20140601: Lake Minnewanka (Banff) 44km

Reasons for doing Minnewanka this weekend:

  • Everyone else doing the Calgary Marathon and races means a quiet trail!
  • May as well get some more use out of my Parks pass
  • Hankering for something low key and beautiful
  • Nearly the only trail that Parks says is in good condition right now during spring melt
  • Leisurely start at 10am at the trailhead. Gorgeous day.

    First views of Minnewanka from near the trailhead
    First views of Minnewanka from near the trailhead

    Minnewanka is a major tourist draw but the parking lot’s not too full this morning. The trailhead’s near the dam and you can hike or bike all the way to wherever you please, as is often the case in the Rockies. My objective is the end of the lake for an out and back total of 44km. Past Stewart Canyon a couple km’s into the trail, I see only a couple hikers and then a couple backpackers and quickly I get looong stretches of trail all to myself. All day there are only a few mountain bike groups. All in all a very quiet day for Minnewanka.

    Mt. Rundle at the front of the lake.
    Rewarding views almost immediately. The view of Mt. Rundle at the front of the lake (the dam).
    The north shore trail follows the 22km long lake all the way to the Narrows.
    The north shore trail follows the 22km long lake all the way to the Narrows/ Devil’s Gap.
    The trail meanders up and down and passes several gravel beaches and campsites.
    The trail meanders up and down and passes several gravel beaches and campsites.
    One of the few wooded sections
    One of the few wooded sections. I’m grateful for the shade; it’s starting to get hot out!
    Seasonal trail restrictions normally start June 10 but this year the bears are out early.
    At Alymer’s Pass junction. (avalanche hazard, travel not recommended today). Seasonal trail restrictions normally start June 10 but this year the bears are out early. My bear spray is, yep, handy.
    Some of the wildflowers are already blooming, what a treat. A few more weeks and they'll be out in full force.
    Some of the wildflowers are already blooming, what a treat. A few more weeks and they’ll be out in full force.
    A couple of sheep hanging out at the mouth of a steam. It's not uncommon to see them around this area.
    A couple of sheep hanging out at the mouth of a stream. It’s not uncommon to see them around this area.

    Looking back at Aylmer.
    Looking back at Aylmer.

    Phewwweee! Made it to the end of the lake, 22km. Now I gotta retrace my steps back. Next time with more time I'll continue on to the Ghost Lakes.
    Phewwweee! Made it to the end of the lake, 22km, where it narrows and connects to the Ghost Lakes. Now I gotta retrace my steps back. Next time with more time I’ll continue on.

    Not that anyone’s asking me, but, that schematic is way off scale. I’m tired but can appreciate the hilarity of a 50m campsite extending nearly all the way back to Banff according to the ‘map’. And the 22km I’ve just done looks to be three times shorter than the 9km left to Devil’s Gap.

    I do some bear calls as I run and around the corner I hear some sudden rockfall. Must be the sheep... And sure enough...
    I do some bear calls as I run and around the corner I hear some sudden rockfall. Must be the sheep… And sure enough…
    It's the same pair as before. I estimate they've walked about 7km since I last saw them.
    It’s the same pair as before. I estimate they’ve walked about 7km since I last saw them.
    The darker one heads down the scree onto the trail right in front of me. And walk towards me. Yikes.
    The darker one heads down the scree onto the trail right in front of me. And walks towards me. Yikes.
    But they continue on down the slope to the lake shore. I'm running out of time, so I head off. Goodbye, Sheep.
    But the continue on down the slope to the lake shore and we walk alongside each other for a bit. But I’m running out of time, so I head off. Goodbye, Sheep.

    Ahh I love the mountains.

    “For more than 100 centuries, people hunted and camped along the original shores of Lake Minnewanka. The Stoney people called it “Minn-waki” or “Lake of the Spirits”. They respected and feared this lake for its resident spirits. The Early Europeans called it Devil’s Lake.” More about the history of the lake from Parks Canada here.

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