Aylmer Lookout via Lake Minnewanka
For one of the most beautiful views near Banff, the hike to Aylmer Lookout is a must-see. It’s especially great for shoulder season, when there is still too much snow up high. The trail includes great views of Lake Minnewanka and the surrounding Fairholme range.
Drive to Lake Minnewanka, either from the Trans-Canada turnoff or take Banff Avenue North over the Trans-Canada Highway. Once on Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive, head to the parking lot by the dam.
|When to do|
June through October
Out and back
This is an excellent trail, suitable for all types of hikers, as there are options to tailor the distance depending on your fitness level – and the longer you go, the fewer people you’ll encounter. Just make sure to be aware of mountain bikers on the trail.
From the parking lot, go in the direction of the lake and continue to follow the road. There will be a few buildings on your left and the lake below. You will pass above the boat launch for the Minnewanka River cruises. Continue on the road, as it becomes a path, passing several picnic areas.
The path now follows the lake, but first you must cross over Stewart Canyon (1.6km), before ascending the trail through the forest. Continue on this route, with lovely views out across the lake. Beware of the steep drop off on your right at times.
Continue along the trail, crossing some basic bridges until you approach LM8, a backcountry campground roughly 8.8km from the parking lot. There are frequently deer sightings here. This is also a great place for lunch, particularly if you walk down to the beach and savor the views. From here you can assess if you have enough energy to climb to Aylmer Lookout, or you could also continue on to LM9 or LM11, two other backcountry campgrounds.
Return back up to the main path and cross it, heading uphill. You now have 4.0km ascent with 560m of elevation gain. The path is typically good and dry surprisingly early in the year. Continue on the trail by heading through a forest across a few switchbacks. Keep looking for Aylmer Lookout, however you’ll find you don’t see it until you’re nearly upon it.
From the lookout, there are exceptional views across to Mt. Inglismaldie, Mt. Girouard as well as down Lake Minnewanka. Beware of ticks, as this is a common place to pick them up. Just over the summit are the foundations of the original fire lookout. On a nice day you can easily spend 45 minutes here enjoying the view.
On the way back down, retrace your steps on the gentle route out. You may even be surprised how easy the day is despite the elevation and length.
Watch out for ticks on this trip. Aylmer Lookout is famous for early season ticks.
Consider a boat cruise on Lake Minnewanka, it’s a lovely journey.
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