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Moraine Lake is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Alberta for good reason! This beautiful lake in Banff doesn’t even look real – I mean that turquoise hue with the mountain backdrop is stunning.
You’ve probably seen pictures of this iconic spot all over your Instagram feed and postcards. So now you want to see it in real life, well, it takes some planning. This isn’t just a lake you can drive up to.
In fact, a change by Parks Canada in 2023 means you can’t park here at all anymore or even access the road to Moraine Lake in a personal vehicle. Yup, that’s a challenge if you’re trying to get to Moraine Lake from Banff, Lake Louise, or even Calgary.
Make sure you’re not disappointed when you show up and that you can actually see one of the beautiful places in Banff National Park. All the pre-planning will be worth it, I promise!
Parking at Moraine Lake FAQs
Why is parking not allowed at Moraine Lake?
Parking at Moraine Lake has always been a nightmare – especially during peak times like summer, weekends, and Larch season in the fall. Why? Well visiting Moraine Lake is easily one of the best things to do in Alberta, and as such, it gets too busy for the small parking lot.
I’ve visited Moraine Lake many times and Daniel and I even got engaged here! But in order to find parking at Moraine Lake, I had to get up before sunrise and try to be here by 4 am. Parking got so bad in the peak of Summer 2022 that the parking lot here remained full almost 24 hours a day!
Parks Canada announced in 2023 that the Moraine Lake Road and parking lot would be closed to all personal vehicles year-round – except anyone with a disabled parking pass. Traffic controllers were required 24 hours a day and most visitors who drove here to find parking were turned away.
I can attest to this! We once wasted hours trying to circle around after being turned away for parking over and over. Once the lot was full (which was nearly all the time), it was a game of chance if you would get a spot. If anyone left, a random vehicle would be allowed in.
The constant flow of traffic was also disturbing all the wildlife in this part of Banff National Park. Parks Canada shuttles will only be running from 6 am – 8 pm and not in the evening, overnight, or early morning hours to reduce disruptions to wildlife.
To visit Moraine Lake, you’ll need a different plan. We will go through all your options, but the best ones include booking the Park and Ride shuttle, taking an organized tour like the Hop-on Hop-off bus from Banff, booking the Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle, or planning to ride the ROAM bus.
How do I visit Moraine Lake at sunrise?
The short answer is it’s difficult and almost impossible. Sunrise used to be one of the most popular times to visit Moraine Lake to get that gorgeous early morning light for photos and more peace and quiet before crowds arrived.
However, Parks Canada shuttles will only run starting at 6:30 am. You can still get some beautiful early morning views by ensuring you’re on the first shuttle. However, you won’t be watching the sunrise here.
However, if you want to know how to visit Moraine Lake at sunrise, the road is still “open” during that time for tour operators only. In fact, this new sunrise tour to Moraine Lake has just started operating. It begins at 4 am, and because they are a licensed tour operator, they can access Moraine Lake whenever they want. The tour costs $220 CAD and includes not only a visit to Moraine Lake with hot chocolate and coffee to enjoy, but also an early morning visit to Lake Louise. That means you can visit two of the busiest lakes in Canada without the crowds or the stress of parking/ shuttles. You can book the tour here with free cancelation up to 24 hours before (handy with the Rocky Mountain weather!)
If the guided tour is a little too pricey for you, you can book a transport-only sunrise shuttle instead. This particular privately owned shuttle company offers departures from Lake Louise Village to Lake Moraine at both 4 am and 5 am so that you can watch the sunrise. 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.
One other way to guarantee you’ll see the sunrise is to stay right at Moraine Lake by booking a room at the Moraine Lake Lodge. Then, you can wake up to those stunning views and be guaranteed parking. However, the lodge is really popular and books up fast, so you’ll need to reserve right away.
You can also bike or walk along the road, however, we don’t advise this in the dark and have never done it. The trip is also 25 km (15.5 miles) round-trip, so it’s not a short distance.
Another morning option that won’t be for sunrise, but still gets you there early is this hop-on-hop-off bus from Banff. It’s a top bus tour in Banff with the first departure of the day is at 7:45 am from Moose Hotel and Suites on Banff Avenue and one of the stops is at Moraine Lake.
Related Read: Visiting Moraine Lake from Calgary? Why not turn the journey into an epic road trip with our guide to the best stops on the drive from Calgary to Lake Louise?!
9 Alternatives to Parking at Moraine Lake
Now that you know parking isn’t an option at Moraine Lake, let’s go through all the other ways you can get here! Parking was never reliable anyway, so don’t be discouraged. There are still plenty of ways you can visit one of the top attractions in Banff National Park!
Just be aware that visiting Moraine Lake is only possible from late May/early June to mid-October (depending on the weather) as the road closes due to avalanche risk. While you can cycle or hike year-round, do not attempt to bike or walk the road when it is closed during the winter without the proper equipment and training.
1. Parks Canada Shuttle (Park and Ride) to Moraine Lake
One of the best options is taking the shuttle (Park and Ride) provided by Parks Canada.
The Park and Ride shuttle departs from the Lake Louise Ski Resort parking lot daily from the beginning of June 1 to mid-October. It leaves every 20 minutes from 6:30 am to 6 pm with the final shuttle leaving Moraine Lake to return to the Park and Ride location at 7:30 pm.
These shuttles are cheap too with ticket prices as follows: adult $8 CAD; seniors, $4; youth $6; children under 6 are free). That price covers the trip there and back, so you can take any Park and Ride shuttle back to the meeting point.
The only downside is that the shuttle MUST BE BOOKED IN ADVANCE. And unfortunately, this means that it is often fully booked. When you buy tickets, you’ll be buying for a one-hour window and can show up anytime during that hour.
One insider tip: 50% of the spaces on the shuttle are saved for “last-minute bookings”. These spaces open exactly two days before at 8 am. For example, if you want to visit Moraine Lake on Thursday, be online on the reservation system at 8 am on the Tuesday before. This way, you might still have a chance at getting a reservation.
Another thing to note is that even if you want to only visit Moraine Lake, book the shuttle to Lake Louise if that’s all that is available. The reason is that with your reservation you’ll get free access to the Lake Louise Connector Shuttle (more on that below.) The Lake Louise Connector shuttle runs between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake all day and is available to people who have a Park and Ride reservation or Roam Superpass.
2. Lake Connector between Lake Moraine and Lake Louise
Getting parking at Lake Louise is also challenging. Luckily, if you booked the Park and Ride Shuttle, you’ll get access to the Lake Connector Shuttle for free! The Lake Connector Shuttle runs between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake every 15 minutes between 8 am and 6 pm.
This connector is on a first-come-first-serve basis but is ONLY available to people who have a Park and Ride reservation or a Roam Superpass. This means that with your Park and Ride ticket, you can take advantage of the Lake Connector Shuttle and visit both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake on the same day.
Anorther advantage of the Superpass is that it allows you to get from Banff or Canmore to the Lake Louise Lakefront AND THEN ride the Lake Connector Shuttle. More info on ROAM Transit is below.
3. Roam Transit to Moraine Lake (Public Transit)
The Roam Transit bus is an efficient and reliable way of getting around in the Canadian Rockies, and you can take a direct bus to Moraine Lake from September until mid-October by catching the #10 bus from the Banff High School Transit Hub.
The direct journey takes around an hour and 15 minutes, and costs $10 CAD each way for adults, or $5 CAD each way for 13-17 year-olds and seniors, while under 13s can ride for free. There are 7 buses per day, which depart from 6:30 am and go roughly once per hour, and the last bus back to Banff leaves at 5:30 pm.
However, if you want to take the Roam bus between June and August, you’ll need to take the 8X or 8S bus to the Lake Louise lakeshore, change to the LL route to transfer to the Park and Ride, and then take the shuttle to Moraine Lake from there. This last step is free if you have a Roam Superpass or have pre-booked a Park and Ride ticket (but more on that in a moment).
The 8S is the scenic route and takes you along the Bow Valley Parkway for some beautiful views, while the 8X route is faster and takes around an hour, so we think it’s better if you’re pressed for time. Buses leave from 7:30 am onwards and there are at least seven departures throughout the day at 2 or 3-hour intervals, but we recommend taking either the 7:30 am or 9:30 am bus to get there decently early to beat some of the midday crowds.
Once you reach the lakeshore, the connecting bus to the Park and Ride takes another 15 minutes. The route fares are the same as for the express bus, and the 8X bus runs year round while the scenic route is only available from July onwards.
There are fare boxes on the bus that accept both US and Canadian currency, but if you’re paying with cash then remember to bring exact change. Alternatively, you can get a Roam Smart Card online or register for one at the Roam Customer Service Centre in Banff town center. The buses also have free WiFi on board, which we think is a nice bonus!
If you want a bus pass with Roam that will get you to both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake from either Banff or Canmore, you must buy the Roam “Superpass”. This pass is $25 CAD and includes your roundtrip transport from Canmore or Banff to Lake Louise Lakefront.
Once here, you will get off the Roam bus and change onto the Parks Canada Lake Connector Shuttle. Show your Superpass to the driver and you will get a free ride to Moraine Lake! The Connector Shuttle leaves every 20 minutes, so it’s very easy to use.This is a really good way to explore the area because for $25 you can visit Lake Louise AND Moraine Lake in one day – how great is that?!
It is highly recommended that you book your ROAM Superpass in advance during the summer months.
4. Go on a guided tour
A fantastic option if you don’t want to drive to Moraine Lake yourself is to book a guided tour. As you can imagine there are loads of tours to Moraine Lake available. These are out picks for the best ones out there!
Hop-on hop-off bus from Banff
We highly recommend booking the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus from Banff. Similar to other hop-on buses throughout the world your ticket includes stops at 7 popular places within Banff National Park. Stops include Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Samson Mall, and the Lake Louise gondola.
You can choose to hop off at all the above stops or simply select a few favorites. Tickets for the hop-on-hop-off bus cost $80 CAD and can be purchased online.
Guided tour of Moraine Lake and Lake Louise
This 4-hour guided tour starts in Banff and includes a tour of both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Your experienced local guide will tell you all about the history of the area as well as take you to a secret viewpoint of Moraine Lake.
We rank this as one of the top tours from Banff to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake since it’s a small group tour, which means you’ll be getting a more personalized experience. Worth noting is this tour only operates from April to November. Prices for this particular tour are around $100 CAD per person and include round-trip transportation from Banff.
Full-day sightseeing tour from Banff or Canmore
This tour is a super convenient option because it will pick you up from your accommodations in Banff or Canmore, so there’s no need to worry about missing the bus! Plus, not only do you get to see Moraine Lake, you’ll also stop at Lake Minnewanka, which is the biggest lake in Banff National Park, and Lake Louise before you arrive at the main attraction.
After your visit to Moraine Lake, you’ll also drive along the Icefields Parkway, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful roads in the world (and we agree!) to see Bow Lake, the Crowfoot Glacier, and Peyto Lake. So basically, you’ll get to see some of the most breathtaking scenery that the Canadian Rockies have to offer in a single day, rather than focusing all of your efforts on just getting to and from Moraine Lake. This is a popular Icefields Parkway tour and at $180 CAD, it often sells out, so make sure you book online now!
Guided tour from Calgary
This guided tour from Calgary runs year-round but will only take you to Moraine Lake between June and mid-October. You’ll meet at the Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel and head to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, with commentary from a super friendly and funny guide as you go. You’ll also drive by the famous Spiral Tunnels, which are pretty cool to see, and then visit Emerald Lake and the stunning natural bridge in Yoho National Park before heading home.
This tour is really well-organized and it means that you get to visit two national parks in the Canadian Rockies. It costs $165 CAD for adults and $143 CAD for kids aged between 6-15 and can be booked online here.
Related Read: For amazing experiences, check out the top tours in Banff!
5. Book the (new!) privately-operated shuttle
A brand new company has just started offering shuttles to Moraine Lake from Lake Louise. Unlike the tours mentioned above, this option is transport only. So, no tour guide; however, that does make it a lot more affordable than the tours starting at only $35 CAD per adult.
The other thing that we love about this new shuttle is that it offers early morning departures at both 4 am and 5 am, which means you’ll get to enjoy sunrise at Moraine Lake! But even if you aren’t an early riser, this shuttle is super convenient because your spot on the shuttle is booked, meaning no waiting around in long lines like you would with the Parks Canada shuttles.
When you book the shuttle, you can also choose to add on a quick hour-long stop at Lake Louise Lakefront. This is the perfect choice for anybody who also wants to check out Lake Louise for a few photo ops without the stress of trying to get parking.
One thing to note about this shuttle is that it departs from Lake Louise (either Lake Louise Village or the Lake Louise Gondola, depending on the departure time that you book.) So, you will have to get yourself to the meeting point.
6. Stay the night at Moraine Lake Lodge
Situated right on the shores of Moraine Lake – Moraine Lake Lodge could easily be described as the most scenic hotel in all of Canada! Moraine Lake Lodge prides itself on being an eco-friendly hotel, in fact, when you turn on the tap in your bathroom it’s actually fresh mountain water. As well as that, they generate their own power!
This is a way to stay right at Moraine Lake and be able to enjoy sunrise and not worry about parking. However, the lodge books up FAST – I mean months in advance. So you need to book online ASAP as you know your travel dates.
It’s a truly tranquil place to stay with no phones or TVs in the rooms, but there is WiFi available. You can choose from a hotel-style room or a luxury wooden cabin, and all have a lake view. Included in your rate are breakfast, free parking, and complimentary canoe rentals.
The Lodge is located at 1 Moraine Lake Road, an hour’s drive from Lake Louise. It is a seasonal property and is only open from June 1st to September 30th each year. You can book your stay at Moraine Lake Lodge here.
7. Bicycle to Moraine Lake
Another good parking alternative at Moraine Lake is to cycle here from Lake Louise. The ride from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake is around 13 kilometers (8 miles) in length and takes you along Moraine Lake Road. From your bike, you can truly enjoy the incredible views along Moraine Lake Road, which include glimpses of Temple Mountain and the Valley of the Ten Peaks.
It’s rated as moderate in difficulty level, that’s because you are cycling uphill most of the way! In fact, you will gain over 160 meters (525 feet) in elevation, so, it’s recommended to have a good level of fitness. It will take around an hour and 15 minutes to get there and about 30 minutes to return (because you will be cycling downhill on your return!).
You can rent bikes from Wilson Mountain Sports, a mountain bike costs from $49 CAD for the whole day, and an electric bike costs $99 CAD for the entire day.
It’s important to note too that you can only cycle this road from mid-May to mid-October because, in the winter months, this road is actually used for cross country skiing.
Top tip – a few days before the road opens to commercial vehicles (opening day is typically the day after Victoria Day). Parks Canada plows the road of any remaining snow giving you a window to cycle to Moraine Lake without any shuttles or buses on the road.
8. Cross country ski to Moraine Lake
During the winter months, and sometimes as early as mid-October (depending on the snow conditions), you can cross country ski down Moraine Lake Road and to Moraine Lake. The trail usually closes around early April.
What’s good about the cross country trail is that it’s well-groomed and is suitable for all abilities, it’s 13 kilometers (8 miles) each way and is pretty flat, gaining about 250 meters (820 feet) in elevation. Therefore, it’s suitable for the whole family and because it’s an out-and-back trail, you can choose to turn back whenever you like.
The tracksetting on this trail finishes at the viewpoint of Consolation Valley and the Ten Peaks, it is not recommended to go beyond this point unless you are really experienced and have the correct safety gear as there due to avalanche risk.
Top tip – it’s a good idea to get to the start of the trail before 9 am to avoid the crowds.
You can rent all your cross country ski gear (ski, boots, poles, and skins) for $39 per day from Wilson Mountain Sports.
Related Read: Short on time? Learn about how to spend one day in Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
9. Hike to Moraine Lake
Another alternative to driving to Moraine Lake is simply to walk the 13 km (8 miles) Moraine Lake Road into Moraine Lake from Lake Louise. It will take about 3 hours each way. This road is well-paved and mostly leads through native forest, so there are not many viewpoints along the way. Although I should mention there’s a good view of Mount Temple after the halfway point.
Because you will be sharing the road with other vehicles it’s important to practice good road safety and keep to the side of the road. It’s an easy hike but it can be steep in sections. You will be gaining 160 meters (525 feet) in elevation on this hike.
You can also hike the 9.5 km (6 mile) Moraine Lake Highline Trail which runs parallel to Moraine Lake Road. To get to this trail you would first hike along Moraine Lake Road until you reach the trailhead, it’s signposted as the Paradise Valley Trail. You will follow the Paradise Valley Trail for the first kilometer. After this, you will take a left turn onto the Moraine Lake Highline Trail. It’s a very scenic trail but the terrain is quite rough with exposed tree roots and large rocks along the trail, therefore, good hiking boots are needed. Mountain bikers also use this trail so be mindful of them while you’re hiking.
Once you’re at Moraine Lake, you’ll want to take on one of Banff’s top hikes – the Larch Valley Trail. During Larch season (the time when the Larch trees are orange which happens in Banff in September and October) the area is visited by thousands of people wanting to hike the Larch Valley Trail. It is so gorgeous! The trail also starts from Moraine Lake, so it’s convenient if you’re already here.
Facilities at Moraine Lake
The facilities at Moraine Lake are pretty limited. In fact, even the toilets are “drop toilets” (or “pit toilets”). Basically, there isn’t a flush and they don’t smell the nicest. Aside from that, there is a small café that serves coffee and snacks as well as bins for garbage and recycling.
Other than that, it’s all nature hiking trails and one of the best-located hotels in Canada – the Moraine Lake Lodge. There are a few different fun things to do at Moraine Lake that you can easily check out once you’re there.
Where to Stay Near Moraine Lake
As I mentioned earlier, there is only one hotel at Moraine Lake. If you want to book a stay at Moraine Lake Lodge, you’ll need to book far in advance. The location is superb, but the price point is pretty high.
For alternatives, there are lots of great places to stay in Lake Louise Village! Personally, I love staying in Lake Louise when exploring the area, although Banff is close, it’s still a 45-minute drive each way.
Lake Louise is such a cute town to explore. There are some great restaurants in Lake Louise as well as plenty of things to do and great hikes like the Lake Agnes Tea House Hike. So, if you want to stay in Lake Louise, you can choose from one of my favorite hotels listed below:
Hi Alpine Center – $
I’ve stayed at the HI Alpine Center on more than a few occasions. It’s a great budget hotel/hostel with dorm beds and budget private rooms. It’s clean, comfortable and the staff members are really friendly!
Lake Louise Inn – $$
The Lake Louise Inn is another budget option that’s slightly more luxurious than the Hi Alpine Center. I stayed here once and really liked it. I loved their pool and hot tub, especially on cold nights! The rooms are also really modern.
Fairmont Château Lake Louise – $$$
Unfortunately, I’ve never stayed at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise but it is the most luxurious hotel in Lake Louise. The hotel isn’t in the village, instead, it sits on the shore of Lake Louise. The rooms and everything about this hotel are spectacular!
Related read: If you plan on staying in Banff, check out our guide to the 10 best hotels in Banff!
Is it worth it to visit Moraine Lake?
Yes! Despite the hassle of arranging a way to get here, it is totally worth it. This place is breathtaking and any stress of getting here melts away when you take in that view.
This spot will always be special to us being our proposal spot, but I know you’ll make your own amazing memories when you visit here too. If you do a bit of planning ahead, a trip to Moraine Lake can be an amazing addition to your Banff itinerary.
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.
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!
Hopefully this guide to all the alternatives to parking at Moraine Lake has been helpful! If you follow our tips and grab the best option for you, I know you’ll have an amazing time at Moraine Lake.
Thanks so much for reading. If you found this blog helpful then you’ll love our other Canada blogs or the blogs listed below!