Guide to Hiking Consolation Lakes Trail, Moraine Lake
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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.
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.
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!
December 15, 2020