Things to Do at the Lakes in Banff National Park

Banff has an endless amount of lakes and rivers to be enjoyed. Many people come to Banff to spend their days marvelling at the beautiful alpine-lakes and surrounding scenery. Here’s our countdown of the top Banff lakes and the water activities on offer at each, so you can make the most of your visit to Banff!

Visitors and locals alike are drawn to the majestic, scenic lakes and rivers in the Banff area, making water activities very popular pastimes there! When in Banff, many visitors plan entire days around spending time at Lake Louise or Lake Minnewanka purely because of the unbelievable scenery. So to help you make the most of day on the lake, here is our guide to water activities available at your chosen spot:

Lake Louise

Lake Louise is one of Banff National Park’s most iconic attractions.
This small, glacier-fed lake shimmers like a rare gem beneath the Rocky Mountains, providing one of the most pristine places imaginable to go kayaking and canoeing. Of course, Lake Louise is a busy place but you can leave the crowds of visitors behind by pushing off on a paddling trip.
If you’re a quick paddler, you should have no problem reaching the other side of this narrow lake within about 15 minutes. But why rush? Relax and cruise along the shimmering surface while taking in the surrounding beauty, including view of the magnificent Victoria Glacier.
If you bring your own canoe or kayak, access to the lake is located about 200 metres from the parking lot. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise also offers canoe rentals from their dock for $55 per hour.

  • The boat house offering canoe rentals normally opens in mid-June, but the exact date varies depending on when the lake thaws
  • The lake tends to be quieter either early in the morning or in the early evening

Lake Louise is located about 57 kilometres north of the town of Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Two Jack Lake

This postcard-pretty lake is an ideal place for kayaking, canoeing, and wildlife viewing.
While you glide across these calm blue waters you have a good chance of seeing elk, moose and other wildlife. Since the lake is smaller than others in the area, the water is enticingly peaceful. Stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges accentuate the tranquil ambience. If you pick up your Banff National Park fishing license, you can also enjoy great trout fishing here.
Two Jack Lake is also great for scuba diving, so sign up for an expedition and see what you discover when you plunge beneath the cold, clear waters.

  • Remember, this is bear country. Food and other food-related items should always be stored properly

Two Jack Lake is located 11km (a 15 minute drive) outside of Banff. To get there, take the Lake Minnewanka Loop Road.

Vermilion Lakes

Many centuries ago, First Nations people hunted bighorn sheep and bison in this area – archaeological findings have proved human activity around the lakes dates back 10,800 years.
Today, many canoers and kayakers hunt for the perfect opportunity to capture the beauty of nature with their cameras here.
The three Vermilion Lakes are formed in the Bow River Valley and together they create a verdant wetland (the largest in the Bow Valley) that creatures such as coyotes, bald eagles, elk and wild ducks call home.
Glide along the tranquil waters as you gaze at Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain on the horizon. As you float through the grassy wetland, keep your eyes peeled for herons, swans, muskrat, beaver and osprey.
If you want to take a break from paddling, you can walk along the nearby trail and read the interpretive panels which reveal information about the wetland ecology, history, geology and human presence in the area.

  • It is possible to fish in the Vermilion Lakes, as long as you have a National Park License – see the visitor centre in Banff for more information

The lakes are located five minutes west of the Banff town site on the Vermilion Lakes drive, which runs parallel to Highway 1.

Lake Minnewanka

This big, beautiful alpine lake offers plenty of opportunities for adventurous paddlers.
Lake Minnewanka lures thousands of visitors every year, especially divers who want to explore the remains of a town that was flooded by the lake in 1941 when a dam was built. But those who love kayaking and canoeing are also in for a treat.
The tranquil blue-green waters of this lake are surrounded by the Rockies, creating the perfect paddling ambience. Keep an eye on the shore to catch a glimpse of a coyote, wolf, elk or deer.
But don’t expect a simple paddle. The winds are often quite strong on Lake Minnewanka and can take kayakers and canoers by surprise. Plus, at about 1,500 metres in elevation, the water is chilly because of the cool wind that blows across the surface.
Additionally, there are plenty of beaches and other areas to explore along the shoreline.

  • Try fishing for Rocky Mountain Whitefish and Lake Trout on this lake
  • You can rent a canoe from outfitters in Banff, like Blue Canoe

From town, head north on Banff Avenue and it eventually connects to the Minnewanka Loop Road which takes you directly to the lake.


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