Banff Via Ferrata: The Wildest Trip You Can Take in Banff National Park

Everything you need to know about the Via Ferrata at Mt Norquay, Banff

Ready for epic thrills? This is the Via Ferrata at Mt Norquay in Banff National Park

Banff Via Ferrata

Via Ferrata iron rungs

Up up up you’ll go, grasping onto these metal rungs.

Have you ever climbed a mountain? Not hiked it, but actually climbed it? You can in Banff National Park at the Via Ferrata at Mount Norquay. Via Ferrata is an assisted climbing activity just outside the town of Banff, Canada. If you’ve ever fancied going mountaineering or rock climbing (but were too scared to try), this is the activity for you.

Mountaineering in Banff National Park

Mountaineering Mt. Norquay

Safety first! You’ll be clipped in the entire time.

First, the basics. You’re probably wondering as I was, what Via Ferrata means. It’s Italian for iron road. During the war years, they fastened iron rungs to the mountain face, forging a trail so troops could quickly get through the Alps. It’s a popular activity in Europe, but there are precious few Via Ferratas in Canada.

mountaineering in Banff National Park

I loved it so much, I went twice!

Via Ferrata Mount Norquay

Several Via Ferrata routes are open at Mount Norquay each summer. If you can climb a ladder, you can so do this. It’s like getting all the thrills and views typically reserved for elite climbers, but with all the safety features. You have to wear a helmet, harness and lanyard, which connects you to the iron cable. Don’t have all the gear? Don’t worry! Mount Norquay provides guests with boots, a  rain jacket, rain pants and even a backpack if you don’t have one. You can walk in off the street and still be able to do it. Snacks and water (and other beverages) can be purchased on-site before your climb.

Banff's Via Ferrata at Mount Norquay

There are many Via Ferrata routes to choose from. Each with their own features and challenges.

You clip your carabiner into the cable, then you climb. Clip, climb, clip, climb. Easy peasy, just like that. Here’s a few pictures to give you a better idea of what it’s like.

Climbing Mt. Norquay

It is seriously vertical!

Outdoor adventure in Banff National Park

Via Ferrata Suspension Bridge Banff National Park

Yep, we crossed that swaying 30 metre suspension bridge.

Banff Vista

You get to see Banff, Cascade Mountain and the Bow River from a whole new angle.

Wooden mountain bridge

Just don’t look down!

Mount Norquay Summit Ridge

Our view from the Summit Ridge

Climbing Via Ferrata at Mt Norquay, Banff National Park

Look ma, no hands!

Mountaineering couple

And we take a break

Can kids do Banff Via Ferrata?

Children can tackle the Via Ferrata if they meet the age, height and weight restrictions. Kids over 12-years old can do the Explorer and Ridgewalker routes so long as they’re over 35kg (77lbs). You must be over 14 years-old to do the Skyline and Summiteer routes. It’s a total rush for kids, even if they’re not into hiking. It challenges them and they may feel slightly scared, but I doubt they’ll let you know it. 

Kids can climb Mt Norquay in #Banff via the Via Ferrata

It’s a fantastic bonding experience for families to tackle Norquay’s Via Ferrata

Cliffhouse Bistro 

After your climb, you’ll want to reward yourself. Stop at the Cliffhouse Bistro before taking the gondola back down. Even if you don’t do Via Ferrata, you can still take the gondola up to this restaurant. Cliffhouse is pretty cool. They views are epic and the food was excellent – so not what I was expecting at a tourism attraction. They’ve honoured the legacy of building (it used to be a tea house in the 50s) with a-mazing tea cocktails! 

Tea cocktails at the mountaintop Cliffhouse Bistro in Banff

Drink in the views!

The negroni with blueberry rooibus is deliciously potent. I was totally feeling the mint tea mojito splashed doused with rum. For eats, we tucked into tacos. Well, actually gorditas, but they’re similar to tacos and chock full of meat, veg and sauces, served up with house-made potato chips and salad.

Rocky Mountain cuisine in #Banff

Replenish lost calories at a historic former teahouse.

Afterwards I was spent. All that fresh mountain air. The climb. The cocktails! Could there be a more perfect ending to a summer’s day? Actually, yes. On the gondola ride down we spotted deer nestled in a patch of wildflowers. AND there big horned sheep grazing at the side of the road on the drive down Mt. Norquay. You’ll feel like you’re winning at Canada with all these experiences.

Mountain climbing in Banff National Park, Canada

Your guide will have you stop here for the money shot.

Have you been mountaineering or rock climbing (outside of a gym)?

P.S. If you’re in a blog reading mood, check out A Trail Near Lake Louise to Convert Hiking Haters and A Weekend at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.

Via ferrata canada

You also may enjoy reading:

Secrets of Fairmont Banff Springs

25 Awesome adventures in the Canadian Rockies

About the Author:

I’m a freelance writer with bad hair, a loud mouth and a serious case of wanderlust. Whether it’s luggage, time or just life, I cram as much as possible into small compartments. Warning: Contents may shift during flight. My life is one bumpy ride! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.

14 Comments

  1. Kyla @ Mommy's Weird 30.07.2014 at 23:24 - Reply

    So, tell the truth. Were you scared…?

  2. Jody 31.07.2014 at 00:17 - Reply

    I was totally scared! I almost shit the bed:)

  3. Walter Foddis 30.07.2014 at 19:18 - Reply

    Looks like fun! I’d have to work on my fear of heights though.

  4. Intents Offroad 31.07.2014 at 01:44 - Reply

    This looks like my kinda thing! Although…We have these trees in Western Australia, big tall 300ft high ones with iron bars driven into the trunks like ladder rungs so you can climb allllll the way to the top. I can’t handle them so maybe I won’t handle this too well either…

    • Jody 31.07.2014 at 16:19 - Reply

      I think the photos make it look more intimidating than it actually was. Those trees sound amazing! Have you written a post on it? I’d love to learn more.

  5. Leela 09.04.2015 at 18:36 - Reply

    What route did you do?
    The 2, 4, or 6 hour route?

    • Jody 14.04.2015 at 08:47 - Reply

      I did the 4-hour route. At the time I don’t think they had a 6-hour one.

  6. […] P.S. You also might enjoy A trail near Lake Louise to convert hiking haters and Via Ferrata: The wildest trip you can take in Banff. […]

  7. Heather piunti 29.06.2018 at 16:18 - Reply

    Was there anyone in your group that was afraid of heights? My husband gets nervous with heights, but said he was willing to try it.

    • Jody 29.06.2018 at 16:27 - Reply

      Actually, I was. You do a sample climb to get used to it before heading out on the course. Climbing up the rungs was fine for me. I didn’t like walking across the narrow bridges. I just didn’t look down and stayed focused on what was ahead. I’m really glad I did it. They have routes that are only three hours and I’d start there. They also have a half way turn around point. For me it was worth it. Please let me know if you folks get out. I’d love to here how it went for you.

  8. The Travelling Dave 20.07.2018 at 04:45 - Reply

    This experience looks awesome! id love to do some mountaineering but its not that easy from where i live! i must visit canada soon then!

  9. Dawn 31.07.2018 at 03:25 - Reply

    I have just started hearing about via Ferrara in the last year and it looks amazing! We go out to Banff a lot so will have to add that to our list for next time.

  10. Jen 31.07.2018 at 19:53 - Reply

    I am so torn between signing up to do it asap and just sitting here with sweaty palms at the thought of it. I may pass out. But it is just so beautiful, how do you pass it up. Ugh. It is high on my list; I just hope I can do it. (How do you feel about heights? Were parts of it crazy frightening?)

  11. umiko 31.07.2018 at 20:16 - Reply

    Wow! So, how was it? Shaky? Fun? I want to do it but I don’t know if I can do it.

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