Banff has some amazingly blue, glacier-fed lakes that are stunning to see in person. The three that we saw that were easy to access were Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and Peyto Lake. The lakes are about an hour’s drive north of the town of Banff.
We left our campsite at 5 am to get to Moraine Lake by 6 for sunrise. The parking lot was completely full when we ended up getting there around 6:15! We knew we weren’t staying long and just taking a few pictures, so we parked in the no parking zone on the edge of the parking lot. It made me feel better that at least a dozen other cars had done this as well.
When we got to the rockpile that overlooks the lake (which is right next to the parking lot), I could see about a hundred other people crawling all over it. This pile is huge and the best way to see the lake. The color of the lake gets bluer as you climb up.
By the time we left to drive to Lake Louise around 7 am, the park rangers had completely closed the road to get to Moraine because there was no parking. I’m glad we got there when we did! And we didn’t get a ticket or anything for parking in the no parking zone.
We arrived at Lake Louise around 7:30 and there were still some parking spots left. This parking lot was much bigger than the Moraine Lake lot. We got our stuff together for our hike to Agnes Lake Tea House (stay tuned for my post next week) and walked towards Lake Louise. It was still so early and there were already a lot of people there. However, I was able to find a spot to take pictures without crowds of people around me. The water wasn’t quite as blue as I had seen in pictures, but I assumed this might be because the sun wasn’t fully up yet. The reflection of the mountains was amazing though!
The four of us all took pictures here for about 20 minutes and admired the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on the way to our hike. The hike starts on the other side of the lake, so we walked along the edge.
After our hike, the water in Lake Louise looked so much bluer! I was shocked to see how different it was in just a few hours. We got back to the base of the lake around noon and it was so much more crowded than it was when we started. I felt like I was walking through an amusement park, with people everywhere. I wouldn’t have enjoyed it at this time of day and was so thankful we got here early!
Peyto Lake is another 30 minutes north of Lake Louise. This was my favorite of all the lakes we saw. It’s a stunning aqua color and is in the shape of a wolf’s head. I hadn’t done much research on this lake, and assumed the viewpoint was close to the parking lot like the rest of the lakes. However, the loop to get to the lesser-known viewpoint is a 1.7-mile trail round trip.
The popular viewpoint is about 15 minutes in, with some elevation gain. The lookout is fairly small, and was too crowded to even get through to take a picture. It isn’t clearly labeled, but the trail continues to the left and loops around to some large rocks that have the best view of the lake. There were several options to take to get to this point, but I’m pretty sure they all led to the same place. We finally stumbled upon it after 30 minutes of walking (from the parking lot) and were blown away.
The best part was that there were only a couple other groups of people here, so we took plenty of time to take pictures and eat our lunch on the rocks. From here, you can also see the Peyto Glacier that feeds the lake. What a perfect spot!
Bow Valley Parkway
On our drive back to town, we took the Bow Valley Parkway. I had read that this was the scenic route, versus the highway that cuts across the park. For the first bit, I was a little disappointed, as the views weren’t that great and it slowed us down some. That was until we saw a couple cars stopped on the side of the road, and we noticed a black bear!! It was just wandering on the edge of the woods and would’ve been easily missed if we hadn’t seen the other cars. The bear sighting made our trip on the Bow Valley Parkway worthwhile!
I loved seeing all three of these lakes, but the crowds of people were overwhelming. I highly recommend visiting in the early morning or perhaps before sunset.
Check out my video on our time in Banff!