The Ultimate Guide to Lake Louise

Lake Louise

Lake Louise is probably the most famous spot in Banff National Park. The turquoise-blue glacier lake is sandwiched between the Rocky Mountains, guaranteeing stunning views. It is also known as the lake with the gigantic hotel on the shore, Château Lake Louise. 

Height: 1750 m (5740 ft)
Deepest point: 70 m (220 ft)
Length: 2.4 km (1.5 mi)
Widest point: 1.2 km (0.75 mi)
Coordinates: 51°24′42″N 116°13′41″W

Lake Louise is a meltwater lake. It is fed by the Victoria Glacier, which rises above the western part of the lake. And yes, the color of the water is really that blue. It owes its unique color to the sunlight reflecting on the so-called rock flour deposited in the lake by the glacier.

In winter, Lake Louise also guarantees beautiful pictures and fun. It is an excellent place for skating and snowshoeing.

Table of Contents


Lake Louise is located five kilometers (3.10 mi) from the hamlet of the same name and the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1). The lake attracts visitors all year round. Most visit the lake in the summer, but the place is also bustling in the winter. On the other side of the Trans-Canada Highway you’ll find the ski area of the same name. It is the third-largest ski area in Canada (after Whistler and Sun Peaks Resort). The ski season is also very long, from November through May.


The first name of Lake Louise was Ho-Run-Num-Nay (Lake of the Little Fish), so named by the Stoney Nakoda people. After Tom Wilson (1859-1922), mountain guide and packer of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, “discovered” Lake Louise in 1882, he named it Emerald Lake. 

In 1884 the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) established a construction camp nearby, and in 1892, 130 km2 (80.24 mi2) around the lake were declared a Lake Louise Reserve. In the meantime, the construction camp grew into today’s Lake Louise Village.

From Holt City to Laggan

Initially, the settlement was named Holt City, after Thomas Grattan Holt, engineer for the CPR. In 1884 the hamlet was renamed Laggan, after the town of the same name in Inverness, Scotland, at the suggestion of Lord Strathcona (Donald Smith) of Scotland, co-founder of the CPR.

With the railway’s completion in 1885, CPR was keen to bring tourism to the park and on the initiative of CPR’s general manager Cornelius Van Horne, the first hotels were built in the park. 

Pioneering in Western Canada

The previous year, Emerald Lake and Laggan were renamed Lake Louise, in honor of Princess Louise Caroline Alberta. She was the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and wife of John Campbell, Governor-General of Canada from 1878 to 1883 and Marquis of Lorne.

With tourism cautiously taking off in the park, CPR asked Willoughby John Astley in 1890 to build a chalet on the edge of Lake Louise. He had experience constructing this type of building, having built the Beach House Hotel at Minnewanka Landing three years earlier.

The chalet was nothing more than a simple log cabin with two bedrooms, a central area that served as a bar, office and dining room, a kitchen and a veranda. Van Horne praised it as ‘a hotel for the outdoor adventurer and mountaineer’. He called it “Châlet Lake Louise” and appointed Astley as manager.

Fire in the Chalet at Lake Louise

The chalet welcomed less than a hundred guests for the first two years. In 1893, disaster struck. On June 19, the chalet was destroyed by fire. A year later, however, the construction of a new facility began.

It was built a bit further back because of the intense weather conditions at the lake’s edge and it could accommodate twelve guests. As the flow of tourists slowly increased over the years, architect T.C. Sorby added a second floor to the chalet in 1896. 

The building could now accommodate up to twenty visitors, but even this expansion soon proved insufficient. By 1900, more than 5,000 tourists visited the area around the lake every year. As a result, the chalet had to be extended yet again. Two wings were added and the capacity grew to 240 guests.

Tourism in Rocky Mountains National Park

Two years later, Rocky Mountains National Park – the original name of Banff National Park – was expanded to include the Lake Louise Reserve. Tourism around the lake also benefited and by 1912 it was already receiving 50,000 visitors.

Reason enough to expand the hotel once again. In 1913, a new concrete wing was completed, called the Painter Wing, containing the Victoria Dining Room. 

Château Lake Louise

After years of prosperity, the rebuilt lodge fell victim to fire on July 3, 1924. The wooden section was completely destroyed; only the concrete Painter Wing survived. But with the incessant and growing flow of tourists, it didn’t take long before construction started again.

An eight-story hotel was built on the site of the burnt wooden section. It was completed in May 1925 and the hotel’s name was changed from Lake Louise Chalet to Château Lake Louise. The construction still forms the basis of the present-day hotel.

Want to read more about the fascinating history of the Fairmont Château Lake Louise? Click the link.


The lake is located 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) from Lake Louise Village and is easily accessible by car. There are two large car parks for cars and RV’s. 

From mid-June to mid-October, between 7 am and 7 pm, you must pay to park at one of the two parking areas at the lake. Park your car and then pay at one of the ticket machines on the path to the lake. 

The ticket machines use a so-called pay-by-plate system. Make sure you take a picture of your car’s number plate. After paying, you don’t have to go back to your vehicle or RV.

However, the lakeside car parks are so busy in high season that they are packed by 8 am and remain so until around 6 pm. 

You can also park your car or campervan in Lake Louise Village at the Park and Ride car park (formerly Overflow). It is located on the Trans-Canada Highway towards Banff, six kilometers east of Lake Louise Village. Both sites offer free parking.

If you want to see in advance how full the car parks are, check the latest status updates

I wrote down everything you need to know about parking in Banff National Park. Check it out if you want to know more about what’s up with parking in the park.

Shuttle Bus to Lake Louise

A shuttle bus runs from the Park and Ride car park seven days a week. It departs every half hour, from 8 pm to 6:20 pm. Reservation is required. You do not need to provide a specific time.

The bus stops at the Lake Louise Campground and the Samson Mall in Lake Louise Village. The shuttle bus service is available between 14 May and 11 October. The last bus from Lake Louise leaves at 7:50 pm.

Fares (includes return trip)
Adult (18 – 64 years):
Senior (65+ years): CAD 4
Youth (6 – 17 years): CAD 2
Child (under 6 years): Free

You can make your reservations here.

Visit Moraine Lake too

You can also book the shuttle bus for a combined visit to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, 14 km (9.25 mi) away. The so-called Lake Connector shuttle bus is used for this purpose. Although booking for one of the two lakes is required, you do not need to specify a specific time. This shuttle bus service is free of charge.

Lake Louise to Moraine Lake: every 15 minutes between 9 am and 6 pm.
Moraine Lake to Lake Louise: every 15 minutes between 9:40 am and 6 pm.

The shuttle bus service is available between 1 June May and 11 October.

You can make your reservations here.

Want to visit Moraine Lake as well? Read this post about Moraine Lake to discover everything you need to know about this stunning natural phenomenon.

Public Transport to Lake Louise

Don’t have a rental car? Or prefer public transport because of the traffic at Lake Louise? You can take the bus from Banff to the lake. 

Where to Hop on the Bus to Lake Louise?

The bus to Lake Louise leaves from the Transit Hub at the Banff High School on Banff Avenue, across the Elk and Avenue Hotel. From here, the bus makes a stop at the Lake Louise Park and Ride and Lake Louise Village North.

Timetable for Lake Louise

The bus operates from 7 am to 8:25 pm during the peak season, seven days a week. From Lake Louise back to Banff, the bus runs from 8:10 am to 9:27 pm. It is possible to take a bicycle with you. The bus has room for a maximum of three bikes.

The timetable can be found on the website of Roam Transit [] under the heading ‘Schedules & Routes’ (route 8X). Reservations are not needed but recommended.

From Lake Louise to Moraine Lake

If you want to go from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake, you can take the shuttle bus close to the lake.

When Does the Shuttle Bus Run from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake?

1 June to 19 September. 

More Information:

Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission
Address: 221 Beaver Street, Banff
Phone: +1 403 – 762 0606

Traveling to Lake Louise by electric car? In that case I highly recommend reading the post with all ins and out about Banff by EV.

Fairmont Château Lake Louise


Right on the shores of the lake is the famous Fairmont Château Lake Louise. This impressive hotel has 539 rooms and offers a beautiful view of Lake Louise. In the high season, prices start from about CAD 600 per night. If this is a bit too much for you, the hotel is still worth checking out. You can eat and drink in the various bars and restaurants. You will also find the necessary shops there.

If you like a hotel a bit further away, there are several possibilities in Lake Louise Village. 

Fairmont Château Lake Louise 
Address: 111 Lake Louise Dr, Lake Louise
Phone: +1 403 – 522 3511

Camping at Lake Louise

It is not possible to camp at Lake Louise. There are some campgrounds nearby, however. The two closest are Lake Louise Campground and Protection Mountain Campground. The use of a campground costs between 15 and 30 CAD per night. If you want to make a campfire, you must have a permit. These are available at most campgrounds.

Lake Louise Tent Campground

Address: 131 Fairview Drive, Lake Louise
Phone: +1 877 – 737 3783
Overnight stay: upon availability, reservations are possible
Number of sites: 206 
Facilities: picnic tables, fire pits, cooking area, showers, flush toilets, handicapped accessible and sani dump
Kind of accommodation: tents
Price: CAD 28.00
Period: 2 June – 27 September
Distance to Lake Louise: 4.5 km (2.78 mi)

Lake Louise Trailer Campground

Address: 131 Fairview Drive, Lake Louise
Phone: +1 877 – 737 3783 
Overnight stay: upon availability, reservations are possible
Number of sites: 395 (189 for motorhomes, 206 for tents) 
Facilities: picnic tables, fire pits, hot showers, flush toilets, disabled access and sani dump
Campfire permit: available at the campground
Kind of accommodations: motor homes and tents
Price: CAD 33.01
Period: all year
Distance to Lake Louise: 4.5 km (2.78 mi)

Protection Mountain Campground

Address: Bow Valley Pkwy, Eldon
Phone: +1 403 – 522 3833 
Overnight stay: upon availability
Number of spaces: 83
Facilities: flush toilets, cold tap water, fire pits, communal kitchens (wood-burning cookers) 
Campfire permit: available at the campground
Kind of accommodations: motor homes and tents
Price: CAD 21.97
Period: 18 June – 6 September
Distance to Lake Louise: 15.6 km (9.63 mi) 


You can visit Lake Louise all year round, but the best period is from the end of June to mid-October. The lake is frozen before and after, and as a result, the famous blue color is not visible.


If you want to escape the hordes of tourists at the edge of Lake Louise, there are more than enough possibilities. Do one of the many hikes that start at the lake, or go on the lake in a canoe. You can also go fishing (although the lake is not known as a good fishing spot). And in winter, there are also some beautiful snowshoe trails.

Hikes around Lake Louise

From Lake Louise you can do a lot of great hikes, from short and easy to long and challenging routes. Below is an overview of the most popular routes.


Bow River Loop14.2 km (8.76 mi)2 hours MinimalThe car park opposite the Lake Louise train station
Fairview Lookout2 km (1.23 mi)45 minutes100 m (328 ft) upUpper Lake Louise car park
Lake Louise Lakeshore4 km (2.47 mi)1 hourMinimalUpper Lake Louise car park
Louise Creek5.6 km (3.45 mi)1.5 hrs195 m (640 ft) upWalk from the Samson Mall in Lake Louise Village along Lake Louise Drive to the bridge over the Bow River. Cross the bridge. The trailhead is located on the ‘downstream side’ of the bridge.
Easy hiking trails near Lake Louise


Lake Agnes6.8 km (4.20 mi)2.5 hours385 m (1263 ft) upUpper Lake Agnes car park
Lake Annette11.5 km (7.10 mi)4 hours245 m (804 ft) upFollow Moraine Lake Road for 2.5 km (2.3 mi) until you see a car park on your right
The Big Beehive10.3 km (6.36 mi)3 – 4 hrs647 m (2122 ft) upLake Louise shoreline
The Little Beehive9.0 km (5.55 mi)3 – 4 hrs535 m (1755 ft) ascentLake Louise Shoreline
Plain of the Six Glaciers14.6 km (9.01 mi)4 – 6 hrs588 m (1929 ft) ascentUpper Lake Louise car park
Tramline9 km (5.55 mi)2.5 hours195 m (640 ft) ascentThe car park opposite the Lake Louise train station
Moderate hiking trails near Lake Louise


Boulder Pass17.2 km (10.62 mi)6 – 7 hrs640 m (2100 ft) upFish Creek car park at Whitehorn Road, 3 km north of Lake Louise
Fairview Mountain10.2 km (6.30 mi)5 – 6 hrs1013 m (3323 ft) upUpper Lake Louise car park
Paradise Valley and Giant Steps20.6 or 21.8 km (12.72 or 13.46 mi)7 – 8 hrs385 m (1263 ft) upFollow Moraine Lake Road for 2.5 km (2.5 mi) until you see a parking area on your right
Saddleback7.4 km (4.57 mi)3 – 4 hrs595 m (1952 ft) upUpper Lake Louise car park
Sheol/Paradise Connector8.1 km (5 mi)2 – 4 hrs500 m (164 ft) upUpper Lake Louise car park or follow Moraine Lake Road to Paradise Valley car park on the right
Difficult hiking trails near Lake Louise

Mountain Biking in the Surroundings of Lake Louise

The Rocky Mountains around Lake Louise are very suitable for mountain biking. There are plenty of trails and the reward is always a great view. The trails vary from easy (and accessible for families) to difficult. Below you will find an overview of the mountain bike trails in the direct surroundings of Lake Louise.

Bow River Loop7.1 km (4.38 mi)MinimalLake Louise Campground or opposite Lake Louise Train Station (Station Restaurant) next to Bow River Bridge
Great Divide Trail19.9 km (12.28 mi)113 m (370 ft) up / 66 m (216 ft) downGreat Divide car park at Lake Louise
Moraine Lake Highline18.6 km (11.48 mi)305 m (1000 ft) up After 2.5 km on Moraine Lake Road, the small car park on the right-hand side
Pipestone14.4 km (8.89 mi)165 m (541 ft) upTake the exit for Slate Road on the Trans-Canada Highway – 1.5 km west of Lake Louise
Ross Lake14.6 km (9.01 mi)MinimalBehind the Chateau Lake Louise staff quarters
Tramline9 km (5.55 mi)195 m (640 ft) upOpposite the Lake Louise train station (Station Restaurant) next to the Bow River Bridge
Mountain biking trails near Lake Louise

Canoeing on Lake Louise

If you want to admire Lake Louise from the water, you can rent a canoe at the boathouse on the lake’s west shore from June to September. Renting is done by the hour. A canoe can accommodate three adults or two adults and two small children (each less than 25 kilos). Renting a kayak is unfortunately not possible.

Guided Canoe Tour on Lake Louise (Voyageur Canoe Experience):

If you want to learn more about Lake Louise and its surroundings, book the Voyageur Canoe Experience, a guided canoe trip. The guide tells local stories about wildlife, indigenous people and the early explorers who first visited the lake mapping the area.

Please note: this option is only available if you stay at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise. 
Please note: In case of bad weather conditions, rentals may be canceled immediately; hotel guests have priority.

Opening hours: 11 am – 7 pm. The last boat rental opportunity is at 6 pm.

Canoe Rentals Lake Louise (via concierge Chateau Lake Louise)

Address: 111 Lake Louise Drive
Phone: +1 403 – 522 1601

Bring Your Own Canoe or Kayak to Lake Louise

It is also possible to use your own canoe or kayak. You can put them in the water anywhere from the shore. There is no public boat launch. If you want to explore the lake with your own canoe or kayak, it is advisable to arrive early (before 8 am). Then you can often find a parking space close to the lake to carry your canoe to the water. 

Fishing in Lake Louise

It is allowed to fish in Lake Louise. You do need a national park permit. This is available at the two visitor centers in the park, most sports shops in the park, and online []. A national park pass is also required. A fishing license from the province of Alberta is not sufficient. 

Any angler under the age of sixteen may fish in the lake without a license if accompanied by someone under sixteen who holds a national park license. The maximum number of fish to be caught is then equal to the limit of the license of the person holding a license. 

There Are Two Types of Fishing Permits: 
Day Permit: CAD 9.80 
Annual permit: CAD 34.30

– It is mandatory to put back caught fish to the place where it was caught.
– The use of natural bait is not allowed in Banff National Park.
– In addition to a fishing license, you must also have a National Park Pass.

Fish Species in Lake Louise

Fish present in Lake Louise include red-throated trout, bull trout and mountain whitefish.

NOTE: Although you may fish in Lake Louise, the lake is known as not the best place to fish in the park. The amount of fish in the lake is rather disappointing.

Skiing in Lake Louise

Lake Louise has a large ski area. Many hundreds of thousands of ski enthusiasts know how to find it every year. The resort is also the setting for the annual World Cup race. 

Lake Louise Ski Resort

The ski slopes of Lake Louise Ski Resort are located 60 kilometers (37 mi) northwest of Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1). It is known for the World Cup ski races held here every year. 

There are 9 ski lifts in the ski area, which lies on the southern slopes of the Slate Range, between Mount Richardson, Ptarmigan Peak, Pika Peak and Redoubt Mountain. The slopes of Lake Louise Ski Resort cover an area of 17km2 (6.6 sq mi). The summit is at 2637 m (6850 ft), the base is at 1646 m (5400 ft).

More Information:
Phone: +1 877 – 956 8473

Cross Country Skiing in Lake Louise

In the winter, the area around Lake Louise is perfect for cross-country skiing. You can enjoy the winter in the Rockies in relative peace. Provided you stay away from the ski slopes, of course. Here are some popular trails.

Bow River Loop6.6 km (4.07 mi) (loop)MinimalAt the small access road to the Brewster Stables behind the Deer Lodge
Campground Loop4.4 km (2.72 mi)15 m (49 ft) upJust past the campground kiosk
Fairview9.2 km (5.68 mi)60 m (197 ft) upThe lower car park at Lake Louise, near the winter toilet block
Great Divide or ‘Old 1A’20 km (12.34 mi)60 m (197 ft) downLake Louise Drive
Lake Louise Loop4.1 km (2.53 mi) (loop)15 m (49 ft) upFrom the Lake Louise car park
Lower Telemark8.0 km (4.94 mi)110 m (361 ft) downPark at the Great Divide trailhead, ski 700 meters and turn right at trail sign #8
Moraine Lake Road15.6 km (9.6 mi)250 m (820 ft) upLake Louise Drive
Townsite1.4 km (0.86 mi)MinimalAt the Lake Louise Railway Station & Restaurant 
Tramline9.6 km (5.92 mi)195 m (640 ft) up At the end of the lower car park, by the signpost for the trails in the area
Upper Telemark2.8 km (1.73 mi)65 m (213 ft) upStart in front of Lake Louise in the direction of Lake Agnes, then turn right to trail #5
Cross country Skiing trails near Lake Louise

Snowshoeing around Lake Louise

Lake Louise offers plenty of opportunities for snowshoeing in winter. This allows you to walk with relative ease over the thick snow in the coldest months and enjoy the breathtaking surroundings in silence.

Fairview Lookout2 km (1.23 mi)0.5 hr100 m (328 ft) upWorld Heritage Site-rock
Highline Trail to Paradise Creek9 km (5.55 mi)2 h 15 min60 m (197 ft) upWorld Heritage Site-rock
Laggan’s Loop1 km (0.62 mi)0.5 h50 m (164 ft)Approximately 50 meters to the right of the sunny side of Lake Louise
Lake Louise Lakeshore4 km (2.47 mi)1 hourMinimalIn front of Château Lake Louise
Louise Creek5.6 km (3.45 mi)1.5 hours195 m (640 ft) upSamson Mall in Lake Louise Village
Mirror Lake via Lake Agnes5.4 km (3.33 mi)1.5 hours295 m (968 ft) up Lake Louise Castle
Snowshoeing trails around Lake Louise


Banff Visitor Centre
Opening hours (daily): 9 am – 5 pm
Address: 224 Banff Avenue, Banff
Phone: +1 403 – 762 1550

Lake Louise Visitor Centre
Opening hours (daily): 9 am – 5 pm
Address: Samson Mall, 201 Village Rd, Lake Louise
Phone: +1 403 – 522 3833

Other articles you might be interested in:
How to Make Sure Mosquitoes Don’t Ruin Your Stay in Banff
Plan Your Banff Itinerary – Know the Distances
How Much Does a Banff Vacation Cost in 2022? (Crazy Numbers)


As a former Banffite, I love writing about my favorite piece on the globe. I keep coming back to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty the park offers. It just never fails to impress me. With my extensive knowledge of the area, I aim to provide you with the best informational posts on Banff you can find on the internet.

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