Whether you are planning a trip to Calgary, relocating to the area, or you are a new resident, there are many lakes in and around the city providing hours of fun and outdoor things to do. With an abundance of pristine lakes to choose from, each offers a refreshing respite in natural and man-made settings year-round. The following list of the best lakes in Calgary provides a sampling of what you can expect on your next outing. If you want to get out of the heart of the city and your Calgary condo or townhome, here are the best lakes near Calgary for your next outing.
Lake Minnewanka Amenities
- Scuba diving
- Lake Minnewanka Landing
- Kayak and canoe rentals
- Banff National Park
One of the most-visited destinations in the province of Alberta is Banff National Park, which is only an hour and 10 minutes from Calgary. Located within the park is Lake Minnewanka, which is known as Water of the Spirits. The 13-mile-long glacial lake is the go-to place for summer and winter fun. During the summer, there is something for everyone to enjoy on land and on the water. Boat rentals are available for kayaking or canoeing, take a tour on a boat cruise, and drop a line and go fishing for trout or whitefish, or go scuba diving and see the underwater sites.
On land, the Lake Minnewanka Trail offers a scenic hike to Devil's Gap. You can also go mountain biking or relax with a picnic by the lake. During the winter, the lake provides a beautiful backdrop for cross-country skiing along the Cascade Trail. If the stars align just right, it's also possible to experience the spectacular Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis.
Quarry Lake Amenities
- Sandy beach
- Picnic tables
- Off-leash dog area
- Hiking trails
When a dip in cool, calm waters and views of majestic mountains is on the agenda, Quarry Lake Park provides both. The still blue water of the lake and its small beach area is an ideal setting for a refreshing swim or splash time. You can also bring a canoe or kayak and experience leisurely paddling time.
The tree-lined beach and lake area provide a quiet place for a slow stroll, or bring an umbrella, chairs, and a packed basket of food and a cooler of drinks for a tasty picnic amid this natural area. Quarry Lake is a partial wildlife habitat for cougars, bears, and other species that make the park their home, which means be aware and use caution when visiting—especially when bringing food. The park is accessible via Spray Lakes Road in Canmore, which is a little over an hour's drive from Calgary.
Grassi Lakes Amenities
- Mountain biking
- Rock climbing
- Picnic area
Address: Grassi Lakes Canmore, AB, Canada
Nestled in the Canadian Rockies, just a short drive from Quarry Lake, are the Grassi Lakes. Surrounded by majestic mountain views and the emerald-green colour of the lakes, the area is the perfect place for a relaxing picnic lunch or to just sit on one of the benches and drink in the view.
The scenic oasis can be accessed by biking or hiking. The Upper Grassi Lakes Trail is considered easy as it offers a flat trail, while the Lower Grassi Lakes Trail with its refreshing waterfall and ample views of the city below and Rundle Forebay is considered moderate because of its narrow path and rocky patches. For non-hikers, Grassi Lakes is also accessible by driving to Whitemans Pond, parking, and using the steps leading down to Grassi Lakes. As with any trail, when you're in a natural habitat, be aware of bears and any other wildlife native to the area.
Barrier Lake Amenities
- Boat launch
- Water pumps
- Canoeing and kayaking
- Rock climbing
When it comes to a beautifully constructed, man-made lake, Barrier Lake is a perfect example of blending nature with modern technology. Located within Bow Valley Provincial Park and created in 1947 when the first hydro plant was constructed, the lake is fed by crisp glacial water. The refreshingly-cool and shimmering blue lake is a prime destination for canoeing, kayaking, and power boating.
The area surrounding the lake offers an abundance of panoramic mountain views, forests, and rocky crags to enjoy while hiking the backcountry, mountain biking, cycling, or trail running. The diverse landscape surrounding the lake is also ideal for a leisurely jaunt on horseback, and the beach area is a great place for dogs to play. Enjoy an extended stay at the campground, go bird watching, rock climbing, or geocaching. Barrier Lake and the visitor centre are an hour from Calgary via the Trans-Canada Highway and Kananaskis Trail.
Horseshoe Lake Amenities
- Cliff diving
- Scuba diving
One of the best destinations for a day trip from Calgary is Jasper National Park where the pristine waters of Horseshoe Lake await. Upon arrival, take the path from the parking area into the forest where you will come to a choice between two trails leading to Horseshoe Lake.
The shimmering blue lake offers the perfect spot for hikers to cool off after enjoying a trek through the wilderness, and for adventurers, the rocky cliffs are often used as take-off platforms for cliff jumping into the clear, cold water below. The horseshoe-shaped lake also provides a relaxing destination for canoeing, paddleboarding, and kayaking past the tall cliffs—some more than 24 metres high and lined by the towering trees of the surrounding forest.
Moraine Lake Amenities
- Moraine Lake Lodge
- Canoe rentals
- Hiking trails
- Cross-country skiing
Located within Banff National Park near Lake Louise Village, Lake Moraine has a 120-acre surface area where it resides in the rugged and picturesque Valley of the Ten Peaks. The glacier-fed lake is known for its brilliantly coloured water, which is the result of glacier rock particles refracting the light creating the surreal palette of colours of blue, green, and turquoise.
The landscape surrounding Moraine Lake features an abundance of hiking trails suited to all levels, such as the Rockpile Trail, which is rated as easy and leads to a natural dam. From the top of the dam, the scenery has been dubbed the "Twenty Dollar View" because it was used on the $20 bill for 10 years. Around the lake are impressive rock formations, sparkling waterfalls, and towering mountains. The picture-perfect scenery and pure mountain are an ideal setting for canoeing, kayaking, photography, hiking, backpacking, and wildlife observation. Moraine Lake is best enjoyed during the summer months of June through August when the lake's colours are at their peak.
Spend Time at One of Calgary's Best Lakes
When plans are in the making to enjoy water recreation near Calgary, there are a variety of things to do such as hiking, camping, picnicking, or even living in a luxury home near the pristine views of the surrounding mountains, forests, and waters. The Canadian Rocky Mountains and its lakes are a must-see destination offering stunning settings, challenging trails, and shimmering lakes to enjoy getting in touch with nature year-round.
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