I’m sitting along the rocky shoreline at our campsite on Lake Minnewanka, soaking in the view of the Fairholme mountain range as the water washes over the rocks and a family of geese and their goslings settle in for the evening. It’s hard to believe you can access such remote-feeling beauty in the backcountry so close to the town of Banff.
Lake Minnewanka is one of those spots people sometimes overlook. They pick the higher-profile backcountry trips, usually further from the town site. And when people do book backcountry trips at Minnewanka, they usually choose to hike in. But I propose you do what my partner, Devaan, and I did instead: go by canoe!
OK, now that I’ve sufficiently warned you about the challenges, let me sing the lake’s praises: Lake Minnewanka is stunning. Leaving from the boat launch, you paddle down the lake along the left shore, passing under the cliffs of the Palliser Range.
We bought a topographic map before our trip to help guide us along the shore to our campsite, Lm8, located on a small peninsula about 6 km down the lake.
Exploring the shoreline and Lm8 campsite itself you’ll find all sorts of beautiful wild flowers. A camera is an essential item on this trip.
Lake Minnewanka means “Lake of the Spirits” in Stoney for the spirits that are said to reside there. Indigenous people lived near Minnewanka for thousands of years. And it’s clear why this spot has captivated people since for its vastness and views. In the late 1800s, settlers built a resort town along the lake. Shortly after, the lake was dammed to raise water levels. This trend continued, with a damn built in 1912, partially flooding the town, then another one in 1941 that completely submerged it. With some of the remnants hidden underwater, it’s not surprising this lake boats many popular dive sites.
SAFETY AND ETIQUETTE
Carry bear spray. Don’t just have it at your campsite, have it on your person. Cook in the designated area and clean up after yourself to help deter bears. Keep your food and all scented products in the food storage zone. At Lm8 the deer, as cute as they are, come way too close to people, likely because some campers make the mistake of feeding them. Don’t contribute to that problem – keep your distance and don’t feed them. The more respectful you are of the site, the better it is for both wildlife and people.
HOW TO BOOK
To book backcountry, please visit the Banff or Lake Louise Visitor Centres in person, or call the backcountry reservation lines at 403-522-1263 (Lake Louise) or 403-762-1556 (Banff). Remember, you also need a Parks Canada pass any time you’re in a national park – if you’re planning more than a handful of days a year in a national park, the annual pass will be the best adventure investment you’ll make.