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15 Things I wish I knew BEFORE Visiting Peyto Lake

15 Things I wish I knew BEFORE Visiting Peyto Lake

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If you’re taking a trip to the Canadian Rockies, you should definitely visit Peyto Lake!

Peyto Lake is one of the most Instagrammable places in Banff National Park. With dazzling blue waters set against a backdrop of mountains, this lake looks straight out of a postcard. The viewpoint is the perfect spot to take in the scenery.

Located just off the Icefields Parkway, the lake is also super easy to reach. I’m from Canada and have visited the Peyto Lake Lookout several times – and trust me, the view never gets old. So whether you’re staying in Banff, dropping by after visiting Lake Louise, or road-tripping, a stop at the Peyto Lake Viewpoint should be at the top of your itinerary!  

Since we enjoyed our visits so much, we wanted to make it easy for you to come here as well. So before you head out, here is everything you need to know about visiting Lake Peyto Viewpoint! 

1. About Peyto Lake Viewpoint 

Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park on the Icefields Parkway, Canada
What a place!
Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada at sunset
The brand new platform!

The Peyto Lake Viewpoint (also called the Peyto Lake Lookout) is one of the most popular attractions in Banff National Park. 

Bill Peyto was one of the early guides of the park back in the 1900s; the lake and glacier are now named after him. It’s most famous for its incredibly bright turquoise water – which you really have to see to believe!

The lake’s distinctive color is caused by the glacial rock flour coming from the Peyto Glacier in the Wapta Icefield. Rock flour is essentially rock that has been eroded into a fine powder and flows downstream where it stays suspended in the water and helps create a bright turquoise hue. 

The viewpoint is where people go to see Peyto Lake from above. While Peyto Lake already sits at 1,860 meters (6,100 feet) above sea level, the viewing platform is over 2,000 meters (6,561 feet) above sea level. As such, it has amazing views of the lake and the surrounding Canadian Rockies. 

You can actually go down to the water itself and even swim in it! However, not many people do. Being a glacier-fed lake, the water is nearly freezing, so it makes for a very chilly swim. Also, there aren’t easy paths to take the trek down to the lake. So unless you really want to see it up close, you’re better off sticking to the viewpoints like we did!

To visit the lookout, you’ll need to buy a National Parks Pass (since it’s located along the Icefields Parkway). These can be purchased online for $10.50 CAD per person per day or $72 CAD for a full year.

2. Where is Peyto Lake?

Bailey and rex at Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
Welcome to Banff National Park!

Peyto Lake is located in Banff National Park in the beautiful Canadian Rockies! It’s one of the best places to visit in Alberta and one of the most popular stopping points along the Icefields Parkway. This gorgeous stretch of highway is a great route if you’re planning a road trip through the Rockies. 

If you’re wondering how to get to Peyto Lake from Banff, it’s 100 km (62 miles) west and around an hour’s drive away. We would also recommend visiting Lake Louise since it’s only 30 minutes away from Peyto Lake. Plus, the drive between Banff and Lake Louise is pretty scenic as well!

The mountainside town of Canmore is about 120 km (75 miles) away from Peyto Lake. The drive takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes without stops. 

Coming from Jasper, the trip should take around 2.5 hours. However, road conditions vary so it might take longer to complete the journey. 

Related Read: When you travel along this freeway, you should also check out the Columbia Icefield Skywalk! Here, you’ll find another beautiful viewpoint overlooking a valley and glaciers.

3. Is The Viewpoint open?  

View of Peyto Glacier that runs in Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
Looking out at the Peyto Glacier and the mountains

Yes! The Peyto Lake Viewpoint is open.

Peyto Lake Viewpoint was recently closed for a couple of years for construction as various improvements were made. But thankfully, it reopened in October 2021. 

The viewing platform has now been extended to allow for more people. The parking lot has also been made significantly larger and there are new public toilets. 

We came here both before and after the closure and noticed that all these changes definitely made the viewpoint even better. With increased parking and facilities, it felt a lot less crowded, even in the busy summer months around Banff.

4. When is the best time to visit? 

Bailey and her mum enjoy a drink at Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
We even took some drinks!

One of the best things about Peyto Lake is that you can visit all year round!

Ideally, summer is the best time to visit Peyto Lake. Because of its location, good weather is never guaranteed but it’s much more likely in the summertime.

Fall is also a great time to visit. However, you might not get the scenic fall colors you’d expect since the area is very rocky. In late autumn, you might see some snow but the lake shouldn’t be entirely frozen yet. 

Although you can visit the lake for most of the winter (unless the road closes from heavy snow), it’s not the best time to go. The lake often freezes over, and, while beautiful, it won’t have a strong visual impact. You’ll miss out on the lake’s gorgeous turquoise color that you see at other times of the year. 

Due to the high elevation, winters last long around here, and the lake will still be frozen well into spring. Late spring is when the water starts to melt. So late spring and summer are the best times to visit! We visited in June, and the lake was absolutely stunning this month!

If you are hoping to avoid crowds during your visit, sunrise and sunset are ideal. Peyto Lake is usually part of a day trip with many other stops in Banff National Park, and these tours rarely visit for sunrise or sunset. If you’re in the area for a while, we would definitely recommend taking the time to witness the sunrise over the lake. 

5. Is there parking? 

The main parking lot at Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
The main parking lot!

Yes, there are actually two parking lots at Peyto Lake Viewpoint.

The main parking lot is the furthest from the viewpoint and is easily signposted as Bow Summit Peyto Lake parking. This parking lot is completely free and is assigned to everyone. 

There is a closer parking lot to the viewpoint but this is reserved for coaches and accessible parking. 

6. What are the best tours that visit Peyto Lake?

Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park
The entire boardwalk!

You could definitely visit Peyto Lake on your own. But if you want a stress-free trip and everything handled for you, book one of these highly-rated tours of the Canadian Rockies

Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway full day tour

This full day tour departs from Banff and takes you along the stunning Icefields Parkway so you can stop at so many of the highlights along the way! It’s definitely one of the best Icefields Parkway tours since you’ll get to see Lake Minnewanka, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Bow Lake, and the Crowfoot Glacier with the final stop being Peyto Lake. Although you fit a lot into one day, it doesn’t feel rushed.

This tour begins around 9 am and includes hotel pickup and dropoff. Entrance fees are covered, and we discovered that this tour group gets to avoid all lines as well! Bottled water is included, but you should plan to bring snacks and money for other food or souvenirs.

If you’re coming from Banff, this is a great way to see everything in one day for around $195 CAD per person! The tour does have a limit of 22 people, so book your spot online ahead of time.

Columbia Icefield adventure 1-day tour from Calgary or Banff 

This full-day tour departs from a meeting point in either downtown Banff or Calgary at 7:50 am. It stops at Peyto Lake and Crowfoot Glacier, with the option to add another stop at the incredible Columbia Icefield (where you can explore glaciers on foot!). This icefield is part of the largest icefields in North America and shouldn’t be missed! 

The tour includes the National Park Pass, roundtrip transport, and a bilingual tour guide, but doesn’t cover lunch. You can choose to be dropped off in either Banff or Calgary (regardless of where you started the tour). So if you want to travel from one of those cities to the other, you may as well join this tour! You’re allowed to bring one carry-on luggage, but will need to pay more for larger bags.

We loved this tour because it’s a great Calgary to Banff tour that meant we could travel between both places AND see everything in between. So if you’re doing the same or just want to experience both the Columbia Icefields and Peyto Lake, purchase your ticket online for $210 CAD with the option to add the Ice Explorer Journey for $95 CAD extra.

Banff and the Icefields Parkway – small group full day adventure tour

This small group tour includes a lot of the great stops as the other two tours and a couple bonus ones! You’ll still see Peyto Lake, the Icefields Parkway, Bow Lake, and the Columbia Icefield. But you’ll also get to visit the Weeping Wall and Mistaya Canyon!

The tour includes transport in a comfy vehicle, friendly guides, and water. Plus, with a maximum of 12 people, it’s not overly crowded at all. It’s also a great price for a really personal tour at $288 CAD. You should pack your own snacks and picnic lunch, but there is an option to add-on the picnic lunch by contacting the tour company in advance if you’d rather not prep.

The tour departs from a couple central hotels in Banff at 8:30 am, but you can contact the tour company when booking to see if there are alternate pickup points available.

This tour is likely to sell out, so book your tickets ahead of time if you’d like to join this extended tour!

Exclusive Private Tour Icefields Parkway

If you want a more personalized experience, this Private Icefields Parkway tour offers an upscale experience with a very knowledegable guide.

This tour can be done as a summer or winter tour from Banff for 2 to 3 people travelers – perfect for friends or a romantic honeymoon! Your tour guide is an expert of the area and will educate you on the ancient Indigenous culture and colonial history of the area.

The tour includes pickup and drop-off from Banff and stops at Lake Louise, Bow Lake, Saskatchewan River Crossing, Columbia Icefields, and of course Peyto Lake. If you’re going in the winter, driving can be hazardous if you aren’t well equipped, but this tour is specially designed to show you the sights in snowy conditions, so there’s no need to worry!

My partner and I did this tour together and loved the one-on-one attention and insider knowledge from our guide. Although we’ve also come in the summer, this area looked completely different in wintertime!

To have this once-in-a-lifetime experience at $320 CAD per person, check availability and book online here.

Related Read: If you’ll be here for longer and want to explore more of the area, check out these other tours in Banff!

7. How long is the trail to the viewing platform?

Bailey and her mum walk along the pathway to the Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park
Off we go!
The path to Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
The path has some uphill sections.

The hike from the main parking lot up to Peyto Lake Viewpoint is only around 11 – 20 minutes along a paved path.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy though! I promise the short uphill climb is well worth the views though.

If you’d like to walk further, there’s another viewpoint only another 10 minutes away (this one’s flat!). The other viewpoint tends to be a lot less busy too.

If the walk from the main parking lot to the viewpoint seems too far, you can get dropped at the upper parking lot and walk from there. But be aware that parking at the upper parking lot is only for those with disabilities.

8. Can you visit in winter? 

Peyot Lake in winter in Banff National Park
Just before the lake freezes!

Yes, you can visit Peyto Lake all year round. 

Peyto Lake freezes over for the majority of the winter months and for a lot of spring. While you won’t see the intense turquoise color of the water, the frozen lake is still stunning! 

The trail can get very slippery, and it’ll be very cold, so dress accordingly. You might even need snowshoes if it’s been snowing recently. The road conditions are also likely to be bad, so winter tires are an absolute MUST for visiting Lake Peyto in winter! 

Related Read: If you’re traveling this area in winter, check out these fun wintery things to do in Banff!

9. Is Peyto Lake Viewpoint wheelchair accessible? 

Pathway that is wheelchair friendly at Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
The wheelchair friendly paths are made of ramps.

Yes, Peyto Lake is accessible to all! There is a parking lot designated for coaches and accessible parking with a path running up to the viewpoint for wheelchair users. Thanks to recent developments, there is also a new toilet block with an accessible toilet. 

Unfortunately, the paths up to the other lookout and down to the water aren’t so smooth. However, you can still experience the incredible Peyto Lake from the viewing platform. 

10. What facilities will you find at Peyto Lake Viewpoint? 

Toilets at Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
Toilets at Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada

Thanks to the recent remodel, Peyto Lake’s main parking lot is now larger. There is also an accessible and coach parking area closer to the viewpoint. 

The pathway up to the viewing deck is paved and wheelchair accessible, and the viewing deck has been extended so it doesn’t feel as crowded as before. There are also new toilets which are a significant upgrade from the previously ones. 

You can also find tourist information boards detailing information about the area, including a few trails that start from Peyto Lake. 

While you won’t find any food vendors nearby, there are plenty of spots for a picnic. On one of our visits, we brought our own food and stopped here for lunch! 

There is no public transport running to Peyto Lake so your best options are renting a car or booking a tour. 

11. Is there cell phone service? 

Rex enjoys Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
Daniel poses for a photo at Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park

No, you won’t be able to get any phone service at Peyto Lake Viewpoint or in a lot of areas within Banff National Park. We recommend downloading maps and any important information before setting off.

These are great moments to really appreciate the views and your surroundings; we personally love going places with no phone service! 

Don’t worry – you can always upload your incredible Instagram photos when you return to your hotel! 

12. Is Visiting Peyto Lake suitable for children? 

Stunning view of Peyto Lake as seen from Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
Peyto Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Canada!

Yes, the viewpoint is really safe for children and the hike to the viewpoint is an easy trail, so perfectly suitable for kids! We saw tons of children enjoying the view during our visit, and they seemed to have a really good time. 

There are also heaps of other things to do for children in the area, especially along the Icefields Pathways. 

13. Other hikes that start near the parking lot

Bow Summit in Banff National Park overlooking Peyto Lake on the Icefields Parkway. The glacier-fed lake is famous for its bright turquoise colored waters in the summer.
The view from Bow Summit!

Bow Summit

If you want to see Peyto Lake from a different perspective than from the viewpoint, you can do the Bow Summit Viewpoint Hike

This trail is popular during fall in Banff as well as in the summer but it can also be done in winter as a snowshoe walk. That being said, Bow Summit is in avalanche territory, so it’s best done with a guide or avoided in the height of winter. 

The hike from Peyto Lake Viewpoint is about 6.4 km (4 miles). From the viewpoint, the trail takes around 1.5 hours and is of moderate difficulty. 

The hike leads uphill and away from Peyto Lake where you can see incredible views of the lake and the Icefields Parkway. After Peyto Lake Viewpoint, you’ll come to a loop where the path splits into three. You’ll want to take the middle of the three that is signposted as the Bow Summit Trail. 

The trail is quite steep in places, but there is a clear path to follow. When we hiked this route, we saw some of the area’s adorable wildlife like pikas and marmots! So keep your eyes peeled!

Towards the end of the trail, there is a steep uphill path that leads to one of the most incredible lookouts in the whole of the park.

Observation Peak

Observation Peak is another lookout point for Peyto Lake. It’s slightly further away from the main Peyto Lake Viewpoint but is well worth the journey. It’s lesser known and many people (especially those on day tours) won’t venture out here. 

To get to Observation Peak, continue along the path straight ahead from the first viewpoint. Take the dirt track on the right-hand side (not heading downhill, as this will take you to the lakeshore). The dirt track heads through the forest for around 5-10 minutes and is mainly flat, making it easy and suitable for the whole family. 

You’ll know when you get to Observation Peak as you’ll have a view of the lake again. There isn’t a platform, but there are some rocks you can sit on to take photos and look at the mesmerizing view! 

Related Read: For more awesome views, check out these easy hikes in Canmore, Alberta!

14. How long do you need to visit? 

View from the edge of the platform at Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
Come and experience paradise!

Many people will make a quick stop here on a longer road trip around the Canadian Rockies. However, you could spend a good few hours here if you have the time. 

If you’re only visiting the viewpoint, you’ll need around 1-1.5 hours to complete the trail and enjoy the view. However, we recommend spending more time here or even having a picnic.

You can do several great hikes around Banff from the trail and even go down to the lake if you’d like. But remember – the water is quite cold!  

15. Is Peyto Lake Viewpoint worth visiting? 

Bailey, her mum and dog at Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
Yes!

Absolutely! 

Peyto Lake is easily one of the most stunning lakes in the Rocky Mountains. These bright turquoise waters and the surrounding mountains are truly spectacular, and you definitely won’t regret visiting! 

Where to Stay Near Peyto Lake

Cozy fire indoors at HI Mosquito Creek, Icefields Parkway
Us at Mosquito Creek Hostel enjoying the cozy fire.
Outdoor fire pit at the HI Mosquito Creek, Icefields Parkway
Outdoor firepit at Mosquito Creek Hostel

If a visit to Peyto Lake is in your future, there are a few different options for staying nearby!

Accomodations close to Peyto Lake

We grabbed a room at the HI Mosquito Creek Hostel, which is only about a 10-minute drive away from Peyto Lake. This is a cute, rustic log cabin-style hostel surrounded by nature. It’s a step up from camping, but be warned there’s no running water or electricity. You can grab a bunk here by booking online for around $40 CAD a night and really unplug and enjoy the Rockies!

For a step up in accomodations, the only real hotel nearby is The Lodge at Bow Lake (formerly called Num-Ti-Jah Lodge). It’s located on Bow Lake, 5 minutes south of Peyto Lake. As it’s the only accommodation close by, it gets booked up quickly, so book far in advance if you would like to stay. 

Campgrounds

Unfortunately, you cannot camp at Peyto Lake, but we’ve found a few campsites where you can stay along the Icefields Parkway. These are open during the summer, but you can check the exact dates here. All are about a 15-minute from Peyto Lake Lookout.

The Silverhorn Creek Campground is open from the beginning of June to early October. Sites cost $17 CAD per night and operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, you can reserve Silverhorn campsites online, but only until late September.

When we stayed here, we noticed the campsites were unpowered and quite close together. There’s a hand pump and dry toilets, but you’ll need to go to Waterfowl Lakes Campground for potable water or RV sani stations. Also, fire permits cost an additional $9 CAD a night.

Waterfowl Lakes Campground is open from late June to early September. It operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. RV and camping sites are $22 CAD without a fire and $31 CAD with a fire. They have both dry and flush toilets as well as hot and cold running water and a sani station.

Mosquito Creek Campground is open from early June to early October and operates on a first-come, first-serve basis as well. The RV and tent sites are very basic and cost $17 CAD without a fire and $27 CAD with a fire.

Lake Louise  

If you’re looking for more selection, you can always stay in Lake Louise. It’s only a half hour drive away, so it’s super convenient and gives you tons of options for accomodations. Plus, you’re be perfectly placed to explore Lake Louise too!

The Lake Louise Inn is a nice mid-range hotel with some recent renovations. It has an indoor pool, onsite restaurant and bar, modern rooms, and even apartments for larger groups. My favorite part is that all guest rooms have balconies, cozy fireplaces, and views of the mountains!

If you really want to spoil yourself, the iconic Fairmont Château Lake Louise is my pick. This grand hotel sits on the shoreline of Lake Louise – it’s a location you’ll have to see to believe! Spending a night or two here is on my personal bucket-list for sure.

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 $11 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.50 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.)

  • $22.00 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) – $75.25 CAD
  • Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 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

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is mesmerizing!

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!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
Thanks for reading!

Peyto Lake Viewpoint is a must-see destination in the Canadian Rockies! It’s easy to reach and an absolutely beautiful stop along the Icefields Parkway. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did, and that this guide comes in handy.

If you’re traveling through other parts of the country, check out my other blogs about Canada! I love sharing information about where to go and what to do all over the country. And if you’re sticking to Western Canada, here are some useful articles about nearby attractions:

13 BEST Stops on the Drive from Vancouver to Jasper

22 Things you NEED to KNOW before visiting the Banff Gondola

11 BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Jasper