Friday, October 28, 2016

Stewart Canyon

Trip Date: October 2016

Stewart Canyon is a family-friendly hike in Banff National Park. Up until recently I had avoided this hike due to the overwhelming crowds, but recently I found myself in Banff with a couple of hours to spare so I thought I'd give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised with the beauty offered by this hike and in the middle of October I basically had the entire place to myself! The hike is 1.5km one-way, but that distance can be easily extended. The elevation gain is negligible, which makes it perfect for an easy outing. The trailhead for this hike is the Lake Minnewanka Day-Use Area.

Lake Minnewanka definitely isn't hard on the eyes!
Before reaching the trailhead you'll pass a set of Parks Canada's Red Chairs on Minnewanka's shoreline. You can read all about the Red Chair Program right here.
The trailhead for Stewart Canyon
The trail follows the Lake Minnewanka shoreline and ends at a bridge that spans the steep walls of Stewart Canyon. Beneath the bridge the Cascade River flows into Lake Minnewanka. Officially this marks the end of the Stewart Canyon Trail, but is also the beginning of the Minnewanka Shoreline Trail, which continues for another 15km until reaching the backcountry warden's cabin.

A typical section of the trail
Another section of the trail with a great view of Mount Inglismaldie
The bridge that spans Stewart Canyon
Looking up Stewart Canyon
The Cascade River flowing into Lake Minnewanka
Just past the bridge you will find an unofficial trail junction. Going right will keep you on the Minnewanka Shoreline Trail while heading left will take you on a more rugged trail atop the eastern side of Stewart Canyon. I opted to go left and trekked along a trail that featured great views of the crystal clear water of the Cascade River far below. After approximately 1.2km the trail abruptly drops down to a boulder field with a shallow creek running through it. From here it's easy to rock-hop your way down to the Cascade River and is a perfect spot to stop for awhile. Due to my late start, the quickly fading light, and the ever-present threat of rain this was also my turnaround point. I spent a short while relaxing by the river and snapping a few photos before hitting the trail once again and heading for home.

The boulder field with the Cascade River down below
The Cascade River flowing beneath Mount Astley
Keep in mind that the Minnewanka Shoreline Trail is a multi-use trail and is open to other recrationalists other than just hikers. There is also an seasonal restriction in place from July 10 to September 15, so be sure to check the trail report before heading out.

The setting sun made for some interesting light at dusk
Sunset in the Rockies
If you're like me and want to avoid the crowds give this hike a try in shoulder season or maybe even in the winter for a completely difference perspective on things.

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