Banff Via Ferrata: A thrilling experience in the Rockies

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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.

Banff Via Ferrata at Mt Norquay: Why you need to do it!
Ready for epic thrills? This is the Banff Via Ferrata!

Banff Via Ferrata

First, the basics. Before you tackle the Banff Via Ferrata, you may want to know (as I did), 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.

Banff Via Ferrata: A thrilling experience in the Rockies
Safety first! You’ll be clipped in the entire time.

It’s a popular activity in Europe, but there are precious few Via Ferratas in Canada. Luckily, there’s now one outside the town of Banff.

mountaineering in Banff National Park
I loved it so much, I went twice!

Mount Norquay Via Ferrata

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. It goes without saying the views are just incredible.

You can see all the way to Lake Minnewanka and down both ends of the Bow Valley from your route. Here’s a few pictures to give you a better idea of what it’s like.

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Climbing Mt. Norquay
It is seriously vertical!

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Banff Activities

Out of all the activities I’ve done in Banff in the past two decades, this was definitely the one that gave me the biggest adrenaline rush. I ski and snowboard. I’m into hiking and pretty much all the adventurous activities (with the exception of downhill mountain biking), but a Via Ferrata course tests you in a different way.

It’s as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one. It’s also an excellent way to explore the mountains close to Banff without the crowds. Consider it amped up hiking. It’s certainly way more fun.

Via Ferrata Suspension Bridge Banff National Park
Yep, we crossed that swaying 30 metre suspension bridge.

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

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Wooden mountain bridge
Just don’t look down!

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Mount Norquay Summit Ridge
Our view from the Summit Ridge

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Climbing Via Ferrata at Mt Norquay, Banff National Park
Look ma, no hands!

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Mountaineering couple
And we take a break

Banff Family Activities

Yep, this is one of Banff’s best family activities. 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

Banff Restaurants

After your climb, you’ll want to reward yourself. Stop at the Cliffhouse Bistro before taking the gondola back down. It’s got the best views of any of the restaurants in Banff. Even if you don’t do Via Ferrata, you can still take the gondola up to this restaurant. Cliffhouse is pretty cool.

Not only will be feasting on views of Banff National Park, but also top notch Rocky Mountain fare. This restaurant is so not what I was expecting at a tourism attraction. Best is, 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)? What’s your favourite adrenaline inducing activity?

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

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You also may enjoy reading:

Secrets of Fairmont Banff Springs

25 Awesome adventures in the Canadian Rockies

About The Author

58 thoughts on “Banff Via Ferrata: A thrilling experience in the Rockies”

  1. Intents Offroad

    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…

    1. 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.

  2. Heather piunti

    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.

    1. 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.

  3. The Travelling Dave

    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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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?)

    1. Mariah Berini

      I found the biggest thrill in whitewater kayaking over a waterfall in Costa Rica. For the Record did not know our guide was going to take us over a waterfall. Next on my list is a Via Ferrata!

  6. Sonja Hayes-Powers

    This has been on my To Do list for so long but I am scared….If I won then I would HAVE to do it!! Haha

  7. Tania Thompson

    Wow, that looks scary and I’m a bit of a chicken sh*t when it comes to doing scary stuff. I know my daughter and hubby would love it though! Both of them just tried some zip lining and they loved it. As for me, the most adrenaline rush to date is edging out another spa-goer to the lounger 😉

  8. Jessie Machell

    Alpine Helicopter tour was a rush and a half. I hate heights lol this would be a great list addition

  9. I rappeled down the Sun Life building in Calgary a few years back as part of the Easter Seals Drop Zone fundraiser. It was EXHILARATING!! I think this might actually top that (pun intended!)

  10. Kyle Bullock

    This looks like so much fun!! The when it comes to mountains and heights, I’m usually pretty calm. But when you combine heights with rides, it’s totally different. The Big Shot on top of the Stratosphere in Vegas was terrifying!!

    1. I’ve looked at the Big Shot and it freaks me out. The Via Ferrata in Banff will seem tamer in comparison.

    1. Angel’s Landing and Crypt Lake some awesome hikes! Definitely if you can be comfortable holding onto chains or a cable!

  11. Biggest Adrenalin to date emergency drill on our 787 where I got to open a door and blow a slide. Those things are loud and inflate fast and they will save your life.

  12. My biggest adrenaline rush this summer was skydiving at 13,000 feet I got 60 seconds of freefall and it was amazing. Loved it so much I’m definitely going back soon !

  13. Rachel Rasmussen

    I am afraid of heights but throughout the years I have had the “don’t think, just do” attitude and have been able to combat my fear. My Hubby and I have been zip lining in Hawaii and rappelling in Alberta.

  14. Hanna Rose

    Biggest adrenaline rush was probably bunker jumping in New Zealand! It’s what got me hooked on that rush ????

  15. Hanna rose

    Biggest adrenaline rush to date was bungee jumping in New Zealand :). Got me hooked and I’ve loved the rush ever since !

  16. Haley Robinson

    My most adrenaline endured experience was when I was climbing in the trees on this course that my mom found in Whistler. We were super high up! So much fun. Or the first time I ever went parasailing, now that was amazing.

  17. This is definitely the most adrenaline-inducing activity I’ve ever done. Last year I did the 5-hour route, and this year I went all the way to the summit on the 6-hour route. Makes me feel awesome having done it, though!

  18. Maybe jumping off a small waterfall in New Zealand or going on a fox hunt (no fox hurt). Would so love to try this!

  19. Jacquie Hill

    Rappelling in Squamish! Learning the ropes! So fun! But first time over so scary!!

  20. Amazing! It’s been on my bucket list for a while now. Was it scary coming back down? I can be nervous with heights, but I always find the descent worse for me. The views look like it’s worth it though!!

  21. Wow! Views are spectacular! I posted another comment that said duplicate…but I haven’t seen it show up? Is the descent scary?

  22. Thuy Nguyen

    Looks fantastic! My most daring activity to date would be Parasailing. Did it while I was vacationing in Thailand. It was only for 15 minutes, but it felt so long. I also had to take of my glasses (I’m totally blind without my glasses) so I couldn’t fully see the beautiful landscape from the top. I would do it again, but would most probably wear contacts. 🙂

  23. This has been on my bucket list since moving to Calgary! So far my biggest adrenaline rush to date is climbing EEOR solo last summer 🙂

  24. Breathtaking! Which part did you find you had the biggest adrenaline rush? Was it the ladder? The bridge?

    My biggest adrenaline rush by far (so far!) has been sand boarding in Huacachina in Peru! ????

    1. I thought it would be the bridge, but by far the biggest heart in my throat moment was going up the ladder on this via ferrata.

    1. Sometimes I post on Facebook, but normally I contact the winners directly. This is a good reminder though. I’ll aways post on social in the future.

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