Is The Lake Minnewanka Cruise Worth It?

Lake Minnewanka is one of the most beautiful lakes in Banff. Its beauty captures the hearts of nearly every park visitor, and even after seeing the lake numerous times throughout every month of the year, it never gets old.

While enjoying the lake from its shores is satisfying enough, there’s another way to experience this body of water. Enjoying a Lake Minnewanka cruise is one of the best ways to spend a summer day. But what can you expect from your time on the water, how much is the tour, and when is the best time to visit?


About Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka in December
Lake Minnewanka in December

Lake Minnewanka is a large glacial lake just 5km from Downtown Banff. It’s one of the largest lakes in the Canadian Rockies at 21 kilometers and a whopping 142 meters deep. It’s an incredibly popular destination in Banff year-round. In the summer, the large lakes see canoers, boaters, bikers, hikers, and visitors who just want to relax in a beautiful setting. In the winter, visitors flock here to ice skate, snowshoe, and marvel at nearby towering peaks like Mount Almyer and Mount Inglismaldie.

For generations, people have set up camps and engaged in hunting activities along the historic shores of Lake Minnewanka. The area’s indigenous people, the Stoney Nakoda, referred to it as Minn-waki (Lake of the Spirits), attributing reverence and fear to the lake’s resident spirits. Early European settlers would later designate it as Devil’s Lake.

Lake Minnewanka is one of our favorite places to relax in Banff in the summer. We have visited the lake what feels like hundreds of times with family and friends, as it’s a great spot to sightsee. The forests around Lake Minnewanka are teeming with wildlife, including mule deer, bears, wolves, elk, bighorn sheep, and an abundant birdlife population.


When Do the Cruises Run?

In 2024, Lake Minnewanka Cruises will run every day between May 10th – October 14th (weather dependent).


Where Do the Cruises Depart From?

Lake Minnewanka Boat Dock
Lake Minnewanka Boat Dock

Lake Minnewanka cruises depart from the boat dock, which is about a 10-minute walk from the parking area. It’s recommended to get to the boat dock 15 minutes before your cruise departs so that you can check in and pick a seat. Cruises leave on time with or without you. If you show up late and have to rebook, there may be a $25 rebooking fee.


Our Review of the Lake Minnewanka Cruise

lake minnewanka cruise
The Boats

One of the best things to do in Banff in the summer is enjoy the Lake Minnewanka Cruise. This hour-long panoramic cruise cruises Lake Minnewanka. The longer cruises head to Devil’s Gap at the end of Lake Minnewanka and then makes a return.

What is Devil’s Gap? This unique natural feature looks out to the east and the plains of Alberta while enveloped in a mountain amphitheater.

Envision an amphitheater embraced by towering mountains. In the distant east, verdant prairie land peeks through, providing a captivating backdrop. If you are lucky, you can witness the majestic bald eagles nesting or see an occasional bear ascending the slopes of Saddle’s Peak.

Within Devil’s Gap lies a glacial path meandering through the eastern extremity of Lake Minnewanka, near Ghost Lakes near Cochrane. Here is also the lake’s deepest point, plunging 152 meters beneath the surface. To explore this hidden gem on foot, one must embark on a 30-kilometer journey into the remote Canadian Rockies. Though on a Lake Minnewanka Cruise, this can be reached in just 30 minutes, which alone, we think just this makes the cruise well worth it. When you reach Devil’s Gap, the captain will turn off the engine and ask for a moment of silence so that cruisers can appreciate the area’s beauty.

While Devil’s Gap is certainly a highlight of the entire cruise, the captain will point out other points of interest and landmarks along the route. There are plenty of photo ops as you pass Mount Girouard and Mount Peechee.

All these sights are combined with insights into the region’s history to enhance the overall experience. Travelers will learn about interesting tidbits, such as how the Nakoda people historically utilized Devil’s Gap as an entry point into the Rockies, a route shared with early European explorers. For over 13,000 years, Devil’s Gap has served as a vital corridor for both human and wildlife movement.


Types of Cruises Offered

lake-minnewanka-beer-voyage
Enjoying the Beer Voyage

Lake Minnewanka Classic Cruise

This is the most standard cruise and includes a short visit Devil’s Gap. It is one hour long. The classic cruise runs from May 10 – October 14, 2024.

  • May 10 – June 13: 10 AM – 6 PM
  • June 14 – September 2: 9 AM – 7 PM
  • September 3 – September 29: 10 AM – 6 PM
  • September 30 – October 14: 10 AM – 5 PM

Lake Minnewanka Premium Cruise

The premium cruise runs May 24 – September 29, 2024 and includes a longer stop to view Devil’s Gap. This cruise is 1.5 hours long and includes a taste of tasty Pine Tea. Daily departures are at 10:30 AM.

Beer Voyage Cruise

From May 24 – September 29, 2024 beer lovers can enjoy the Lake Minnewanka Beer Voyage Cruise in the summer. This 90-minute cruise runs daily at 5pm and allows guests to enjoy local craft brews while enjoying the views. Guests of 2 are given 4 beers total for the tasting, and you can bring home any unopened cans you don’t consume. If this will affect your driving to and from Lake Minnewanka, consider taking public transit to Lake Minnewanka. This is an 18+ only cruise.

Family Cruise

If visiting Banff with kids, families can enjoy a 1-hour cruise on Lake Minnewanka that is specially made for kids 12 and under. This cruise runs from June 29 – September 2, 2024 and includes a kids journal book, a treat for kids at the docks, and one free child is included for each full paying adult. There are two daily departure, one at 12:40 PM and one at 3:20 PM.


Who Runs this Experience?

Run by Pursuit

There is only one company that operates the cruises on Lake Minnewanka, and that is Pursuit. They are the same company that operates popular Banff attractions like the Banff Gondola, Athabasca Glacier Experience, and the Jasper Skywalk. You can book directly with Pursuit, or book on Viator.


Amenities Available on the Cruise

On Board the Lake Minnewanka Cruise
On Board the Cruise

Surprisingly there’s not much available on the actual boat. You can expect seats with room enough for plenty of people. There are large windows to take in the surroundings from, and and outdoor space to get closer to nature. There are no bathrooms on the boats, so please do your business beforehand, or it will be a very long boat ride. There are public restrooms available near the Lake Minnewanka parking area.


How Long is the Cruise?

boating-on-lake-minnewanka
Cruising to Devil’s Gap

Cruises last between 1 hour and 1.5 hours depending on which cruise package you purchase. We recommend booking the 1.5 hour Premium Cruise or Beer Voyage Cruise.


How Much is the Cruise?

Advanced Purchase Pricing:

  • Classic One-Hour Cruise: $65.00/adult and $42.25/child
  • Premium Cruise (1.5 hours): $74.00/adult and $48.10/child
  • Beer Voyage Cruise (1.5 hours): $91.00/adult
  • Age 5 & Under – Free
  • Pursuit Pass Lite (Banff Gondola and Columbia Icefield Adventure + Minnewanka): $229.00/adult and $149/child.
  • Pursuit Pass Rockies Value: Package Includes Banff Gondola (anytime) + Lake Minnewanka Cruise, Columbia Icefield Adventure – Including Skywalk, Maligne Lake Cruise in Jasper, and the Golden Skybridge in Golden all after 3:30 pm. $299.00 / adult and $195 / child

Book the Classic Cruise Online on Viator in Advance or Book on Pursuits Website

Alberta can residents save up to 20% with a valid ID

You can buy individual tickets for the cruise, but for the best deal, consider purchasing the Banff Jasper Collective’s Banff Value, which includes the Banff Gondola, Columbia Icefield Adventure – Including the Skywalk, Maligne Lake Cruise in Jasper, and the Golden Skybridge in Golden.

Do You Have to Book in Advance?

No you do not have to book in advance, though cruises do sell out during periods of high demand. You also save a bit of cash by booking in advance.



When is the Best Time to Enjoy the Cruise?

Taking photos at Devil's Gap
Early August

Lake Minnewanka Cruises only run during the summer season. For the best weather, we recommend July and August, and for the calmest waters, we recommend booking either an early morning cruise or an evening cruise.


What to Wear and Bring on Board

My Dad enjoying the cruise in his summer attire
My Dad enjoying the cruise in his summer attire.

My number one tip is to go to the bathroom before you board the cruise, especially if you are on the beer cruise. We were given four large beers on our journey, and by the time our 1.5-hour cruise had finished, I was sprinting to the toilets. It’s also recommended that you bring your camera and a windbreaker jacket. Even in the dead of summer, it gets cool out on the water.



Hiking Trails, Picnic Spots, and Other Recreational Activities Nearby

Banff Hikes C-Level-Cirque
C Level Cirque Hike

Hiking Opportunities:

There are several great Banff hikes around Lake Minnewanka. You can take simple strolls along the lake, summit nearby Mt. Alymer (scramble), head up the Mt. Alymer Lookout, or make a multiday backpacking trip out of it. One of our favorite hikes in the area is C-Level Cirque. Which is a nice challenge that provides astounding views of Lake Minnewanka and the Bow Valley.

Lake Minnewanka Hikes
  • Stewart Canyon Trail
  • Lake Minnewanka Trail
  • Alymer Lookout Trail
  • C Level Cirque

Sightseeing Opportunities

If you’re already going to Lake Minnewanka, you can’t miss a stop at Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake, and Cascade Ponds. All provide stellar views of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain. If you have a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, we highly recommend getting out on the water at any of these bodies of water.

If you’re into ghost towns, there’s one nearby! Bankhead is a tiny coal mining town that thrived in Banff National Park in the early 1900s. The town’s coal mine was situated under Cascade Mountain, which harbored superior-quality anthracite coal reserves.

Picnic

Lake Minnewanka is a fantastic place to relax and enjoy a picnic with friends. There are plenty of places to lounge and picnic benches to spread out on. PLEASE remember to pack out what you pack in. There are PLENTY of bear-safe trash bins around Lake Minnewanka, yet every time we visit Lake Minnewanka in the summer, there is trash left about by careless tourists. Remember you are in a national park, and no one is there to pick up after you. Do not feed wildlife.

Other Boating Opportunities

There is a wide range of boating options on Lake Minnewanka, including canoes, motorboats, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. Pursuit also manages the boat dock.

Lake Minnewanka Boats and Canoe Costs

  • Location: Pursuit Collection Lake Minnewanka Boat Dock
  • Canoe Cost: $85 first hour/$42.50, additional hours
  • Kayak Cost: $45 for first hours/$22.50 additional hours
  • Double Kayak Cost: $85 for the first hour/$42.50 additional hours
  • Motor Boat Cost: $155 first hour/$77.50 additional hours/Half Day (4 hours) $355
  • Season: June to October

*Rentals are available on-site at the Lake Minnewanka boathouse on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s best to arrive first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid waiting.


Is the Lake Minnewanka Cruise Worth It?

Sunset on Lake Minnewanka
Sunset on Lake Minnewanka

We have visited Lake Minnewanka hundreds of times, but last summer was the first month we finally set sail on the cruise. We enjoyed the Beer Voyage cruise on a beautiful summer evening and loved every second of our time. I even brought my dad, and as a beer lover he enjoyed drinking fresh brews while taking in the views. However, he did say that the Banff Gondola was his favorite thing to do in Banff (the gondola is always a hit with everyone). So if you’re choosing between only a few activities, read about Banff’s gondolas.

Although we have ice skated, canoed, and hiked around Lake Minnewanka, nothing compares to the views you get from the water. If your budget allows, we highly recommend booking a Lake Minnewanka Cruise!


I Can Only Choose One Cruise – Lake Minnewanka or Maligne Lake?

Many visitors to the Rockies can only choose so many paid experiences, as a trip to Banff can get very expensive. The two cruise experiences are on Maligne Lake in Jasper and Lake Minnewanka in Banff. While both are fantastic, we would tell any visitor who can only choose one to consider the Maligne Lake cruise to Spirit Island over the cruise on Lake Minnewanka. We detail why below.

Let’s break it down: Maligne Lake Cruise vs Lake Minnewanka Cruise


Getting To Lake Minnewanka

Cycling-Lake-Minnewanka-Loop
Cycling to Lake Minnewanka

By Car: Getting to Lake Minnewanka by car is easy peasy. If you travel from Calgary to Banff, you’ll want to get off on the exit “Banff/Lake Minnewanka Loop.” This is right off Highway 1 after you pass the park gates. The turn will be on your right-hand side if coming from Canmore.

You’ll see signs for Cascade Pond/Two Jack Lake. Once you get onto the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Route Drive, you must keep driving until you reach Lake Minnewanka. You’ll pass a turn-off for Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake Campground, and Two Jack Lake.

During the winter, the western part of the road is closed as it’s a wildlife corridor. You’ll only be able to drive the eastern section of the road in the winter. In the summer, the full loop is open to vehicles and bikers. If driving, please watch out for cyclists on the road. It’s a very popular road to cycle, and cyclist deserve their space on the road.

By Public Transport: It is possible to get to Lake Minnewanka by public transport in the summer months. Route 6 leaves downtown Banff every 30 minutes and takes approximately 25 minutes to reach the lake. Show your Lake Minnewanka Cruise tour ticket to the Route 6 bus and get a FREE return ride on the day of your cruise.

This service operates 7 days a week, and the first bus departs at 8AM each morning. Stops along the way include Cascade Ponds, Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lakeside Campground, Two Jack Main Campground, Two Jack Day Use Area, Lake Minnewanka Lookout, and finally, Lake Minnewanka. Service typically starts in late May and runs until late September and costs $2 for adults and $1 for Seniors/Youth. This is a great way to get to Lake Minnewanka if you visit Banff without a vehicle.

By Bike: If you don’t have a car and don’t want to take the bus, a bike is one of the best ways to get to Lake Minnewanka. The Lake Minnewanka Loop Rd is a great road to cycle, and I usually cycle this road from Canmore a few times every summer.

From Banff, the route takes you on the Legacy Trail and passes Cascade Ponds, Two Jack Lake, and finally, Lake Minnewanka. I like to take the first right after Cascade Ponds and go counterclockwise on the road. It’s a bit of a climb to Two Jack, but it’s all downhill and super cruisy and fun once you get past Two Jack. The full Lake Minnewanka Scenic Dr is approximately 13 km.


Accessibility and Parking at Lake Minnewanka

Sunset on Lake Minnewanka

There are two large lots for parking at Lake Minnewanka, including a large lot for trucks with boat trailers. On an average day, it’s not too difficult to get parking, but the parking lot quickly fills up during peak times in the summer. The peak times are weekends from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can still visit during these times, but parking will be difficult.

If you don’t want to deal with parking you can park at the Minnewanka Park & Ride or the Banff Train Station and hop on the Roam Transit (Route 6), which will take you to the lake. Those with cruise tickets can board the ROAM bus for free from Downtown Banff. The bus route also stops at Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake, and Cascade Ponds. Rides are $2 for adults and $1 for children. The bus only operates in the summer from May 17th to September 15th (season dependent, make sure to check dates on the Roam website).


Do You Need a Parks Pass to Visit?

Lake Minnewanka Natasha Backpack

Yes, all visitors need a Parks Pass to recreate in Banff National Park, and Lake Minnewanka is located in Banff National Park. Park fees are as follows:

Parks Canada Day Pass Rates
Pass TypeRate
Adult$11.00
Senior$9.50
Youth (up to 17)Free
Family/Group (7 Persons)$22.00
Day passes expire at 4 pm the following day.

A Parks Canada Discovery Pass grants you entrance to all Parks Canada destinations for a year. For many visitors, purchasing an annual pass makes more sense, as an adult’s day pass is $11.00 per day. The pass also grants access to historic sites such as Cave & Basin along with any other national park in the country.

Parks Canada Discovery Pass Fees
Pass TypeRate
Adult$75.25
Senior$64.50
Youth (up to 17)Free
Family/Group (7 Persons)$151.25

Our ultimate guide to purchasing a Canadian Parks Pass


Recommended Hotels Nearby

the rimrock

The Rimrock

Is a super great pet-friendly option in Banff. It’s close to Sulphur Mountain and the Banff Hot Springs. It’s one of the most popular places to stay in Banff, so book it in advance.

Check Rates

Banff-Springs-Hotel

The Banff Springs

Stay in a literal castle in Banff! You can’t get more iconic than the Banff Springs. It’s beautiful year round!

Check Rates

elk and avenue

Elk & Avenue

Elk & Avenue is right on Banff Avenue. It has a fantastic location and offers a more affordable place to stay with underground parking!

Check Rates

the moose

The Moose Hotel

Our favorite hotel on Banff Avenue, with an excellent location, and super comfortable rooms!

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Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip, we like to compare camper prices on Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals and like to use travel credit cards to hack our way into free flights and hotels! Our favorite cards are the Capital One Venture X and Chase Sapphire, which both work well in Canada and have no foreign transaction fees.
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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