Lake Minnewanka to Devil's Gap
Minnewanka Parking Area to Devil's Gap—29.5 kilometres (18.3 miles)
- Backpack, allow 8 to 10 hours to Ghost Lakes
- Elevation gain: 45 metres (150 feet)
- Maximum elevation: 1525 metres (5,000 feet)
- Map: Lake Minnewanka 82 0/6
Access: From the Trans-Canada Highway at the Banff East exit interchange, follow the Lake Minnewanka Road 5.5 kilometres (3.5 miles) to the parking area at the lake. Walk to the access gate leading to the tour boat concession and picnic area. Check trail conditions and restrictions before you go.
The trail along the north shore of Banff's largest lake is attractive to early and late season backpackers since its low elevation and location in the Front Ranges usually provides dry, snow-free hiking from May until mid-autumn. Mountain bikes are also permitted along the entire length of the trail.
0.0 - Access gate (1480 metres). Paved road through picnic area.
0.6 - Trail sign at east end of picnic area.
1.4 - Stewart Canyon bridge.
1.6 - Junction. Stewart Canyon left. Lake Minnewanka straight ahead.
3.0 - Lake Minnewanka viewpoint (1525 metres). Trail descends and rolls along just above lakeshore.
7.8 - Aylmer Pass Junction and Campground (Lm8). Aylmer Pass left.
9.3 - Aylmer Canyon Campground (Lm9).
11.1 - Mt Inglismaldie Campground (Lm11).
18.8 - Mt Costigan Campground (Lm20).
20.6 - Narrows Campground (Lm22).
22.8 - East end of Lake Minnewanka.
23.8 - First Ghost Lake.
25.6 - Shallow ford between 1st and 2nd Ghost Lake.
25.7 - Junction. Minnewanka south shore, Ghost Lake Campground (Lm31) right. Devil's Gap left.
29.5 - Devils Gap (1510 m). Park boundary.
From the boat dock and picnic area at the west end of Lake Minnewanka, the trail crosses Stewart Canyon, climbs over a low, forested ridge, then rolls along the north shore for the next 20 kilometres with little gain or loss of elevation.
There are many fine campgrounds along the trail, and pleasant gravel beaches scattered with driftwood provide numerous opportunities to stop and relax. The most popular site is Aylmer Pass Junction Campground, where backpackers often camp and then day trip to Aylmer Lookout or Pass. (See Aylmer Pass.) Burned forest along much of the route dates to 1988 and 1990 when Parks Canada set prescribed burns to restore the valley's centuries old fire regime.
Approaching the lake's east end, the landscape becomes noticeably drier and the vegetation more typically montane. Limber pine is scattered among the stands of lodgepole pine, and western wood lilies, brown-eyed Susan, wild blue flax, harebells and other dry-land wildflowers cover the open hillsides and meadows in early summer.
Past the east end of Lake Minnewanka, the trail skirts the shore of the first Ghost Lake to a channel connecting it with the second Ghost Lake. Cross to the opposite side (an easy ford), where you can either wander eastward into the Devil's Gap or turn right and follow a 9 km trail running back to the south shore of Lake Minnewanka. (The extension of the south shore trail over Carrot Creek Summit has been closed as part of a special protection zone around the Fairholme Range.)
Canadian Rockies Trail Guide
Trail descriptions are from the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide (Brian Patton and Bart Robinson; Summerthought Publishing), the original hiking guide to Banff National Park and the contiguous parks.
Originally published in 1971 and now in its 9th edition, this book details over 3,400 kilometres of hiking trails in Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay and Waterton Lakes National Parks