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Lake Minnewanka

Paul Zizka

Lake Minnewanka

The early morning light casts a soft glow on the dark water. Across the lake, the mountains stand stark and impressive against the sky. A lone deer is drinking at the shoreline, and you can hear the faint tapping of a woodpecker somewhere in the woods. A shuffling noise behind alerts you to a herd of majestic bighorn sheep watching you inquisitively. Nature is coming alive around you and you’re happy you woke early to experience it. This is what you came to the Canadian Rockies for.

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. 

Summer

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. 

Human habitation at Lake Minnewanka dates back 13,000 years ... 9,000 year-old artifacts such as Clovis points, hearth rocks and cooking bones have been found on its shores... – Carol Perehudoff of Wandering Carol

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 deep blue of the lake is amazing and across the waters the massive Mount Inglismaldie dominates the view.– Chris & Connie of bigdoer.com

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. 

Winter

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).