Hike Here This Weekend: Aylmer Lookout

The well-groomed trail and calming views of Lake Minnewanka surrounded by rugged mountain peaks are everything you want in a view, making this long day surprisingly easy.

Panoramic views of Lake Minnewanka atop Aylmer Lookout.
Panoramic views of Lake Minnewanka atop Aylmer Lookout. Photograph by Rebecca Middlebrook.

Name of hike: Aylmer Lookout

The area: Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park

Elevation gain: 575 metres

Distance: 23.2 kilometres round-trip

Difficulty: Moderate because of distance

What to bring

As well as ample food and water, make sure you have a few extra layers of clothing in your backpack. Weather in the mountains is changeable, so be prepared for anything. (Yup, it still snows in the summer.) Also remember that you are in bear country and bear spray is mandatory on this hike. This is especially important if you’re planning on hiking this after July 10 as the bear activity and chance of encounters increases.

Keep in mind

Expect to encounter mountain bikers before July 10. After July 10 access to Aylmer Lookout is limited: cyclist and dogs aren’t allow and you must travel in groups of four or more. The area is rich with berries and attracts grizzly bears and their cubs.

How to get there



The hike

Park at the Lake Minnewanka parking lot and walk past the Black Anchor snack shop and all the picnicking areas to get to the trail. At 1.4 kilometre, you’ll cross the Steward Canyon bridge and continue on, following the clear signs for Aylmer Lookout.

The first 7.6 kilometres has small climbs and descents along the trail, adding to a gross elevation gain of 266 metres. The view changes constantly, but the lake is always on the right. The trail is well groomed but expect to step over roots, rocks and across the occasional wash. At one point, you will walk along a narrow path that drops sharply on the side.

At 7.6 kilometre, you hit a junction. Follow the signs for Aylmer Lookout. The 4 kilometre trail starts steep. You’ll gain 397 metres before coming to an intersection at 2.3 kilometres for Aylmer Pass and Lookout. Keep right and continue up.

The climb lessens as you travel along the side of the mountain, occasionally gaining views of Lake Minnewanka through the forest. The final ascent has a couple switchbacks and is fairly steep. In one kilometre you gain the final 160 metres. Here you will be assaulted by strong winds and breathtaking views of Lake Minnewanka wrapping around Mount Inglismaldie and Mount Girouard. If you look to the right, you can see the Banff townsite in the distance.

For more information on this hike, visit banff.ca


Photograph by Rebecca Middlebrook

From the Lake Minnewanka parking lot, walk on the paved pathway until you reach the end of the picnicking area.


Photograph by Rebecca Middlebrook

The sign at the trailhead.


Photograph by Rebecca Middlebrook

Cross Steward Canyon Bridge and continue on the well-marked trail.


Photograph by Rebecca Middlebrook

You’ll pop in and out of the forest, catching glimpses and occasional uninterrupted views of Lake Minnewanka on the right.


Photograph by Rebecca Middlebrook

Fill up with water after crossing this creek.


Photograph by Rebecca Middlebrook

The trailhead is clearly marked, along with warnings of bear activity.


Photograph by Rebecca Middlebrook

The first ~400 metres of the trail up is a steep, quiet walk through the woods on a well-groomed trail.


Photograph by Rebecca Middlebrook

After you turn right at the junction for Aylmer Lookout and Pass, the trail opens up and Lake Minnewanka is steadily visible.


Photograph by Rebecca Middlebrook

The final approach to the lookout is straight and steep.

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