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Visiting Moraine Lake

If you’re planning a visit to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies, a visit to the famous Moraine Lake should be at the top of your list. I have traveled all over the world, and there are few places that rival the beauty of Moraine Lake. Although Moraine Lake is only half the size of it’s neighbor, Lake Louise, it is just as beautiful, if not more beautiful! The photos that I took at Moraine Lake have gone viral on the internet, and been featured in a number of publications, and yet they still don’t do justice to the beauty of this Canadian lake. A visit here is definitely one of the top items on my 3 Days in Banff itinerary

Moraine Lake is a glacier-fed lake, with the Canadian Rockies clearly reflected in the bright blue hues. The view is so iconic that it was even featured on the old Canadian $20 bill. Read on to find out everything you need to know about visiting this lake!

girl on log at moraine lake banff national park canada
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park Canada
girl at lake in banff national park
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park Canada

Where is Moraine Lake?

The lake is located in Banff National Park, just 8.5 miles (or 14 kilometers) outside the Village of Lake Louise. Located in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, the lake is at an elevation of approximately 6181 feet (1,884 meters). The easiest way to get to Banff, unless you are driving, is to fly to Calgary International Airport. From here you can rent a car, as it is about a 90 minute drive from Calgary to Banff.

girl on log at moraine lake banff national park canada

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What Time to Visit Moraine Lake

I recommend visiting Moraine Lake for either sunrise or sunset, in order to capture the perfect reflection of the mountains in the water. We arrived at 5:30 pm and the lighting was absolutely perfect!  It is said that the afternoons tend to be windier, so you may have better luck arriving earlier. 

Taking the shuttle to Moraine Lake

Unfortunately you are no longer allowed to bring your private car into the parking lot at Moraine Lake. This means that you’ll either need to join a tour or hop on the shuttle. Shuttle reservations cost $8 each way and must be made in advance on the Parks Canada website.

The shuttle runs daily from June to October from 6:30am to 7:30pm.

Moraine Lake Bus Company and Fairview Limousine also offer shuttles to Moraine Lake for sunrise if that interests you.

When to Visit Moraine Lake

While the lake is technically open year round, but there are only a few months out of the year that the service road to the parking lot is open. The Moraine Lake Road is only open from mid-May to mid-October due to an avalanche risk. It is still possible to enter via snowshoe or cross country skis, but know that this is a risk and I don’t necessarily recommend!

The summer months, specifically July and August, are the best time to visit Moraine Lake, as the water will have melted, and you will experience the crystal blue water in all of its glory. You may be surprised if you visit in May and find that the lake is still frozen over. Additionally, the water levels remain low until late June, when the glacier above that feeds the lake starts to melt. 

I visited in early September, and experienced a perfect day on the lake without too many crowds. However, this is definitely a risk as well, as the next day there was a snowstorm. 

woman in blue jacket on log at moraine lake banff national park canada
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park Canada
Picturesque views of the magnificent Moraine Lake
Picturesque views of the magnificent Moraine Lake

Best Things to Do at Moraine Lake

Rent a Canoe

Canoe rentals are available at the lake from July 1st to mid-September. Rentals start at 80 CAD ($59 USD) plus tax for a one hour canoe rental. A paddle and life jackets are provided. Each boat can accommodate up to 3 people. Boats are available on a first-come basis, as reservations are not available. 

Hike the Trails around the lake 

There are a number of trails around the lake, but you won’t need to go far to get the best view of the lake!

Rockpile Trail – the rockpile trail is probably the easiest trail at Moraine Lake. While it is not much of a hike, it is worth mentioning as the views from the top are some of the best in the world. 

Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail – The Lake Shoreline trail is an easy trail that originates by the Moraine Lake lodge. The trail follows the lake shore for approximately 1.5 km, with no elevation gain. 

Consolation Lakes – a 3.6 mile trail starting at the lake. While there is a bit of scrabbling in the beginning, it is perfectly suitable for beginners. It is less trafficked then some of the other trails around this famous lake.

Larch Valley Trail – Larch Valley Trail is one of the longer, more difficult trails that originates from this lake in Banff. The trail is about 6.8 miles, and offers 360 view of the mountains. The conditions are best during the summer months, but it is also a great trail in the fall for seeing the foliage. It is known to be one of the best hikes in Banff.

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Things to Note when visiting:

  • Moraine Lake is located in Banff National Park. Please leave no trace behind, taking any garbage with you as you leave. This includes food scraps.
  • Do not feed the wild animals in the area.
  • Drones are not prohibited in any part of Banff National Park.

Visiting Banff? Here are some other articles that you should check out: 

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