Hiking Stewart Canyon in Banff National Park

Despite being to Banff hundreds of times, I had never heard of Stewart Canyon.

This is in part due to my hiking snobbiness.  I tend to turn up my nose at “easy hikes” preferring off-trail scrambles where I’m using both my hands and feet to claw my way up a mountain for hours on end.  But on this day I was close to bed-ridden with a bad cough and cold.  OK I should have been bed ridden, and believe me Brewster’s Mountain Lodge is the place you want to be if you’re stuck in bed.  But I was in Banff.  There was no way I could be in Banff and not get out for a hike…even if it was only an easy one.

Despite the lack of elevation, I still coughed the entire way,  but was glad to be out.  The trail for Stewart Canyon starts at the Lake Minnewanka Day Use Area.  The hike is officially 1.5km each way, but that just takes you to the start of the canyon where Cascade River flows into Lake Minnewanka.  We hiked further along the ice-filled canyon, catching the occasional glimpse of running glacier blue water.  The extension is worth it as the canyon is beautiful.  On the return trip hikers are treated to views of Cascade Mountain looming over Lake Minnewanka – and yes I have scrambled Cascade :).
Lake Minnewanka seen en route to Stewart Canyon in Banff National park
Cascade Mountain and Lake Minnewanka seen en route to Stewart Canyon in Banff National Park, Canada

Bridge across Cascade River to Stewart Canyon in Banff National Park, Canada

Bridge across Cascade River to Stewart Canyon

Stewart Canyon in Banff National Park, Canada

Cascade River in Stewart Canyon

Stewart Canyon is beautiful in winter (in Banff National Park, Canada)

Stewart Canyon is beautiful in winter

Despite being an easy hike, I enjoyed hiking Stewart Canyon .  Perhaps I even (gasp) lost a bit of my hiking snobbiness as I was reminded that in Banff you can get amazing views for very minimal effort.

Know Before You Hike Stewart Canyon in Banff:

  • We hiked in winter and saw only one other couple, but as the trail head starts from a popular area, I imagine it would be quite busy in summer months.
  • The trail to Stewart Canyon is well-marked, making it a good choice for beginner hikers.
  • Elevation is minimal.  The trail is officially 1.5km long, but I recommend extending it by a kilometre or two into the canyon.
  • You can find info about Stewart Canyon and more hikes in Banff on Parks Canada’s website.
  • Visit Banff and Lake Louise Tourism for more information about Banff.
  • I also recommend staying at Brewster’s Mountain Lodge located in the heart of Banff.
  • I also recommend hiking Sunshine Meadows which offers a wide variety of hiking options ranging from easy with minimal elevation to multi-day hikes.
Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.


  1. Leigh December 28, 2012 at 5:45 am - Reply

    I hiked Stewart canyon last summer as an early season hike and then continued on the trail beside Lake Minnewanka. I hadn’t appreciated the name of the hike though. And I’m like you – give me a challenge 95% of the time but every so often it feels good just to take things easy. Especially if you can’t breathe.

  2. Laurel December 28, 2012 at 5:51 am - Reply

    @Leigh – I also saw that it leads to Aylmer Lookout which I’ve heard is beautiful, maybe next year. There’s just something about a challenge that is so addictive, but yes breathing is kind of important for hiking 🙂

  3. Sophie December 28, 2012 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Still haven’t made it to Western Canada… maybe next year 🙂 Happy 2013, Laurel.

    • Laurel January 6, 2013 at 6:32 pm - Reply

      @Sophie – Yes, you must go :). Happy New Year and all the best in 2013!

  4. Italian Notes December 28, 2012 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Never heard of Banff till I started following bloggers. Now it’s on my must visit list. Happy New Year.

    • Laurel January 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm - Reply

      @Italian Notes – That’s the power of bloggers :). I haven’t heard about a lot of the places you write about in Italy either, but after reading about them, it makes me want to visit. Happy New Year to you as well!

  5. Zhu December 28, 2012 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    Wow, pretty nice scenery even if the hike isn’t too challenging! I love the picture with the sun flare.

    • Laurel January 6, 2013 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      @Zhu – Agreed and thank you!

  6. David Wall December 29, 2012 at 12:54 am - Reply

    A winter hike followed by a dip in the Banff Upper Hot Springs pool would be a fun mix.

    Even easy shorter hikes like Johnston Canyon in Banff are good to do for the scenery – even if overrun with tourists during the peak summer months.

    • Laurel January 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm - Reply

      @David – Agreed, that was our original plan, but I was too sick to go to the Banff Upper Hot Springs, but it’s one of my favorite ways to relax after a winter hike. Also agree about shorter hikes. I’ve done Johnston Canyon a number of times, but never get tired of it, it’s so beautiful. Haven’t been brave enough to do it in peak season though 🙂

  7. Roberta Loufek December 29, 2012 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful hike! I agree with Zhu – love your photo of the bridge with the sun flare. Wish I was able to do this hike when I was there earlier this year – now I have an excuse to return to Banff National Park.

    • Laurel January 6, 2013 at 6:10 pm - Reply

      @Roberta – Thank you! Definitely no shortage of hikes in Banff 🙂

  8. Sonja @ The {Happy} Travel Bug December 30, 2012 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    I love Banff! We stayed at the Banff Springs Hotel. Have you ever stayed there? But we have only been in the summer, not winter. That would be a totally different experience. Hope to do it one day.

    • Laurel January 6, 2013 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      @Sonja – Me too! Haven’t stayed at the Banff Springs, but would love to. I did stay and get married at the Rimrock though which was nice. Agree that Banff is totally different in winter and summer, can’t decide which season I like better.

  9. Christina February 26, 2013 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    Fine, another Canadian adventure to lust after. It’s on the list 😀

    • Laurel March 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm - Reply

      @Christina – It’s definitely worth doing 🙂

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