Recently ranked as one of the top 22 Spectacular Places Around The World, Moraine Lake in Canada’s Rocky Mountains is a special kind of place.
History Lesson – Explorer Walter Wilcox came across the valley in 1899 and named the lake after the large moraine (or rock pile) deposited at the end of the lake by the Wenkchemna Glacier. Within 5 years a road had already been etched through the valley from Lake Louise and over the next 100 years the view of the valley become one of the great Canadian icons.
Today, the lake attracts thousands of visitors daily in the high season of July and August, however the majority of these hang around the Lake Lodge cafe / gift store and the lookout on top the moraine. Not many stray away from here so follow our tips below for a super Moraine Lake visit that you will never forget and will leave you itching to return.
Location – Banff Nation Park, Alberta, Canada.
Get there – 25 minute Hitchhike from Lake Louise. Or walk / cycle from Lake Louise along signposted route through the forest. Further info at end of page.
Price – Free, pristine nature dude.
Essentials – Warm clothes (especially in the evenings), enough “ohhhs” and “aaahhhhs” in your vocabulary so as to portray how taken aback you are by the scenery.
Facilities – Small cafe selling refreshments and lunch snacks with WC. Exceedingly expensive dinner restaurant in the mountain lodge.
Firstly, don’t just hang around the main lookout point, keep walking past the Lake Lodge and along the path beside the lake. You will instantly be in the heart of nature and in quieter times you certainly won’t come across too many tourists.
- The months of May and early June are quiet. Late September is beautiful as the surrounding forests fashion a golden hue and fresh snow rests around the lake.
- During peak season, arrive very early in the morning to watch the sun light up the peaks. This is also the best time to see Black Bears and other wildlife.
- Alternatively, come late in the evening after 5PM. Most tourist convoys have moved out and it’s mostly lodge guests and some others around. Very tranquil time of day and the lake is at it’s most peaceful. Reading a book on the canoe dock is a particular highlight.
- Come at say, 1PM in the high of tourist season and expect tailbacks, a hopeless search for parking and maddening crowds around the moraine and the lodge! Agh!
So, it’s a Lake, what now?!
Canoeing on the Lake is pure delight. An expensive delight but if you got the cash – around $60, it should be a definite! The canoes can fit up to four people, and paddling through the pristine blue glacial waters is a great way to experience true isolation in the Rockies. Paddle up towards the end of the lake and the only sounds will be the gently patting of the paddle, the soft wind through the trees and the occasional dramatic crashing noise of a rockfall somewhere around the valley. BOOM!
There are a number of popular hiking trails around the lake. The most popular are to Larch Valley (4 hour round trip) and the other to Constellation Lakes (2 hour round trip). A really tough, but short scramble, is up to the Tower of Babel, which overlooks the Lake. This is one heck of a steep climbs, but the views are amazing and you can even watch TV on the top (you’ll understand when you get there).
The Constellation Lakes trail is very easy yet it provides glorious lush open meadows, two beautifully still lakes and the glacial covered cliff faces of Mount Quadra. Anybody can make this trek from young to old and we would highly recommend it if you are short on time and wish to get away from the crowds.
Another popular route but moderately difficult trail is up to Larch Valley, which gives sweeping 360° views of the Ten Peaks and a glorious view over the lake. In Autumn it is particularly beautiful when the larch tree needles turn from a lush green to a golden yellow.
But, where do I sleep?!
It is currently strictly forbidden to camp around the lake and rangers are regularly on alert due to a number of Grizzly Bears in the area. If you arrive late in the evening by campervan or car you can sneakily park up for the night. Insider tip – make friends with the Lake Lodge staff (from all over the world), share a few beers, get invited back to their pool room and maybe you’ll get lucky and get a couch to crash on 🙂
The cheapest accommodation in Lake Louise village is at the HI Hostel where a very comfortable dorm bed costs around $29 per night. Try get a room that doesn’t face the railroad….Honk Honk!
In the future (when we’re all rich) you can splash out on a Moraine Lake Lodge wooden cabin, prices for their their 2 night Getaway package begin at a whopping $1,255 Canadian….oofff!!
Moraine Lake Lodge has a cafe serving snacks and drinks however we would advise you bring some of your own as it’s fairly expensive and the food isn’t great. Bring some lunch and find a secluded spot along the the lake and simply enjoy a picnic in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Further down in Lake Louise village, options are limited but we’d recommend the Timberwolf Pizza and Pasta bar or the Bill Pyeto cafe at Lake Louise youth hostel which are inexpensive in comparison to most other places in the town. The Timberwolf also does dam good cocktails! Of course you can find plenty more options in the main town of Banff.
- Numerous domestic and International airlines offer flights to Calgary (YYC), 3 hours from Moraine Lake.
- Greyhound offer regular services to Lake Louise from Calgary, Vancouver and all over Canada. Fares from Calgary start at $18. There’s no bus to Moraine Lake but you can easily hitch a 20 minute ride to the lake.
- Hitch-hiking from Calgary: Catch a city bus 408 to Valley Ridge, on the western outskirts of the city. From here it’s possible to hitch-hike on the TransCanada highway all the way to Lake Louise. It’s very easy to hitch rides to and from Calgary.