Moraine Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Banff National Park; I have to say that it might even be one of the most beautiful lakes in the Canadian Rockies. Moraine Lake should be on your bucket list when visiting the Canadian Rockies. The lake is a breathtaking blue color that is surrounded by mountains.
When planning your visit to Moraine Lake Banff, there are a few things to consider, such as when to visit, parking, etc. Moraine Lake Banff is a popular tourist location and, if not planned properly, can be a nightmare to get to.
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WHERE IS MORAINE LAKE LOCATED
Moraine Lake is 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) southeast of Lake Louise. Moraine Lake is a glacier-fed lake that is a brilliant blue-green color resulting from light refracting off the rock flour (the fine particles of rock) in the glacier run-off, which flows into the lake. At an elevation of 1,885 meters (6,183 feet), the lake does not begin to melt until June. Water levels, and its vibrant color, peak in late June.
HOW TO GET TO MORAINE LAKE BANFF
Moraine Lake is a one hour drive from Banff town and 20 minutes from Lake Louise Village. The easiest way to get to Moraine Lake during the summer is by car. Drive-up Lake Louise Drive, and you will see a road for Moraine Lake access on your left-hand side. Follow the winding road to the top where the parking area is located. The drive is 6.8 miles or 11 kilometers.
You may want to consider staying in the Lake Louise area if you don’t want to get up super early for the one hour drive from Banff. I stayed at the Deer Lodge, and it was extremely convenient as it is only a 20-minute drive from the hotel.
MORAINE LAKE PARKNG
Parking is extremely limited at Moraine Lake. There are only 150 parking spots and these fill up quickly. Parking lots are full by sunrise in peak season, between May and October. There is traffic control and once the parking lot fills up, access to the road will be closed.
MORAINE LAKE SHUTTLE SERVICE
Parking is limited at both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Parking lots are usually full by sunrise in peak season, between May and October. Planning is key. Park your car in the Town of Banff and ride Roam transit from Banff to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake or reserve a seat on a Parks Canada shuttle in advance to visit the Lake Louise Lakeshore or Moraine Lake and leave your car at the Park and Ride. Check here for up-to-date suttle information to Moraine Lake from May – October.
2020 Shuttle Bus Tickets for Moraine Lake and Lake Louise will only be available in advance by online reservation. These tickets must be purchased online and will not be available to buy in-person. Please check the Parks Canada Website for the most up to date information.
Due to high avalanche risk and heavy snowfall, the road to Moraine Lake is closed during the winter. The road to Moraine Lake usually opens mid-May or early June and usually closes in October.
You can maximize your time in Banff National Park with a Hop-On-Hop-Off Pass and see all the main sights without worrying about parking. The stops include Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and the Lake Louise Gondola (admission isn’t included in the price). The hop-on-hop-off may be closed for the 2020 season.
MORAINE LAKE TOUR
Another great option is to book a Lake Louise and Moraine Lake sightseeing tour. Tours start from Banff in a modern minibus. You will drive along the scenic Bow Valley Parkway and make a stop at both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Unfortunately, you will only have a limited amount of time at both locations.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MORAINE LAKE
When planning your trip to Moraine Lake Canada, you should keep in mind that the road to Moraine Lake is closed from mid-October until around mid-May and sometimes until June due to heavy snow and a high risk of an avalanche. The best time to visit is from June – October.
Please note these Canadian holidays as this will increase the volume of visitors.
Victoria Day long weekend – the first Monday of May.
Canada Day – July 1 and the entire weekend if the holiday falls on a day that creates a three day weekend.
Heritage Day Weekend – the first Monday in August.
Labour Day Weekend – the first Monday in September.
EARLY MORNING ARRIVAL
If you are driving, you will want to arrive for sunrise to ensure parking. Once the parking lot fills up, the road to Moraine Lake will be closed. If you are a photographer and looking to get that famous sunrise photo, check what sunrise times are and be prepared to arrive at least one hour before. Most photographers will likely start to leave shortly after sunrise, and you may be able to get a parking spot.
LATE AFTERNOON OR EVENING VISIT
Another time to visit Moraine Lake is after 6 pm, as most tourists may have left for the day, opening up more parking spots. I found the sunset to be just as pretty as the sunrise.
The traffic rangers will block the road that runs up to Moraine Lake once the parking lot becomes full. During regular travel times, you will be re-routed to the parking lot, where you will have to take a shuttle.
MORAINE LAKE HOTELS
Staying close to Moraine Lake will make things easier for arriving early. The parking lot can be full and the road closed as early as 5 am o the weekends. Even if you are only staying for one night, it will make things so much easier during your visit. There are a few options available. I stayed at the Deer Lodge Lake Louise.
Lake Louise Inn – Lake Louise Inn is a 20-minute drive to the Moraine Lake and features a variety of hotel rooms, suites, and condos set in a spectacular wooded setting with stunning views of the Rockies.
THINGS TO DO AT MORAINE LAKE BANFF
HIKE MORAINE LAKE ROCKPILE TRAIL FOR BEST VIEWS
The best views are from the top of the Moraine Lake Rockpile Trail. Once you park your car, head towards the trail near the outhouses that will take you to the Rockpile Trail. It is a fairly easy hike up to the top with a rock staircase. It is approximately a 10-15 minute hike up to the viewpoint. If you arrive for sunrise, this is when you will see all the photographers staking their ground with their cameras for that perfect shot. Since you will be arriving when it is dark, I would recommend bringing a small flashlight or a headlamp to help guide you along the path.
Tip: Be mindful of the cameras set up and don’t walk in front of someone’s set up camera.
HIKE MORAINE LAKE SHORELINE
After catching the sunrise from the Rockpile trail, head down and walk around the Moraine Lake Shoreline for different lake views.
The Moraine Lake Lakeshore trail is located close to Moraine Lake shoreline with spectacular views of the mountains.
MORAINE LAKE CANOE RENTALS
This is a bucket list item to add to your list of things to do at Lake Moraine, but expect to pay the bucket list price. The ultimate experience is canoeing the turquoise blue waters at Moraine Lake. Canoe rentals are available from July 1 until mid-September and are weather dependant. They are available on a first-come, first-serve basis,(they don’t take reservations) and can accommodate two to three people
Canoe rentals: CAD 120 + GST for a one-hour rental. The canoe rental includes the canoe, paddles, life jackets, and basic instructions.
TOP MORAINE LAKE HIKES
There are several hikes around the lake ranging from easy walks to more strenuous hikes. The Rockpile Trail is an easy path that will get you the “Twenty Dollar View” as featured on the back of a Canadian twenty-dollar bill from 1969 to 1979.
There are six hiking trails in the Moraine Lake area.
- Consolation Lakes – 5.8 km
- Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail – 2.6 km
- Moraine Rockpile Trail – 0.8 km
- Eiffel Lake Trail – 11.1 km
- Larch Valley – 12 km
- Tower of Babel – 2.9 km
Occasionally, trails may be closed due to bear activity. It is usually recommended that hikers travel in groups of four or more. Check current statuses here: Bear Management Moraine Lake Group Access Restrictions
If you plan on hiking then you must carry bear spray with you and learn how to use it. You are in bear country! Learn safe travel measures in bear country. Here are some tips from Parks Canada if you encounter a bear:
- Stay calm. Your calm behaviour can reassure the bear. Screams or sudden movements may trigger an attack.
- Speak to the bear. Talk calmly and firmly. This lets the bear know you are human and not a prey animal. If a bear rears on its hind legs and waves its nose about, it is trying to identify you.
- Back away slowly. Never run! Running may trigger a pursuit.
- Make yourself appear BIG. Pick up small children and stay in a group.
- Do not drop your pack. It can provide protection.
If you must proceed, make a wide detour around a bear or wait at a safe distance for it to move on.
ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR VISITING LAKE MORAINE
- Swimming is not permitted at Moraine Lake
- The only boats permitted are canoes
- Pack bug spray
- Pack bear spray if you plan on hiking
- Wear hiking shoes if you plan on hiking (not flip flops)
- There is no cell reception at Moraine Lake
- Bring a headlamp or flashlight if arriving before sunrise
- Dress in layers
- Pack a lunch
- Don’t feed the wildlife
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