Backpacking At Lake Minnewanka

Determined to get the most out of backpacking season this year, Mike and I started hitting the trails earlier than usual. A mild winter and incredibly early spring meant that we had almost now snow by mid-April, which allowed us to start spending nights outdoors before May long-weekend.

Very early in May we found ourselves with a free weekend and a real hankering for backpacking. We picked a place that I hadn’t really been that interested in previously, Lake Minnewanka. It’s inside Banff National Park, which is a place we actually tend to avoid, because park fees. Not that I don’t want to support parks (we do) but the extra $20 a day on top of backcountry permit fees is sometimes more than I want to spend. On this particular weekend we borrowed an annual parks pass from Jason, even though we were only going for one night.

We hit the road very early Saturday morning, and arrived in Banff well before the Visitors Center opened (which is where we needed to get our passes for the backcountry) so we wandered around town for a while, and picked up a couple of last-minute supplies (namely toilet paper, which I always seem to forget). When we finally got into the center we were the first in line, got our permits, and high-tailed it for the trail head.

The weather was kind of touch-and-go. There was sunshine, and clouds, threats of rain or worse. We parked, grabbed our packs, and off we went.

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Have you ever noticed how many photos of Mike’s backside end up on this blog? That’s pretty much my view for most of our hikes, not that I’m complaining 😉

The trail was fantastic. It offered all kinds of terrain, from dirt path through woods, to shale cliff-side with panoramic views. The lake itself is glacier-fed and a stunning blue-turquoise color.

Lake Minnewanka has a number of backcountry campsites available, but since we only had one night, we just went as far as the closest one, which was 8kms in from the trail head.

The LM8 camping area is quite lovely, there are a number of sites that look out over the lake. There are 3 pit toilets, and a separate cooking area with awesome bear bag cables, and a couple of fire pits.

We pitched our tent at one of the sites nearest the lake and got settled in. Then we did a bit of exploring, as we’d never been out there before. The whole area is completely gorgeous, and the lake is fantastic. I wish we had gone sooner!

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We ended up meeting some other backpackers, a young woman who was out solo, and a group of 3. We exchanged pleasantries, and later ended up gathered around a fire pit for supper time. Mike and I usually don’t end up meeting a lot of people in the wilderness (I mean, we see people, we just don’t often end up hanging out with them) so it was fun all swapping stories while the sun went down. The weather was actually pretty great for early May in the mountains.

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We had tea, and laughed and told stories, until it was quite late and the moon as high over the lake. Eventually it was time to go to bed. We all headed back to our respective tents, after agreeing to head out as a group the following morning.

Everyone got up fairly early the next day. We had coffee and breakfast, and played on the shore while everybody got their things packed up. Hike-out day is always sad, but it’s especially sad when one has only been able to spend one night!

At least we had totally gorgeous weather for the walk back to the parking lot!

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When we at last reached our cars, we exchanged contact info and since then have swapped photos and added each other on Facebook. I hope that we can keep in touch and maybe do another backpacking trip again sometime this summer!

We really want to go back to Lake Minnewanka again, and hopefully make it out to some of the further camping areas and hike some of the great day-trips in the area. Maybe do some fishing! It’s definitely on our go-to list for quick weekend trips now.

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