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If you’re looking for a short hike to compliment your visit to Moraine Lake, then Consolation Lakes Trail is perfect. This easy trail starts at the Moraine Lake car parking lot and finishes at two stunning lakes surrounded by mountain peaks.
Unlike other trails that leave from Moraine Lake such as the Larch Valley Hike, Consolation Lakes Trail involves very little uphill hiking, and sometimes, that’s just how I like it!
The best part though? Your adventure doesn’t have to stop at the lakes if you don’t want it to. In fact, if you’re feeling adventurous you can jump onto another trail called Panorama Ridge that leaves from Consolation Lakes, turning this short, easy hike, into an epic adventure.
In this blog, I’ll share everything you need to know about hiking Consolation Lakes Trail including tips to ensure you have the best time possible!
Consolation Lakes Trail Overview
Distance: 5.8 kilometers return
Elevation gain: 65 meters
Time needed: 2-3 hours
Type of trail: Out and back
Consolation Lakes Trail is a short hike that begins near the famous Rockpile at Moraine Lake. From here it’s an easy 2.9-kilometer hike one way.
The entire hike has slight inclines and declines on the way to the lakes but is mostly up on the way there. The trail is large and well maintained making it accessible for almost anyone.
It takes around 1 hour to hike each way and 3 hours is enough time to complete the hike with time enjoying the lakes. Although the Consolation Lakes hike does get busy throughout the day, in the late afternoon you can enjoy the trail without the crowds.
Overall, it’s a great short hike the whole family can enjoy and one of the best activities to do at Moraine Lake!
Consolation Lakes FAQs
The Consolation Lakes trail starts from the Moraine Lake parking lot in Banff National Park.
Yes you can, so long as they are kept on a leash.
Yes, bears do frequent the area. During summer, it’s recommended to hike in groups of 4 adults or more. During periods of frequent bear activity, group hiking is mandatory and enforced by fines.
Yes, the Consolation Lakes Trail is great for kids because it is an easy, flat trail.
What to Pack to Hike to Consolation Lakes
Bear spray – Bears are common in the valley where the Consolation Lakes hike is. It is highly recommended to carry bear spray with you no matter how busy the trail is.
Hiking poles – If you have bad knees then bringing hiking poles is a great idea. Also, the trail is wide enough for them to be used properly.
Snacks – It’s only a 3-hour return hike but you still may want to bring food! Bailey and I always get hungry during hikes!
Runners or hiking boots – Hiking boots are not required on the Consolation Lakes hike so you can bring along runners if you want to. Just be aware that parts of the trail can get a little muddy.
Related read: Moraine Lake is one of the most iconic places to stop on the Icefields Parkway (a very scenic stretch of road that runs from Jasper to Banff.) Read our blogs to plan your own epic road trip!
Parking and the Consolation Lakes Trailhead
Since Consolation Lakes Trail starts from the Moraine Lake parking lot, the hardest part about the trail is getting a parking spot! Annoying, I know, but Moraine Lake is the most famous lake in Canada, so it’s no surprise.
If you want to arrive in the morning, you do need to get to Moraine Lake before 5:30 am. This does change depending on the day you go, so, I’d highly recommend reading our guide to parking at Moraine Lake. It details everything you need to know about the shuttles to Moraine Lake, what time you need to arrive, and why it’s so hard to get a parking spot once it’s full.
After reading that, you should be prepared (or at least know when you’re going to try and visit Moraine Lake.)
From the parking lot at Moraine Lake, the trail starts just near the toilets on the same trail that leads to the Rockpile. Start here and continue hiking until you cross a small bridge, after this, the trail turns to steps until you reach a Y in the path. Consolation Lakes Trail starts on the left and is marked by a large sign warning of bears!
This sign will either recommend groups of 4 adults or more OR it will be mandatory. If it is mandatory, you can be fined for hiking in smaller groups as this means bears are in the area. If you’re in a smaller group, just wait for other hikers and join them!
Related read: Moraine Lake is one of the places to visit on our 15 most Instagrammable places to visit in Banff blog. Find out what the rest are!
Hiking the Trail to Consolation Lakes
The trail begins with a short downhill hike into the valley from the Rockpile. Here, you’ll be able to see the start of the unofficial hike up to the Tower of Babel.
Continuing on, we entered a forest area that eventually follows a small stream all the way to the lakes. This part of the trail has a gradual climb but overall feels flat.
As you hike this part of the trail you can stop and check out the stream which in parts, forms small waterfalls. Bailey and I didn’t stop because we wanted to make it to the lakes before sunset. After around 45 minutes of a fast-paced walk, we arrived at the first lake.
From here the views are magnificent. To the left, you can see Panorama Peak, and to the right, Bident and Quadra Mountain sit covered in snow. There are bears who live on the hills in this area so keep a lookout as you might spot one.
You can choose to stay at the first lake and then turn around or hike on to the second.
Exploring Consolation Lakes
After enjoying the views of the first lake you can now hike onto the second if you choose to. If you’re traveling with small kids it could be wise to turn around now. This section takes around 30 minutes of bouldering and hiking over rocks. This may be a little challenging for young kids.
I found the first lake the most beautiful as the panoramic views are breathtaking. So, if you do choose to turn around you can do so knowing you’ve seen the most beautiful part of Consolation Lakes.
After reaching the second lake, you’ve made it to the end of Consolation Lakes Trail. If you want to keep hiking, you’ll need to backtrack a little to the first lake and then jump onto the Panorama Ridge hiking trail.
Continue on to Panorama Ridge
Distance: 4 kilometers return to the top
Elevation gain: 900 meters
Time needed: 4 hours from Consolation Lakes
Type of trail: Out and back
A popular add on to Consolation Lakes Trail is Panorama Ridge. I personally have not done this trail, however, from the photos I’ve seen it looks amazing! To start the trail you’ll need to cross the stream at Consolation Lakes.
It is recommended to do it at the first lake where you can use the large rocks and trees to cross. Despite this, you could still get wet – so be prepared.
Once across you will need to do a bit of bushwhacking to get to the trail that’s really just a gully. You can easily find the trail/gully people use by scanning the mountain for a trail (pictured above.)
This trail is more of a scramble to the top and once you’re on the trail just keep climbing till you reach the ridgeline. From here you can either hike back down or continue along the ridge for a little while before returning.
There isn’t much info online about hiking Panorama Ridge however, this blog, this blog, and this 10 Adventures guide outline lots of things you need to know before you go. This trail should only be attempted by experienced hikers with scrambling experience. If you’re looking for a beginner’s scramble trail, then Heart Mountain Horseshoe Loop is a good hike located just outside of Canmore.
Essential Info to Know
Mandatory hiking groups
If the signs recommend hiking in groups of four or more it’s best to follow them. For one, you can be fined but the main reason is that the risk of a bear encounter is much more likely. As always, carry bear spray, know how to use it, and make lots of noise to let bears know you are coming.
You need a National Parks Pass
Consolation Lakes Trail is within Banff National Park so you do need a parks pass. This can be purchased online or at the entrance to Banff National Park on the highway. These passes cost $9.80 CAD per person per day.
Alternatively, they have yearly passes online that also cover families. These are great value. A year family pass for one car with up to seven people is only $140.
Renting a Car in Alberta
If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to the best attractions within them requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada and using crown land and campsites you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect ice conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $29 and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part though? It comes in pink!
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in hand so many times especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $27 and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Before you go…
Consolation Lakes Trail at Moraine Lake isn’t one of the best, but, considering it’s much easier than most hikes in the area, it’s a great trail for the everyday traveler. For me, it was a brisk walk and not really much of a “hike” per se. This meant we could hike the Larch Valley in the morning and hike Consolation Lakes in the afternoon.
Overall, I loved the views at the lakes, and those mountains, just wow!
Thanks so much for reading! I really hope this blog has helped plan your hike to Consolation Lakes. If you did find the blog helpful then you’ll love our other Canada blogs or the articles listed below!