The glacier-fed Lake Minnewanka lies just minutes from the town of Banff, and the sight of the Canadian Rockies jutting straight up out of the 17-mile-long body of water proves breathtaking. Lake Minnewanka is the perfect location to begin exploring the wilderness protected by both Banff National Park and the larger Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage site.
Cruises operate around the lake during the summer, but there are plenty of other ways to get out on the water. Minnewanka is the only lake in the Banff area to allow privately operated motorboats, and there are 16-foot aluminum boats available for rental as well. For a more authentic adventure, canoe rentals provide the opportunity to explore for a day or more, as several backcountry campgrounds are located around the lake. Setting out on the area’s trails is definitely worth the effort, too, even if it’s only to complete the two-mile stroll to the Stewart Canyon Bridge that spans the Cascade River. The bridge has no true historical significance, but movie buffs will recognize it from the famous kiss scene in the 1954 blockbuster River of No Return, featuring Marilyn Monroe. Following the same trail, hikers have several options, including a relatively flat 15.5-mile trek to Devil’s Gap and a steep eight-mile hike to Aylmer Pass. Mountain bikers are welcome on the Devil’s Gap trail until mid-June, when grizzly bears become more common in the area.