Tunnel Mountain Circuit

February 8, 2019. A short winter hike around the base of Banff’s Tunnel Mountain.

  • Distance: 5.0 km loop
  • Total Ascent: 153 m
  • Elevation of objective: N/A
  • Hiking time: 1h 25m

Last February I had the chance to follow the trail up to the summit of Tunnel Mountain. This year I decided to put together a route that would circumnavigate the mountain.

My start point was the Surprise Corner Viewpoint. This sits at the upper end of Buffalo St in Banff, just as it suddenly switches back and turns into Tunnel Mountain Drive. I followed the Hoodoos trail. This well-used trail descends down to the floor of the Bow River Valley, and follows the river as it hooks around the south and southeast aspects of Tunnel Mountain. Rather than follow it all the way to the Hoodoos, I took a sharp turn at about the 2km mark, following a footpath that heads north, skirting the eastern aspect of the mountain and ascends into the vicinity of some chalets (Google Maps tells me it’s called Douglas Fir Resorts & Chalets).

Around here, any continued northward progress would eventually intersect with Tunnel Mountain Road. However, I found some trail markers (for biking trails, I think) labelled “Return of the Jedi”. It’s an incontrovertible fact that ROTJ is the best of the Star Wars movies. Therefore, I wandered a bit – following what I figured was the bike route, but still trending towards the road.

At last, having gotten around the eastern face of the mountain, I found Tunnel Mountain Road. This is closed to vehicle traffic in the winter, and is as wide and obvious a trail as you could ask for. I followed it around the north and west aspects of the mountain and back to my starting point,

There was limited daylight, an Extreme Cold Warning, and numerous signs warning of cougars in the area. On the other hand, I had free time in Banff, so there was no excuse not to get outside. I’m glad I did — this was a great little hike. It was short enough to fit into my small window of available time, but long enough to be satisfying. The route was well-travelled, so snowshoes weren’t needed. Good winter hiking boots were sufficient.

Click on the pictures in the gallery below to access full-sized images.

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 5.08.16 PM.png
Route overview. SCV = Surprise Corner Viewpoint. Tunnel Mountain Road is the obvious road through the trees along the lower part of the image that swings around the spur of Tunnel Mountain. My phone was frozen at that point in the journey, and only intermittently recorded my location. Therefore, the blue line doesn’t follow the road. However, I didn’t actually deviate from the road.


The start of the Hoodoos Trail, at Surprise Corner Viewpoint. There’s a parking area here, along with this nice map, and a sign warning about cougars in the area.
Off the start, there’s nothing too exciting. Just a pleasant walk in the woods.
The south face of Tunnel Mountain.
Down on the valley floor, next to an accessory stream of the Bow River.
Looking south across the Bow River towards Mount Rundle.
Another view of Mount Rundle from the valley bottom.
At about the 2 km mark there is a trail heading straight north. This ascends fairly steadily.
Eventually, some little cabins come into view. I bore to the left here.
If you see a sign like this, you follow it.
Another nice look at Mount Rundle. To the right of this frame was a nice view of Tunnel Mountain. Unfortunately, my camera was frozen at this point and would only work intermitently. I didn’t manage to get a picture.
Easy walking along Tunnel Mountain Road, completing the loop.


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