Have you ever wondered which are the most epic places for stand-up paddleboarding in Banff & around? I’ve written a guide from a personal experience and included all insider tips.
Stand-up paddleboarding is skyrocketing each year, and I understand why. You can now buy a stand-up paddleboard almost anywhere (I’ve seen one in a drugstore), and it’s a fantastic water activity for the whole family. Put stand-up paddleboarding in Banff on your bucket list, you won’t regret it!
I love how versatile the paddleboarding is; you can:
- leisurely paddle around with your kid sitting on the board and have a picnic onshore
- speed up to have a full-body workout
- try yoga poses or an instructor-led yoga class
- sunbathe in the middle of the lake with a beer in your hand
- take a SUP course to learn different techniques and turns
- paddle down a river when you’re advanced
Now tell me, is there anything not to love? And I almost forgot the most important thing – the views all around you from a different perspective than standing on the shore.
You can see how much I love stand-up paddleboarding, so I’ve put together an ultimate resource for fellow paddleboarders.
100 things to do in Banff National Park
Table of Contents
11 Best places for stand up paddleboarding in Banff & around
Banff National Park and the Canadian Rockies have almost countless lakes to explore. The good news is, a lot of them are easily accessible by ca or a short walk from the parking lot. Stand-up paddleboarding is the perfect way to explore them.
The season for stand-up paddleboarding in Banff is short, though. Most of the lakes thaw in late May and get a thin layer of ice in October. You will make the most of the four months with our guide to the best places for stand-up paddleboarding in Banff and around.
You can bring your equipment and paddle on any lake in the Rockies; no fees or permit applications are required.
It is mandatory to clean and dry your stand-up paddleboard after each location you visit, have a self-certification, and you’re required to dry the watercraft for 48 hours because of the invasive aquatic species. For online self-certification, self-certification stations, and more info, visit the Parks Canada website.
Stand up paddleboarding in Banff
1. Vermilion Lakes
Only a 5-minute drive from Banff are three Vermilion Lakes. Each of them has a wooden pier, making it getting into the water easy. The first two lakes are most visited, especially among photographers. Sunsets above the Rundle Mountain as the lake’s backdrop are stunning.
Vermilion Lakes are ideal for beginner paddleboarders. They’re very shallow, and therefore not very cold in case you fall in.
2. Bow River to Vermilion Lakes
I don’t recommend paddleboarding on any river unless you’re experienced and know what you’re doing, on Bow River especially. But there’s a very calm section of the Bow River leading to Vermilion Lakes.
Start at the Banff Canoe Club; there’s plenty of parking spaces close to the river’s shore. The staff at Banff Canoe Club is very helpful in providing exact direction, even if you’re not renting a canoe from them.
After a short paddle on the river, the wide side canal takes you towards a narrow canal to the first Vermilion Lake.
If you paddle to the west end of the first lake, roughly in the middle, you can spot bald eagles flying around or nesting high on the tree.
3. Johnson Lake
Johnson Lake is one of my favourite lakes in summer. Families are picnicking and sunbathing on the shore the whole summer as it’s the only lake in Banff warm enough for swimming.
It’s sheltered by the forest and has calm water. You can paddle around the lake, try the rope swing, or have a picnic away from crowds at the end of the lake.
You can either take a bus from Banff or drive 15 minutes but arrive early in summer; the parking fills up quickly.
I recommend Johnson Lake year-round and love it for ice skating in winter as well.
4. Cascade Ponds
Cascade Ponds are a short 10-minute drive from Banff. They’re a very scenic location at sunset with public barbeques.
The ponds are small with a wooden bridge you need to tuck under but great for learning paddleboarding or trying paddleboarding with kids.
5. Two Jack Lake
Another short 15-minute drive from Banff is the stunning Two Jack Lake. It’s huge, so every paddleboarding session can look different. I think I’ve paddled on Two Jack the most from all these lakes.
I like to paddle towards the canal on the south end to the end at Johnson Lake Road.
Two Jack Lake is most beautiful at sunrise when the sun rays hit the Rundle Mountain, but I’ve successfully paddled mid-day on calm water as well.
A great bonus is the Two Jack Lakeside Campground. You can camp with a lake view only a few steps away from the lake. If the campground is full, which is the case for most of the summer, you can stay at Two Jack Main Campground if you don’t book in advance.
Read our Banff camping guide for tips and photos so you can choose the best campground.
6. Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is the absolute best place for stand-up paddleboarding in Banff. It’s the most visited lake in the Rockies for a reason, and let me tell you, nothing compares to seeing it from a different perspective when the unreal turquoise water is underneath your feet.
Bringing our stand-up paddleboards to Moraine Lake was one of the most memorable experiences in the Rockies.
We paddled leisurely around the lake without any time restrictions, stopped for a picnic on the shore halfway through the lake, and for the first time, explored the backside of Moraine Lake, from which you can see the famous Ten Peaks.
Important to note – The lake sits at an elevation of 1,883 meters, and the water temperature hovers around 10C. You don’t want to wear your swimsuits here, but rather layers.
If you’re planning to visit Moraine Lake at any time of the year, read our Moraine Lake guide for all info & insider tips.
7. Lake Louise
Lake Louise is twice the size of Moraine Lake, about 2 km long. If you’d like to paddle to the gorgeous beach at the end, arrive early so it’s not windy yet and the water is calm.
Since 2021, the Lake Louise lakeshore parking lot charges 11.70 CAD per vehicle per day (in addition to the Banff National Park entrance fee). Park as close to the washrooms as possible, so the walk to the lakeshore is the shortest.
You can start paddleboarding anywhere you’d like, but it’s not the easiest given the big boulders. We like to walk towards the hotel crossing the bridge, and start at the stone stairs.
See this video for a close look on the insanely coloured water of Lake Louise seen from SUP.
8. Herbert Lake
Herbert Lake is located on the scenic Icefields Parkway, just a 10-minute drive from Lake Louise. This is a great backup plan if you don’t find parking at Moraine Lake or Lake Louise.
It’s beautifully green, serene and calm, surrounded by forest with mountain views, and you won’t miss the infamous crowds of Moraine Lake or Lake Louise.
There are picnic tables, a washroom, and even a jumping board on the lake.
9. Lower Waterfowl Lake
Waterfowl Lakes is another gem on Icefields Parkway that often gets missed. The location is breathtaking, and I highly recommend stand-up paddleboarding here and not just taking a quick picture from the highway viewpoint.
The Waterfowl Lake campground is open from late June to early September, so you can enjoy the area to the fullest and even hike 1.5 km to the Upper Waterfowl Lake.
The nearby Peyto Lake would be amazing as well but you need to hike down to the shore and it’s just not worth it.
Stand up paddleboarding in Canmore
10. Rundle Forebay Reservoir
Rundle Forebay is Calgarians’ favourite paddleboarding location in the mountains because it’s the closest to the city (except for Barrier Lake in Kananaskis, which is usually very windy).
It’s right across the Canmore Nordic Centre, a prime location for mountain biking and cross country skiing. The parking is limited with no washrooms (the closest are at Nordic Centre’s Day lodge).
The reservoir is sheltered with trees, and I’ve never turned around because of the wind. It’s 2 km long and ideal for a nice workout or a leisure paddle.
Heading to Canmore? Check out our post 20 fun outdoor activities in Canmore.
11. Quarry Lake
Quarry Lake is located just an 8-minute drive from Canmore, towards Canmore Nordic Centre. It’s a popular dog park, mountain biking and hiking location, and a summer spot with a beach.
Families can enjoy the picnic tables and a small sandy beach. The lake is only 250 meters long but gets quite warm for swimming or learning stand-up paddleboarding.
Since 2021, Quarry Lake has paid parking: 20 CAD/4 hours May 11 to October 11, and 10 CAD/4 hours October 12 to May 10.
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