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Vermilion Lakes

Kayaking Vermilion Lakes Banff National Park Noel Hendrickson

Vermilion Lakes

The reflection of Mount Rundle ripples on the surface of the lake, its steep aspects and dramatic shape illuminated in the setting sun. The bustle of the day is easing into the tranquility of twilight. The lake is still and cool, and you are undisturbed apart from a couple other onlookers also savouring the serenity. As the sun sets, the sky fades from the brilliant azure of day to brushed strokes of pink, orange, and yellow. A few moments later and the sun falls further behind the mountains, darkening the sky to hues of indigo and violet. In the midst of such momentous beauty, the everyday stresses seem to fade into insignificance, and are replaced by a feeling of uplifting calm.

To describe the colour in words is pointless, but the views too, more often than not, seem too unreal to believe – Brendan van Son of Brendans Adventures

A network of lush marshlands and expansive lakes in the Bow Valley, the Vermilion Lakes are a popular spot for locals wanting some easy solace from the lively town of Banff. Offering spectacular views of Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain, the proximity of these lakes to town make them a fantastic place to watch sunrise or sunset, see wildlife, or spend a relaxing day on its shores. Explore the leisurely hiking trails near the lakes, or paddle across their serene waters and waterways. Wildlife such as elk, moose, and the occasional bear can often be seen close by. 

The lakes are 2.4 kilometres (1.5 miles) from the town of Banff, and easily accessible by walking, cycling, or driving. From Banff or the Trans-Canada highway, access Mt Norquay road. From Mt Norquay road, leaving the town of Banff, turn left onto Vermilion Lakes Road, which will take you alongside all three lakes.


Take some time to relax along the shores of the lake as you enjoy the spectacular views of Mount Rundle. Especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset, locals will tell you to pack a picnic, warm clothing, and blankets, and spend a few hours watching the changing colours of the sky. 

In the winter, you might get lucky and see the magical Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) lighting up the night sky. When the waters of the Vermillion Lakes freeze over, there is a period of time where you have the opportunity to see the beauty of bubble layers in the ice. The shapes are frozen methane bubbles, which form when microbes consume dead organic matter on the bottom of the lake.  


If you’d like to stretch your legs, the Fenland Trail is a leisurely walk that takes hikers on a 2-kilometre (1.2-mile) loop through the marshlands near the Vermilion Lakes. The level trail, mostly on boardwalks and well groomed gravel, starts just off of Mt Norquay road or along Vermilion Lakes Road. As it winds its way through white spruce forests, you might spot some of the wildlife that reside in the marsh, such as moose, elk, beavers, a variety of bird species, and the occasional bear.


See the lakes and scenery from a different perspective by renting a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard. Available for rent by the Banff Canoe Club on Bow Avenue, paddle down the meandering waters of Echo Creek and Forty Mile Creek into the Vermilion Lakes. The slow moving waterways are suitable for anyone to explore by canoe. 

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