Seemingly suspended between the beauty of both worlds, the sun warms your shoulders and sparkles against the water. Your paddle weaves through the surface in an infinite flow. From under your toes, a crystal-clear depth billows below all the way to lake bottom. 360-degree views of mountain ranges enclose this pristine lake. If it’s warm enough, the water might just be enticing enough to go for a dip. Going for a stand-up paddleboard in Banff National Park is a high effort-reward payoff activity. Because inflatable SUPs are easy to pack and transport, you can make your way from the bustle of downtown to sweet seclusion in a matter of minutes. Several picturesque lakes are right at our doorstep.
The recently relocated SkiBig3 Adventure Hub (114 Banff Avenue) has everything you need to get started. Such as the SUP itself, instructional ‘how-to’ tips, and the best local advice on where to get started.
Here are our top picks for where to take your stand-up paddleboard in Banff National Park this summer.
HOW TO STAY SAFE ON YOUR SUP
But first, some safety tips! It’s the law in Canada to have a personal flotation device (PFD) on board for every person on a watercraft, including human-powered watercraft like inflatable SUPs. Please wear PFDs supplied with your rentals from the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub!
These inflatable SUPs are intended for use on our mountain lakes. Water levels on the Bow River can become quite high and rapid, and as such we ask that renters do not take SUPs on rivers. The Banff Canoe dock does lead on to the Bow River, however, it is far upstream from Bow Falls and Echo Creek is immediately accessible from there.
If travelling between lakes, please rinse off and dry your inflatable SUP in between. Due to the invasion of whirling disease at Johnson Lake last summer, there is an information board and rinsing station set up near the lake shore.
All of our inflatable SUPs come with leashes to attach to your ankle. Although our lakes are quite calm, it’s a good idea to attach them. If you fall off your SUP, the leash comes in handy to keep the board close by.
When doing any water activity in the Rockies, it’s important to be a strong swimmer and be mindful of the water temperature of the lakes. Even in the middle of summer, our lakes can be extremely cold, and shock and hypothermia are real risks if you’re not adequately prepared.
1. Vermillion Lakes + Echo Creek
Because it is located within walking distance of the Adventure Hub, this is a great go-to for those wanting a quick and easy paddle. Simply drop your SUP in where the Bow River meets Echo Creek along the Bow River walking trail. Enjoy a cool paddle through the trees before it opens up to the larger Vermillion Lakes. Once you’ve reached the middle of the lake, take in first-class views of the Rundle range. Be sure to keep an eye out for the CP Rail trains making their way along the south lakeshore.
2. Two Jack Lake
Accessible by either car or Roam transit, Two Jack Lake is located just outside the town of Banff along the Minnewanka Road loop. Due to its stunning scenery, interesting vantage point on the surrounding mountains, large surface to discover, and protection from the wind, it’s a local favourite in every season. Book a campsite at nearby Two Jack Lake campground to fully appreciate this beautiful spot.
3. Johnson Lake
As far as alpine lakes go, Johnson is your best option to test the waters. Due to it’s warmer temps compared to neighbouring Minnewanka and Two Jack lakes, taking a fall in the waters won’t be too frigid (we promise!). New washroom facilities, picnic tables, and lakeshore areas make this the perfect place to hang out for an afternoon. Access it just off the Minnewanka Loop en route to Two Jack Lake.
4. Lake Louise
Lake Louise is home to the quintessential Canadian canoe experience, and it’s also a beautiful spot to SUP life away. The turquoise blue waters border on neon. Get a first-hand experience of the most photographed lake in the world, complete with close-up views of the Victoria Glacier perched above. Because this hotspot gets quite busy in the summer, it’s best to arrive early (before 7 a.m.) to get a parking spot. Or, opt for the bus shuttle from just outside the village of Lake Louise.
5. Moraine Lake
Lake Louise’s just as stunning sister, Moraine Lake, is open to vehicles only in the summer months and is a short drive up from the village. Home to the scene of Canada’s old $20 bill, Moraine Lake is bordered by the beautiful Valley of the Ten Peaks towering above. Because this lake is equally popular, parking is tight. Like Lake Louise, you will want to arrive extra early or hop on the shuttle bus. (Note, due to Covid-19 restrictions, shuttles are unavailable during summer 2020).
6. Herbert Lake
A small hop up the Icefields Parkway will get you away from the crowds of Banff National Park’s epicentre to Herbert Lake. Because the lake is accessed via a 1.6 km lightly trafficked loop, you’ll have to pack your SUP in. So be sure to bring a buddy to help share the pack weight. It will all be worth it once you’re exploring the waters. Although less popular than Lake Louise, it is best to arrive early to enjoy this little pocket at its prime tranquillity.
INSIDER TIP: While these mountain lakes all lie within Banff National Park, non-motorized watercraft on lakes in Kootenay and Yoho National Parks will need to have a valid Self-Certification Permit as of June 14th, 2019.
Ready to get out on the water? Stop by the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub at 114 Banff Avenue to check out our brand new lineup of inflatable SUPS! They are sure to be the perfect vessel for a memorable summer adventure. Be sure to take a social selfie with your stand-up paddleboard in Banff National Park! Simply tag #SkiBig3 to share your adventure with us.
To help combat harmful aquatic invasive species, such as invasive mussels and whirling disease, Parks Canada is now making it mandatory for all water-way users to clean, drain and dry their watercraft before arriving. Self-certification permits are required for anyone paddleboarding, fishing, or boating in Banff National Park. You can either collect a permit at the lake or river or get one ahead of time online. All SkiBig3 paddleboard rentals are cleaned after each use and tracked for usage, so you can have confidence that your SUP is approved for use within Banff National Park!
You can learn more about this prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species on the Parks Canada website.