Moraine Lake is one of the most iconic natural attractions in Canada, so iconic that this glacial lake has been featured on multiple twenty dollar notes, giving it the moniker, Twenty Dollar Lake.
It’s truly a picturesque place to visit, and it’s found within the Rocky Mountains of Banff National Park in Alberta.
Moraine Lake Canada is known for its idyllic landscape because the startlingly turquoise water is surrounded by the tall mountains of the Valley of the Ten Peaks.
It’s a wonderfully iconic place to visit, and even amongst the untold beauty of Banff, few other lakes can match Moraine Lake Canada for its views and vistas.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Banff, Jasper and Glacier National Parks (Travel Guide)
Essential Moraine Lake Planning Guide
How to Get to Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake Canada is located deep in the heart of Banff National Park, and its idyllic location places it within the Valley of the Ten Peaks, a mountainous place of wilderness and rugged beauty.
Moraine Lake is in many ways isolated, yet at the same time, not. The glacial lake is in fact only 14 kilometers away from the small village of Lake Louise, which is named for the equally beautiful, and equally famous Lake Louise which is found nearby.
Both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are located off the Icefields Parkway, a 230 kilometer stretch of Highway that links Banff to Jasper. A stop at these iconic glacial lakes should always be included on any road trip itinerary through Alberta.
FLYING INTO CALGARY
If you need to fly into the region, then the closest airport is located at Calgary, which is around 120 kilometers from Banff.
There are international and domestic flights to this airport from a variety of North American destinations.
It is recommended that you rent a car to drive into Banff National Park and explore the area, including Moraine Lake.
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If you are not up for a road trip, it is possible to take the Banff Airporter, which will give you transportation from the Calgary Airport to your hotel in Banff Town.
To get to Moraine Lake from Banff Town, keep reading.
FROM BANFF TOWN
Lake Louise is itself a forty-minute drive from Banff town, and if you do not have a rental car, you can catch a shuttle bus between the two towns.
Once you arrive in Lake Louise you can opt to visit Moraine Lake by Park Canada shuttle or on a tour. You have the option of booking either a private or group tour.
FROM LAKE LOUISE
Once you’re in Lake Louise, you can drive along Lake Louise Drive to reach Moraine Lake, however, the road is only open for part of the year, giving this part of Banff a more off the beaten track feel than year-round areas.
There is a small parking lot at the entrance to Moraine Lake, but it is very important to know that this parking lot fills up quickly.
In the popular summer months, this lot will be full by 5:30 am. The park service also closes the road to regular traffic when the lot fills, allowing in only shuttle and tour buses.
There is a small chance you might get lucky and approach the road when a spot in the lot has opened, but don’t count on that.
This means if you have your heart set on visiting Moraine Lake, you will need to be there early or plan on getting to Lake Louise at a decent hour to snag parking there.
There are 3 big lots to park in, but these too can fill up fast in high season. From the parking lot closest to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, you can buy a ticket and catch the Parks Canada shuttle bus up to Moraine Lake.
Best Time of Year to Visit Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake Canada is only accessible for part of the year, meaning that you’ll need to time your visit to Banff National Park right in order to see the lake in the first place.
The road leading from Lake Louise Drive is closed for half of the year as it becomes inaccessible and dangerous.
Opening times are therefore weather dependent, but generally, the road won’t open up to visitors until mid-May each year, after the snow begins to melt.
Of course, this is the Rocky Mountains, and given the high altitude – Moraine Lake Canada Is found at 1885 meters in height – opening times can be unpredictable.
The road generally closes in mid-October, but again, this is also weather dependent. In a bad year, it can close earlier, and if there’s little snowfall it could stay open longer.
Peak season in Banff falls between June and August when the weather is at its best when the snow has mostly melted and there are hiking opportunities galore.
If you want to make the most of Moraine Lake then this is the time to visit, as in the shoulder months, even if the lake is open, many more trails surrounding it may still be closed because of the weather or the treacherous terrain – avalanches are common when the snow begins to melt.
The lake is famed for its beautiful blue color, and this is most prominent from June through to August as well.
Unfortunately, though, Moraine Lake is of course very busy during the peak summer season, and you’ll have to be prepared to hike out to the more offbeat locations around the lake to get away from the crowds.
It’s always worth it though because the views will be spectacular.
Get a comprehensive tour of Banff, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake highlights during this full-day excursion.
Learn about the history of Canada’s first national park and take in the scenic views around Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, accompanied by your guide’s engaging commentary.
Facts About Moraine Lake, Canada
- Moraine Lake is located at an altitude of 1885 meters, amongst the Rocky Mountains.
- The lake is glacial and gets its dramatic blue tinge from the Rock Flour which is deposited in the water. Rock Flour is ground rocks and minerals that flow down from the mountains and glaciers and react with the lake water.
- Moraine Lake used to feature on one side of the Canadian Twenty Dollar Bill in the 1970s.
- The lake is so picturesque it’s also been a staple screensaver and background that’s used by computer companies such as Microsoft – there’s a high probability that you’ll have seen a photograph of Moraine Lake, even if you don’t know it!
Top Things to do at Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake Canada is in itself a spectacular sight of course, but there’s much more to do around this glacial wonder once you’re done staring in awe and taking photographs.
There are hiking trails leading around the lake and to spectacular viewpoints, or you can always hire a canoe and glide across the still, blue waters.
Moraine Lakeshore Trail
The easiest, and of course the busiest walk is the Moraine Lakeshore Trail, which takes visitors around the length of the lake.
It’s a lovely way to experience the lake if it’s your first time here. The trail itself is short and almost entirely flat, lasting for just 1.5 kilometers each way.
The best view of Moraine Lake Canada can be found along the Rockpile Trail.
This is a must-do hike for anyone visiting the lake, as you’ll be treated to stunning vistas on what is still a relatively short walk.
This is the most iconic view of the lake and one of the most photographed spots in Canada.
It pays to get away from the lakeshore too because there will be fewer tourists on this trail.
The Rockpile Trail – so-called because of the loose piles of rocks found on the route – is around forty minutes return.
The crowds can still be big in summer though so start early or late for the best light and fewer tourists.
Consolation Lakes Trail
Another great hiking trail that starts at Moraine Lake, is the Consolation Lakes Trail.
This trail is longer than the Rockpile or Lakeshore walks and will take around 2 or 3 hours depending on your fitness.
If you really want to get away from the crowds and are short on time, then this is your best option.
The walk takes you away from the lake and beneath the dramatic Tower of Babel, a dramatic rock formation that forms an iconic part of the local landscape.
You’ll then was out into the Rocky Mountains and will reach Consolation Lake, where equally dramatic views await you, and none of the crowds of Moraine Lake either.
Take plenty of water and snacks in summer, and of course, take your time, because it’s a blissfully quiet walk.
Go for a Canoe Paddle
One of the best ways to enjoy the serenity of Moraine Lake is to paddle across the water in a canoe or kayak.
You can bring your own equipment to the lake, or you can hire the local canoes which are found at the small jetty.
These can rent out fast though in peak season, so it’s worth getting in early to secure one.
Try Forest Bathing
I am sure there are plenty of things floating through your mind right now after reading that heading. I know there was when I was told to try forest bathing at Moraine Lake!
Let me clear up any thoughts you might have. No, this is not a traditional water bathing experience and no, you won’t be naked. This means it can be done in any weather and all year round.
The concept of forest bathing is about giving yourself the gift of being present. The techniques used are designed to help you connect your senses with the nature that surrounds you during the experience.
We have done this in several places around the world but Lake Moraine is the most magical place we’ve done it. There is just something special about getting in touch with towering mountains, lush forests, and crystal clear glacial lakes.
Hang out at Lake Louise
While you are visiting Moraine Lake Canada, then you should take the opportunity to visit Lake Louise as well, because this equally iconic glacial lake is just a few kilometers down the road.
Lake Louise is larger than Moraine Lake, but not quite so dramatic in terms of the number of mountain peaks surrounding it.
You can hike around the lake, walk to viewpoints or take a canoe across the water.
There are even a few teahouses nearby and the well known Chateau Lake Louise is always open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner with a dramatic view.
You can also visit the neighboring village of the same name, Lake Louise, where you can find a few cafes and restaurants too.
Visit Banff Town
Of course, you’ll want to explore more of Banff National Park and the town of Banff itself too while you are visiting Moraine Lake Canada.
There are endless hiking opportunities and many more dramatic sights. In Banff, there are also museums and numerous hot springs and spas, ensuring there’s plenty to see and do in the surrounding area.
Spend a Night at the Moraine Lake Lodge
Around the lake itself, you’ll only find one hotel, Moraine Lake Lodge, which is open seasonally, as and when the road in from Lake Louise opens in the summer.
The lodge is a firm favorite though, so be prepared to book far in advance to secure a room. Furnishings here are rustic and homely, with a back-country vibe but plenty of amenities too.
It’s a great place to spend the night if you can because you’ll be able to wake up with the sunrise and be the first to see the lake in all it’s glory before the crowds arrive later in the morning.
If you can’t get a room, then the lodge offers a fantastic dinner and dining experience too, with unbeatable views of Lake Moraine Canada as you enjoy world-class food.
Where to Stay to Visit Moraine Lake
As we’ve already pointed out, it is possible to visit Moraine Lake from Banff Town and Lake Louise. Deciding where the best place to stay is highly dependent on your schedule and itinerary.
Staying in Banff Town
Plenty of people choose to base themselves in Banff Town and spend their days exploring various areas, sites and lakes within Banff National Park.
If this is something that you think will work best for you, we recommend that you check out the following hotel options:
- Fox Hotel & Suites: This hotel has the best hot tub in town, hands down. Modeled after the natural hot springs, the hot tub is modeled after a cave that has an open-air hold above it. The hotel has a classic Canada lodge feel with comfortable rooms.
- Fairmont Banff Springs: If you want to stay in a castle that offers amazing views of the Bow River and surrounding mountains, then this is the place for you. This hotel is absolutely stunning and has a very interesting history. The rooms are also very beautiful.
Staying in Lake Louise
Alternatively, you can stay closer to the action by booking a place in the small village of Lake Louise.
This has its advantages and is especially a good move if you plan to photography either Lake Louise of Lake Moraine for sunrise.
The village provides a variety of options to choose from and it is also possible to splurge a little for a stay either right on Lake Louise or even at Moraine Lake itself.
If you want to maximize your time spent exploring the area, we recommend that you check out the following hotel options:
- Lake Louise Inn: A comfortable lodge located in the tourist town of Lake Louise. This property has a nice pool, hot tub, and several restaurant and bar options right on sight. Plenty of parking too.
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: This is an absolute dream property, located directly on the shores of the most famous lake in Canada, Lake Louise. This hotel holds nothing back and is a mountain oasis with incredible views. If you can swing the cost, it will be a stay you remember for the rest of your life.
- Moraine Lake Lodge: This is the kind of place we could go and stay for a week and never leave. It’s luxury lodge living at it’s finest, right on the shores of the famous Moraine Lake.
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