12 Best Places for Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Banff National Park and Area

Author: Dan Brewer

Last Updated:

It’s no secret that Banff National Park is home to some of the most beautiful lakes in the world (looking at you, Moraine Lake). Once your legs are tired of hiking up mountains, we recommend stand up paddle boarding in Banff and the surrounding area as one of the best ways to truly appreciate the beauty of these lakes surrounded by towering mountains.

calm lakes in Banff for paddle boarding - Johnson Lake

Whether you are out at first light to capture an incredible sunrise or enjoy the heat of the afternoon, these are some of the best lakes in Banff, Canmore and Kananaskis for paddle boarding. Most of these lakes in Banff National Park and area are also calm enough that they are ideal for families or individuals new to paddle boarding.

where to paddle board in Canmore - Rundle Forebay Reservoir

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Paddle Boarding – Banff

You might be wondering, can you paddle board on Lake Louise and other alpine lakes in Banff National Park. Stand up paddle boards are allowed on all lakes and rivers in Banff National Park, but it’s important to be safe and only attempt paddle boarding within your skill level.

While you can bring your own paddle board to Lake Louise, Moraine Lake or any of the other spots mentioned, don’t expect to use private boat launches to get in the water. Thankfully, stand up paddle boards are easy to start right from the shore.

view of Chateau Lake Louise

Banff National Park requires you to fill out a self-certification permit before entering any body of water in Banff National Park. If you are coming from BC, Alberta or one of the territories, your watercraft must be dry for a minimum of 48 hours before entering a new body of water. If you are coming from anywhere else, your watercraft must be dry for a minimum of 30 days. This is to help reduce the spread of invasive species. Read more here.

1. Moraine Lake Paddle Boarding

The most iconic lake in Banff National Park and the one that EVERYONE is trying to get to, Moraine Lake. While it’s most popular for canoe rentals, you can paddle board on Moraine Lake.

Canoe Rental Moraine Lake Banff NP

If you had your heart set on paddle boarding on Moraine Lake, you’ll need book a Moraine Lake shuttle with Parks Canada or with another commercial operator that can accommodate inflatable paddle boards. In our post on the best ways to get to Moraine Lake, we list all the shuttle operators who have space for inflatable paddle boards.

We booked a shuttle with Moraine Lake Bus Company, who got us to Moraine Lake at sunrise. They were able to fit two inflatable paddle boards for us, allowing us to paddle on Moraine Lake at sunrise. What an incredible experience being the only ones on Moraine Lake that early in the morning (canoe rentals don’t open that early).

Woman with son Paddle Boarding on Moraine Lake at Sunrise.

Looking for something else to do around Moraine Lake, try the hike to Consolation Lakes from our 9 easy hikes in Banff National Park.

2. Lake Louise Paddle Boarding

Similar to Moraine Lake, Lake Louise is also popular with canoe rentals but it is another stunning option for paddle boarding. If you are planning on paddle boarding Lake Louise, you’ll need to arrive very early to get a parking spot at this still very popular lake in Banff National Park.

paddle board lake louise

You’ll have a slightly longer distance to carry your paddle board to Lake Louise, but we think the views are more than worth it. Again, given its popularity for canoe rentals, getting there early is your best chance at getting those stunning mountain reflections on glass-like water.

paddle boarding lake louise

Looking for something else to do around Lake Louise, try the incredible Plains of the Six Glaciers Hike.

3. Johnson Lake Paddle Boarding

Popular with Banff locals, Johnson Lake is the perfect place to spend a summer day. With a sandy beach (though small), a short hike, paddle boarding, and one of Banff’s best picnic spots, the whole family will love it.

Stand up paddle boarding in Banff on Johnson Lake

The lake itself is only about 1 km in length, so it won’t take that long to paddle, but it’s a great way to start the day! The views of Cascade mountain are worth all the effort to pump up that inflatable stand up paddle board.

Johnson Lake - where to Stand Up Paddle Board in Banff

 At Johnson Lake there are toilets and a spot to clean off your stand up paddle board. To get to Johnson Lake take the Lake Minnewanka Road from Hwy 1.

Looking for something else to do around Banff, check out these 22 Best Banff Day Hikes with Kids.

4. Lake Minnewanka Paddle Boarding

Lake Minnewanka, also accessed along the Lake Minnewanka Road, is a good choice if you can get a calm day. Lake Minnewanka is known to get strong winds and big waves, so choose your day wisely. Also important to note is that Lake Minnewanka is the only lake in this list that will have motorized water crafts to contend with.

boat launch Lake Minnewanka Banff

We recommend Lake Minnewanka for experienced paddlers or stay close to the shore.

Like many places in Banff National Park in the summer, the free Lake Minnewanka parking lot fills up fast. Getting there early is your best bet for a day of paddle boarding on Lake Minnewanka. You can really spend a day here, as there are so many things to do at Lake Minnewanka.

Looking for something else to do around Lake Minnewanka, try one of the best Lake Minnewanka hiking trails.

5. Two Jack Lake Paddle Boarding

A third option for paddle boarding in Banff along the Lake Minnewanka Road is Two Jack Lake. Two Jack Lake can also get windy, making it difficult to paddle. As with most other options, the mornings or early evenings are usually when you’ll find the most calm waters.

two jack lake paddle boarding in Banff

Two Jack Lake also has an outflow canal which is fun to paddle and will have calmer waters, perfect for anyone visiting Banff National Park with kids.

Camping at the Two Jack Lakeside campground will get you out on the water first thing!

Two Jack Lake paddle boarding in Banff

If you aren’t camping at the popular Two Jack Lakeside campground, then access Two Jack Lake from the parking lot, where you’ll also find toilets.

Looking for something else to do around Banff, try cycling the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail.

6. Herbert Lake Paddle Boarding

Herbert Lake is just minutes up the Icefields Parkway, but is well worth a stop. This pretty little lake right along the highway makes for a fun paddle in Banff.

paddle boarding on Herbert Lake in Banff

From the parking lot, you’ll follow a small trail down through the forest to the lake. You can access the lake right from the banks. Once on the water, you can circumvent Herbert Lake. If you start counter-clockwise, you’ll find a small inlet with the greenest shallow water.

trail to Herbert Lake in Banff National Park
Banff paddle boarding on Herbert Lake along Icefields Parkway

Herbert Lake parking lot has toilets. Though it’s a small parking lot, most people just make it a short stop to look at the lake and then continue on their way.

paddle boarding in banff on Herbert Lake

7. Vermilion Lakes Paddle Boarding

You won’t have to travel far to paddle board on Vermilion Lakes. Accessed right along Vermilion Lakes Road, off Mt. Norquay Rd at the entrance to the town of Banff, Vermilion Lakes has a couple of docks making it quite easy to get out on the lakes.

paddle boarding in banff from docks on Vermilion Lakes

We recommend dropping your paddle boards off near the dock, then driving back to the parking lot. It’s a short walk, but more enjoyable if you aren’t carrying your paddle boards.

where to stand up paddle board in Banff National Park

A secondary option for accessing these three lakes is to start at the Banff Canoe Club docks, at Bow Avenue and Wolf Street in Banff. From there, head up Echo Creek to Vermilion Lakes. Keep in mind that crossing the waterways between the lakes will only be possible when the water levels on Vermilion Lakes is high.

The marsh areas and looming mountains make for some fantastic scenery. If you time it right you can even paddle along while the train is closely rolling past.

paddle boarding Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park

Looking for something else to do in the Banff townsite? Take a hike up Tunnel Mountain.

Paddle Boarding – Canmore

8. Rundle Forebay Reservoir Paddle Boarding

Better known to locals as the Reservoir, this is the perfect place for paddle boarding in Canmore. Ha Ling Peak and Mount Rundle make the perfect backdrop while on a SUP on the Rundle Forebay Reservoir.

paddle boarding on reservoir in Canmore

With calm waters and incredible views, plus easy access to get your paddle board on the water, the Canmore Reservoir is a great place for families and beginners to stand up paddle board.

stand up paddle boarding with kids

Parking is opposite the entrance to the Canmore Nordic Centre along the Smith Dorrien/Spray Lakes Trail (Hwy. 742). If this parking is full, you can park in the gravel lot at the Canmore Nordic Centre and walk across the road (taking extra caution for vehicle traffic on the road).

Looking for something else to do around Canmore Reservoir? Hike Grassi Lakes!

9. Quarry Lake Paddle Boarding

Quarry Lake is popular with both Canmore locals and visitors. This lake with panoramic mountain views is the ideal place to take your stand up paddle board in Canmore. The lake is small, so expect that you’ll make a few tours around the lake to justify the effort of pumping up that stand up paddle board.

Quarry Lake paddle boarding in Canmore
SUPing on Quarry Lake is one of the best things to do in Canmore with kids.

As the day starts to warm up, the popularity of Quarry Lake will become evident. We recommend going early to get the lake with stunning reflections!

With a trail around the lake, a sandy beach, toilets and picnic tables, Quarry Lake is a wonderful place to spend a warm summer day.

Quarry Lake is also accessed along the Three Sisters Parkway (Hwy. 742).

Looking for something else to do around Canmore? Hike up Ha Ling Peak.

Paddle Boarding – Kananaskis

10. Gap Lake Paddle Boarding

While technically in Kananaskis, Gap Lake is just 10 km from Canmore and 6 km from Exshaw. Gap Lake is found along the Highway 1A heading east from Canmore. Like many of the lakes in this list, you can expect to do some work when the winds pick up while paddle boarding this Kananaskis lake.

kananaskis paddle boarding on Gap Lake

While Gap Lake may not have the stunning turquoise water, it still has plenty of scenic mountains as a backdrop and it’s not nearly as busy. There’s a small picnic area, toilets and a boat launch at Gap Lake.

Paddle Boarding near Canmore on Gap Lake

11. Barrier Lake Paddle Boarding

Barrier Lake is the closest lake in Kananaskis that can be accessed from Calgary. Like so many of the other options in this list, the 360 degree view of mountains and turquoise waters is so enticing. Barrier Lake can also get very windy, so try to paddle board on Barrier Lake on a calm day.

barrier lake paddle boarding in kananaskis

Barrier Lake is easily accessed off Hwy 40, just 20 minutes south of Hwy 1. There’s a boat launch along highway 40 just past the Barrier Lake picnic area (where you’ll find toilets). It’s also popular with kayak rentals through Kananaskis Outfitters.

Barrier Lake paddle boarding in Kananaskis

Looking for something else to do in Kananaskis? Try one of these hikes in Kananaskis.

12. Upper Kananaskis Lake Paddle Boarding

Upper Kananaskis Lake in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is another scenic mountain lake for paddle boarding in Kananaskis. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Upper Kananaskis Lake does get quite large waves when the wind is blowing. This isn’t ideal for beginner paddle boarders, especially given the chilly temperature of the water.

upper kananaskis lake paddle boarding

Like many of the other mountain lakes for paddle boarding around Banff, Canmore and Kananaskis, mornings and evenings are typically when you will find the water at it’s calmest for paddle boarding Upper Kananaskis Lake.

The Upper Kananaskis Lake has a large parking lot, toilets and a picnic area with stunning mountain views. To reach Upper Kananaskis Lake take Kananaskis Trail/Highway 40 for 50 km then turn right onto Kananaskis Lakes Trail and follow it for another 14 km until you reach the turn off for the lake.

Tips for Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Banff National Park Lakes

stand up paddle boarding on Vermilion Lakes in Banff

Banff National Park requires you to fill out a self-certification permit before entering any body of water in Banff National Park. If you are coming from BC, Alberta or one of the territories, your watercraft must be dry for a minimum of 48 hours before entering a new body of water. If you are coming from anywhere else, your watercraft must be dry for a minimum of 30 days. This is to help reduce the spread of invasive species. Read more here.

  1. Always wear a lifejacket or PFD. Transport Canada requires you to have one with you that’s available for immediate use, so you might as well just wear it.

    The chilly waters of the Banff National Park alpine lakes rarely rise above 10 degrees Celsius and falling in can result in hypothermia. Know the risks and what you are getting yourself into!

  2. Pack warm clothes to change into and have easy access to your car.

  3. Choose the best option that is suitable for your level and don’t venture out too far. Don’t attempt paddle boarding on rivers that you aren’t familiar with or that are above your skill level.

  4. Always check the weather forecast. Mountain weather can change quickly.

  5. Plan for cool mornings. Even on summer mornings, you might need to wear a fleece top under your life jacket.

  6. Mornings and evenings are your best chance for calm waters.

  7. Always clean your paddle board and dry it fully before using it in another lake.
paddle board cleaning station at Johnson Lake in Banff
Rinse station at Johnson Lake in Banff.

What to Bring Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Banff, Canmore and Kananaskis

SUP Banff - Johnson Lake
We use the Bluefin Cruise 10 ft 8 in paddle board

Stand Up Paddle Boarding with Kids

paddle boarding on Johnson Lake with kids
  1. Everyone should be wearing a lifejacket, parents included.
  2. The alpine lake water is cold and can result in hypothermia. If your kids want to swim, have them swim close to shore in warmer lakes like Quarry Lake or Johnson Lake.
  3. Your kids aren’t going to be working, so dress them extra warm.
  4. Pack all the extra gear mentioned above.
  5. Don’t let kids paddle on their own unless they are experienced.
  6. We only let our kids practice standing and paddling when we are close to the shore and almost finished. Just in case someone falls in, we want to be close to the car where we have a change of clothes.
Banff national park lakes for paddle boarding with Kids

Where to Rent Stand Up Paddle Boards

Inflatable stand up paddle boards are the easiest to transport. They take some work to inflate, but are the best option if you are looking to buy your own paddle board or rent a stand up paddle board in Banff and area.

using an inflatable stand up paddle board in Banff

Stand Up Paddle Board Rental – Banff

Stand Up Paddle Board Rental – Canmore

Stand Up Paddle Board Rentals – Kananaskis

Stand Up Paddle Board Tours in Banff, Canmore and Kananaskis

lakes in Banff National Park for paddle boarding

Keep this post bookmarked as we look for even more lakes for paddle boarding in Banff and the surrounding area next summer!

More Banff Resources

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Best places to stand up paddle board in Banff National Park. We also include the best places for paddle boarding in Canmore and Kananaskis.
Standing at Aylmer Lookout Banff National Park

Dan Brewer, a life-long Alberta resident, calls Canmore home along with his wife and two kids. He is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada, where he gets to share his passion for the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Dan, along with his family, love being outdoors doing one of the many activities they enjoy in the mountains: hiking, mountain biking, paddleboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

When he's not in Canmore enjoying one of his favourite local hikes, you can find him hoping on a plane to explore a new country with his family or working on one of their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.