The lakes around Banff National Park are a prime place to go for a SUP or stand up paddleboard in the summer months once they unthaw. Paddleboarding in Banff is one of our favorite ways to relax in the park, and it’s often we find ourselves alone on the water. What’s great is you don’t have to own one yourself as you’re able to rent them from several locations in town.
Whenever we don’t feel like venturing out on a Banff hike, we’ll turn to the lakes in the summer for some relaxation. Here are our favorite paddleboarding locations in Banff.
- 20 Best Places to Kayak and Canoe in Banff and Beyond
- Everything You Need to Know About Canoeing on Moraine Lake
- Guide to Canoeing in Banff + How to Rent a Canoe
- Canoeing on Lake Louise • All You Need to Know
- Everything You Need to Know About Canoeing on Moraine Lake
Where to Stand Up Paddleboard in Banff
The Bow River
You don’t have to go far if you’re staying at a hotel in downtown Banff if you want to rent a SUP. It’s a short walk from the center of town to the Banff Canoe Club, where you can rent a canoe, kayak, or SUP. Rental options range from hourly to daily.
From the Banff Canoe Club, head up the Bow River in search of some beautiful natural scenery. While much of Bow River is fast-moving and quite intense, a section of the Bow River is calm and has plenty of space for beginners to explore.
The gentle leg of the Bow River flows into Vermillion Lakes and is slow-moving compared to many other parts of the river. Ask the Banff Canoe Club for the specific entry location.
Vermilion Lakes is largely a marsh, so it doesn’t hold the brilliant blue waters like many other lakes around Banff, but it still makes for an incredible place to SUP. The lakes are well protected by the winds, and the shallow water means that the waters remain calm on most days, so it’s an easier place to canoe kayak or SUP.
Vermilion Lakes are prime habitats for wildlife, and it’s a well-known spot for birders. We’ve personally seen beavers, bald eagles, owls, elk, muskrats, and herons. The docks also make it easy to enter the water, and you don’t even have to get your feet wet.
Johnson Lake is a quiet lake just off Lake Minnewanka Loop Rd. Its manageable size, lack of crowds, and protection from the wind make it a great spot to SUP in Banff. We love it for an evening or morning paddle as it’s not too far from Banff town and very close to Two Jack Lake campsite.
The lake offers some astounding views out over the lake back to Cascade Mountain looming high above. The lake is tranquil and a great place to go stand up paddleboarding or even take a swim if you’re brave enough. Keep an eye out for a rope swing!
Next to Johnson Lake, right off the Highway you’ll see Cascade Ponds. Cascade Ponds are among one of the best places to paddle for beginners. Yes, the water is still freezing, but you’re never too far from the lakeshore here, there are plenty of people around, and plenty areas of Cascade Ponds are shallow!
You’ll need your own paddleboard to enjoy this peaceful spot.
Two Jack Lake
Just a ten-minute drive away from Banff is the scenic Two Jack Lake. Two Jack is one of the most photographed lakes in the Canadian Rockies due to its awesome views of Mount Rundle. Its water is not quite as blue as other lakes in the park, but a teal tint in the right light is striking.
It’s the steep forested banks on its sides that protect the lake from wind, and the surrounding mountain views are fantastic.
It’s one of the most popular places to paddle in the park, so don’t expect to be alone on a nice day. However, it’s also a bit of fun as everyone is in good spirits swimming, kayaking, or even floating around. We love to bring a packed lunch and enjoy our time on the lake.
The Waterfowl Lakes are two relaxed lakes in the park that see a fraction of the visitors you’ll see the other lakes on this list. They’re also very conveniently located on either side of the Waterfowl Lakes Campground, which we consider one of the best campsites in Banff National Park. The two lakes are glacial and have the classic blue color that radiates on a sunny day.
Even if you’re not staying at the campground, a public parking lot provides access to hiking trails around the lake and a classic Banff hike up to Chephren Lake. The hike is pretty mild up to the lake, so we’ve been debating carrying our inflatable paddle boards up in backpacks to Chephren Lake; I’ll update you if we make the trek.
Lake Louise is one of the most spectacular scenes in the world. It’s tough to find a more beautiful scene to paddle through as you look out to Mount Victoria and the hanging Victoria glacier. There is no need for fancy edits on your photographs – the water at Lake Louise is truly that radiant turquoise blue.
You can pick up canoe rentals at the Lake Louise boathouse. However, if you have plans to SUP, you’ll either need to arrive early in the morning to secure a lakeside parking spot.
Or, if you have inflatable stand-up paddleboards, you can carry them in a bag on the shuttle bus to the lake. Truth be told, it’s really tough to beat a SUP on Lake Louise, so it is worth all the effort it takes to get there.
There is likely no lake in the world more beautiful to SUP than Moraine Lake. The turquoise waters of Moraine Lake are framed by the magnificent Ten Peaks for a splendid scene. It’s an iconic view of Canada and, at one point, was on the back of the Canadian $20 bill.
To hop on a SUP here and paddle across the glacial waters is a memory you likely won’t forget. Like Lake Louise, it will take some work to be SUP at Moraine Lake; you’ll need to bring your own paddleboard as there are no rentals other than canoes.
Herbert lake is a small lake just off the Icefields Parkway not long after you pass the park gates leaving the TransCanada highway. Its location and the fact that it’s not considered a real highlight in Banff means the lake remains quiet throughout the summer.
However, the lake is gorgeous and has some phenomenal mountain views from its waters. A picnic area right along the lake shores makes it easy to put a SUP in the water. While you’re paddling around, keep an eye out as there is a diving board. If you’re brave enough to take a dip in the frigid waters — make sure, you pick a warm day.
Bow Lake is arguably one of the most beautiful vistas in all of Banff, so it makes for a prime spot for SUP. However, the lake is the largest one on this list, and its position in the valley makes it very susceptible to winds.
It took us three separates attempts while on the Parkway to put our paddleboards here. So to be able to paddle on Bow Lake, you’ll need to catch it on a beautiful summer day with low wind.
Where to Stand Up Paddleboard in Canmore?
Quarry Lake is a beautiful man-made lake that is where locals love to come and hang out. There is an off-leash dog park here, plenty of picnic benches, and a nice walking trail.
Quarry Lake is the smallest lake on this list and is often very calm, making it the ideal place to stand up paddleboard on in Canmore for beginners!
If you’re staying in Canmore, there are many places to go to SUP in nearby Kananaskis Country. The Canmore Reservoir is only a few minutes outside of town and probably the most popular spot for SUP in all of Canmore.
We love coming here in the evenings as the water is generally warmer than other places in the Rockies, and we find the reservoir is less wind affected than other bodies of water.
Where Else to Stand Up Paddleboard in the Rockies?
While it’s not technically in Banff, Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park is too beautiful and convenient to reach not to include on this list of paddleboarding spots in Banff. The upside is that parking here is a lot easier than at Lake Louise or Moraine Lake.
Sometimes you’ll have to park pretty far from the lakeshore; that’s when I like to drop our paddleboards off at the lake and then park afterward.
Barrier Lake in Kananaskis Country is one of the most popular spots to head for stand up paddleboarding. It’s a beautiful lake and you can reach it in less than an hour from Calgary, as it’s located right after the entrance to Kananaskis. Seriously, when you are heading to Kananaskis, you cannot miss Barrier Lake on your right-hand side.
We like coming here for a paddle when we don’t want to drive too far from Canmore and want to put our kayaks or paddleboards in the water easily. Parking is also pretty simple here on weekdays, and you don’t have to walk your paddleboard far.
However, weekends here can be somewhat of a madhouse, so you should arrive in the early morning or late evening for easy parking and solitude.
Kananaskis Lakes are among some of the best Alberta lakes to visit and are a vast area to bring a canoe, kayak, or sup in the Canadian Rockies. They are a popular place to head in the warm summer months, but their location nestled in the beautiful mountains makes them an amazing site to paddle on.
There is a large area to park and there is a boat launch here. Keep an eye out for the motorboats here; it’s one of the few lakes in the Rockies you can bring an engine boat on.
Goat Pond is a smallish pond up the Smith Dorrian Road past EEOR and Ha Ling Peak. I like to come here and paddle as it’s not wind affected, is hardly ever busy, and is extremely beautiful.
When we are looking to escape the crowds on the weekends in Banff, we head to Goat Pond.
Where to Rent a Stand Up Paddleboard in Banff
You have two options for stand-up paddleboard rentals in Banff – at the Banff Canoe Club or the Adventure Hub. They both offer full-day rentals, so you can take the rental out to any of the lakes on this list.
Stand Up Paddleboard Rentals in Banff cost $30 per hour or $90 for the day with Banff Canoe Club. Rentals with the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub cost $79 per day or $59 for 4 hours.
Where to Rent Stand Up Paddleboards in Canmore?
The best place to rent a stand up paddleboard in Canmore is with Bow Valley SUP rentals. They carry the best paddleboards on the market and cost $55 for a full day rental and $40 for a half day.
They also offer tandem paddleboards and larger paddleboards for groups. Pickup is in Canmore and rentals include the paddle, leash, fins, life jackets (with kids options), pumps for inflation, foam pads for vehicle transport, help loading gear, and local knowledge.
Can You Bring Your Own Stand Up Paddleboard on the Lakes in the Rockies?
Yes, you can! You can bring your own personal SUP to any of these lakes in Banff. If you plan to get out on many lakes in Western Canada, it’s probably worth it to buy one rather than rent it everywhere.
This is given you have the proper transportation to get it around, even though they are smaller than a canoe or kayak, paddleboards – inflatable or not – are quite large.
Keep in mind, to prevent the spread of Aquatic invasive species visitors must now fill out a Self Certification Permit with Parks Canada for any nonmotorized watercraft entering the water. This includes kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. The Self Certification Permits can be found online.
What to Bring Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Banff, Canmore and Kananaskis
Some important things to bring while stand up paddleboading are:
- Dry Bag
- Sun Hat
- Water Shoes
- Life Jacket
- You Inflatable Paddleboard! (This is the one that we have!)
Book a Stand Up Paddleboard Canmore or Banff Tour!
If you are a bit hesitant to test the Canadian Rockies waters on stand up paddleboard it’s best to book a tour!
Are you planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies and would like to know more about paddleboarding in Banff? Post your questions in the comments. We will be happy to answer them!
See our Canadian Rockies travel guide for more articles about photography spots, lakes, hikes, and everything else.
Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Hiking in the Rockies: Purchase an AllTrails subscription to have a mobile map on you as you hike.
- Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Pack for the Rockies: See our complete Alberta packing list here.
- 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 prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards. We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
- 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!
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out HeyMondo, which offers competitive rates for all travelers.
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