July 15, 2020. A short, fun, walk/hike in Banff. Perfect for kids.
- Region: Banff National Park. Traditional territory of the Blackfoot, Ktunaxa, Stoney Nakoda, and Tsuu T’ina First Nations.
- Distance: 2.8 km round-trip to Stewart Canyon bridge
- Total ascent: 49 m
Lake Minnewanka is right outside the Banff townsite. As a result, it is a massively popular destination for walks, hikes, boating, camping, and relaxing by the water. In this summer of COVID, we decided to visit in the early morning on a weekday to avoid the crowds. We were very lucky: arriving shortly after 8AM we had the lakeshore to ourselves. We enjoyed a leisurely walk to the Stewart Canyon bridge, then left the lake just as crowds started to arrive.
Access is easy. From the Trans-Canada highway, take the clearly signed exit going north at the same interchange which has exits going south onto Banff Avenue. If you’re already in Banff, follow Banff Avenue north out of town and just keeping driving north past the interchange. If you arrive early, there will be ample parking in the very large lot. Later in the morning you may be greeted by a parks employee directing traffic. Click here for the Google Map.
Have some bug spray handy, then walk down to the lake shore. There are very good toilet facilities near the parking lot. We stayed on the rocks as long as possible, following the shoreline northeast. There’s also a paved trail off the shoreline which could easily accommodate strollers. At about 600 m there’s a sign for the Stewart Canyon trail, and the path transitions to dirt. The bridge is about 800m beyond.
Nugara includes this hike in Family Walks and Hikes in the Canadian Rockies Volume 1. His suggestion is to follow the trail only as far as the Stewart Canyon bridge, and we followed that recommendation. The main fun of this outing involved sticking to the rocky shoreline as much as possible, clambering around on easy rocky terrain. There were one or two places where I could imagine a risk of a fall into the water, so parents might want to keep a close eye on things – but I found that easy to do since I was on the rocks having as much fun as the kids. Overall, it was a worthwhile outing. We had reasonable weather – low clouds but no rain – but I imagine this would be a good option for a rainy day outing.
Click on the pictures below for full-sized images.