Banff - Minnewanka Loop
Day 3 - Banff
The plan for the next full day in Banff was to take Minnewanka Lake Cruise, which was the second adventure we purchased from Pursuit. As early birds, we again had some spare time before 10AM, when the first cruise board departs, and decided to make a few stops on the scenic route on our way to the marina. The first one, with a little bit of detour, was Johnson Lake.
Early in the morning, when there are no crowds yet, Johnson Lake is very secluded.
There is a hiking trail going around the lake with plenty of nice views and some very busy wild life
but we thought that we didn't have much time and had only a brief walk not very far from the parking lot because expected to see more on the next couple of stops before the departure.
Two Jacks Lake
Next stop was Two Jacks Lake and we were surprised that even early in the morning it was already rather crowded.
At 8:30AM people were unloading kayaks, bags and boxes with food, coolers with soft drinks, and occupying picnic tables which were not taken yet. Most of them were already taken. Then it occurred to us that it was Saturday, so no wonder that all campers from nearby and even locals from Banff were going to enjoy a nice weekend day and have fun with friends and kids. But it was not our plan, so we moved further to the destination. We would prefer to spend more time at the Johnson Lake if we figured in advance that Two Jacks Lake is no more than just a popular picnic area.
Minnewanka Lake Cruise
OK, there is marina with a multiple boats and a huge parking lot which gives you an impression how touristy and crowded the place is at the season peak. Almost no one actually goes for a cruise; there is a hiking trail and also lots of picnic areas. The boat, prepared and driven by a team of girls, takes you about 15 minutes into the lake, where you can see mountains from the water. Frankly, compared to other boat cruises we had in the past in different countries like Costa Rica or Dominican Republic, this one was way overpriced. It would not be even an issue because we understand all the expenses to cover, plus girls gotta eat, but instead of interesting facts which the area is full of, all the way they load you with a ridiculous story about Minnewanka spirit, created by some fraud "businessman" many years ago, which is even not worth to mention. They even show you some disgusting pictures of "mermaid mummy". Basically, you cannot fully enjoy the extraordinary and gorgeous nature around you because have to listen and enthusiastically react on this bullshit.
On top of that, mandatory masks on a diesel boat make you think "the sooner this torture ends, the better", and instead of wasting this time, we would better take a longer hike where you can actually breath and enjoy the beauty around you. The hike, by the way, goes through a bunch nice viewpoints
to the Stewart Canyon bridge
and then up into the mountains where from places like Aylmer Lookout
you can see the lake from above, which must be just breathtaking. This time we made it only to the bridge, and the trail up also goes to out next time TO-DO list.
After the Minnewanka lake, we took an alternative route back to Banff to complete the loop, stopped for a small picnic at the Bankhead Trail parking lot (but did not go for a hike because it started to rain), and then a few km further visited Cascade Ponds which are right on the way and turned out to be another popular place for a weekend fun with a lot of picnic and grass areas.
Dominating mountains make any place like Cascade Ponds very attractive, and all locals and tourists appreciate them.
More pictures of Minnewanka Loop are here.