Home Destinations Paddling at Lake Minnewanka, Banff

Paddling at Lake Minnewanka, Banff

by Karen Ung

Canoe or kayak on beautiful Lake Minnewanka, “water of the spirits”, in Banff National Park.

Canoeing at Lake Minnewanka Banff
Canoeing at Lake Minnewanka

Disclosure: Pursuit | Banff Jasper Collection generously hosted us, but all words and opinions are my own.

With three of us paddling, our canoe glides effortlessly through the turquoise water of Lake Minnewanka. In no time, we’ve rounded the bend, leaving the bustling picnic area behind. It’s quiet and peaceful here; the only sound is the splash of our paddles. Although there are a few fishing boats out, they are too far away to hear.

canoeing-lake-minnewanka-banff
Canoeing at Lake Minnewanka, Banff

“We should do this more often,” my 11 year old says. I agree; there’s something satisfying about being on the lake, away from everyone and everything. Lake Minnewanka is the second largest lake in the national parks (21 kilometres long!), so no matter how full the parking lot is, you can easily social distance and find a private fishing hole.

Paddling at Lake Minnewanka Banff
Paddling at Lake Minnewanka

From the mouth of the Cascade River, you can see Stewart Canyon Bridge, where Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum kissed in the movie River of No Return. Continuing around the lake (clockwise), there are three backcountry campgrounds: Aylmer Pass Junction (Lm8) – currently closed, Aylmer Canyon (Lm9), and Mt. Inglismaldie (Lm11). Strong paddlers can paddle to camp, conditions permitting, but Parks Canada recommends hiking or mountain biking, as the wind can kick up large waves on the lake.

stewart-canyon-bridge-banff
Stewart Canyon Bridge, Banff

After exploring a bit further, we pull in our paddles and pause to enjoy the view. Mount Rundle and Cascade dominate the view to the south, while massive Inglismaldie watches over us from the east. You can tell why the Stoney people called this lake “Minn-waki” or “Lake of the Spirits.” The water and surrounding peaks seem very much alive.

bighorn-sheep-lake-minnewanka
Bighorn sheep at Lake Minnewanka Day Use, Banff

As we disembark, we notice a traffic jam on the dam. A herd of bighorn sheep has hopped the guardrail and is walking down the road. Like the rest of us, they want to be near the water too. It’s just another day at Lake Minnewanka, where wild beauty and wildlife await.

Canoe and Kayak Rentals

Lake Minnewanka dock
Lake Minnewanka dock
  • Canoe and kayak rentals are available at Lake Minnewanka from Pursuit. Boat rentals are first-come, first-served.
  • Rent by the hour and get a discounted rate for additional hours. See canoe and kayak rental rates here.
  • Adult and child life jackets are provided.

Tours

lake-minnewanka-lake-cruise-banff
Lake Minnewanka Lake Cruise

Pursuit also offers interpretive lake cruises and guided fishing trips:

  • In addition to the regular interpretive cruise, Pursuit now offers a Family Cruise, tailored for visitors with kids 12 & under. Kids ride free (1 free child admission with 1 regular priced adult admission), and everyone gets an apres-cruise ice cream!
  • Or, for kid-free fun, leave the kids with a sitter and enjoy craft beers on the Beer Voyage Cruise.
  • Guided Fishing Trips are also available to improve your odds of catching a big one.
View from Lake Minnewanka Lake Cruise
View from Lake Minnewanka Lake Cruise

Know Before You Go

The weather can change quickly in the mountains, and waves can get pretty big on Lake Minnewanka. As you leave the dock, stick to the left (west) side of the lake so you can easily pull up on shore if the weather turns. Avoid the middle of the lake where the power boats go.

Plan to spend 1-2 hours on the water with kids.

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