Located in the Bow River Valley east of Banff Townsite. Banff Park, Alberta
Photo: Tunnel Mountain from the east on the Trans-Canada Highway (note Pilot Mountain beyond)
In 1858 James Hector named this low feature, "The Hill." It rises just 305 metres (1000') above the valley and the Townsite of Banff below.
The native’s name for the mountain related to its resemblance to a sleeping buffalo when viewed from the north and east. The name “Tunnel” was derived from an incident described by Charles Shaw, one of the surveyors for the Canadian Pacific Railway, as “the most extraordinary blunder I have ever known in the way of engineering.” The comment relates to a preliminary survey conducted through the Bow Valley that called for a tunnel to be built through the mountain. In 1882, these surveyors, led by Major Rogers of Roger's Pass fame, must have been in a hurry and just assumed that it would be best if the railway followed the river. Noting the difficulties associated with river crossings and the steep cliffs between the mountain and the northwestern edge of Mount Rundle, they recommended that a 275 metre tunnel was required through the little mountain. What they failed to notice was that if the railway simply passed around the northern slopes of the little mountain, there was nothing to hinder the construction.
A favourite of many, Tunnel Mountain was ascended by James Outram in 1900 prior to his first ascents of higher and more challenging peaks such as Mount Assiniboine and Mount Columbia. He was most impressed, writing that, “the view will never be forgotten.”
Arthur O. Wheeler wrote of the mountain, "Although only 5500 feet in altitude above sea level, the summit is a magnificent viewpoint, covering the Bow River valley both east and west. The chief advantage is that, set at a position.. midway between the valley bottom and the crests of the encircling mountain ranges, it does full value in perspective to the depths and to the heights."
Norman Sanson led King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the top during their 1939 Royal Tour. The fire lookout that was on the top at the time and for some time afterwards became known as "King's Lookout" in memory of the visit.
But the person to remember most when looking at Tunnel Mountain may be Anne Ness who climbed to the top very regularly over a forty year period, totalling over eight thousand trips (an average of over 200 trips per year). A photo of Anne appears in Don Beer's book, "Banff-Assiniboine -A Beautiful World."