Nestled just a ten-minute drive from the charming town of Banff lies the enchanting Lake Minnewanka, a glacial wonderland stretching 21 kilometers in length and plummeting 142 meters into the depths. We had heard tales of its beauty and secrets whispered through the mountain valleys.
Finally, the day had arrived when we stood at the edge of Lake, ready to embark on a journey that promised to unravel its mysteries. We decided to visit during the summer when the wilderness around the lake was alive with vibrant colors and the air was filled with the songs of birds.
The Ghost Town Beneath
Beneath the tranquil waters of Lake Minnewanka lies a hidden secret—a ghostly resort town. Abandoned due to the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the early 20th century, this submerged town remains remarkably preserved, thanks to the icy, glacial water. Indeed, it has become a unique dive site, attracting thousands of divers annually.
Lake Minnewanka’s pristine surroundings are teeming with wildlife. Mule deer, bears, wolves, elk, bighorn sheep, and a vibrant bird population call this place home. Further, a drive to the lake’s shores presented us with an excellent opportunity to spot some of Banff National Park’s most famous residents.
A Serene Escape
Lake Minnewanka also offers serenity. Numerous picnic areas and an easy walking trail make it an ideal destination for a tranquil day out in the wilderness. We chose a quiet spot, spread out our picnic blanket, and watched as the ripples of the lake danced in the gentle breeze.
History Comes Alive
This lake has a rich history dating back thousands of years, with artifacts unearthed along its shores. Further, early settlers established resorts, with the Beach House log hotel as a prominent landmark.
When to Visit
Lake Minnewanka is a year-round destination, but the best time to fully experience its wonders is from June to October. During these months, you can indulge in all that Lake Minnewanka has to offer, from boat tours to hiking.
Reaching the lake is straightforward. If you’re driving from Calgary to Banff, take the “Banff/Lake Minnewanka Loop” exit just after passing the park gates. For public transport, Roam Transit offers bus service in the summer months, with Route 6 departing downtown Banff every 30 minutes.
There are ample parking lots available, including a spacious one for trucks with boat trailers. Moreover, to avoid parking congestion, consider using the Minnewanka Park & Ride or the Banff Train Station and hop on Roam Transit.
Lake Minnewanka is free to visit with a National Parks Pass. Day passes are also available, and a Parks Canada Discovery Pass provides year-round access to all Parks Canada destinations.
Boating enthusiasts will find an array of options at Lake Minnewanka, including canoes, motorboats, kayaks, and paddleboards. Personal watercraft are allowed but ensure they’re free of contaminants to preserve the lake’s ecosystem.
Lake Minnewanka Cruises
A must-do activity is the Lake Minnewanka cruise, taking you to the stunning Devil’s Gap. For the best value, consider the Banff Jasper Collective’s Banff Explorer Pass, which includes this cruise along with other attractions. Additionally, beer lovers can savor local brews on the Lake Minnewanka Beer Voyage Cruise.
Anglers are welcome at Lake Minnewanka, either on their own or with chartered boat services. Ensure you have a Park pass fishing permit and are familiar with fishing regulations. Moreover, fishing permits are available on a daily or annual basis.
Camping by the Lake
Front country camping is available at Two Jack Lake Main Campground and Two Jack Lake Lakeside Campground, while backcountry options include Alymer Pass Junction, Alymer Canyon, and Mt. Inglismaldie campgrounds. Reservations are essential.
Lake Minnewanka offers a range of hikes, from leisurely strolls to challenging summits. Don’t miss C-Level Cirque, a rewarding trek offering breathtaking views of the lake and the Bow Valley.
Lake Minnewanka is not just a destination; it’s an experience that connects you with nature, history, and the mystique of Banff National Park. Explore its wonders throughout the seasons, and let the allure of this glacial lake captivate your senses.