Moraine Lake is one of Banff National Park’s most iconic spots for good reason. People come from around the world to see this vibrant blue glacial lake tucked among rugged peaks. Because this is such a popular spot to visit in the park, a little preparation is required to make sure you make the most of your time here and truly enjoy it. Here are some tips and important info to help you plan a visit to the stunning Moraine Lake.
Getting to Moraine Lake
UPDATE: As of 2023, private vehicles are no longer permitted to drive to Moraine Lake unless you are staying at the lodge. Access to the lake is now limited to commercial buses, tours, and the park shuttle system. Skip to the shuttle section below.
If driving, exit off AB-1 towards the town of Lake Louise. Follow Lake Louise Drive and take a left on Moraine Lake Road. This road will take you right to the parking area at the north end of Moraine Lake.
The road to the lake is only open to vehicles from June to mid-October. There is free parking in the lot near the lake. Note that parking is limited and spots usually fill up before sunrise. The road is managed by traffic controllers who we saw standing at the turn to Moraine Lake by Lake Louise Drive. When they set up in the mornings around 7 to 8 a.m., the road usually closes to private vehicles because the lot is already full. It may periodically open throughout the day to allow a couple cars up to the lake as parking becomes available.
The shuttle is a great alternative. This is what we opted for as we were driving all the way from Calgary and wanted to visit Moraine Lake after doing a hike near Lake Louise. Park at the Park & Ride lot and catch the shuttle. Shuttles run from mid-May through early October and you must reserve your tickets online beforehand. Tickets sell out pretty far in advance, but a limited number of tickets are held for last-minute reservations. These are released daily at 8 a.m. MDT for two days before the scheduled shuttle.
Each adult ticket is $8 which will take you to either Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, between the two, and back to the Park & Ride. Click here to book your tickets, find more info, and see any shuttle updates. Parks Canada also has some useful information on navigating the Lake Louise area.
A national parks pass is required to hike to visit Moraine Lake. This fee is separate from any shuttle fees. Purchase your pass online beforehand, print it, and display it in your car. It is $10.50 Canadian dollars per day for an individual or CAD$21 for a group of two to seven people. These passes expire at 4 p.m. the day after you select to visit the park.
If you plan to visit multiple parks in the area over an extended period, it’s worth looking into the Discovery Pass. This pass is good for a year from purchase and costs CAD$70 per adult or CAD$140 for a group pass.
Exploring Moraine Lake
There are quite a few ways to experience the beauty of Moraine Lake. If you’re short on time or don’t want to stray too far from the parking area, head up the Rock Pile. This is a short, 10 minute walk from the parking lot up to an overlook over the lake. The trail up is slightly rocky, but very short. The view from here is perhaps the most iconic and frequently photographed.
If you’re looking to do a little more hiking, there are other trails that lead from the parking area. Another great option if you aren’t looking for anything too strenuous but want to see more of the lake is to walk along the shoreline. This offers some beautiful and varied views of the lake. It is about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) roundtrip, but many visitors walk just a short ways if they have limited time.
Some other great hikes that begin at the lake include Sentinel Pass and Larch Valley, Eiffel Lake, and Consolation Lakes. The Moraine Lake website posts details about some hikes in the area here.
Canoeing is also a popular activity at Moraine Lake. When you visit, chances are you’ll see colorful canoes cruising across the blue water.
Canoe rentals for one hour start at CAD$130 per canoe and come with life jackets. Both cash and card are accepted. The rental shop is open from mid-June to mid-September but sometimes shuts down if there is inclement weather.
The Moraine Lake Lodge
Inside the Moraine Lake Lodge, there is a gift shop and small café. The café offers soups, sandwiches, coffee, and other simple items.
There is also accommodation available. Staying at the lodge is a great option if you want to explore this area in depth, experience the lake during various times of day, and be able to secure parking at the lake. Booking a room also includes a free canoe excursion.
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