Lake Minnewanka is a large glacial lake five kilometres (three miles) from the town of Banff. The lake is 21 kilometres (13 miles) long and 142 metres (466 feet) deep. It is a beautiful spot, popular for picnicking, mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, diving, and snowshoeing.
For over 100 centuries, people have camped and hunted along the original shores of Lake Minnewanka. The indigenous Stoney Nakoda First Nations people called it Minn-waki (Lake of the Spirits) because they respected and feared the lake for its resident spirits. Early European settlers later named it Devil’s Lake.
Lake Minnewanka is a hot spot in the summer months. It’s a fantastic place to relax by the water, with picnic tables and a cooking shelter as well as a small café. It’s also a great location for more active pursuits, including fishing, diving, hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, and boating.
Lake Minnewanka is the only lake in Banff National Park to allow limited use of power boats. Scenic boat cruises go out daily to Devil’s Gap, with an interpretive tour guide that can tell you about the rich history and local lore of the lake and surrounding mountains. If you prefer to travel under your own power, try canoeing or kayaking. Boat rentals are available at the Lake Minnewanka docks.
The lake is also a fun destination for recreational scuba divers. Several dams have been built over the years for hydroelectric power generation, and the most recent dam built in 1941 raised the lake 30 metres (98 feet) and submerged the resort village of Minnewanka Landing. The submerged village, original dam, and bridge pilings make for an amazing underwater exploration. More information about diving can be found here.
Hiking around Lake Minnewanka is spectacular and accessible with its rocky shores, stands of aspen trees and craggy peaks. The Lake Minnewanka to Devil's Gap trail is a great choice during early and late season – it’s typically snow-free and dry from May until mid-autumn.
Another way to discover the beauty of Lake Minnewanka is by bike. A local favourite is the Lake Minnewanka Trail which takes you along the shoreline on narrow rolling singletrack with several technical sections. The trail is closed to bikes between July 10 and September 15 to reduce the risk of wildlife encounters.
The lake is also home to trophy-size Lake Trout, Rocky Mountain Whitefish and Lake Whitefish. Anglers should bring a rod and tackle down to the water’s edge for a memorably scenic fishing experience, or join a guided tour for a local’s perspective.
Get out into nature and explore the area during the winter by heading out on cross-country skis or snowshoes. The Cascade Trail at Lake Minnewanka is an easy cross-country ski trail which is groomed regularly and runs 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) each way.
During the winter, you might experience some seemingly magical phenomena at Lake Minnewanka. When the atmospheric conditions align, Lake Minnewanka is one of the best places in Banff National Park to view the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).