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Parking at Moraine Lake is a nightmare! It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Alberta and almost every visitor to the region wants to visit. This has created what’s now known as the hardest place to get a parking spot in Canada.
But it’s not all bad news…
I’ve personally visited Moraine Lake many times to enjoy hikes like the Larch Valley Trail and Consolation Lakes, and every time I’ve managed to get a parking spot. It wasn’t luck. In fact, getting a parking spot at Moraine Lake is easy if you’re willing to endure a very early morning.
The question is, what time should I arrive?
Well, after so many visits all throughout the spring, summer, and fall, I’ve pretty much got it figured out. But the time changes throughout the year, on weekends vs weekdays, and for special occasions such as Larch season in the fall.
So, in this blog, I’ll show you exactly how to get a parking spot at Moraine Lake at any time of the year as well as give you the time you need to arrive! I’ve also included some info on alternatives to parking at Moraine Lake. That’s right, incase getting a parking space seems too stressful. you have other options like the Park and Ride shuttle or a guided tour!
Parking at Moraine Lake FAQs
Tips for getting Parking at Moraine Lake
If you want to increase your chances of scoring a parking spot at Moraine Lake, use these tips:
- Arrive super early or late – Be the first in the morning at the Moraine Lake parking lot (around 5 am or so depending on the season and day of the week), or show up later after 5 pm. These are the least busy times of day at Moraine Lake.
- Visit during the week – Weekends are much busier than during the week.
- Visit in the Spring or late Fall – June, Jul, August, and September are the most popular times to visit Moraine Lake. For an easier time getting parking, go right after Moraine Lake Road opens at the beginning of June, or right before it closes in October.
- Don’t even bother trying to get parking at all – This might not be what you want to hear, but I’m trying to save you the hassle. Plan in advance and book the Park and Ride shuttle, book an organized tour like the Hop-on Hop-off bus from Banff, or plan to ride the ROAM bus.
What is the best time to arrive at Moraine Lake in the morning?
If you want to ensure you get a parking space then the best time to arrive is as early as possible. However, here’s what I’ve found.
During the week, any time before 5:30 am should be a safe bet for scoring a parking spot at Moraine Lake, and on the weekends, any time before 5:00 am.
Update: We have been hearing reports of the parking lot being full before 3 am (some people must be staying overnight) this summer. Please keep this in mind and adjust your arrival time accordingly. We are monitoring this and would love our readers to pass on the info of when they arrived and if the parking lot was full.
However, here are some exceptions to the rule. In fact, during Larch season on weekends, I’d recommend getting to the Moraine Lake parking lot before 4:30 am. This sounds crazy, but better be safe than sorry if you’re looking to visit one of the top attractions in Banff National Park.
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. Because of this, it’s super busy! During the week though, 5:30 am is usually still fine in Larch season as you don’t get all of the local Canadians from places nearby coming for the day or weekend trips.
Not into early mornings? Book the hop-on-hop-off bus from Banff. One of the stops is Moraine Lake so you don’t need to worry about parking at all! This is one way to guarantee that you will get to see Moraine Lake!
There are also a few other alternatives to parking at Moraine Lake that I’ll tell you more about later on in this blog!
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?!
What happens if you don’t get a parking spot?
Let’s face it, this is a real thing you need to consider. Getting a parking space at Moraine Lake is not easy, and if you’re not showing up ridiculously early in the morning, then you need to be prepared to get turned away without a parking space.
You are not allowed to park on the road to Moraine Lake. In fact, traffic controllers will not even let you turn onto Moraine Lake Road if there are no spaces available. Traffic controllers are positioned at the intersection between Moraine Lake Road and Lake Louise Drive.
Let me break it down for you…
As you drive towards Lake Louise lakefront on Lake Louise Drive, the turn off to Moraine Lake Road is on your left. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to turn onto the Moraine Lake road from here (it’s blocked and maned by traffic controllers.) No left turn is allowed. The map above demonstrates this.
Instead, you are required to drive all the way to Lake Louise lakefront, do a loop, and drive back down to Moraine Lake Road where you can now turn right. Now, as you approach Moraine Lake Road you better hope other people have left because that’s the ONLY way you’ll be allowed it. You see, traffic controllers are stationed here and as people leave (which isn’t often, unfortunately) they will allow random passing vehicles in. This is a system of total chance and one of the reasons getting parking at Moraine Lake is so frustrating.
So if these traffic controllers don’t let you turn onto Moraine Lake Road, then what?
Well, you could drive back down to Lake Louise Village and turn around and try again. Meaning, you’ll have to drive all the way back to Lake Louise Lakefront and back down again to hope the timing is right this time. However, I don’t recommend this.
The full loop in peak season can take 30 minutes or longer with traffic. Trying this a few times will quickly waste your day away! Trust me, I tried it!
Instead, I recommend counting your losses and moving on to do something else for the day. There are plenty of other fun things to do in Lake Louise, or go on a little road trip on the Icefields Parkway.
You should plan to return to Moraine Lake another day with a little more planning.
So your options are: get to Moraine Lake super early, book the Park and Ride in advance, book the ROAM public transport Superpass, or book a tour! Or, if you’re into hiking or cycling, you can always do that too (more on that below).
Related read: If you’re heading to Lake Louise then check out our guide to the Lake Agnes Tea House Hike. It’s one of the best in the area!
Getting a Parking Space in the Late Afternoon
There is another way to get parking at Moraine Lake without the super early wake-up call, and that’s to arrive late in the afternoon. During the summer in Lake Louise, it doesn’t get dark until 10 pm. So arriving after 5 or 6 pm will increase your chances of getting a parking spot. Moraine Lake is much quieter in the evenings.
I’ve been to Moraine Lake a few times in the late afternoon and never had a problem getting parking. It’s also very quiet and you can enjoy the hiking trails and viewpoints without the crowds. Sometimes I even take a couple of drinks with me to the viewpoint to enjoy.
Although sunset isn’t that famous time to visit, it’s still pretty amazing if you have good weather! It’s also a great time of day to enjoy hiking trails without the crowds such as Consolation Lakes or the Larch Valley. However, tackling longer trails is not advised as you’ll run out of time before it gets dark.
The Road to Moraine Lake
The road to get to the parking lot at Moraine Lake is only open during the summer months. During all other times of the year, you cannot drive to park at Moraine Lake or ride shuttles, instead, you must cycle or hike.
It’s important to note that the road closes due to avalanche risk, so do not attempt to hike or cycle the road without the proper equipment and training.
Parks Canada Shuttle (Park and Ride) to Moraine Lake
If getting a parking spot at Moraine Lake sounds too stressful, don’t worry you’re not alone. Instead, there are some other great options with the best one being the shuttle (Park and Ride) provided by Parks Canada.
New in 2022: The Park and Ride shuttle now departs from Lake Louise Ski Resort parking lot. During previous years, it departed from an overflow parking lot located 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) east of Lake Louise Village on the road between Lake Lousie and Banff. That has now changed for the 2022 summer season, details about the change can be found here.
These shuttles are cheap (adult $8 CAD; seniors, $4; youth $6; children under 6 are free) and start running as early as 6 am. You can find all the info on the Banff Lake Louise website or the Parks Canada website.
The Park and Ride Shuttles are perfect if you’re not keen on rolling the dice with parking. The only downside is that now (a change as of 2021), the shuttle MUST BE BOOKED IN ADVANCE. And unfortunately, this means that it is often fully booked. Advanced bookings for this year begin on May 4, 2022.
One insider tip: 50% of the spaces on the shuttle are saved for “last minute bookings”. These spaces open exactly two days before at 6 am. For example, if you want to visit Moraine Lake on Thursday, be online on the reservation system at 6 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.
Note: Park and Ride Shuttles generally operate from 8 am, however, there is now an “Earlybird Shuttle to Lake Moraine” that starts at 6 am! This shuttle typically starts operating at the end of June, but exact dates do vary year to year.
If you missed out on the shuttle bookings, try this hop-on-hop-off bus from Banff. It is more expensive but you’ll also visit a few other iconic attractions such as Johnston Canyon!
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.
New in 2022: The Lake Connector Shuttle is now also available to people who have a ROAM Transit Superpass. This Superpass allows you to get from Banff or Canmore to Lake Louise Lakefront AND THEN ride the Lake Connector Shuttle. More info on ROAM Transit below.
ROAM Transit to Moraine Lake (Public Transport)
ROAM Transit is the public bus system. This year (new in 2022!) you can actually buy 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 new system implemented this year. It’s great because it means that 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.
Facilities at Moraine Lake Parking Lot
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 rubbish a recycling waste.
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.
5 Alternatives to Parking at Moraine Lake
If getting parking at Moraine Lake (or getting a booking on the Park and Ride) sounds like too much of a hassle, check out these other alternatives for getting to Moraine Lake!
1. Bicycle to Moraine Lake
A great alternative to driving to Moraine Lake and attempting to find a parking spot 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. 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 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!)
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.
You can rent bikes from Wilson Mountain Sports at 101 Lake Louise Drive, a mountain bike costs from $49 CAD for the whole day, and an electric bike costs from $79 for the entire day.
It’s important to note too that you can 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 vehicles (opening day is typically the day after Victoria Day – May 23rd). Parks Canada plows the road of any remaining snow giving you a window to cycle to Moraine Lake without any cars.
2. 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 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 $69 per day from Wilson Mountain Sports at 101 Lake Louise Drive.
3. 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 there it can be steep in sections. You will be gaining 160 meters in elevation on this hile.
You can also hike the 9.5 km (6 miles) 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.
4. 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!
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 is 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.
5. 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 tour options available, a day trip to Moraine Lake is an extremely popular choice for overseas visitors.
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 from $70 CAD.
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. What we like about this tour is that 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 includes round-trip transportation from Banff.
Where to Stay near Moraine Lake
As I mentioned above, there is only one hotel at Moraine Lake and it’s extremely expensive! However, 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 minutes 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. So, if you want to stay in Lake Louise, you can choose from one of my favorite hotels listed below:
I’ve stayed here 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 are really friendly!
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.
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 is spectacular!
Related read: If you plan on staying in Banff, check out our guide to the 10 best hotels in Banff!
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.
Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap, 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!
Parking at Moraine Lake can be stressful. However, by following the times in this guide you are certain to get a parking spot. I can’t stress enough that waking up 15 minutes earlier can make your day much more enjoyable!
Thanks so much for reading. I really hope you get a parking space at Moraine Lake! If you found this blog helpful then you’ll love our other Canada blogs or the blogs listed below!