The best places to stand up paddleboard near Calgary (and where to rent SUPs!)
From Two Jack Lake to Chestermere Lake, there are several ponds and lakes near Calgary that are perfect for stand up paddleboarding. No experience is required if you’re on flat water on a calm day. If you have great balance and an anchor, you can even do yoga on your board! And if you don’t have a SUP, check out our recommendations on where to rent gear.
Safety moment: Always wear a PFD and use a SUP leash. If you’re considering paddling on moving water (rivers), make sure you’re confident with steering and bring a friend.
Carburn Park, Calgary
Carburn Park, Calgary (67 Riverview Dr SE) has two ponds, but only the second pond – bigger one, furthest from the parking lot – is suitable for stand up paddleboarding (the first, smaller pond has murky water and leeches). There are picnic tables, washrooms, and a walking trail around the ponds if you’d like to stay a while.
Bowness Lagoon, Calgary
Bowness Lagoon is located at Bowness Park (8900 48 Ave NW). With two pretty ponds to paddle, this is a fun place to learn to SUP while watching ducks, geese, and the resident beaver! There’s a shallow channel that connects to the Bow River, but water levels are usually too low for SUPs (you could break your fin off).
After paddling, grab ice cream or coffee at Seasons of Bowness Park or have a picnic. Bowness Park has lovely walking trails along the river, playgrounds, a spray park, picnic sites and picnic shelters.
Mini Train Rides ($) and canoe/pedal boat rentals are also available at Bowness Park. For more information, visit U of C Outdoor Centre.
Private Lakes in Calgary & Springbank
If you can get on the guest list, there are several private lakes in Calgary (Arbour Lake, Auburn Bay, Lake Bonavista, Lake Chapparal, Lake Coral, Heritage Pointe, Mckenzie Lake, Lake Midnapore, Lake Sundance).
Harmony Lake, Springbank and Crystal Shores, Okotoks are lake communities near Calgary. Lake access is only for residents and their guests.
Chestermere Lake, Chestermere
Chestermere Lake is a large (4.8 km long) lake 20 minutes east of Calgary with sandy beaches. Access the water at:
- Anniversary Park & Beach (208 West Chestermere Drive): Play at the sandy beach or picnic in the picnic area before/after you paddle. Beach fees are no longer in effect, but it is $10 to park at the Rec Centre and there are only 58 parking spaces.
- John Peake Memorial Park Boat Launch (121 Chestermere Station Way – behind Tim Horton’s): Have a picnic at the picnic area, or in the gazebo if you’re lucky to get there first, and hit the water. There is a boat launch here too (fees apply, no fee for non motorized). We like paddling here, north of the overpass, with kids.
- Sunset Park (421 East Chestermere Drive): Access the water via concrete steps. There is no beach, but there are barbeque pits, and a beach volleyball court.
Note that this lake can get some big waves from wind and boat/Seadoo traffic, so mornings and evenings are the best time to paddle.
SUP rentals are available from Hyperactive Watersports at the Chestermere Marina.
Ghost Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (15 minutes west of Cochrane)
The Ghost Reservoir is a popular paddling spot due to its proximity to Calgary. It tends to be windy with whitecaps, but I’ve been told if you go north towards the mouth of the Ghost River, the water is calmer.
Barrier Lake, Kananaskis
Barrier Lake is one of the closest lakes to Calgary with clear, blue water, a picnic area, and sandy beach. Rent SUPs lakeside from Kananaskis Outfitters on summer weekends. They also offer lessons! If it’s too windy to paddle, hike to Prairie View Trail or Barrier Lake Fire Lookout. The trailhead is at Barrier Dam Day Use. After the turnoff, stay right to park near the lake (going left will take you to trailhead parking further from the lake).
Canmore Reservoir (aka Rundle Forebay), Canmore
Canmore Reservoir aka Rundle Forebay‘s turquoise waters offer easy paddling and an intro to moving water. It’s flat water where you put in, but when you turn the corner and approach the dam at the west end, there can be quite a strong current. The reservoir is 1.8 km long. Get Google directions to the unmarked roadside pullout here (across from the entrance to Canmore Nordic Centre). Update: As of 2021, you can no longer park beside the reservoir. Parking is available at Canmore Nordic Centre. Use caution crossing the road; it is very busy here.
In the Canmore area, rent SUPs from Bow Valley SUP.
Quarry Lake, Canmore
Quarry Lake, Canmore is a good place to try stand-up paddling or SUP yoga for the first time, and enjoy views of the Three Sisters. The small lake (500 metres across) is calm and scenic, and the day use area has a a small beach, picnic area, and walking trails. Parking fees in effect as of June 1, 2021. For more info, visit Town of Canmore – Quarry Lake Paid Parking.
In the Canmore area, rent SUPs from Bow Valley SUP.
Spray Lakes Reservoir, Kananaskis
Spray Lakes Reservoir has crystal clear waters and easy access. Put in at Driftwood Day Use Boat Launch or the hand launch at Spray Lakes West Campground. If the water looks too rough for paddling (it is often quite windy), hike beautiful West Wind Pass, then paddle at Canmore Reservoir on your way home. You can also access Spray Lakes Reservoir from West Spray Lakes Campground’s hand launch.
Rent SUPs from Bow Valley SUP in Canmore.
Johnson Lake, Banff
Johnson Lake has shallow, warm water and fantastic views of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain. There’s a picnic area, small sandy beach, and pleasant hike around the lake too, so you can a day of it! Look for the rope swing (use at your own risk) and old hermit cabin on Johnson Lake Trail. Rent SUPs, canoes, and kayaks from Banff Canoe Club.
Two Jack Lake, Banff
Continuing down Lake Minnewanka Drive, you will arrive at Two Jack Lake, a gorgeous paddling and picnic destination. Explore the shoreline or paddle into the middle of the lake for panoramic mountain views if the water is flat. To extend your route, float south down the outflow canal – heads up that you’ll have to work hard on the return. There’s awesome camping at adjacent Two Jack Lakeside campground if you’re lucky enough to score a campsite. Rent SUPs, canoes, and kayaks from Banff Canoe Club.
Lake Minnewanka, Banff
Lake Minnewanka is a gorgeous place to paddle on a calm day. Since Minnewanka is Banff’s longest and deepest lake, it can get some pretty big waves when the wind kicks up, so stay close to shore. Stick to the west side because there are more places to pull out if the weather turns and you won’t have to fight the wind on your way back (the wind is usually from the west). See our story Paddling at Lake Minnewanka for more information.
Vermilion Lakes, Banff
Vermilion Lakes is the place to go for postcard perfect pictures of Mount Rundle. Park at the first (east lake) as the water is deeper here. If it’s looking shallow, use a short fin (or remove your fin) so it doesn’t drag in the mud. We love birdwatching and looking for wildlife on the shore. Experienced paddlers may access the Bow River via Echo Creek and paddle upstream a few kilometres. Note that there is a sulphur smell in the water and the bottom is sticky mud, so this is not a swimming lake.
Rent SUPs, canoes, and kayaks from Banff Canoe Club.
What to Bring
- You should always wear a PFD with a whistle (to signal for help) and SUP leash (attaches the board to your ankle so it doesn’t get away from you in the wind/current). I love my Kokatat Paddling PFD for less bulk and no chafing. Stohlquist also makes high quality PFDs.
- A dry bag for items you want to keep dry (keep keys on your person clipped in your life vest so you don’t lose them)
- Sports sandals or water shoes are recommended for rocky or mucky shores.
- In cold water – mountain lakes are still super cold in winter, so don’t go by the weather – a wetsuit is recommended. A short Farmer John/Jane (sleeveless) wetsuit or neoprene vest & shorts/capris/pants (easier to put on/take off) works well for paddling.
If you’re renting a stand-up paddleboard, the rental shop will provide a pump and paddle. If you purchase an inflatable SUP (inflatables are easier to transport), you will need:
- A 3-piece paddle that fits in your SUP bag (costs a bit more but you won’t forget it).
- A manual SUP pump or electric SUP pump that plugs into your vehicle. Use caution with electric pumps – exceeding the recommended PSI can damage your board.
Where do you like to stand up paddleboard?