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Surrounded by the beautiful Rocky Mountains, there’s a good reason why Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are on my bucket-list places to visit in Alberta! But beyond being so (so) pretty and photogenic, there are also a ton of great things to do here.
That being said, if you’re short on time and can only stop by for the day, it can be a little overwhelming to know where to begin.
Having visited both lakes many times now (on both short and long trips), I’ll be the first to admit that it’s easy to let time fly here if you don’t have a schedule to follow. This guide is designed to be exactly that – it’s about enjoying the amazing hikes, the best restaurants, and, of course, filling up your camera with some awesome shots! All without feeling rushed and having plenty of time to enjoy yourself.
So, whether you’re driving from Canmore to Lake Louise or you’re stopping by Lake Louise in winter, this 1-day itinerary is for you. In fact, you can follow it, no matter what time of year it is – I’ve packed plenty of seasonal recommendations inside, so keep an eye out for those.
How to Get to Lake Louise
First things first, it’s important to know that parking at Lake Louise can be extremely difficult and, in the case of Moraine Lake, it’s now completely prohibited. You’re probably wondering then – “Just how am I supposed to get to the lakes?”
Whether you’re staying in Banff or at Lake Louise Village, there are plenty of options available to reach Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, from guided tours to budget-friendly shuttles.
Every summer, thousands upon thousands of cars flock to Lake Louise, so you can imagine that it gets super busy, and parking becomes a nightmare! While I’d strongly recommend some of the other options that I’ll list shortly (it’s so worth not dealing with the stress), I totally get it if you have your own set of wheels and want to drive yourself.
If you really do want to arrive by car, try to reach the lake as early as possible (around 7 am), or head over during the evening (around 5 or 6 pm) when it’s quietest. Just know that if the parking lot is full, waiting in your car for a spot isn’t allowed!
It currently costs $21 CAD per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise, which can be paid at the parking kiosk machines nearby.
Park and Ride Shuttle
Skip the hassle of finding a parking space (and paying a lot for one) by taking the Park and Ride Parks Canada shuttle instead! The shuttle is operated by Parks Canada and runs every 20 minutes from 6:30 am to 6 pm, with the last shuttle returning at 7:30 pm. It departs from the Lake Louise Ski Resort Parking Lot from May to October, making it super simple to park up and go!
Tickets for this must be booked in advance – I personally suggest booking 2 days in advance to make sure that you don’t miss out on your spot (most bookings open exactly two days before at 8 am, and it does fully book.)
As for pricing, the shuttle costs $8 CAD per adult, and is free for youths 17 and under.
Roam Public Transit
If you’re visiting out of season, or are searching for another flexible alternative to the shuttle, then your best bet is taking the ROAM public transport! Tickets for these buses are pretty cheap, costing between $1 CAD to $10 CAD depending on your departure point and destination.
Stay at the Fairmont Lake Louise
Looking for direct access to Lake Louise, with the lake being mere moments away from your doorstep? Well, cutting out the middleman and staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the way to go!
How to get to Moraine Lake
As we mentioned earlier, parking is no longer allowed at Moraine Lake. This has tons of benefits for the environment but may leave you scratching your head and wondering how to get there! Here are some of the ways we recommend you take:
Lake Connector Shuttle
One of the most convenient ways to reach Moraine Lake is by taking the Lake Connector Shuttle, and if you’ve already booked a Park and Ride shuttle to Lake Louise, it’s completely free! This shuttle is available from June to October, with shuttles departing every 15 minutes from 9 am to 6 pm. It is included with your Park and Ride shuttle ticket and does not need to be booked separately.
Privately Operated Shuttle
This particular privately owned shuttle company offers departures from Lake Louise Village to Lake Moraine as well as Lake Louise. The cost is also only $60-70 CAD per person. We expect this to be a very popular shuttle this year, so be sure to book your spot online here now to avoid missing out.
Of course, another potential option is to book yourself onto a guided tour! Many tour companies offer daily trips to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, which means all you need to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself as you no longer need to figure out all the logistics of how to get there.
Plus, you’ll also get the bonus of being with a knowledgeable guide who can provide interesting facts and stories about the area. Sounds like a win-win to me!
We’ve included some of our favorite full-day and half-day tours to the lakes a little later on in this blog, but if you’re looking for a quick recommendation, I’d easily suggest this Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Private Tour. As the name suggests, this is a private and completely customizable tour, so you get to decide what you’d like to do in the day and your friendly guide will take care of the rest!
Note: Looking for direct access to Lake Louise, with the lake being mere moments away from your doorstep? Well, cutting out the middleman by staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise!
1-Day Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Itinerary
Sunrise shuttle to Moraine Lake
Visiting Moraine Lake at sunrise has to be one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had, so it’s a no-brainer to me that any 1-day itinerary should start here!
The morning sun bathes the lake and the surrounding mountains in a gorgeous display of colors that’s sure to take your breath away. In short, it’s the best time to visit for photos and is sure to go down as a highlight of your trip.
However, as parking is no longer possible at Moraine Lake, and the regular Lake Connector Shuttle only starts at 9 am, it’s clear that we need a different option. Currently, the only way to visit Moraine Lake in time for sunrise is by taking this private sunrise shuttle. The Moraine Lake sunrise shuttle departs from Lake Louise Village super early (and I mean it – usually around 4 or 5 am!), but trust me, it’s 100% worth every bit of lost sleep.
You don’t need to spend long here, either. The shuttle allows you just enough time to enjoy sunrise before heading back to Lake Louise Village in time for breakfast!
Tickets for a round-trip to Moraine Lake cost $35 CAD per adult and $25 CAD per child. Don’t forget to book this ahead of time to make sure you secure your spot.
Related Read: If you fancy heading out on an organized experience, there are a ton of great Moraine Lake tours to try out!
Breakfast at the Trailhead Café
After such an amazing sunrise (and many calories burned taking photos!), you’ll probably be feeling your stomach growling. So, now it’s time to fuel up for an exciting day at one of my favorite breakfast spots, the Trailhead Café in Lake Louise Village.
They serve all kinds of tasty breakfast treats here, from scrumptious sandwiches to tasty cakes and more! After having spent some time out in the morning chills at Moraine Lake, a hot coffee definitely sounds like a great idea.
The prices here are also pretty reasonable, especially considering its central location in Lake Louise Village. A coffee here will set you back about $5.50 CAD, a hot breakfast meal around $10 CAD, and a sandwich for around $13 CAD.
Although the café can get quite busy in the morning, that’s a sure sign that they’re doing something right! There is fairly limited seating here, so I’d recommend grabbing your breakfast and continuing on to the next item on this itinerary.
Morning at the Lake Louise Lakefront
Now, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for… We’re off to see Lake Louise!
After driving or taking the shuttle over to the lake, you’ll find yourself at one of the most iconic sights in Canada, so make sure to take in every drop as you explore over the next couple of hours.
One of my favorite things to do here is to walk the nearby trails – there are loads of them, and they’re all full of amazing scenery, you really can’t go wrong.
Some of my favorite trails include the Fairview Lookout trail and, if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, the Lake Agnes Teahouse. If you’re visiting during the winter months, I’ve also included some fun activities below that you can get stuck into. So, it’s time to kick off the rest of our morning!
The Fairview Lookout Trail
Whether you’re visiting with family and are looking for a nice and easy route to walk around the lake, or simply want to go for a short hike from Lake Louise before getting stuck into some other activities, then the Fairview Lookout Trail is for you. This is an easily accessible 2.3-km (1.4-mile) trail that provides an incredible bird’s-eye view of the historic Fairmont Hotel and Lake Louise!
The lakefront can get pretty crowded, especially as it gets closer to the afternoon, which is why it’s always a good idea to head out a little way and explore. Plus, you’re really not that far, so you can head back to the lakefront whenever you feel like it.
Starting at the lakefront, head left past the boathouse and go up towards the viewpoint. From here you can choose between two trails leading to the top – one which runs along the shoreline which then takes a sharp turn, and a more gradual climb if you turn left at the fork. If you’re visiting in winter, I’d suggest taking the gradual trail up, as the conditions can get slippery pretty quickly!
The Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail
Fancy a bigger challenge? I like your attitude! In this case, I’d suggest tackling the Lake Agnes Teahouse trail, which is my absolute favorite in Lake Louise. It kicks off directly from the Lake Louise Lakefront, taking you up high above the lake, talk about one heck of a view.
Stretching around 7.4 km (4.6 mi) with an elevation of around 400 m (1,312 ft), this trail is definitely the more challenging of the two I’ve listed here, so it’s best to tackle this if you’re confident that you’re feeling physically fit.
But once you reach the end of the trail, you’re in for a treat. As the name of the trail suggests, you’re welcomed by the sight of the Lake Agnes Teahouse, which is the perfect spot to rest and recharge with a cup of tea, coffee, or a snack. Just imagine drinking that piping-hot coffee with these incredible mountain views!
Enjoy some winter fun!
Ice Skating on Lake Louise:
Come the wintertime, Lake Louise undergoes an amazing transformation… In short, it freezes over completely, becoming the perfect outdoor ice skating rink!
The best part? If you bring your own skates, then ice skating on Lake Louise is absolutely free, making it one of the best free things to do in Banff during the winter. If you don’t happen to own skates, no need to worry, there’s also the option of renting some from the Chateau Lake Louise, which costs from $13-23 CAD for a 4-hour period.
Just make sure to wrap up warm in plenty of layers, as it can get pretty cold out there on the ice. The skating rink usually opens from mid-December to mid-April, although this does depend on the weather.
Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride:
For a more relaxing, yet equally exciting winter activity, why not try going on a horse-drawn sleigh ride around Lake Louise? There’s something really magical about exploring a beautiful frozen landscape like this one, with all of its incredible views, all from the comfort of your very own sleigh!
I’d say that this experience is ideal for couples looking for a romantic outing, as well as for families looking for something that the kids will love. The rides themselves last for around 45 to 60 minutes, which is plenty of time to get settled in and take in all the sights as the world glides on by.
It’s funny, whenever I see someone riding past in a sleigh at the lake, they always have smiles on their faces! So, if you’re looking to get in on the action, I’d recommend Brewster Adventures and their sleigh rides. Not only are they tons of fun, but they’re also pretty affordable, starting at $48 CAD per adult and $38 CAD per child.
While you can book these tours right from the lakefront, they can be quite popular and book out, so I’d suggest booking ahead of time to get your spot!
Lunch at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
After all of these super-fun activities at the lake, it’s time to take stock and refuel. Now, it’s hard to miss, being right next to the lake, but we’re now heading over to the stunning Fairmont Château Lake Louise – the perfect venue for a luxury lunch break!
While there are six fantastic restaurants throughout the hotel, as a non-guest you have access to the Alpine Social, which pairs delicious comfort food dishes with handcrafted cocktails, all from their menu that’s sure to blow your mind like it did mine! Just keep in mind that lunch here starts at 12 pm and ends at 5 pm Monday through Saturday.
Of course, the Fairmont also boasts some wonderful views of the lake, so make sure to take all of this in while you sit and enjoy the incredible food. So, to make sure that you can enjoy this amazing experience, I would highly recommend that you reserve your table well before your visit!
If you happen to be staying at the Fairmont, you’ll have priority access to all six restaurants throughout the duration of your stay. This, plus the easy access you have to Lake Louise, is sure to make for a wonderful trip!
If you’re looking to take your lunch experience to the next level, then consider trying their Afternoon High Tea at the Fairmont, which is also available for non-guests to reserve online. With all of these beautiful views in the background, you can enjoy their exclusive Lot 35 tea, which is specially crafted for the Fairmont from the finest teas around the world.
Complementing the tea, you’ll also get to enjoy delightful scones, finger sandwiches, and also have the option to add a glass of champagne too – what a cool experience! The Afternoon High Tea is priced at $85 CAD per person, with vegetarian and vegan options available too.
Note: Can’t get enough of the food here at the Fairmont? Consider booking onto this gourmet food tour at the Fairmontin Banff!
Visit more beautiful lakes in the afternoon
I hate to do this, but it’s time to leave the stunning Lake Louise behind. But, *spoiler alert*, we’ll soon be back.
As we head into the afternoon, we’ve got plenty more activities lined up to keep you busy! If you happen to have your own wheels, then you can pretty easily drive to Bow Lake and Peyto Lake on the Icefields Parkway, which promise some unforgettable views. If you haven’t, don’t worry! There’s still tons to explore at Lake Louise Village, including a beautiful walk along the Bow River.
Stop by Bow Lake…
Did you know that Bow Lake is actually one of the largest lakes in Banff National Park?
Located along the Icefields Parkway, about 38.5 km (24 miles) from Lake Louise, it draws in photographers, nature lovers, and curious travelers from around the world every year. Especially in the summer, when the lake shines on a clear day, it’s well worth stopping here!
For a quick stop, it’s simple to pull over at the viewpoint on the Icefields Parkway, where it’s just a short walk to the lake’s edge. However, if you do have some more time on your hands (and fancy another sweet hike), you could also try the 8.9 km (5.5 mile) out-and-back trail over to Bow Glacier Falls. This isn’t as challenging as the Lake Agnes Teahouse trail, but boy are the views incredible!
Note: If you’re entering the Icefields Parkway, you will need to have a Parks Canada day pass, which can be purchased in person at the start of the parkway or online in advance. These day passes cost $10.50 CAD per person or $21 for an entire vehicle of up to seven people.
…And Peyto Lake!
After finishing up at Bow Lake, if time allows, it’s time to head on to Peyto Lake. Much like Bow Lake, Peyto Lake is undeniably beautiful, but after visiting a few different lakes in Banff, you’ll come to understand that every lake has its own unique charm and character!
Peyto Lake is about 46 km (28 mi) from Lake Louise, so around a 6-minute drive on from Bow Lake. Even if you are a little shorter on time, it’s worth dropping by the Peyto Lake viewpoint just to stop and snap a few photos. The viewpoint is a 10 to 20-minute uphill walk, and there’s actually a second, lesser-known viewpoint another 10 minutes along from that if you feel like exploring!
While you can visit Peyto Lake at any time of the year, summer is my personal favorite time, as this is when the lake’s signature turquoise hue is at its very best.
Related Read: You could easily spend a whole day exploring some of the best stops on the Icefields Parkway!
Or enjoy more time at Lake Louise Village
If you don’t happen to have your own transport, or don’t fancy making the drive up the Icefields Parkway, no worries! There’s still a lot to see and do at the Lake Louise Village, like visiting the Old Tyme Candy Shoppe or simply going for a nice stroll along the Bow River trail.
While the entire trail loop stretches almost 7 km (4.3 mi), you definitely don’t need to complete the whole thing. Instead, start off at the Lake Louise train station or at the campground, and enjoy the views that come from walking this easygoing trail.
The trail is also open year-round, so it’s there to enjoy whether you’re visiting during a sunny summer day or in the snowy winter months. It’s also very well-marked and maintained, so feel free to head out at your own pace to round off your afternoon.
Dinner at the Station Restaurant
The restaurant literally is a historic train station, full of so much rustic charm with a wonderfully cozy atmosphere. With the roaring fire, antique decorations, and the mini-museum, this restaurant really makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. Kids will definitely find this place a treat, with so much to explore and see.
But let’s not forget about the food either! In short, everything on the menu here is super, super tasty – but if I had to choose one, then the beef stew would definitely be my top recommendation. Thick and hearty, it’s brimming with tender chunks of Alberta beef and plenty of fresh vegetables. If that doesn’t sound good, I don’t know what does.
The folks here are really friendly and kind, going out of their way to help you and giving recommendations on what to do in town too. I had such an amazing visit the last time I was there, and I’m sure you will do too!
As with all of the restaurants we’ve mentioned so far, it’s best to make a reservation in advance to secure your table – you never know when there’s going to be a crazy rush of people that leaves you eating at odd times!
Take in a gorgeous sunset at the Lake Louise Lakefront
I did say that we’d be back to Lake Louise, didn’t I?
Now, if you think you’ve seen the best of what Lake Louise has to offer, I have a great surprise – you haven’t seen the sunset here yet! As dusk begins to settle, the crowds thin out, and you’re left with a few eager spectators who know what’s coming.
After a busy day exploring some of the most incredible lakes in Banff National Park, head over to Lake Louise, relax, and enjoy the end of your day. I’m sure you’ve made some amazing memories, whether it’s your Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont, seeing Moraine Lake at sunrise, or chowing down at The Station Restaurant.
So grab your phone or camera and take in the sights as the sun sets on this eventful day out exploring Lake Louise!
Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Guided Tours from Banff
Even though exploring on your own can be an amazing adventure, there’s something to be said about heading out on a guided tour, especially somewhere as beautiful and full of history as Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
If you are staying in Banff then you are in luck! There are actually plenty of tours to choose from that leave from Banff and visit both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, and I’ve listed my top three favorites below.
One big advantage of a guided tour is that they pair you with local experts along a carefully planned route, which is perfect if you’re on a time crunch and want to see as much as possible. No planning is required on your part, which is a huge relief. Of course, you have the option of taking a half-day or full-day tour, depending on exactly what you’re looking for.
We wanted to showcase some of our favorite guided tours of the area, and if you’d prefer to take a tour, then we’re sure you’ll love them too!
Banff, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake (Full-day)
We love small-group tours – they’re personalized, make sure you have plenty of one-on-one time with your guide, and let you set the pace of the tour. So with that being said, let us introduce this full-day tour to Banff, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake!
Over the course of 8 hours, you’ll get to visit some of the most popular spots in Banff National Park, as well as have the chance to try out a ton of fun optional activities, like kayaking, canoeing, and exploring the nearby trails.
Unlike tours that pack too much into one day, leaving you feeling rushed, I thought that this experience struck the perfect balance. We visited some of the most popular locations, while still having time to tailor the tour to our preferences! When we went on the trip, we wanted to see some of the local wildlife, and our guide graciously made sure to stop by some local wildlife hotspots.
At $253 CAD per person, the flexibility that this tour offers is great for those who don’t fancy being crammed on a large bus and ferried around from place to place, without a chance to catch your breath! This is a popular tour though, so make sure to book your tickets in advance to get the dates you’re looking for.
Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Private Tour (Half-day)
For the ultimate personalized tour, you’ll want to go private! This half-day private tour of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake gives you the VIP treatment, with the whole of Banff National Park at your fingertips. Across 6-hours, you’ll have lots of time to appreciate all of these locations without feeling rushed. So don’t forget to take plenty of photos to remember your time here.
No matter the season, your friendly and knowledgeable guide is on hand to provide personalized tips and suggestions, but ultimately the itinerary is up to you! That being said, some of the recommended stops are Banff Town, Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake.
Tickets for this tour cost $245 CAD per person and can be booked online here. Your ticket also includes entry to the Lake Louise Gondola, which is such an exciting activity to try out, with plenty of scenic views all but guaranteed!
Discover Lake Louise and Snowshoeing (Half-day)
Heading to Lake Louise during the beautiful Canadian wintertime? Well, this is the perfect opportunity to try out a traditional Canadian winter activity, snowshoeing! This half-day winter tour of Lake Louise combines the best of both worlds, the chance to get to see the lake in all of its icy glory and explore the winter wonderland with snowshoes.
Of course, the tour is also so much more than this. It’s the chance to discover the rich history and fascinating natural (and man-made) wonders all around the lake. From the tales of local legends and wildlife, to the beautiful views of the Fairmont overlooking the lake, this experience is full of memorable moments you’re sure to treasure for many years to come.
This is also a small-group tour, with a maximum of 12 people per tour, so you’ll also have the added benefit of getting plenty of time with your guide along the way!
Tickets for this tour cost $101 CAD per person, which we think is pretty good value considering it’s a small-group tour. You can secure your spot online here.
Where to Stay in Lake Louise
What better way to enjoy the incredible activities and breathtaking mountain vistas at Lake Louise than by having your accommodation close by? No matter what your budget is, there are some fantastic options on offer – here are a few of my favorites!
Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center ($)
For budget travelers, the Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center is the best option in Lake Louise Village. It’s located right in town (perfect for an early start getting to Moraine Lake for sunrise), they have a shared kitchen, basic but comfortable rooms, and the staff are super friendly!
You can choose between dorm rooms or opt for your own private rooms. It is by far the cheapest place to stay in Lake Louise, and honestly, it’s a nice hostel, and we’ve actually stayed there a few times.
Lake Louise Inn ($$)
The Lake Louise Inn is still a budget-friendly option but a little fancier than Hi Lake Louise. The hotel features its own indoor pool, an onsite restaurant and bar, modern rooms, and even apartments for larger groups.
It basically has all the comforts you’d expect at a standard hotel and the reviews are also really good. Its location is also ideal, right in the heart of Lake Louise Village.
Rooms here at the Lake Louise Inn start at $442 CAD in the peak season and dip as low as $170 CAD in the low season. You can book the Lake Louise Inn online here!
Fairmont Château Lake Louise ($$$)
For those with a bigger budget, the Fairmont Château Lake Louise is the best of the best – not just in Lake Louise, but in Banff National Park. The hotel sits on the shoreline of Lake Louise with epic views in the most stunning of locations. I’ve added spending a night or two here to my personal bucket list!
There are also six restaurants in the hotel with many only being available to hotel guests, not to mention the onsite spa! Rooms here at the Fairmont start at $633 CAD per night, and for the best prices, it’s best to book the Fairmont online in advance!
Thanks for Reading!
Lake Louise are Moraine Lake are some of my favorite lakes in all of Canada, it’s not a question of ‘if’ you’ll be coming back for a second visit, but ‘when’! Whether you’re visiting Lake Louise in summer or in winter, you’re in for a real treat.
We hope you’ve found this itinerary to be helpful – let us know in the comments if you try this out for yourself! Below, we’ve included a few more blogs which we think would be helpful for you: