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.

Climbing Mt. Norquay

It is seriously vertical!

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.

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

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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