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16 Beautiful Lakes to Paddle Board in Canmore and Banff

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Where to go Paddle Boarding in Canmore and Banff

Are you visiting Banff or Canmore during Summer or even Fall or Spring and looking for somewhere to go paddle boarding? You are in luck because beautiful lakes are not hard to find when you are in the Canadian Rockies!

Paddle boarding is so much fun but also super relaxing which is why I love it! Being out on the glassy water in the middle of the Canadian Rockies surrounded by epic mountains is definitely an experience that you should try before leaving Banff.

We spent a few weeks last Summer travelling around the Canadian Rockies in search of the best places to go paddle boarding. This blog includes the best lakes to go paddle boarding in Canmore and Banff that we found as well as some extra lakes from additional research that I have done outside of our road trip.

If you don’t own your own paddle board, don’t worry, I have included details on where you can hire a paddle boarding from Canmore and Banff!

Girl on Paddle board with forest backdrop

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Where are the Best Paddle Boarding Spots in Canmore and Banff

The map below shows the best places to go paddle boarding in Canmore and Banff with your own paddle board and also shows where you can rent a paddle board from is you don’t have your own.

Click here to open the map in Google Maps!

Safety First – Everything you should know about Safety Regulations before Paddle boarding in Alberta

Paddle boarding laws and safety regulations differ widely depending on where you you are in the world. You should always make sure you are aware the local current paddle boarding laws and regulations to ensure you are staying safe at all times. If you don’t follow the rules, you could be subject to a fine which will completely ruin your paddle boarding experience.

Two Jack Lake at sunset

Parks Canada have a guide on paddle boarding safety which I recommend reading before heading out for your first paddle board in Canada. For the official laws and regulations when paddle boarding, you can check out the Government of Canada website.

Wear a Life Jacket or PFD (Personal Floatation Device)

When paddle boarding in Canada, you are required by law to wear a PFD” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener nofollow” title=””>PFD (Personal Floatation Device).

The reason for this is because the water can be really cold here in Canada. A lifejacket is your best defence against cold water shock.

For guidance on the best types of floatation devices, check out the Government of Canada website.

Other Water Safety Tips

National Park Self-Certification Permit

In order to paddle board in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks, you will need to complete a self-certification permit. The reason for this is to prevent the spread of Aquatic invasive species.

You can find more details on the certification process along with the locations of where you can get the permits here.

Best Places to Go Paddle Boarding in Canmore

This list has the very best places to go paddle boarding in Canmore with your own paddleboard.

Rundle Forebay Reservoir 

The Rundle Forebay Reservoir is our favourite place to go paddle boarding in Canmore. It is only an 8 minute drive from town and the parking is right next to the lake so it is easy to carry your gear over from the car.

Couple going for a swim at the Rundle Forebay Reservoir

This lake is really pretty and a little turquoise in colour with Ha Ling Peak and Mount Rundle making the backdrop super picturesque.

If you feel like a bit of an adventure, you can paddle all of the way down to see the waterfall near Grassi Lakes.

Quarry Lake

Quarry Lake is one of the most popular swimming holes in Canmore and is only an 8 minute drive from town. It is technically located in Kananaskis so you will need to obtain a Kananaskis Conversation pass to park there.

Quarry Lake is surrounded by mountain views, Mount Rundle, Ha Ling Peak and Mount Lawrence Grassi and one of the Three Sisters.

Quarry Lake is a pretty small lake so is great for kids but the water is freezing so you probably don’t want to fall in! There are also some picnic tables and bathrooms at Quarry Lake so it is a great place to spend a few hours.

Best Places to Go Paddle Boarding in Kananaskis

There are loads of gorgeous lakes in Kananaskis. You will need to obtain a Kananaskis Conversation pass for these. You can get a pass for a day, 7 days or for the year and can purchase one online here.

Goat Pond

Goat Pond is another gorgeous lake surrounding by.. you guessed it! Mountains! It is a 30 minute drive from Canmore and part of the drive includes driving on a gravel road.

It is definitely more of an underrated lake and not as popular as the others but it is a great lake to watch out for wildlife on the shoreline as you paddle by.

Gap Lake

Gap Lake is located in Bow Valley Provincial Park and is a 9 minute drive from Canmore, located along Hwy 1A. The water is beautifully clear and there are some great hikes around the area.

Barrier Lake

girl standing at viewpoint over Barrier Lake
Kerry standing at a viewpoint overlooking Barrier Lake

Barrier Lake is a little further away from Canmore and will take you about 30 minutes driving. Barrier Lake is a man-made reservoir and is quite exposed so on a windy day it can be quite wavy. There are loads of amazing hikes in the area so it is the perfect spot for a post hike paddle!

Upper Kananaskis Lake

Upper Kananaskis Lake is located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and is a pretty huge lake so can get quite large waves if it is windy. Make sure you check the weather and never paddle out into water that you don’t feel comfortable on.

Upper Kananaskis Lake

Upper Kananaskis Lake has come nice spots for sitting on the side of the lake but not a lot of shelter from the sun, so make sure you bring good sun protection.

 Lac Des Arcs

Lac Des Arcs is located 14km from Canmore in Bow Valley Provincial Park. There is also a campground there which you can book through Alberta Parks.

Best Places to Go Paddle Boarding in Banff

This is a list of the most beautiful lakes in Banff to go paddle boarding.

Two Jack Lake

Two Jack Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Banff and is becoming more and more popular every Summer. We have spotted elk at the lake and by the roads around Two Jack Lake on a few different occasions.

From Banff to Two Jack Lake, it is about a 15 minute drive and there is a small free parking that you can park in. Due to Two Jack Lakes popularity, the parking lot does fill up quickly in the morning so you need to arrive early to ensure you get a spot.

Alternatively, you can park at the Minnewanka Park & Ride or the Banff Train Station and take the Roam Transit (Bus #6).

Vermillion Lakes

Vermillion Lakes is very close to Banff – only a 9 minute drive from town and although the lake isn’t that beautiful turquoise blue like some of Banff’s other lakes, it is still a really beautiful place to paddle.

Vermillion Lakes is a pretty sheltered lake, so the water is often calm.

Vermillion Lakes Paddle boarding

Vermillion Lakes is extra special at sunrise and sunset when the water is at its calmest and the golden light hits it. There are a couple of docks which make getting your paddleboard into the water nice and easy.

There is very limited parking at Vermillion Lakes so you will likely need to park on the side of the road.

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka is a great place to paddle board if it is a calm day with low winds. On a windy day, Lake Minnewanka can get extremely wavy so you need to be extra careful and watch out for what the weather is doing.

Lake Minnewanka also allows motorised watercraft so this is another thing to look out for when paddling on the lake.

The free parking lot is located along Lake Minnewanka Scenic drive and fills up quickly in the morning so I recommend getting there nice and early to ensure you get a spot! Alternatively, you can park at the Minnewanka Park & Ride or the Banff Train Station and take the Roam Transit (Bus #6).

Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake is a 15 minute drive from Banff and is a really small lake (only 1km long). It is a really popular place for picnics for locals and has a sandy beach so you don’t have to worry about navigating annoying small pebbles to get into the water like a lot of the other lakes.

There is also a short hike and a toilet block at Johnson Lake.

Tip: Do not confuse this Johnson Lake with the Johnson Lake near Kamloops which will take you about 6 hours to drive to from Banff.

Cascade Ponds

Cascade Ponds are a group of ponds not too far from Two Jack Lake. They have some cute bridges connecting the ponds together so make for some nice photo opportunities.

There are also picnic benches and firepits at the ponds for when you are allowed campfires.

Waterfowl Lakes

Girl sitting at Waterfowl Lakes

The Waterfowl Lakes are 2 lakes located along the Icefields Parkway, about a 1 hour 15 minute drive from Banff. They are bright turquoise with a gorgeous mountain backdrop and there is a campground that you can stay at next to the lake.

Bow Lake

Bow Lake is absolutely gorgeous but not many people get to experience what it is like to paddle board on its’ turquoise water. Bow Lake is located along the Icefields Parkway and is a 1 hour drive from Banff’s Town centre.

girl standing on the shoreline of Bow Lake at sunrise

It is often a lot colder out at Bow Lake than in Canmore or Banff so make sure you wear some extra layers and have a warm change of clothes for when you are finished paddling.

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is a must-see spot in Banff National Park and you don’t need to paddle board there to enjoy it, but you can!

If you don’t have your own paddleboard, you can rent a canoe from the dock but they are quite expensive at around CAD140 for 1 hour.

If you have your own paddleboard you can bring it along with you on the Parks Canada Bus but once you are at Moraine Lake there is no where to store it so you will need to keep it with you.

 Note: As of 2023, you can no longer drive to Moraine Lake as the road in is now closed to personal vehicles. The road is now only open to Parks Canada shuttles, Roam Public Transit, and commercial buses from June to October. The rest of the year the road closes due to the amount of snow it sees. 

Lake Louise

Lake Louise, like Moraine Lake is one of the most photographed lakes in the world and for good reason! It’s bright turquoise water with the mountainous backdrop is like something out of a dream!

Lake Louise gets a lot more busy than Moraine Lake due to the accessibility but you can try to get a spot in the parking lot if you get there super early in the morning. Otherwise, I recommend booking the Parks Canada Bus so that you don’t have to worry about parking.

Alternatively, you could stay at the Deer Lodge Lake Louise or the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise which are both within walking distance to the lake.

Best Places to Rent Paddleboards in Canmore & Kananaskis

Best Places to Rent Paddleboards in Banff

Amazing Paddleboard Tour in Canmore and Banff

The Bow River in Canmore is one of the most stunning photogenic rivers in the world. It is bright turquoise and surrounded by picturesque mountains and pine forests. This 3 hour stand up paddle boarding tour takes you on an adventure that you will never forget!

Alternatively, if you don’t have any prior paddle boarding experience, this Intro to Paddle boarding tour might be the better choice for you. Your guide will meet you at Johnson Lake and give you a personalised national park tour by water.

What to Bring with you when Paddle Boarding in the Canadian Rockies

How to Travel with an Inflatable Paddle Board

If you are wanting to purchase a paddleboard to take on road trips or even travel further on a plane with it, I highly recommend purchase an inflatable paddleboard. We have 2 inflatable paddleboards and they are so awesome to take on road trips and they fit into their own backpacks.

If you do get an inflatable paddleboard, I highly recommend investing in an electric pump as the hand held pumps are quite exhausting to use and the electric ones are SO much faster!

Girl on Paddle board

Reasons to choose an Inflatable Paddleboard

  • They fit into their own backpack so you can pack them into your car easily.
  • Because they have their own backpack, you can actually hike with them up to locations that you wouldn’t usually be able to bring a paddle board to. They are heavy, so you don’t want to hike too far but short distances work well!
  • If you live in an apartment like us, they fit nicely into a small corner of Dave’s office! If inflatable paddle boards didn’t exist, we definitely wouldn’t have one!

Other Things to Do in Canmore and Banff

If you are visiting Canmore and/or Banff, there is SO much more do see and do than just paddle boarding. You could spend one adventure packed day in Canmore, or you could venture out further to the Icefields Parkway.

Visit Some of the Stops Along the Icefields Parkway

Couple kissing in front of Mistaya Canyon on the Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic roads in the world and if you have time, you definitely need to add it to your Banff bucket list! There are loads of beautiful stops along the Icefields Parkway, some hikes and some road side viewpoints. It is a great day out for the whole family!

Visit the Must-See Sights of Banff in a Day

You can’t visit the Rockies without, seeing some of the most beautiful parts of it! This “How to Spend One Day in Banff Guide” lists all of the things that we would do if we only had one day in Banff.

If you are planning a trip to Banff or Canmore, you might also enjoy these guides:

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