Categories > Guides and Tips

A Complete Lake Minnewanka Travel Guide

A Complete Lake Minnewanka Travel Guide

Exploring Lake Minnewanka offers a unique blend of adventure and tranquility, right in the heart of Banff National Park. 

To help you experience the best things this beautiful spot has to offer, we crafted this guide! Let’s delve into the must-see spots and activities around this stunning Canadian lake, and discover the hidden treasures of Lake Minnewanka together!

Time Zone

Canada Standard Time (GMT-5)

Things to Know

Currency: Canadian Dollar (CAD)
(Check the current exchange rate)

Language: English 

Calling Code: +1

Address: Improvement District No. 9, AB, Canada


  • Adult: $10.50
  • Senior: $9
  • Youth (up to 17): Free
  • Family/group of 7 people: $21.00

What is Lake Minnewanka’s history?

Lake Minnewanka’s shores are a treasure trove of history, with artifacts dating back an astonishing 13,000 years. 

This suggests that humans have been drawn to its natural beauty for thousands of years. The lake’s name, derived from the Stoney Nakoda language, is a nod to its rich cultural heritage.

The story of Lake Minnewanka is deeply intertwined with the history of Banff National Park. It was here, along the lake’s banks, that one of the park’s first resorts sprang to life. 

Over a century ago, Lake Minnewanka became a popular summer retreat for people from Calgary, who would visit Minnewanka Landing for a respite from city life.

Today, Lake Minnewanka’s icy glacial waters have remarkably preserved much of the submerged resort town, creating a unique and intriguing dive site. 

This underwater ghost town attracts around 8,000 divers annually, eager to explore the remnants of the once-thriving resort beneath the lake’s surface.

Best Time To Visit

Lake Minnewanka is a destination for all seasons, yet its true charm is most accessible during the summer. 

The period from June to October is when the lake truly buzzes with activity. Starting mid-June, the boat docks come to life and lake tours set sail, marking the beginning of the peak season.

Also, the ideal time for a visit is between this bustling start and early October, just before the onset of snow signals the winding down of operations. Summer at Lake Minnewanka is a time to fully immerse in all its offerings.

In contrast, the winter months transform the lake into a frozen expanse, blanketed with a thick layer of snow and ice, presenting a different kind of serene beauty.

How to Get Around

Train: While there isn’t a direct train service to Lake Minnewanka, visitors can use the train to reach nearby towns like Banff or Calgary and then use other forms of transportation to get to the lake.

Bus: Roam Public Transit offers convenient bus services in the Banff area. For Lake Minnewanka, Route 6 operates daily from May to September, providing a direct and eco-friendly way to reach the lake.

Taxi: Taxis are available in the Banff area and can be a flexible option for getting to Lake Minnewanka. They offer door-to-door service and can be a good choice for those looking for a more private mode of transportation.

Car Service: For a more personalized experience, visitors can opt for car services or rentals. This option provides the freedom to explore Lake Minnewanka and the surrounding areas at one’s own pace.

What to Do at Lake Minnewanka 

Go boating on the lake’s pristine waters 

At Lake Minnewanka, you have a wide array of boating options to choose from, including canoes, motorboats, kayaks (kayaking ontario), and even stand-up paddleboards. 

If you’re up for a bit more adventure and want to experience canoeing on open water, Lake Minnewanka is the perfect place for you.

The lake is particularly known for its challenging “swells” that arise when the wind picks up. If you’re an advanced paddler, you can plan exciting multi-day camping trips along the lake with your canoe.

Managed by Pursuit, the boat launch at Lake Minnewanka not only allows you to rent small motorboats—a unique feature since Minnewanka is the only lake in the park where motor-powered boats are allowed—but also offers kayaks and double kayaks. 

For potential boating costs, below is your reference: 

Lake Minnewanka Boating Packages 

  • Canoe Cost: $85 for the first hour with $42.50 for additional hours
  • Kayak Cost: $45 for the first hours with $22.50 additional hours
  • Double Kayak Cost: $85 for the first hour with $42.50 additional hours
  • Motor Boat Cost: $155 for the first hour with 77.50 additional hours and Half Day (4 hours) $355
  • Season: June to October

Take a cruise to survey the lake’s grandness 

One of the highlights at Lake Minnewanka is the chance for you to join a lake cruise operated by the Pursuit Collective. This hour-long journey offers panoramic views as it travels to Devil’s Gap at the far end of Lake Minnewanka and back.

At Devil’s Gap, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a natural mountain amphitheater, offering stunning views out east towards the plains of Alberta. As you cruise across the emerald green waters, you’re guaranteed breathtaking mountain vistas.

For your ticket, you can opt for an individual pass for the Lake Minnewanka cruise. However, for a more comprehensive experience, consider the Banff Jasper Collective’s Banff Explorer Pass. 

This pass not only includes your cruise but also offers access to the Banff Gondola, Columbia Icefield Adventure—including the Skywalk, Maligne Lake Cruise, and the Golden Skybridge. 

For the costs, below is a reference for all the possible packages you can have when deciding to cruise: 

Lake Minnewanka Cruise Packages 

  • Classic One Hour Cruise: $61.00 per adult and $39.65 per child
  • Premium Cruise (1.5 hours): $72.00 per adult or $46.80 per child
  • Beer Voyage Cruise (1.5 hours): $84.00 per adult
  • Age 5 & Under: Free of Charge

Go fishing with the lake’s rich marine life 

At Lake Minnewanka, you have the freedom to fish on your own, or you can opt for a more guided experience by hiring a chartered boat from companies like Banff Fishing Unlimited or Pursuit. 

While going for a boat charter might be a bit on the pricey side, it’s worth considering since they’re experts in finding the best local fishing spots. To fish in the park, you need to have a Park pass fishing permit and be up-to-date with the current regulations.

This means you should be aware of fishing (Where Is The Best Fishing Spots In Canada) limits and able to identify the different fish species within the park. Remember, no live bait fishing is allowed in the park.

As the sun sets over Lake Minnewanka, it’s a great time to reflect on the day’s catch. If you’re bringing kids under 16 along, they can fish under your permit, but keep in mind that their catch counts towards your daily limit. 

Like the previous endeavors before, there are corresponding costs when fishing in the lake: 

Lake Minnewanka Fishing Packages 

  • Daily: $12.75
  • Annual: $44.25

Invite friends and family to go camping by the lake

If you’re setting your sights on a camping adventure near Lake Minnewanka, start with the Two Jack Lake Main and Lakeside Campgrounds. 

These are some of Banff’s hotspots for camping (Where can I camp in the winter in Alberta?), so you’ll want to book your spot early. The Lakeside Campground is a real gem, offering the luxury of being just a short stroll from the lakeshore. 

For the more adventurous souls, there’s backcountry camping along the lake’s edge at Aylmer Pass Junction (Lm8), Aylmer Canyon (Lm9), and Mt. Inglismaldie (Lm11). 

And if you’re up for a real challenge, remote sites like Mount Costigan (Lm20), The Narrows (Lm22), and Ghost Lakes (Lm31) are perfect for seasoned kayakers and canoers, ready to tackle the distance and the lake’s notorious headwinds.

Try hiking by the nearby mountaintops within the lake area 

Around Lake Minnewanka, you’re spoiled for choice with a variety of hiking options if you’re into that sort of thing (we all are if we love outdoor adventures)! 

Whether you’re in the mood for a leisurely stroll along the lake’s edge, feeling adventurous enough to scramble up Mt. Alymer, or want to take in the stunning views from the Mt. Aylmer Lookout, there’s something for every level of hiker. 

If you’re up for a more extended adventure, consider making a multi-day backpacking trip out of it. 

A personal favorite hike in the area is C-Level Cirque. It’s a bit of a challenge, but the breathtaking views of Lake Minnewanka and the Bow Valley you get at the top are more than worth the effort.

There are also other trails you can take if you’re looking for options to go hiking: 

Where to Go Hiking in Lake Minnewanka

  • Lake Minnewanka Trail: This scenic trail winds along the shores of Lake Minnewanka, offering stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains, ideal for both hiking and biking.
  • Stewart Canyon Trail: A relatively easy and short hike, Stewart Canyon Trail leads to the beautiful Stewart Canyon over the Cascade River, showcasing serene forest settings and a chance to spot local wildlife.
  • C Level Cirque: This trail is known for its historical significance and challenging hike, leading up to a cirque formed by glacial erosion, offering panoramic views of the Banff area.
  • Aylmer Lookout Trail: A more strenuous hike, the Aylmer Lookout Trail offers a rewarding journey with spectacular views of Lake Minnewanka and the surrounding peaks from the Aylmer Lookout point.

Where to Eat 

Black Anchor 

Address: Lake Minnewanka, AB T1L 1A1, Canada

Contact Details: N/A


Opening Hours: 10:30 AM to 5:30 PM

Black Anchor stands out with its seafood-centric menu, offering a fresh taste of the lake’s bounty. 

Their signature dishes, like the grilled trout and seafood chowder, are a must-try for any visitor. The cozy, nautical-themed ambiance adds to the charm, making it a perfect spot for a lakeside meal.

The Balkan Greek Restaurant 

Address: 120 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1A4, Canada

Contact Details: +14037623454


Opening Hours: Monday to Wednesday 4 to 9 PM; Thursday to Sunday 11:30 AM to 9 PM

The Balkan Greek Restaurant brings a slice of the Mediterranean to the shores of Lake Minnewanka. 

Their authentic Greek cuisine, featuring classics like moussaka and souvlaki, is both flavorful and hearty. The lively atmosphere, complete with traditional Greek music, makes for an unforgettable dining experience.

Three Bears Brewery Restaurant 

Address: 205 Bear St, Banff, AB T1L 1A1, Canada

Contact Details: +14039858038


Opening Hours: Daily 11:30 AM to 9:30 PM

Three Bears Brewery Restaurant is a haven for craft beer enthusiasts. Pairing locally brewed beers with a menu of elevated pub fare, it offers a relaxed yet sophisticated dining experience. 

Their artisanal pizzas and gourmet burgers are particularly noteworthy, perfectly complementing their unique beer selection.

Chuck’s Steakhouse 

Address: 101 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1B3, Canada

Contact Details: +14037624825


Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday 5 to 9 PM; Friday to Saturday 4:30 to 9:30 PM 

Chuck’s Steakhouse is a carnivore’s dream, specializing in high-quality, Alberta-raised beef. What they can offer are these amazingly cooked steaks, ranging from ribeyes to filets, are a testament to the region’s rich ranching heritage. 

The rustic yet elegant setting creates an ideal backdrop for a memorable steak dinner.

Bluebird Wood-fired Steakhouse 

Address: 214 Lynx St, Banff, AB T1L, Canada

Contact Details: +14039859163


Opening Hours: Daily 8:30 AM to 2 PM

Bluebird Wood-fired Steakhouse offers a unique culinary experience with their wood-fired cooking technique. 

This method imparts a distinctive smoky flavor to their dishes (What is Canada’s most famous food?), especially their signature steaks and grilled vegetables. The warm, inviting atmosphere and attentive service make it a standout dining destination near Lake Minnewanka.

Where to Stay 

Tunnel Mountain Resort 

Address: 502 Tunnel Mountain Rd, Banff, AB T1L 1H8, Canada

Contact Details: +14037624515


Costs: $$

Tunnel Mountain Resort is a haven for those seeking both comfort and adventure. Nestled in a serene mountain setting, it offers spacious, cabin-style accommodations that are perfect for families or groups. 

The resort’s proximity to hiking trails and stunning views of the surrounding landscape make it an ideal base for exploring the Lake Minnewanka area.

Hi Banff Alpine Centre 

Address: 801 Hidden Ridge Way, Banff, AB T1L 1B3, Canada

Contact Details: +14037624123


Costs: $$

HI Banff Alpine Centre is a great choice for budget-conscious travelers who don’t want to compromise on experience. 

This hostel-style accommodation blends affordability with a friendly, communal atmosphere, making it perfect for meeting fellow travelers. Its location offers easy access to Lake Minnewanka and the vibrant town of Banff.

Charltons Banff

Address: 513 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1C9, Canada

Contact Details: +18006611225


Costs: $$

Charltons Banff provides a cozy, boutique hotel experience. Known for its warm, personalized service and elegantly furnished rooms, it’s a peaceful retreat after a day of exploring. 

The hotel’s indoor pool and hot tub are added bonuses, offering relaxation with a touch of luxury close to Lake Minnewanka.

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort 

Address: 1029 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1H8, Canada

Contact Details: +14037625531


Costs: $$

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort is a blend of rustic charm and modern amenities. Set against a backdrop of breathtaking mountain scenery, it offers a range of facilities including tennis courts and an indoor pool. 

Its spacious suites and condos are ideal for those who appreciate a home-away-from-home experience near Lake Minnewanka.

Juniper Hotel 

Address: 1 Juniper Way Unit 2, Banff, AB T1L 1E1, Canada

Contact Details: +14037622281


Costs: $$

The Juniper Hotel stands out for its unique architectural design and panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies. With a focus on sustainability and local art, it offers a distinct Banff experience. 

The hotel’s bistro serves dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, making it a delightful stay for those who value both comfort and environmental consciousness near Lake Minnewanka.

Related topics