Hike from beautiful Lake Minnewanka to Stewart Canyon in Banff National Park.
Lake Minnewanka is the true star of Stewart Canyon Trail, but there’s some interesting history here. Did you know the Stewart Canyon bridge is where Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum kissed in the 1954 film, River Of No Return? Enjoy an easy 1.5 km stroll to the bridge, then continue through mossy forest for canyon views. The trail follows the canyon’s edge for about 1.5 kilometres before dropping down to the river. While there are limited views past the bridge, it’s a nice escape from the crowds, and the trees offer shade on a hot day.
Did you know the Stewart Canyon bridge is where Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum kissed in the 1954 film, River Of No Return? #mybanffTweet
For the perfect day trip, combine this little trail with at least one of these Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive experiences:
- paddle at Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, or Johnson Lake;
- take the Lake Minnewanka Lake Cruise;
- hike to the coal mining ruins at Lower Bankhead or C-Level Cirque; or look for the mountain swing and old hermit cabin at Johnson Lake; or
- Picnic at Lake Minnewanka, Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, or Cascade Ponds.
Stewart Canyon Route Description
From the Lake Minnewanka Parking Lot, head towards the lake, and turn left. Next, walk along the lakeshore or on the paved path passing the Black Anchor Restaurant on the left and picnic area on the right. At the end of the roundabout, you’ll see a signpost marking the Stewart Canyon Trailhead.
Continue north past a couple small peninsulas and dock. A few undercut sections near the shore are fenced off for your protection (the banks could collapse), so stay on the main trail to stay safe. You can’t miss the pedestrian bridge over the Cascade River. Stop and look west at the smooth, almost vertical canyon walls; and east at Lake Minnewanka.
Many people turn back at the bridge, but if you’d like to go further, you can continue to the left to walk along the canyon’s edge (just don’t go too close!). In about 1 km, you’ll come to a junction. Take a left to keep hiking along Stewart Canyon. It’s possible to descend to the water’s edge a bit further down the trail (where a creek joins the river), but we chose to picnic by the lake.
Return the way you came and keep an eye out for wildlife! Bighorn sheep, deer, and even bears are frequently seen around here.
Stewart Canyon Trail at a Glance
- Distance: 1.5 km one way to bridge / 3 km to river’s edge
- Elevation gain: flat to bridge / 250 metres elevation gain to river’s edge
- Difficulty: Easy – but the trail is narrow in some spots, and the canyon is quite deep, so keep kids close and away from the canyon’s edge
- Stroller friendly? No
- Nearest washrooms: Lake Minnewanka Parking Lot or Lake Minnewanka Picnic Area
- Parking: Lake Minnewanka Parking Lot
- Trailhead: The Lake Minnewanka/Stewart Canyon Trail begins at the south end of the parking lot and heads east (away from the dam and boathouse). You can take the paved trail through the trees or walk along the lakeshore and rejoin the trail later. **Note: Only the first half of the trail is paved.**
Know Before You Go
- SEASONAL RESTRICTION PAST THE BRIDGE: From July 10 – September 15, it is mandatory that you hike in a group of 4 and carry bear spray. Dogs and bikes are not permitted on the trail during this time period.
- A Parks Canada Discovery Pass / daily admission fee is required to stop in Banff National Park.
- You are in bear territory. Review our Bear Safety Tips and keep bear spray accessible.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash.
The Lake Minnewanka Parking Lot is 1.5 hours west of Calgary, 8 minutes north of the TransCanada Highway (Highway 1), at the end of Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive. Get Google Maps directions here.
From May until September, take the ROAM Bus Route 6 (public transit) from the Banff Train Station (free parking!) to Lake Minnewanka.
What to Bring
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Good hiking boots, a down hoody/fleece, gloves, and a windproof/waterproof shell are must-haves (it can be quite windy by the lake). Trekking poles are helpful for hiking down into the canyon, and a GoPro action camera is great for capturing video and photos on the go thanks to its amazing stabilization. In winter conditions wear traction devices so you don’t slip.
You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, a GPS/compass and map of the area, bug spray (this one contains 20% icaridin and will repel ticks), sunscreen (this mineral one is safe for babies), and bear spray. Carry bear spray in a Frontiersman Bear Spray Holster (attaches to your backpack or belt), or Scat Belt.
More Fun Things to Do in Banff
- Johnson Lake
- C-Level Cirque
- Paddling at Lake Minnewanka
- Lake Minnewanka Cruise
- Tunnel Mountain
- Sulphur Mountain & Sanson’s Peak
- Johnston Canyon
- Plain of Six Glaciers
- Experience Banff on Horseback