Snowshoeing Banff NP – Lake Minnewanka and Stewart Canyon

We drove the somewhat winding road to Lake Minnewanka about a year ago, to find a geocache placed for the Snow Days 2015 geocaching challenge but we didn’t spend any time exploring the area. We finally opted to get out and explore some of trails on the very last day of 2015.

Lake-MinnewankaThere were just a few vehicles in the parking lot when we arrived at 11 o’clock. It was a lovely day to play outside: blue sky and sunshine with just a light breeze and plenty of snow. We took 30 seconds to strap on our Symbioz Elite snowshoes and headed out along the trail that parallels the Lake Minnewanka shoreline.

We covered just a couple hundred meters when I noticed a pair of red chairs perched on a small hillock near the lake shore. Beginning early in 2014, Parks Canada has been rolling out a #sharethechair campaign that started in Gros Morne National Park and has since spread across the nation. As has been the case with other red chairs we’ve spotted (including on the Legacy Trail and Tunnel Mountain), the location of the chairs at Lake Minnewanka was selected by Parks Canada staff because it inspires the truest sense of awe.

We paused briefly at the trailhead information sign, but the trail was easy to follow and well-packed. We probably could have used MICROspikes instead of snowshoes, but were thankful for the float on the few occasions we stepped off the beaten path to take photographs.

Stewart-Canyon

Stewart-Canyon

As soon as we crossed the bridge over the Cascade River, the trail turned sharply left into the woods, to roughly follow the smooth-walled canyon. While the shade from the trees would be welcome on a hot summer day, they don’t add much to a winter walk along the trail. Still, we continued on until we reached a sign meant to discourage all but the most prepared and determined hikers. We stopped long enough to make our way down to the frozen river where we spotted a lot of coyote tracks and not much else.

On our return trek, as soon as we re-crossed the bridge we searched for an established route down to the shoreline. There were so many tracks in the snow blanketing the frozen surface of Lake Minnewanka that we wanted to experience the wide expanse, too.

Lake-Minnewanka

Tracks included coyotes (and dogs), skates, sleds, snowshoes, x-country skis and snowshoes. Some of the snow was smooth, other areas had little snow dunes and a couple of patches were wide open (either due to thin ice or wind sweeping the surface clear).

There was some evidence of ice shifting, thawing and re-freezing near the shore and I confess the occasional “crack” of ice made me a little nervous.

Lake-Minnewanka

Once we rounded the point and were assaulted by the wind blowing along the frozen lake from the northeast, we opted to head across the ice to the parking lot, which was much busier at 1:30 in the afternoon.

Lake-Minnewanka

I didn’t bring a GPS along, so can only say that according to my FitBit, we took just under 10,000 steps in about 2.5 hours, which included plenty of stops for photography. It’s an easy hike up Stewart Canyon to the turnaround point.

Written for 20 Days of Chill: A Dose of Vitamin N (Day 8). The 20 Days of Chill Writing Challenge is running Monday through Friday in January. It’s pretty chill – participants can post every day or just one day. The list of daily topics is posted here. I’m taking part, but not every day. I invest time and energy into this blog hoping to inspire others to get out and about, so it was only natural (sic) that I take part today.

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3 thoughts on “Snowshoeing Banff NP – Lake Minnewanka and Stewart Canyon

  1. Those are some gorgeous photos. Talk about Vitamin N! The colors! That is the one thing I truly love about the winter. The sky becomes amazingly blue.. even when it’s incredibly cold it makes me want to go out and take photos!

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