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.
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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.
LOCATION OF MORAINE LAKE
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.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MORAINE LAKE
You can only visit Moraine Lake when the road is open, from late May to October (see below). Although the lake is accessible again at the end of May, you often have to wait until mid-June or even later for the lake to thaw completely. Only then can you see the unique and beautiful colour of the lake.
The best time to visit the lake is towards the end of August.
BEST TIME OF THE DAY TO VISIT MORAINE LAKE
As with Lake Louise, it doesn’t really matter when you get to Moraine Lake. It’s always beautiful. It can be chilly in the mornings, sometimes even in the middle of summer.
A special time to visit the lake is at sunrise and sunset. The rising and setting sun creates a special gloom over the lake, making the scenery even more stunning than it already is.
However, as of 2023, Parks Canada has closed the relatively small parking lot at Moraine Lake to control the situation. This means you’ll have to book a Parks Canada shuttle bus to get to the lake.
This makes it even more difficult to get to the lake, and the crowds are huge in the summer, which takes away a bit of the lake’s appeal, if you ask me.
The first shuttle leaves at 6:30 a.m. and the last bus from the lake to the Park and Ride parking lot leaves at 7:30 p.m. That’s too late to see the sunrise and sunset in June and July. In August these times are fine.
HOW MUCH TIME DO I NEED AT MORAINE LAKE?
If you’re there to take in the scenery, take pics, have a drink and a quick bite, an hour to 90 minutes at Moraine Lake should suffice, drawing from my own experience. But it really depends on your desires and interests.
If you want to hike, you could easily spend a day or even more around the lake. There are a number of trails around Moraine Lake, ranging from easy to difficult, each with its own unique views and experiences.
You can also take a canoe trip on the lake to explore the lake and its surroundings from the water.
I highly recommend making a plan before you visit so you know what you want to do and how much time it will approximately take.
ACCESSIBILITY OF MORAINE LAKE
As of 2023, you can’t park at the lake anymore (except for valid parking placards, for people with disabilities and guests of Moraine Lake Lodge). To get to the lake you’ll have to hop on a Parks Canada shuttle bus, or bike there.
Shuttle Bus to Moraine Lake
The Parks Canada shuttle bus leaves from the Park and Ride car park at the Lake Louise Ski Resort. In summer it rides seven days a week, every twenty minutes.
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 9 October.
You can book your reservations from the spring, and you can book them here.
Good to know: A fraction of the available seats will also be issued gradually 48 hours prior to the departure date at 8am MST. If there are still seats available, walk-up seat purchases might be allowed.
|CATEGORY||FARES (includes return trip)|
|Adult (18 – 64 years)||CAD 8|
|Senior (65+ years)||CAD 4|
|Youth (0 – 17 years)||FREE|
|Reservation fee||CAD 3 (online) or CAD 6 (by telephone)|
Note: Moraine Lake is not open year-round. Due to snowfall and avalanche danger, the road is closed between mid-October and May.
Visiting Lake Louise from Moraine Lake
You can also book the shuttle bus for a combined visit to Moraine Lake Louise and Lake Louise, 14.6 kilometer (9.1 mi) away. This is called the Parks Canada Lake Connector shuttle bus.
It’s free and you don’t need to make a reservation. It operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
Lake Louise to Moraine Lake: every 15 minutes between 8 am and 6 pm.
Moraine Lake to Lake Louise: every 15 minutes between 8 am and 6 pm.
If you want to know all you need to know about Lake Louise just click the link.
Visiting Moraine Lake from Lake Louise Village
If you’re staying at a hotel or campground in Lake Louise Village, you can visit Moraine Lake by taking the Park and Ride Connector. It loops every half hour between Lake Louise Campground and Samon Mall in Lake Louise Village and the Park and Ride at Lake Louise Ski Resort.
It runs from 7 am to 7.30 pm. You don’t need a reservation and it’s free. However, once at the Park and Ride you will need to catch the Lake Louise or Moraine Lake shuttle bus. These buses require a ticket and a reservation (see above).
Public Transport (Roam Transit)
Operater Roam Transit takes you to most of the park’s most popular attractions, including Moraine Lake. However, their schedule for Moraine Lake is for the larch season only. Route 10 resumes in September and runs seven times a day, seven days a week through October 10.
Due to the popularity of Moraine Lake, you should reserve your seat through Roam’s online reservation system.
If you’re visiting Banff in summer, you’ll still have to rely on the Parks Canada Lake Connector Shuttle from Lake Louise Lakeshore to Moraine Lake. If you purchase a Super Pass (see below), this shuttle bus is included.
Roam Transit has two routes that take you to Lake Louise. There you can hop on the Lake Connector Shuttle.
- Route 8x (Express: 19 May – 9 October, 7 days a week )
- Route 8s (Regional: 1 July – 27 August, 3 times a week (Fri – Sun), and on statutory holidays)
Route 8X is the express route over the TransCanada Highway and only stops at Lake Louise Village North before reaching its destination at Lake Louise Lakeshore. This route takes 57 minutes.
Route 8S takes the scenic Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) and stops at Johnston Canyon, Castle Junction, Protection Mountain, Baker Creek and Lake Louise Village North. This trip takes 1 hour and 23 minutes.
Tickets are CAD 10 per adult.
GOOD TO KNOW:
- If you’re visiting Banff National Park in the summer, reservations are recommended, although walk-ups are possible.
- You can pay with cash in Canadian and U.S. currency. Fare boxes accept bills up to $20, and all coins, except pennies. You are required to pay exact change.
- Children under 12 ride free, though require a reservation.
What is the Roam Super Pass?
The Roam Transit Super Pass allows you to board any Roam bus in Banff National Park without a reservation. It also allows you to travel on any/all Roam Transit routes – from Canmore to Banff to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
You can purchase a Super Pass at these three locations:
• On Roam Transit buses
• At Roam Transit’s Banff office (224 Banff Avenue)
• Through the Token Transit App (available for both iOS (iPhone) and Android)
Price: CAD 25.
Good to know: The Roam Transit Super Pass offers free access to the Parks Canada Lake Connector shuttle from Lake Louise Lakeshore or Moraine Lake. Present a valid pass to Parks Canada staff and you’ll receive your boarding pass.
The buses of HopOnBanff take you to the greatest attractions Banff National Park has to offer. When you book a day pass, you can explore the park’s major highlights, depending on the itinerary you choose.
Operated by locals with a guide or tour background in Banff, the service is similar to Roam’s public transportation, but with expert commentary.
If you’re going to Moraine Lake, the HopOnBanff bus is a good idea because you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot – which you won’t if you don’t get there early. And you don’t have to make reservations for the shuttle bus that takes you from the Park and Ride to the lake.
Wow Banff Open Top Touring
Wow Banff operates shuttle buses and open top double deckers to take you from the town of Banff to Moraine Lake. The Banff Lake Louise Shuttle will take you over the scenic Bow Valley Parkway to the Lake Louise Ski Resort. There you’ll hop on their open top, double decker Explorer for a trip to Moraine Lake.
This shuttle service is for early risers only, as it departs at 7 am from several Banff hotels. Using Wow Banff’s service means that you’ll have to spend the morning and most of the afternoon at the lake (which shouldn’t be a problem), as the return trip doesn’t leave until 5 pm. The double decker Explorer, however, departs every hour, from 8 am until 3 pm.
Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle
The Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle is for early risers, as it allows you to experience Moraine Lake without the crowds and get a sunrise view of the Canadian Rockies.
You can hop on one of their buses at one of their pick-up locations in Canmore, Banff or Lake Louise. You can reserve their 13-passenger shuttle online. Children under 12 ride free with a reservation.
Tickets are CAD 75, regardless of pick-up location.
If you don’t want the hassle of getting to Lake Louise early in the morning or taking the shuttle bus from the Park and Ride to the lake, a private transfer can be a convenient solution. There’s a good chance your hotel has a shuttle service. Check with your hotel to find out.
Another way to get to Lake Louise is to take a sightseeing tour. Which means no worries about finding a parking spot or taking the Parks Canada shuttle bus. Just sit back and relax while a guide tells you a thing or two about your surroundings.
This Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Tour combines a visit to Moraine Lake AND Lake Louise – both must-visit lakes – on the same day from the town of Banff.
HOW BUSY IS MORAINE LAKE
After Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is the most visited lake in Banff National Park. Although it’s not as crowded, it’s still very busy. The good thing is that it has a more relaxed atmosphere than Lake Louise.
VALLEY OF THE TEN PEAKS
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.
WHEN DOES MORAINE LAKE FREEZE AND MELT?
Moraine Lake typically starts to melt in the spring, usually between May and June. It typically starts to freeze over in November.
WHAT TO PACK FOR MORAINE LAKE?
The weather is often moderate and pleasant during the summer. It can change though, so it’s important to pack appropriately. Here’s a short list of things you should pack for your visit to Moraine Lake.
- Sturdy hiking boots
- Warm jacket for the cooler evenings
- Long pants (in case there are too many mosquitoes, it varies from year to year)
- Sun glasses
- Water bottle
- Bug repellent
- Camera (or smartphone)
CAN I SPEND THE NIGHT AT MORAINE LAKE?
Staying overnight at Moraine Lake is possible at the Moraine Lake Lodge. It’s situated right at the lakeshore. There are several other options in the Lake Louise area. I’ve listed three below.
If you want to wake up to an incredible view, stay at Moraine Lake Lodge. The lodge is situated on the shores of the lake. It’s the only accommodation on the lake. You can expect to pay around CAD 900 or more per night in high season.
#1 Moraine Lake Lodge
✓ Swimming Pool
✓ Airport shuttle
#1 TOP PICK
Moraine Lake Lodge
Address: 1 Moraine Lake Rd, Lake Louise
In case 900 bucks a night is a bit too much for you to pony up for a one-night stay, I’ve listed two good, cheaper options below that aren’t too far from the lake. They’re both located in Lake Louise Village, just 14.3 kilometers (8.89 mi) from the lake.
If you want a luxurious experience that’s not as expensive as the Fairmont Château Lake Louise, Baker Creek by Basecamp is a stunning option. The photo above speaks for itself.
Baker Creek by Basecamp
Address: Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A), Lake Louise
Another nice, cheaper option is the Mountaineer Lodge in the Village of Lake Louise. It’s close to the amenities of Lake Louise and the TransCanada Highway. Lake Louise itself is only a ten-minute drive away.
Address: 101 Village Road, 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)
WHEN IS THE ROAD TO MORAINE LAKE CLOSED?
The Moraine Lake Road is closed during the winter months due to avalanche danger. The road usually reopens in late May. The closure date usually is the Tuesday after Canadian Thanksgiving (second Monday in October).
IS MORAINE LAKE ACCESSIBLE AT ALL IN WINTER?
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. However, you can still get to the lake. But you’ll have to hike, snowshoe, mountain bike, or cross-country ski to get there. If you decide to go, be aware that there is a significant avalanche danger in the immediate vicinity of the lake!
ACTIVITIES AROUND MORAINE 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 without spending too much time. Below is an overview of the most popular hikes. I have highlighted five of them, from easy to challenging.
|NAME||DISTANCE (round trip)||DURATION (round trip)||ELEVATION||TRAILHEAD|
|Consolation Lakes Trail||5.8 km (3.58 mi)||1.5 – 2 hrs||65 m (213 ft)||From the bridge at the rock formation|
|Eiffel Lake Trail||11.2 km (6.91 mi)||3 – 4 hrs||370 m (1,213 ft)||Just past the Moraine Lake Lodge|
|Larch Valley/ Minnestimma Lake||8.6 km (5.30 mi)||3.5 – 4 hrs||535 m (1,755 ft)||Just past the Moraine Lake Lodge|
|Moraine Lakeshore Trail||2.9 km (1.79 mi)||45 – 60 mins||Minimal||Just past the Moraine Lake Lodge|
|Moraine Lake Viewpoint||0.8 km (0.49 mi)||30 mins||Minimal||At the north end of the Moraine Lake car park|
|Rockpile Trail||0.7 km (0.43 mi)||30 mins||75 m (246 ft)||Left side of the Moraine Lake car park|
|Sentinal Pass||11.6 km (7.16 mi)||4.5 – 5.5 hrs||725 m (2,378 ft)||Just past the Moraine Lake Lodge|
|Tower of Babel||2.9 km (1.81 mi)||3 – 4 hrs||518 m (1,699 ft)||The Moraine Lake car park|
|Wenkchemna Pass||19.4 km (11.97 mi)||7.5 – 8 hrs||720 m (2,362 ft)||Just past the Moraine Lake Lodge|
Consolation Lakes Trail
The Consolation Lakes Trail Hike is a short and easy trail that takes you to two beautiful alpine lakes. The trail is ‘only’ 5.8 kilometers (3.6 mi) long, making it a great trail for families, or if you’re looking for a not too challenging leisurely walk with stunning views.
It begins near the famous rockpile at the lake’s northern shore (near the parking lot). The hike has slight inclines and declines on the way to the lakes but is mostly up on the way there. You’ll have to go through a very rocky section. During the late spring season there is even some avalanche debris and snow piles along the path, so make sure you put on some decent footwear.
Nevertheless, the trail to Consolation Lakes is aruguably the most family-friendly of all the possible hikes near Moraine Lake. Despite the ease of the walk, you’ll be rewarded with fabulous views of glacier-covered mountains and a quiet valley. Can’t go wrong with this one!
Larch Valley / Minnestimma Lake
The Larch Valley / Minnestimma Lake Hike is a moderate trail that takes you through beautiful forests, meadows, and streams. The trail is 8.6 kilometers (5.3 mi) long. If you wanna experience the beauty of Banff National Park without the crowds, this hike is for you!
At the start of the trail you’ll face a steep incline, gaining about 535 meters (1,755 ft) in elevation, which can be challenging for some hikers. However, you’ll be richly rewarded for your efforts once you reach the Larch Valley.
I promise you, the views of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and lakes are simply breathtaking. The valley is also home to several larch trees, which turn a beautiful golden color in the fall, making it a popular destination during that season.
From the Larch Valley, the trail continues to Minnestimma Lakes, two small alpine bodies of water lakes surrounded by towering peaks and glaciers. The lakes are a great spot to take a break, and have a picnic.
The trail can be busy during peak tourist season, so it’s best to start early in the morning to avoid crowds. Make sure to wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots, as the trail can be rocky and uneven in places.
Moraine Lake Lakeshore Trail
The Moraine Lake Lakeshore Trail is a scenic, easy hike that offers stunning views of Moraine Lake and the surrounding mountains. The trail is approximately 2.9 kilometers (1.79 mi) round trip. That’s perfect if you don’t have too much time at the lake but still want to do some hiking for some different views of all the beauty Moraine Lake has to offer.
The trail begins near the famous Rockpile at Moraine Lake. It follows the shoreline of the lake and is mostly flat, with a few small inclines and declines along the way. Because the trail is short, well-maintained and easy to follow, it’s great option for families with young children.
I must warn you that the trail can be busy during peak tourist season, so you’d better start early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid crowds.
The Rockpile Trail is a short and easy trail that takes you to the top of a rock pile overlooking Moraine Lake. It’s only 300 meters (328 yards) long and takes about 10-15 minutes to complete.
Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with a stunning panoramic view of the lake and the surrounding mountains. The view is especially stunning during sunrise or sunset, when the colors of the lake and sky are at their most vibrant.
The trail starts near the parking lot at Moraine Lake. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow, making it a great option for families with young children or anyone looking for a quick and easy hike.
So bring your camera (or smartphone)! Stunning snapshots guaranteed! In fact, the rock pile is in such a perfect place for this that you get the feeling it was put there for this purpose (it’s not, trust me). All in all, this trail is a must for anyone visiting Moraine Lake.
The Sentinel Pass Trail is a challenging but rewarding hike (promise!) that offers stunning views of the Canadian Rockies. The trail is approximately 11.6 kilometers (7.16 mi) round trip and gains about 725 meters (2,378 ft).
The trail starts near Moraine Lake and follows the Larch Valley Trail for 3.4 kilometers (2.1 mi) before branching off to the Sentinel Pass Trail. The trail is well-maintained but can be rocky and uneven in places, so sturdy shoes or hiking boots come in handy.
As you make your way up the trail, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and glaciers. The hike culminates at Sentinel Pass, which offers breathtaking views of Paradise Valley and the surrounding peaks.
Good to know: the trail can be steep and exposed in places, so take your time and be cautious.
As with pretty much all trails around Moraine Lake, the trail can be busy during peak tourist season, so it’s best to start early in the morning to avoid crowds.
Tower of Babel
The Tower of Babel trail is not for the faint of heart. It’s a challenging scramble that offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The trail is approximately 2.9 kilometers (1.9 mi) round trip and gains a whopping 518 meters (1,699 ft) in elevation over this relatively short distance.
The trail starts at the Moraine Lake car park and edges the famous rockpile on the left. The trail is well-marked but can be steep and rocky in places, so wear some decent footwear, and use caution. This scramble involves using your hands and feet to climb up steep rock faces, so it’s not recommended for inexperienced hikers or if you have fear of heights.
As you make your way up the trail, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Moraine Lake and the surrounding mountains, including the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The hike ends at the top of the Tower of Babel. Your deserved reward is breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.
The trail can be busy during peak tourist season, so it’s best to start early in the morning to avoid crowds. Make sure you bring enough water and snacks to fuel up, because this hike requires quite a bit of energy!
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.
The closest mountain bike rental place is Wilson Mountain Sports in Lake Louise Village.
|NAME||DISTANCE (round trip)||ELEVATION||TRAILHEAD|
|Moraine Lake Highline||19.4 km (11.98 mi)||276 m (905 ft) ascent / 435 m (1,427 ft) descent||Trailhead kiosk on the right after 2.0 km (2.0 mi) on Moraine Lake Road|
|Moraine Lake Road||26.7 km (14.81 mi)||475 m (1,558 ft) up / 157 m (515 ft) down||Great Divide car park at Lake Louise|
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
Prices: Starting from CAD 140.00 (plus tax) per canoe for a one-hour rental. Paddle, life jackets, and basic instructions are provided.
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 [https://www.albertarelm.com/licensing.page]. 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 near Moraine Lake
In the winter, you can enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings of Moraine Lake. During the coldest months, snowshoes allow you to walk across the thick snowpack with relative ease.
Since the road from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake is closed in the 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 there is an extensive avalanche trail beyond this point.
Only go there if you know enough about avalanche danger. Then you can enjoy the frozen lake and its surroundings in peace. Unlike in summer, in winter you have the lake and its surroundings almost to yourself.
The closest snowshoe rental place is Wilson Mountain Sports in Lake Louise Village.
|NAME||DISTANCE (round trip)||DURATION (round trip)||ELEVATION||TRAILHEAD|
|Moraine Lake Road Snowshoe Trail||24 km (14.9 mi)||6 – 8 hrs||993 m (3,258 ft)||Great Divide car park on Moraine Lake Road|
HISTORY OF MORAINE LAKE
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 FAQ
Why is Moraine Lake so blue?
Moraine Lake is so blue because of the rock flour that is suspended in the water, just like in Lake Louise. This rock flour comes from the nearby glaciers and gives the lake its unique blue-green color.
Can I swim in Moraine Lake?
Yes, you can swim in Moraine Lake, but the water is extremely cold, with temperatures rarely getting above 4°C. This means that you can only swim for short periods, typically around 15 minutes, before becoming hypothermic.
Can I Visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise on the Same Day?
Yes, you can visit both lakes on the same day. If you don’t plan to walk at either lake, I’d say you’ll spend about an hour at each. There’s a great Parks Canada shuttle service (see above) that will take you from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake and vice-versa.
Even if you want to hike at one or both lakes, it should be possible if you plan carefully and don’t want to do too long hikes.
Do I need a park pass for Moraine Lake?
Yes, you need a valid park pass to enter Banff National Park, which includes Moraine Lake. You can purchase a pass online or at a park entrance.
Can I buy a park pass at Moraine Lake?
No, you can’t purchase a park pass at Moraine Lake. Your closest option is the Lake Louise Visitor Centre in Lake Louise.
Can I fly to Moraine Lake
No, there is no airport at Moraine Lake, but you can fly into Calgary International Airport and then drive or take a shuttle to the park.
Can I get altitude sickness at Moraine Lake?
It’s possible to experience altitude sickness when visiting Moraine Lake, especially if you’re not used to high elevations. It’s important to drink plenty of water and take it easy to avoid any symptoms.
Are dogs allowed at Moraine Lake?
Yes, dogs are allowed at Moraine Lake but they must be on a leash at all times and you must clean up after them.
Do I need bear spray at Moraine Lake?
Yes, bear spray is recommended when hiking in Banff National Park, including around Moraine Lake. Bears are common in the park, and can be unpredictable. Therefore it’s important to be prepared and know how to use it properly.
You can rent or buy bear spray in Banff as well as in Lake Louise.
In Banff, it is available at the Visitor Centre (224 Banff Avenue) and at most sporting goods stores, such as Atmosphere (124 Banff Avenue), UNLTD Skate & Snow (319 Banff Avenue), and Monod Sports (129 Banff Avenue).
You can also visit the Visitor Centre in Lake Louise (201 Village Road) and Wilson Mountain Sports (101 Lake Louise Drive).
To keep bears at bay, make noise by talking, singing, or clapping your hands. Bears are more likely to avoid you if they hear you coming.
And always hike in a group. As Moraine Lake is busy there will always be other people on your trail which makes a bear encounter less likely.
Can I walk to Moraine Lake from Lake Louise
Yes, you can. But I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a 14.6 kilometer hike up the mountain on an uninteresting asphalt road. Since 2023, traffic on the road is very limited as parking near the lake is prohibited for most cars.
This makes the hike to the lake much quieter and safer, but remember: you also have to hike the 14 kilometers back. If you’re lucky, you might be able to hitch a ride.
Can I hike around Moraine Lake?
Yes, there are several hiking trails around Moraine Lake, ranging from easy to difficult. The most popular trail is the Rockpile Trail, which offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Can I bike to Moraine Lake?
Yes, you can ride your bike to Moraine Lake. Especially since Parks Canada restricted traffic to the lake in 2023, making the ride much nicer, calmer and less stressful.
Can I bike around Moraine Lake?
Yes, you can mountain bike around Moraine Lake. The Moraine Lake Highline Trail is a challenging ride that’ll keep you busy for hours.
Can I picnic at Moraine Lake?
Yes, you can picnic at Moraine Lake. However, there are no designated picnic tables around the lakeshore, so you’ll need to find a spot and set up on the ground near the lakeshore.
Can I fly a drone at Moraine Lake?
No, you’re not allowed to fly a drone in Banff National Park, including at Moraine Lake.
Can I visit Moraine Lake in winter
Yes, you can visit Moraine Lake in winter, but it’s more challenging due to road closures and hazardous conditions. During the winter, the road to Moraine Lake is closed to vehicles, usually from mid-October to mid-June, due to snow and ice and the risk of avalanches.
So if you want to visit Moraine Lake in winter, you will need to find an alternative way to get there. You have four options: hike, snowshoe, cross-country ski or fat bike there, but this requires a high level of fitness.
Also, make sure you’re prepared for the conditions. This includes wearing warm and waterproof clothing, carrying proper gear and supplies, and checking the weather and trail conditions before you go. You should also carry a map and compass or GPS device, as the trail can be difficult to follow in deep snow.
Can I visit Moraine Lake in May?
Yes, Moraine Lake is usually accessible in May, depending on what time of the month you’re visiting. The road may till be closed or restricted due to snow and ice. It’s best to check the park website or call ahead for current conditions.
It’s probably good to know that the lake is still frozen in May. Even at the end of the month. If you want to see the turquoise colors of Moraine Lake, you’d better visit in mid-June or later.
Can I bring my own kayak/canoe/SUP to Moraine Lake?
No, you can’t bring your own kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard to Moraine Lake, as you’re not allowed to park at the lakeshore anymore. In stead you need to take a shuttle bus which has no room for a canoe, kayak or SUP.
Can I camp at Moraine Lake?
No, there is no camping allowed at Moraine Lake, but there are several campgrounds nearby in Banff National Park, like the Lake Louise Campground.
Can I drink from Moraine Lake?
It’s not recommended to drink directly from Moraine Lake or any other natural water source in Banff National Park. You should always treat the water or bring your own supply.
What bill is Moraine Lake on?
Moraine Lake is featured on the Canadian twenty-dollar bill, which was printed between 1969 and 1979. The bill is still valid, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to get your hands on one.
Can I see the northern lights at Moraine Lake?
It’s possible to see the northern lights at Moraine Lake, especially during the winter months. However, the road to Moraine Lake is closed in winter.
Can I get married at Moraine Lake?
Yes, you can get married at Moraine Lake, but you need to obtain a permit – a.k.a. wedding registration form. It’s free, the park just wants to know that you plan to have a ceremony at the lake. Due its stunning scenery Moraine Lake is a popular spot for weddings and elopements.
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 2023? (Crazy Numbers)