not mentioned in the hike descriptions. Trail heads, signage, parking, etc. are also subject to change as well.
In order to get the most recent conditions and details for any hike you undertake we strongly recommend that you contact Parks Canada at the Banff Information Centre prior to your hike and they will provide you with the most current conditions and hike details for your enjoyment and safety of your hike.
Parks Canada can be found at The Banff Information Centre at 224 Banff Avenue and is open from 9AM to 7PM in the Summer. They can be reached by calling 403.762.1550.