Tunnel Mountain is a popular trail just out of the Banff Townsite that provides a unique balance of summiting a mountain, but remaining an accessible level for most hikers. Better yet, it is open in the winter!
A 4.5 km hike, with 267 meters of elevation, this trail takes approximately 2 hours out-and-back. We found the trail to be doable in hiking boots, but micro-spikes made the incline much easier. The spikes kept us from sliding and made us feel more stable.
We parked in the lot on St. Julien’s road and followed the path up to the Tunnel Mountain Road intersection. This road is closed to car traffic, so you have to park in the lower lot during the winter. We reached the top of the mountain, and continued along the ridge until we reached the summit. There are two red Adirondack chairs at the summit, though at this time during the year the chairs were almost completely buried! The mountain offers gorgeous views on either side of the mountain.
The view in the photo above was probably my personal favourite during the hike, though it was spectacular on all sides. The snow adds contrast to the mountains that doesn’t exist in the summer.
The hike was moderately busy, however it was a Saturday with mild weather so we were surprised there wasn’t more people on the trail. We began the hike around 1 pm and made it back down by 3 pm. The snow at the top was quite deep, but if you stay on the path (the packed-down snow) you shouldn’t sink.
The way down was easy, even my grumpy knees didn’t complain at the descent. The spikes gave us a good grip, so it was as easy as descending a dry trail. We didn’t need poles on this hike. Remember to bring layers! We got very warm while hiking up the mountain, but needed to layer up again at the top due to the wind.
This is a short, but scenic trail in the Banff area, and one that I would certainly recommend, especially if you are looking for a way to get out during the snowy months.