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Visiting Moraine Lake is easily one of the best things to do in Banff National Park. It’s known as one of the most picturesque lakes in Canada – maybe even the world! Chances are, you’ve seen photos of this iconic place plastered across Instagram or even postcards.
Nobody can deny that Moraine Lake is beautiful. But besides enjoying the view of the turquoise lake and the Ten Peaks in the background, what else is there to do at Moraine Lake?!
Well, lots actually!
I’ve been to Moraine Lake more times than I can count, and I’ve explored the area thoroughly. I can, with confidence, tell you there are more things to do at Moraine Lake than first meets the eye. And in this blog, I’ll tell you about the different activities you can do and places to explore at Moraine Lake!
I’ve also included a ton of info you really need to know before you go including how to get to Moraine Lake, when to visit, where to stay, and more! After reading this blog, you’ll be ready to visit Moraine Lake this summer.
- About Moraine Lake, Canada
- The Best Time to visit Moraine Lake
- Getting to Moraine Lake
- 10 Things to do at Moraine Lake
- 1. Walk the Lakeshore Trail
- 2. Take in the views of the lake from the Rockpile
- 3. Canoe on the lake
- 4. Enjoy coffee with a view
- 5. Hike the Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass
- 6. Eiffel Lake Trail
- 7. Stay at Moraine Lake Lodge
- 8. Scramble up the Tower of Babel
- 9. Walk to Consolation Lakes
- 10. Bicycle to Moraine Lake
- Where to Stay near Moraine Lake
- Before you go…
About Moraine Lake, Canada
Located in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Moraine Lake is easily one of the best places to visit in Alberta. The water of the lake is a brilliant blue color, and with the iconic Ten Peaks as its background, this lake is nothing short of breathtaking. It should come as no surprise that most tourists in Canada (or even Canadians themselves) have Moraine Lake on their bucket list.
Moraine Lake is located only 14 kilometers/8.9 miles from the village of Lake Louise, and as such, it is one of the best things to do for those visiting Lake Louise. The lake is located at 1,884 meters/6181 feet above sea level. You can get to it by driving Moraine Lake Road when it is open during the summer months (typically from the end of May until mid-October), or you can hike or cycle there too.
Visiting such a popular place doesn’t come without its challenges though, so it’s important you properly plan and prepare before you go. First and foremost, you must have a plan for getting to the lake. Parking is a nightmare and your chances of snagging a spot after 6 am are slim. Besides that, the access road isn’t always open either.
But no need to worry, below we have converted everything you need to know about visiting Moraine Lake in 2022. We’ve even included the best things to do at Moraine Lake so that once you get there, you can really enjoy it!
The Best Time to visit Moraine Lake
If you really want to see Moraine Lake for yourself then you need to consider both the time of year to visit and the time of day.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Moraine Lake
The best time of year to visit Moraine Lake is when the lake is melted because when it is frozen and covered in snow, you won’t get to see the bright blue water color! For that reason, you shouldn’t plan to visit before mid-June. By October, the lake starts getting frozen sections typically as well. With that said, this is completely dependent on the weather and changes every year.
To guarantee the lake won’t be frozen, visit Moraine Lake in July, August, or early September.
One of my personal favorite times of year to visit Moraine Lake is in the Fall when all of the Larch trees turn bright orange and yellow. This time of year is referred to as “Larch Season.” Larch Season also varies each year because of the weather, but generally speaking, you can expect to see these beautifully-colored trees between mid-September and early October.
It’s important to note that the road to get to Moraine Lake closes to vehicle access from mid-October to the end of May each year due to avalanche risk. So, during these months it is not possible to drive to Moraine Lake. You can, however, hike, cycle, or ski there. With that said, there is a big risk of avalanche so you should have the proper equipment and training. Parks Canada doesn’t advise going all the way to the lake during the winter months.
This year, 2022, Moraine Lake Road was set to open on June 1, however that has since been delayed due to weather/road conditions. The road should be open by mid-June but watch for updates before you go just to be sure. The closing date will be announced later in the year.
The Best Time of Day to Visit Moraine Lake
The most beautiful time of day to visit Moraine Lake is without a doubt at sunrise. As the sunrises, it lights up the mountains and lake and makes for the brilliant scene you’re probably hoping to see. On top of that, first thing in the morning is when your chance of having clear weather is the best. Clouds can cover the mountains and really impact your view.
However, sunrise is also one of the busiest times of day to go to Moraine Lake, and you need to arrive at least an hour before sunrise to snag a parking spot (more on that below.)
Visiting Moraine Lake at mid-day is a good time of day for hiking, however, getting parking is pretty much impossible. So if you want to visit during the day, be sure to arrange transport in advance.
If you want to visit Moraine Lake without a crowd of people, go a couple of hours before sunset. By this time of day, most people have gone back to their hotel for the day and you should be able to get a parking spot with ease.
Hot Tip: If you can, visit Moraine Lake mid-week. It is always busier on the weekends!
Getting to Moraine Lake
Driving to Moraine Lake and getting parking
Parking at Moraine Lake is a nightmare. In fact, it can be so hard to get a parking spot that I actually wrote an entire guide to getting a parking spot at Moraine Lake. Crazy I know, but it’s just that popular.
I highly suggest reading it before you go, otherwise, you simply won’t be prepared and may miss out on seeing Moraine Lake entirely!
Parks Canada Shuttle (Park and Ride) to Moraine Lake
Parks Canada operates a shuttle, called the Park and Ride, that departs from the Lake Lousie Ski Resort parking lot and will take you to both Lake Louise Lakefront and Moraine Lake.
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 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. 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!
ROAM Transit (Public Bus)
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.
One of the easiest and hassle-free ways to guarantee that you get to see Moraine Lake is by going on an organized tour.
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.
Another good option is 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 include round-trip transportation from Banff.
10 Things to do at Moraine Lake
1. Walk the Lakeshore Trail
The Moraine Lake Lakeshore Trail is arguably the most popular hiking trail at Moraine Lake. I love this trail as you get to enjoy magnificent views of Moraine Lake from angles you simply don’t get from the viewpoints near the parking lot.
The trail starts at Moraine Lake Lodge and follows the edge of Moraine Lake for about 1.5 kilometers/0.93 miles. Once you reach the end, you must turn around and return via the same trail. In total it takes around an hour to walk the trail and admire the views.
The Lakeshore Trail is a great option for those who don’t consider themselves hikers, families, and even those with sturdy strollers. The path is both well maintained and flat, so it’s super easy!
2. Take in the views of the lake from the Rockpile
There’s one photo of Moraine Lake that everyone who’s visiting has most likely seen before – it’s the most famous view of the lake and the Ten Peaks. Well, that photo is taken from the Rockpile, and it’s also where I proposed to Bailey on our romantic trip to Banff.
The Rockpile is exactly what the name suggests, a huge pile of rocks. However, this pile of rocks has been turned into the ultimate viewing platform of Moraine Lake and EVERY visitor should walk to the top of the Rockpile to enjoy the view.
To reach the Rockpile, take the trail next to the bathrooms in the parking lot. Follow this trail and cross a small wooden bridge. Once you cross the bridge, keep walking up the trail and keep right (left goes to Consolation Lakes) and this trail leads up to the Rockpile where you can find lots of small viewpoints of the lake. This trail is signposted so you don’t need to worry about getting lost.
It only takes 5 minutes to walk to the top of the Rockpile and although not flat, it’s an easy walk!
3. Canoe on the lake
Can you imagine anything more mesmerizing than taking in the views of Moraine Lake and the Ten Peaks from a tiny canoe?! Me either!
This has to be one of the most iconic activities you can do at Moraine Lake and it’s actually an iconic activity in Canada too. So, if you’ve ever wanted to canoe in a Canadian lake, I don’t think there’s a more perfect place to do it than at Moraine Lake!
Canoes can be rented from the Moraine Lake Lodge and they start at $115 CAD+tax for one hour. The canoes can fit up to three people so if you’re in a group, this is actually a relatively cheap activity in Banff National Park!
Rentals include life jackets and because of the stability of Canadian canoes, even those with no or limited experience can give it a try.
4. Enjoy coffee with a view
The Snowshoe Café is Moraine Lake’s very own boutique café serving all your favorites including delicious coffee. Even in the summer, it can be bitterly cold at Moraine Lake and there’s no better way to warm up or wake up, than with a hot brew in your hand. If it’s raining in Banff National Park, then escaping to the cafe for a little while is a good idea too!
The Snowshoe Cafe is located in Moraine Lake Lodge and besides coffee, also sells plenty of food items that are perfect to-go. They have breakfast foods such as quiches and croissants, or if you want, sandwiches for lunch too. My best advice is to grab a coffee and a bite to eat and go for a walk. Find a nice quiet spot along the Lakeshore Trail and enjoy a picnic!
5. Hike the Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass
During fall in Banff National Park, the Larch Valley Trail is one of the most spectacular hikes you can do. The entire valley erupts into a sea of yellow Larch trees with an epic backdrop of the famous Ten Peaks.
However, what many people don’t realize is the Larch Valley Trail is also a spectacular trail near Lake Louise in the summer months. In fact, wildflowers blossom in the valley during this time, and to some, it’s their favorite time to hike the trail.
The Larch Valley Trail starts from the Moraine Lake parking lot and follows the Lakeshore Trail before you reach a sign for the track telling you to go left. Once on this track, the trail quickly begins to climb high above the valley up a range of switchbacks (there are 10 to be exact.)
The initial climb gains around 450 meters in elevation which is not a walk in the park. But once you reach the valley, the trail flattens out until the end and you can finally enjoy the views! The total elevation gain of the track is 535 meters (1,755 feet.)
It takes around 4 hours to finish the 8.6-kilometer/5.3-mile, out and back hike. If you’re feeling up to it you can also continue on to Sentinel Pass. Hiking to the pass not only gives you great views of the Larch Valley but also Paradise Valley on the other side. The extra hike to Sentinel pass is 1.5 kilometers/0.93 miles each way and takes around 1.5 hours.
Hot Tip: If you want to see the fall colors, visit around the end of September to mid-October. There are also lots of other fun things to do in Banff in September, so make a full trip of it!
6. Eiffel Lake Trail
Eiffel Lake is a remote alpine lake situated not far from the Larch Valley. The beginning of the trail to Eiffel is actually the Larch Valley Trail, however, after you conquer the ten switchbacks you hit a fork in the road with one path heading to Eiffel Lake.
The Eiffel Lake Trail then continues on in the Valley of the Ten Peaks with stunning scenery everywhere you look. In some parts, you can even peer down at Moraine Lake and see her shine bright blue – especially on a sunny day! Eiffel Lake is only a small lake but it’s the surrounding landscapes that make visiting so rewarding.
From Moraine Lake, it’s a 12-kilometer/7.5-mile out and back hike to Eiffel Lake that takes around 4 hours to complete. The trail is moderately difficult but those with hiking experience could join both the Larch Valley and Eiffel Lake into one long hike. In total this would take around 7 hours!
7. Stay at Moraine Lake Lodge
If you’re still thinking about where you want to stay when you visit Banff National Park, consider spending a night or two at Moraine Lake Lodge.
Moraine Lake Lodge is the only hotel at Moraine Lake and although from the outside the rooms look a little outdated, on the inside you’ll find freshly renovated modern rooms with all the luxuries you could want. Of course, such an amazing hotel isn’t cheap and a room will set you back around $850 + per night!
Besides staying so close to the amazing view, staying at the lodge means you don’t need to battle for parking to take the shuttle/bus to see Moraine Lake. You’ll be able to enjoy sunrise at Moraine Lake right from your room!
I’ve personally never been able to stomach the cost so I haven’t stayed myself, but if I ever win the lottery, I might just move there!
8. Scramble up the Tower of Babel
This next hike isn’t actually a hike at all. In fact, it’s not even an “official” trail (if you ask Parks Canada.) However, it’s one of, if not the most popular scrambles in Banff National Park.
The scramble to the top of the Tower of Babel is iconic. It’s those panoramic views of the mountains that have made the trail so famous and a must for any beginner scrambler.
The trail is short at only 2.9 kilometers/1.8 miles, however, it involves a 518-meter climb on some pretty rough terrain. Once you reach the top the views of Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks are out of this world! You’ll quickly see why so many people make the hike the Tower of Babel.
Hiking the trail requires a little planning and knowing exactly where to go. I could try to explain it, but this Tower of Babel hiking guide does it really well and it’s actually the blog I used to hike the trail.
9. Walk to Consolation Lakes
If you’re looking for an easy hike at Moraine Lake that’s a little more adventurous than the Lakeshore Trail, then Consolation Lakes Trail is a great option.
This 2.9-kilometer/1.8-mile one-way trail gets you far away from the crowds of Moraine Lake and out to two beautiful alpine lakes with epic mountain backdrops. The trail is relatively flat and rated as easy so it’s perfect for the whole family.
After the first lake, there is a bit of a scramble over some rocks to get to the second, but if you’re not comfortable with it you can just visit the first lake. In my opinion, it’s the most beautiful anyway! All up, it only takes just over two hours to hike the trail there and back.
The trailhead starts at the bathrooms at the Moraine Lake parking lot. From there, just follow the path to the small wooden bridge and continue on until you reach a bear warning sign. Here, turn left and you are on the trail!
Related Read: Consolation Lakes is one of the easiest hikes near Canmore – find out what the others are!
10. 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.
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! Plus, there are plenty of restaurants to enjoy in Lake Louise as well as a large selection of hotels to choose from.
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! A bonus is that if you stay here, you can enjoy the stunning lake without ever having to worry about getting parking at Lake Louise, which sometimes is a struggle.
Related read: If you plan on staying in Banff, check out our guide to the 10 best hotels in Banff!
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks 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 one day.
- 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 upfront, 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 of 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.
Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a 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 Rental Cars.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!
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $29 and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part though? It comes in pink!
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in hand so many times especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $27 and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Before you go…
Moraine Lake really is one of the most magical places to visit in Canada. Not only is it stunning, but there are so many amazing things to do at Moraine Lake! I hope that I’ll get to visit many more times during my adventures across Canada – it’s safe to say I never get sick of the views!
Thanks so much for reading! If you found this guide on the best things to do at Moraine Lake helpful then be sure to browse all our Canada blogs! We have lots of awesome guides to the rocky mountains including these: