This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
Moraine Lake is easily one of the most beautiful and picturesque lakes in Banff National Park, surrounded by lush forests and the frost-tipped Canadian Rockies! It’s easy to see why so many people arrive here armed with their cameras and leave with amazing photos and memories.
Dan and I have been here so many times (and got engaged here!), and each time we come back we discover new things to do at Moraine Lake, whether that’s walking the beautiful Larch Valley trail, or joining an out-of-this-world experience like this Moraine Lake sunrise tour.
In fact, one of the reasons we like tours in Banff that go here so much is that no matter if it’s your first or 12th time visiting, the incredible guides always manage to surprise us with something new and exciting.
To help you make the most of your trip to the beautiful Moraine Lake, we’ve put together this guide which includes five tours we think are the best of the best. These tours also include stops at other fantastic areas like Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the five best tours of Moraine Lake!
Our TOP Moraine Lake Tour
While I’ve had a blast on many of these tours, this full-day tour of Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway offers the best value by far – no wonder that it has almost 300 5-star reviews! It’s also a small-group tour, meaning plenty of one-on-one time with your guide.
Tickets for this tour cost $180 CAD per person, but they do sell out fast so make sure to check your dates and book in advance online here!
The BEST Tours of Moraine Lake
1. Sunrise tour to Moraine Lake, including Lake Louise
I still remember the first time I saw the sunrise at Moraine Lake. Even thinking back now gives me chills!
Not only is Moraine Lake easily one of the most beautiful places in Banff (and maybe even in Canada), but seeing it in the morning, as the orange glow bounces down from the mountain peaks and onto the turquoise lake, really is unlike anything else I’ve seen before.
But as public parking has now been banned at Moraine Lake and the first Parks Canada shuttle arriving after sunrise, it’s easy to wonder how exactly you can get there at the crack of dawn. One of the only ways to get to Moraine Lake in time for sunrise is by taking this Earlybird Explorer tour to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, which as far as we know is the only sunrise tour running at this time.
It’s best to try to get to bed early, as pickup is at 4 am just outside the Banff Train Station! To help warm you up and get you ready for the day, the tour also includes complimentary coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.
We really like that this is a small group tour, with a maximum of 12 people in total. There are no buses full of people that crowd up the shoreline, which is the last thing you want with such a magical moment. When we arrived, our tour guide also handed out head torches to wear, which helped us avoid tripping over before first light!
After spending an hour and a half stuffing your phone with photos and taking in all of the amazing scenery, you’ll probably be a little hungry, so it’s time to head across to the Trailhead Café. We had an incredible breakfast and barista-made drink here for about $15 – $20 CAD each (try the veggie omelet!).
Once you’ve had your breakfast, your next stop is the beautiful Lake Louise. It’s still very early in the day when you arrive, so the crowds won’t have gathered just yet. It’s also a great time to get out there on the water, as you’ll have about 1 hour and 30 minutes to explore.
If you fancy getting out there on the water, the Fairmont Château Lake Louise offers canoe rental from late May/early June until October, with canoes for non-guests starting at $135 CAD for half an hour and $145 CAD for an hour.
For those who prefer to stay on dry land, there’s plenty to explore! There are a few hidden trails at both lakes like the Lake Louise Lakeshore trail and the Rockpile trail, both of which can be completed in the time you’ll have. Feel free to ask your guides to help point out where to start.
Tickets for this incredible opportunity to see the sunrise at Moraine Lake and Lake Louise cost $220 CAD per person and can be booked online here.
Related Read: If you don’t need a tour, consider taking the Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle instead – read all about it!
2. Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and the Icefields Parkway full-day tour
Embark on a HUGE adventure to some of the most magical places in the Canadian Rockies with this full-day tour. It all starts with a 20-minute stop to soak in the beautiful views of Lake Minnewanka before moving on to spend an hour at Lake Louise, arguably one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country!
This is a great opportunity to snap some epic photos of the lake and learn more about its fascinating history from your friendly guide. This tour is actually operated by a family-run company, and you can see the genuine passion shining through as the guides share their knowledge and experience.
Further along in the tour, we loved the ride along the jaw-dropping Icefields Parkway, a journey filled with views of breathtaking mountain vistas that has earned a reputation as one of the most scenic drives in the world! Oh, and did we mention there are 1-hour stops at Moraine Lake, Bow Lake, and Peyto Lake included in the itinerary too?
With a maximum of 22 people per tour, there’s a good number of people to chat and get to know without it being overcrowded, which helps you really immerse yourself in your surroundings. There’s also pickup and drop-off from Banff and Canmore included in your ticket, with the driver able to reach all hotels, Airbnbs, and even campgrounds!
It’s worth noting that if you’re staying in Canmore and haven’t already purchased a Parks Pass, you’ll need one to enter Banff National Park. These can be purchased as a day pass for $10.50 CAD for adults or you can buy a 12-month pass online which covers over 80 destinations around Canada.
We think this tour is an awesome value at $180 CAD per person as it lasts between 8–9 hours. Not only does it last the whole day, but you’re sure to make some great memories and spot plenty of Banff National Park’s amazing wildlife along the way too.
Please note, this tour is super popular and will likely sell out! We highly recommend checking your dates and booking your slot in advance.
Related Read: Stretching from Lake Louise to Jasper, check out some of our favorite places to stay on the Icefields Parkway.
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.
Single Daily Admission:
This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.
- Adult (ages 18-64) is $10.50 CAD
- Senior (65+) is $9.00 CAD
- Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE
Group Daily Admission:
If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)
- $21.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day
Parks Canada Discovery Pass
The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.
- Adult (age 18-64) – $72.25 CAD
- Senior (64+) – $61.75 CAD
- Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $145.25 CAD
Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!
Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.
3. Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Yoho National Park tour from Banff or Calgary
This scenic full-day tour combines a visit to the beautiful Louise and Moraine Lakes with an exciting trip to Yoho National Park, a gateway to glassy lakes, spectacular forests, and wooded trails. Yoho also tends to be a lot less crowded with tourists than Banff National Park, and is one of our favorite stops on the drive from Vancouver to Lake Louise!
The tour gets off to an amazing start with a 2-hour visit to Lake Louise, giving you plenty of time to take in the views and go for a walk around the lake. If you’re here in the winter, the tour also including free snowshoeing right on the lake – one of our top Lake Louise winter activities!
When you’re finished up at Lake Louise, your next stop will either be at Moraine Lake or Vermillion Lakes, depending on the time of year it is. We were lucky enough to visit between June and October, when the tour heads to Moraine Lake, however the wonderful Vermillion Lakes, with the famous Mount Rundle in the background, are also super pretty.
Dan and I were really excited about the Yoho portion of the trip, where the tour takes you to the incredible Emerald Lake, which, as the name suggests, is a beautiful green lake, surrounded by lush and dense forests. Although gorgeous year-round, it’s really lovely during the summer months, as this is when the glacier runoff causes the water to go an even more vibrant green.
We were really pleased that the tour didn’t feel rushed at all, with the perfect amount of time spent at each stop (and we like to take loads of photos!).
Pickup for this tour is available in Calgary from Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel at 7:50 am, as well as in Banff from Banff Aspen Lodge at 9:25 am, with a maximum of 50 people per tour. This really makes it perfect for larger groups and families who are looking for a scenic tour with multiple attractions!
Tickets cost $164 CAD for adults or $143 for children (6-15) and can be easily booked with Viator online here.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
4. Lake Louise and Moraine Lake tour
If you only have a couple of days to spend in Banff, there’s still time to fit in a visit to the two most famous lakes! This half-day tour of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake will take you to some of the best spots to see and photograph in the park so you’ll have plenty of pictures to remember your trip by.
This is a small group tour, with a maximum of 24 participants per guide, so the entire experience doesn’t feel crowded, and you won’t have to fight for space to see those gorgeous views! There’s quite a bit of variety in what you see as well, from glacial rivers to lush forests and sweeping meadows. While this isn’t a formal wildlife tour in Banff, it does give you an incredible opportunity to explore both lakes and, who knows, you may even spot an animal or two!
We know from experience that parking at Lake Louise can be incredibly difficult (and it’s now impossible at Moraine Lake). That’s why we really appreciate tours like this one, which save you so much time and hassle having to sort out driving and parking.
Not only is this tour locally owned and operated, but it’s also carbon-neutral too! Knowledgeable and passionate guides really do make all the difference when it comes to a great tour, and we can vouch that this one has that covered.
There’s no individual hotel pickup within Banff, the tour instead meets, at the Mount Royal Hotel in the middle of Banff. Many tours choose to meet here thanks to how convenient and central the location is – if you’re staying in Banff town, you’ll likely be just minutes away.
This tour costs $104 CAD for adults and $53 CAD for kids and departs at 8 am. While the tour does run from April to November, Moraine Lake is only open from May to mid-October, so it’s best to go then for the full experience. You can check availability and select your dates for this tour here.
5. Hop-on hop-off bus tour
For unrivaled flexibility and a fantastic selection of stops, you really can’t go wrong with this Banff hop-on hop-off bus tour.
Leave your parking worries behind and hop aboard a classic yellow school bus, with stops at Banff, Lake Louise and the Lake Louise Gondola, Moraine Lake, Samson Mall, and Johnston Canyon! We really enjoyed that you can tailor your experience exactly how you like – if you don’t fancy stopping at one particular place, you can simply skip it.
The bus departs from the Moose Hotel and Suites on Banff Avenue at 7:45 am, 9:30 am, and 12:15 pm, and the Banff Train Station at 7:50 am, 9:35 am, and 12:15 pm, with the final bus getting back to Banff at 6 pm. We highly recommend getting an early bus like we did, as this will give you the full day to explore before returning home!
If you like hikes around Banff that aren’t too challenging and are still really rewarding, head over to Johnston Canyon, which has free entry as well as two amazing waterfalls to explore. We were also really surprised by just how impressive the views were from the Lake Louise Gondola – we recommend purchasing tickets on their website in advance to skip the queues!
This is one of our favorite bus tours in Banff, combining the knowledge of a guide with the freedom to explore as you please. As you hop from stop to stop, you’ll be treated to some pretty entertaining commentary from the onboard guides, as they share funny stories, crazy facts, and other helpful tips.
A single-day ticket is $80 CAD for adults or $65 CAD for children (6-17), and under 5s go for free. There’s also a total of 48 seats on the bus, which means plenty of space to bring friends, family, or both! Enjoy the flexibility and convenience of exploring Banff at your own pace and book your ticket online here.
Related Read: Don’t let the cold put you off – we always have a great time visiting Banff during the winter. There are loads of seasonal activities to get involved with!
Other Things to do While You’re in Banff
Banff is chock-full of so many amazing activities and things to do, it’s impossible to put them all down on one list! To save you some time, here are some of our favorite activities that are always included in our Banff itinerary:
- Ride the Banff Gondola – There are four gondolas in Banff that provide some pretty spectacular views. While we’d have a hard time choosing a favorite, a ride up the Banff Gondola never lets us down! Not only is it a great way to see some amazing wildlife, but you’ll find a host of things to do at the top, including a lovely café, shops, and even a theater! The best way to get Banff Gondola tickets is to book ahead in advance here.
- Hike Johnston Canyon – One of the stops on the Banff hop-on hop-off tour, Johnston Canyon is famous for its picturesque location and magnificent waterfalls. It’s also one of the easier hikes in the Banff area, making it super accessible for most people. If you get the chance, definitely don’t miss out on a magical nighttime tour here like this evening Icewalk tour!
- Look for wildlife – Banff is home to some pretty incredible wildlife. You might just spot elk, bears, deer, foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and more! The best chance you have of seeing the most critters is on a wildlife tour in Banff. We really liked this small group tour where the guides tailor the itinerary to recent wildlife spottings and you get to see highlights of the national park along the way.
- Explore Banff town – It’s easy to get immersed in the beauty of the natural countryside, but there are also a ton of things to do in Banff town too! Bear Street is where you’ll find tons of boutique shops and cute cafés, and from May to the beginning of October the farmer’s market is held in Central Park, bringing with it amazing local produce and some unique souvenirs too!
Where to Stay in Banff
When searching for where to stay in Banff, it can be a little difficult to know where to start! There’s a whole bunch of hotels in this popular resort town, so here are a few of our favorites to fit a wide range of budgets:
Samesun Banff Hostel – $
If you’re a backpacker or just looking for an affordable stay, you’ll love Samesun Banff Hostel! One great part about a stay here is that your breakfast is included in the rate, perfect for getting loaded up before heading out on your adventures. Although there are no private rooms available, you’ll find laundry facilities on-site, as well as a fully licensed bar,
Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – $$
Looking for a place to unwind after a day of fun activities? Look no further than the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort! With a fully equipped gym and hot tub facilities, this resort is a great place to recharge your batteries.
What’s more, every room has a kitchenette or full kitchen, so you can cook up a storm before you set out on your adventures. Located on Tunnel Mountain, just a short drive from Banff town, rooms here start at $119 CAD. You can check availability and book online here.
Fairmont Banff Springs – $$$
Designed after a Scottish Baronial castle, the elegant Fairmont Banff Springs is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff, with two swimming pools, 27 spa treatment areas, a host of activities like horseback riding, and so much more!
A night here doesn’t come cheap, with rooms starting at $605 CAD, which is what helps make a stay here so special (P.S. It’s also a great place to stay for a honeymoon in Banff!). Indulge yourself with a stay at this magnificent hotel by booking your stay online here.
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
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 some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.
Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.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 in 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!
Thanks for reading!
Taking a tour is one of the best ways to experience everything that Moraine Lake has to offer, and we hope this blog has helped shine some light on some of the top options out there! If you’re looking to fill up the rest of your itinerary, you’ll also want to check out these 16 tours in Banff.
Feel free to leave a comment below and tell us what you’re planning to do on your next trip to Banff and Moraine Lake. We’ve also included three more blogs below with even more great travel tips and ideas: