Banff National Park
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 4.3 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 300 m
How To Get There: 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.
This was the first time I decided to do a solo hike as my usual suspects weren't available to hike with me. But I didn't want that to stop me from going to the mountains when the weather was being so cooperative. Because it was my first solo hike and it had snowed a lot, I knew I wanted to do a hike where there was no avalanche risk and where there were going to be a lot of other people. That was why I decided to go for Tunnel Mountain since it has the bonus of being right in the middle of the town of Banff but it still gave me the opportunity to summit another mountain. I parked at the north side of St. Julien Road because Tunnel Mountain Drive was closed for the winter (though parking at St. Julien makes for a longer hike so I would have enjoyed it more this way anyway). This hike also gave me the opportunity to try my microspikes for the first time and since I forgot my hiking poles, they were a saving grace! It was great to be able to walk up the snow packed trail without having to worry about slipping.
The trail leads straight up a hill and then turns into several switch backs. Along the way there are information posts and signs warning people to stay on the path. Right away you can start to get a pretty good view of the town and mountains below. I used my selfie stick (also newly acquired) to take a few pictures of myself along the way. Eventually the switch backs lead to the Tunnel Mountain Drive Parking Lot (about 1.3 km up) and that’s where you'll find the trailhead information sign for Tunnel Mountain.
I did some quick reading and then continued on my way. The switchbacks go on for another 1 km or so, every now and again passing tree clearings for some more great views. At the last switch back before you reach the top of the mountain ridge, you get a really good look at the Banff Springs Hotel.
But the views get even better as once you get to the top, you are treated to a panoramic view of both sides. On the East side of the mountain you get to see Mount Rundle.
There are metal bars along the way, stopping tourists from getting too close to the edge. You follow the trail another 500m or so, steadily continuing to make your way up the ridge. Along the way I passed two red patio chairs sitting in a perfect spot to take in the view of the town below on the west side.
I continued on until I reached the summit (there is an information sign here too). At first I made a bad attempt to take a picture by myself using the selfie stick but then luckily a couple with a baby came along and offered to take my picture.
The temperature was about 2 degrees in Banff but once I got further up the trail, it started to get a lot colder and windy (as is per usual). So I was eager to start making my way back down. Along the way, I decided to stop and sit at the patio chairs to have a quick snack. But my frozen nose told me I couldn't stay long.
I ran into a lot of other hikers on my way down and I can only imagine how busy this trail gets in the summer time since it's an easy way to reach a "summit".
Once I reached the bottom, I took my microspikes off and immediately slipped on the ice! Just goes to show I made a good purchase! I had a lot of fun hiking by myself and it was nice not to have to check my pace or worry about if someone was getting bored. It was serene and peaceful and I would love to do it again soon!