Spiral Tunnels Tours
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An outstanding feat of engineering, the Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park were the ingenious early–20th-century solution to climbing or descending the impossibly steep 4.5-percent grade to cross Kicking Horse Pass by rail. Watch long freight trains cross themselves as they travel the tunnels in different directions at the same time.
It may take some patience, but you’ll be rewarded by the fascinating sight of freight trains (and the occasional passenger train) carving a figure eight through the mountains. It appears as though three trains are on the rails as parts of the train enter and exit the tunnels, giving the illusion they are moving separately.
See this fascinating example of brilliant railway engineering from either of two viewpoints—an upper and a lower—on a Banff National Park group day tour from Banff or Calgary, or as part of a self-driven tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Train enthusiasts and history buffs won’t want to miss seeing the Spiral Tunnels in action.
- Freight trains don’t follow a schedule, so be patient and be prepared to wait a bit to train-spot.
- The lower viewpoint has a commemorative monument, information plaques, and restrooms. The upper viewpoint has no amenities.
- Both viewpoints are accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
How to Get There
The Lower Spiral Tunnel viewpoint is located on the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1), 4.6 miles (7.4 kilometers) east of Field, British Columbia and 52 miles (84 kilometers) west of Banff, Alberta. There is also a pull-off viewpoint (of the Upper Spiral) on Yoho Valley Road, on the way to Takakkaw Falls from Field.
When to Get There
The lower tunnel viewpoint is open from mid-May until mid-October; the upper viewpoint (and access via Yoho Valley Road) is open from mid-June to mid-October. During the warmer months, trains run fairly frequently—up to every 15 minutes on some days—although they don’t follow a schedule.
CP Rail and the Big Hill
After the first rail attempt over Kicking Horse Pass ended in derailment and the tragic deaths of three railway workers in 1884, Canadian Pacific Railway devised the Big Hill solution. A series of switches allowed runaway trains a safe place to divert onto spur lines, not descending the grade until the train was under control. The introduction of the Spiral Tunnels in 1909 brought the grade to a much safer and more manageable 2 percent.
Address: Spiral Tunnels, Banff, Canada
3 Tours and Activities to Experience Spiral Tunnels
See the best that Banff National Park and the surrounding wilderness have to offer—including Victoria Glacier, stunning Moraine Lake and towering Takakkaw Falls—on this full-day guided coach tour. Over the course of the day, discover some of the most awe-inspiring natural scenery of the Canadian Rockies, with time to spot some of the area’s diverse wildlife, plus enjoy lunch and round-trip transport from Banff.
Nature and Wildlife
Classic 3-days guided tour exploring the popular sightseeing point in Rocky Mountain National Parks! ☆ Guaranteed 1-night stay at Banff Town and 1-night at Jasper Town ☆ Pick up from Calgary and Banff ☆ Save Time! Explore 3 famous National Parks, Banff, YOHO, and Jasper in Canada in 3 days ☆ Closer to see the Columbia Icefield ☆ Professional local tour guide and driver
Skirt the slopes of the Continental Divide as you explore Yoho National Park and beyond with an experienced local guide. Spend time meandering along the shores of Moraine Lake's opalescent waters and examine the natural span of a river-carved bridge created over thousands of years. From a central meeting location in Calgary, ride out of town with your guide as you head toward the evergreen forest and granite peaks of Yoho National Park. Look for moose, bear, and elk that call this stunning landscape home, and make a stop at Lake Louise to snap photos of its turquoise waters, just steps away from Banff's charming downtown.Find out how railway engineers overcame the Continental Divide's steep terrain with a visit to the serpentine Sprial Tunnels, see where the Kicking Horse River punched through rock to create a natural bridge, and fill your camera with postcard-worthy shots of Moraine Lake's brilliant color before you return to your ride and catch a lift back to Calgary.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What's the best way to experience Spiral Tunnels?
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