Hike to the top of Tunnel Mountain (Sleeping Buffalo Mountain) from town!
Tunnel Mountain is one of the best spring hikes in Banff as its southern exposure ensures early snow melt. Whether your kids are 3 or 13, they will enjoy the scenic switchbacks to the summit. The trail starts out in the forest, but the trees become sparser towards the top, with several viewpoints offering gorgeous views of Banff, Mount Rundle, and the Bow Valley. We were pleasantly surprised at how beautiful this short, urban hike was and loved being able to hike to the top of a mountain from town! When my kids were 4 & 5.5 years old, they said the hike “wasn’t hard at all and was so pretty!”
The trail is well marked and easy to follow. There’s a gorgeous viewpoint of Mount Rundle as you approach the summit. Continue on to the red chairs for a photo, and summit ridge beyond for a picnic (there’s lots of space to spread out).
For added fun on the trail, seek out the two geocaches Parks Canada placed on the mountain. A fact sheet in the “Where’s the Tunnel” geocache explains why there is no tunnel and how the mountain got its name. Don’t forget to bring some small treasures for trading!
After enjoying the view, return the way you came.
Tunnel Mountain At a Glance
- Distance: 4.6 km round trip from St. Julien Parking lot / 3.6 km round trip from upper parking lot (or 6.3 km round trip from Banff Avenue McDonald’s). Note that the upper parking lot is closed in winter.
- Elevation Gain: 300 m (948 feet)
- Time: Allow 2.5-3.5 hours with young children.
- Geocaches: “Where’s the Tunnel” and “Tunnel Mountain Summit”. Both were near the trail and easy to find!
- Bike/stroller friendly? No. The trail is for hiking only and is a bit too narrow and steep for sports strollers in certain sections, so bring a baby backpack for children that need to be carried.
- Washrooms: No.
Directions to Tunnel Mountain
- Lower Parking Lot: Click here for Google Map directions.
- Upper Parking Lot (limited spots available – closed in winter): Click here for Google Map directions.
Know Before You Go
- A Parks Canada Discovery Pass / daily admission fee is required to stop in Banff National Park.
- Bears and wolves are frequently seen on Tunnel Mountain. Review our Bear Safety Tips and keep bear spray accessible.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash.
What to Bring
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Pack a picnic as you will want to stay a while and enjoy the view from the summit.
Good hiking boots, down hoody/fleece, gloves, and a windproof/waterproof shell are must-haves (the weather can change quickly in the mountains). Trekking poles are recommended for the descent, especially if you have a heavy pack or are carrying a toddler in a Child Carrier Pack.
You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, a GPS/compass and map of the area, bug spray (this one contains 20% icaridin and will repel ticks), sunscreen (this mineral one is safe for babies), and bear spray. Carry bear spray in a Frontiersman Bear Spray Holster (attaches to your backpack or belt), or Scat Belt.
From late fall through spring, traction devices are recommended. See our story: Traction Devices for Winter Walks & Hikes for more information.
Thanks very much for providing such an elaborate hiking experience especially keeping kids in mind. The photographs provided gives so much clarity on what to expect. Will definitely go here with my toddler.
You're welcome! I'm glad you found it helpful! 🙂 Hope you have lots of fun at Tunnel Mountain with your little one!
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