The Ultimate Guide to Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake can easily compete with Lake Louise in terms of beauty: The lake is also an absolute must-see. Located in the breathtaking Valley of the Ten Peaks, it’s almost impossible to take a bad picture of the lake. Hence it being one of the most photographed places in Canada.

Height: 1884 m (6181 ft)
Deepest point: 14 m (46 ft)
Length: 1400 m (4593 ft)
Widest point: 400 m (1312 ft)
Coordinates: 51°19′21″N 116°11′08″W

Moraine Lake is a glacial lake fifteen kilometers southwest of Lake Louise. It is nicknamed ‘The lake with the 20 dollar view’ as it was featured on the back of the 20 Canadian dollar note in 1969 and 1979. The lake is fed by meltwater from the Fay Glacier via Larch Creek.

The beautiful turquoise color of the water has to be seen with your own eyes to be believed. Like many other glacial lakes in Banff National Park, the water owes its unique color to the sunlight reflecting the so-called rock flour deposited in the lake by the surrounding glaciers.

Table of Contents


Moraine Lake is located on Moraine Lake Road. It can be reached via the route to Lake Louise from the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1). Keep left onto Moraine Lake Road at the junction on Lake Louise Road.


The mountains that tower above the lake are the namesake of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, the valley in which Moraine Lake is situated.

These mountains are (from left to right):
1. Mount Fay 3,235 metres (10,613 feet)
2. Mount Little 3,088 metres (10,131 feet)
3. Mount Bowlen 3,072 metres (10,079 feet)
4. Tonsa 3,057 metres (10,030 feet)
5. Mount Perren 3.051 metres (10,010 feet)
6. Mount Allen 3,310 metres (10,860 feet)
7. Mount Tuzo 3,246 metres (10,650 feet)
8. Deltaform Mountain 3,424 metres (11,234 feet)
9. Neptuak Mountain 3,233 metres (10,607 feet)
10. Wenkchemna Peak 3,170 metres (10,401 feet)

In this valley, other mountain peaks you can see are Eiffel Peak, Mount Temple, and Mount Babel.


The mountains of the Valley of the Ten Peaks got their name from explorer Samuel E. S. Allen (1874-1945). This American from Philadelphia was one of the first to map the area around Lake Louise at the end of the nineteenth century. 

The Discovery of the Valley of the Ten Peaks

In 1891 he visited the Canadian Rockies for the first time. In 1984, on his “discovery” of Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks, he named the peaks from east to west. He used numbers from the Stoney Indian language: Heejee, Nom, Yamnee, Tonsa, Sapta, Shappee, Sagowa, Saknowa, Neptuak, and Wenkchemna. Later, the peaks were renamed to honor important figures in the park’s history, including Allen. Only Neptuak and Wenkchemna Mountain were not renamed. 

Walter Dwight Wilcox (1869-1949) was one of his companions when traveling through the area. They mapped the area and named many areas around Lake Louise. Wilcox is responsible for many names around Lake Louise, such as Eagle Eyrie, Consolation Valley, Panorama Ridge, Sentinel Pass and Paradise Valley.

In 1893, Wilcox visited Moraine Lake for the first time. The Massachusetts American was impressed by what he found: “I stood on a great stone of the moraine where, from a slight elevation, a magnificent view of the lake lay before me, and while studying the details of this unknown and unvisited spot, spent the happiest half-hour of my life”, reads the 1986 Autumn/Autumn edition of Mountain Guide, published by Parks Canada.

A Name for Moraine Lake

Wilcox is the namesake of Moraine Lake. He arrived at the name because he assumed that the mountain of rock at the lake’s edge was created there by a glacier. He argued that it eroded the lake bed, picked up rocky debris and pushed it out in front of it. Then, Wilcox argued, it retreated and left behind a massive pile of rubble. Such a pile of rocks is called a terminal moraine, hence the lake’s name.

Today, geologists think that the mountain of rocks was not formed by a glacier but by a landslide. This is believed to have occurred on the nearby Tower of Babel, a striking monolith (a rock that protrudes above or out of its surroundings). This monolith is located on the north side of Mount Babel, which borders Moraine Lake. Wilcox had named the monolith because it reminded him of the biblical Tower of Babel

A Road to Moraine Lake

In 1900, the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) made its employee Tom Wilson (also a mountain guide) responsible for building a path between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Already in 1902, the CPR widened this path. From 1918 onwards, tourism to Moraine Lake really took off when Brewster started a shuttle service to the lake. 

Still, it took until 1921 before the road was officially opened. It was still too narrow for two vehicles to pass each other. A scheme for one-way traffic was drawn up. This way, outgoing and incoming traffic could use the road alternately.


Moraine Lake is 15 kilometers (9.26 mi) from Lake Louise Village and is easily accessible by car. From Lake Louise Village you drive via Moraine Lake Road directly to the lake. There is a car park for cars and motorhomes. 

However, it is so busy in the high season that the parking places – just like Lake Louise – are full by 8 am (sometimes even earlier). It remains so until around six in the evening. If you want to be sure of a parking space at the lake, arrive early. If the car park is full, you can also park your car or RV in the Park and Ride lot (formerly Overflow). This is located on the Trans-Canada Highway towards Banff, six kilometers east of Lake Louise Village.

If you want to see in advance how full the car parks are, you can find the latest status updates here.

I wrote a post about 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 Moraine Lake

A shuttle bus leaves from the Park and Ride car park seven days a week. It goes every twenty minutes, from 8:10 am to 5:30 pm. Reservations are required. You don’t have to provide a specific time. If seats are still available, you can make a reservation up to half an hour before a particular departure window. The shuttle bus service is available between 1 June and 11 October.

You can book the shuttle bus here.

Early Bird Service to Moraine Lake

For those who want to go to the lake very early – to do a long hike for instance – there is the Early Bird shuttle bus. From 21 June to 20 September, this bus runs daily every half hour between 06.00 and 08.00 hours. The last Early Bird shuttle bus leaves at 07.55 hours. After that, you can take the regular shuttle bus to Moraine Lake.

Fares (including return trip):

  • Adults (18 – 64 years): CAD 8.00
  • Seniors (65+ years): CAD 4.00
  • Youth (6 – 17 years): CAD 2.00
  • Child (under 6 years): free

A reservation is also required for this shuttle bus service. A return trip is not possible on this bus. Visitors are expected to board the regular shuttle bus for the return trip.

You can make a reservation here.

Note: Moraine Lake is not open year-round. Due to snowfall and avalanche danger, the road is closed between mid-October and mid-June.

Visiting Lake Louise from Moraine Lake

You can also book the shuttle bus for a combined visit to Moraine Lake Louise and Lake Louise, 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 specify a specific time. This shuttle bus service is free of charge.

Lake Louise to Moraine Lake: every 15 minutes between 09.00 and 18.00.
Moraine Lake to Lake Louise: every 15 minutes between 09:40 and 18:00.

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

If you want to know all you need to know about Lake Louise just click the link.

Public Transport to Moraine Lake

Don’t have a rental car? Or do you prefer public transport because of the crowds at Moraine Lake? Then you can take the bus from Banff to the lake. 


The bus leaves from the Transit Hub at the Banff High School on Banff Avenue, right across from the Elk and Avenue Hotel. It travels to Lake Louise and stops at the Lake Louise Park and Ride and Lake Louise Village North. Once at the lake, you can use the free shuttle bus service to Moraine Lake. 


In high season, the bus runs from 07:00 to 20:25, seven days a week. From Lake Louise back to Banff, the bus runs from 08.10 hrs until 21.27 hrs.

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


1 June to 19 September. 


If you like to wake up to an unbelievable view, spending the night at the Moraine Lake Lodge is a good idea. The hotel is situated on the shore of the lake, close to the Moraine Lake car park. The lodge is the only accommodation on the lake. You should expect to pay around 900 CAD or more per night in the high season.

Moraine Lake Lodge

Address: 1 Moraine Lake Rd, Lake Louise

Camping at Moraine Lake 

It is not possible to camp at Moraine Lake. However, there are some campgrounds nearby. The closest campgrounds are Lake Louise Campground and Protection Mountain Campground. The use of a campground costs between CAD 16 and CAD 30 per night. If you want to light a campfire, you need a permit. These are available at many 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 sanitary dump
Kind of accommodation: tents
Price: CAD 28.00
Period: 2 June – 27 September
Distance to Moraine Lake: 14.8 km (9.14 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: 189
Facilities: picnic tables, fire pits, cooking area, showers, flush toilets, handicapped accessible, electricity and sani dump
Kind of accommodation: campers 
Price: CAD 33.01
Period: all year
Distance to Moraine Lake: 14.8 km (9.14 mi)

Protection Mountain Campground

Address: Bow Valley Parkway, Eldon
Phone: +1 403 – 522 3833 
Overnight stay: upon availability
Number of sites: 72
Facilities: flush toilets, cold mains water, fire pits, cooking area
Kind of accommodations: motor homes and tents
Price: CAD 21.97
Period: 18 June – 6 September
Distance to Moraine Lake: 29.8 km (18.39 mi)


You can only visit Moraine Lake during the months the road is open, from late May to October (see below). Although the lake is accessible again (with cars) at the end of May, you often have to wait until mid-June or even later before the lake has thawed completely. Only then can you see the unique and beautiful color of the lake.    

Moraine Lake Banff


Moraine Lake Road is closed during the winter months due to avalanche danger. The road reopens typically in late May. The closure is Tuesday after Canadian Thanksgiving (the second Monday in October).


Because the road is closed due to the amount of snow and the danger of avalanches, Moraine Lake is more or less inaccessible in the winter. Tour operators are also not allowed to go there in the winter months because of the avalanche risk. There are, however, several cross-country skiing routes in the area. One stops near the first avalanche path, not too far from the lake. 


You can easily spend a whole day or more at Moraine Lake, with plenty to do. Not only can you choose from a variety of hikes, but you can also fish and canoe, and in the winter, there is a snowshoe trail that leads to the lake.

Hikes around Moraine Lake

From Moraine Lake you can do some great hikes. The (very) short routes also guarantee beautiful views. Below is an overview of the most popular hikes.

Consolation Lakes Trail5.8 km (3.58 mi)1.5 – 2 hrs65 m (213 ft)From the bridge at the rock formation
Eiffel Lake Trail11.2 km (6.91 mi)3 – 4 hrs370 m (1213 ft)Just past the Moraine Lake Lodge
Larch Valley/ Minnestimma Lake8.6 km (5.30 mi)3.5 – 4 hrs535 m (1755 ft)Just past the Moraine Lake Lodge
Moraine Lakeshore Trail2.9 km (1.79 mi)45 – 60 minsMinimalJust past the Moraine Lake Lodge
Moraine Lake Viewpoint0.8 km (0.49 mi)30 minsMinimalAt the north end of the Moraine Lake car park
Rockpile Trail0.7 km (0.43 mi)30 mins75 m (246 ft)Left side of the Moraine Lake car park
Sentinal Pass11.6 km (7.16 mi)4.5 – 5.5 hrs725 m (2378 ft)Just past the Moraine Lake Lodge
Wenkchemna Pass19.4 km (11.97 mi)7.5 – 8 hrs720 m (2362 ft)Just past the Moraine Lake Lodge
Hiking trails around Moraine Lake

Mountain Biking in the Moraine Lake area

The Rocky Mountains around Moraine Lake 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 Moraine Lake.

Moraine Lake Highline19.4 km (11.98 mi)276 m (905 ft) ascent / 435 m (1427 ft) descentTrailhead kiosk on the right after 2.0 km (2.0 mi) on Moraine Lake Road
Moraine Lake Road26.7 km (14.81 mi)475 m (1558 ft) up / 157 m (515 ft) down Great Divide car park at Lake Louise
Mountain biking trails around Moraine Lake

Canoeing on Moraine Lake

Why not discover the lake from the water itself? Rent a canoe at the Moraine Lake Lodge on the east side of the lake, close to the car park. Kayak hire is not available. 

Each canoe can accommodate two to three people. Canoes are rented on a first-come, first-served basis. Guests of the Moraine Lake Lodge have priority. Reservations are unfortunately not possible. Furthermore, it is not allowed to take pets in the canoe. 

Canoe Rental at Moraine Lake Lodge

Period: mid-June to mid-September 
Address: 1 Moraine Lake Rd, Lake Louise
Note: rentals may be terminated at any time in the event of inclement weather (rain, snow or strong winds).

Take Your Own Canoe or Kayak on Moraine Lake

It is also possible to use your own canoe or kayak. You can launch anywhere from the shore, as there is no public boat launching area. 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 on Moraine Lake

Fishing is allowed on Moraine Lake. You do need a national park permit. This is available at the two visitor centers in the park, most sporting goods 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 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 Moraine Lake

Fish species in Moraine Lake include northern pike, trout, sturgeon, catfish, mountain whitefish and bass.

However, Moraine Lake – just like Lake Louise – is not known as the best place to fish in Banff National Park. There are relatively few fish in the cold glacier water.  

Snowshoeing in the Surroundings of Moraine Lake

In the winter, you can enjoy the beautiful nature of the surroundings of Moraine Lake. With snowshoes, you can walk with relative ease over the thick layer of snow in the coldest months. 

Because the road from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake is closed in winter, you cannot get there by car. This makes the Moraine Lake Snowshoe Trail very long. Many skiers turn around at the Consolation Valley viewpoint because an extensive avalanche trail is beyond this point.

Only go there if you know enough about avalanche danger. You can then enjoy the frozen lake and its surroundings in peace a little further on. Because unlike in summer, in winter you have the lake and its environs almost to yourself.

Moraine Lake Road Snowshoe Trail24 km (14.9 mi)6 – 8 hrs993 m (3258 ft)Great Divide car park on Moraine Lake Road
Snowshoe trail near Moraine Lake


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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