Bears in the Mountain National Parks
Lake Minnewanka Area Trails: Group Access
Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park
Lake Minnewanka is on the edge of one of three “core areas” for grizzly bears in Banff National Park. These core areas contain critical bear habitat, and a concentration of female grizzlies live and raise their cubs here. Female grizzly bears are dependent upon an important food source, buffaloberries, which grow in abundance here. Surprise bear encounters involving cyclists have occurred along the Minnewanka Trail.
Seasonal Trail Restriction: July 10 - September 15
Lake Minnewanka Seasonal Trail Restriction
*Group Access legally requires people to travel in a tight group of four or more.*
Group Access applies to: Lake Minnewanka Trail (from Stewart Canyon Bridge to the East Park Boundary), Aylmer Pass Trail, Aylmer Lookout Trail
Hikers - Must hike in tight groups of 4 or more, and carry bear spray at all times.
Cyclists - Cycling is not permitted along the Lake Minnewanka Trail.
Dogs - Dogs are not permitted beyond Stewart Canyon Bridge.
Note: There are other cycling and hiking opportunities within Banff National Park. Refer to the park’s cycling and hiking brochures for detailed trail information. Please check the Trail Conditions Report for current trail conditions and Bear Updates for wildlife activity.
Those who do not comply will be charged under the National Parks Regulations; maximum fine $25 000.
THANK YOU for respecting this seasonal trail restriction and for contributing to the long-term health of Banff’s grizzly bear population.
Concentrations of female grizzly bears in Banff National Park
Over an eight-year period (1998 - 2005), five bear attacks occurred in two locations in Banff National Park—Allenby Pass near Bryant Creek, and on the Aylmer Pass trail near Lake Minnewanka. Both locations are in or near a “core area” and contain seasonally important grizzly bear habitat. The key attraction is an abundance of an important food source for grizzlies: buffaloberries. All of the bear attacks resulted from hikers travelling alone or in a small group who surprised female grizzlies with cubs along these trails during berry season. Surprise bear encounters involving cyclists have also occurred along the Minnewanka Trail.
Measures are in place to proactively manage visitor access to smaller selected areas where the attacks have occurred, to both protect visitors and minimize disturbance to bears feeding on berries.
Did you know?
... that in order for grizzly bears to store enough fat reserves, they eat up to 250,000 buffaloberries per day? That is the same as you eating 60 hamburgers!
Buffaloberries and grouseberries are a key food source for grizzly bears. Buffaloberries are usually ripe from mid-July through September, followed by grouseberries which can last well into October. Grizzly bears on the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies are food-stressed and depend heavily on berries to put on weight for hibernation. During berry season, hikers, trail runners and cyclists can easily surprise bears that are preoccupied with feeding on berry bushes.
Banff National Park is committed to contributing to maintenance of a non-declining and viable population of grizzly bears in the regional landscape. High female grizzly bear survival is key to sustaining grizzly bear populations into the future. By allowing female bears and cubs to make more efficient use of high quality habitat with fewer disturbances at critical times of the year, these management strategies will directly contribute to the conservation of grizzly bears.
While all of Banff National Park is bear country, if you’re hiking in a "core area", you’re REALLY in bear country.
Prepare - carry bear spray & know how to handle an encounter
Be aware - slow down, look ahead & watch for tracks, droppings, and diggings
Let bears know your there - travel in a group & make noise