The Canadian Rockies are blessed with an abundance of lakes that are sure to take your breath away. While Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are surely the crown jewels, they are very popular during peak times. There are plenty of other lakes to check out on your visit to Banff and Lake Louise, and if you visit at the right time you may even have them to yourself.
We’re slowly getting closer to autumn, but it doesn’t mean the lake visiting season is over. These amazing mountain lakes are still optimal for peeping even as the days grow shorter.
Canada has more lakes than any other country on earth, so make the most of your time here and add these Banff National Park lakes to your itinerary.
Bow Lake is a brilliant gem along the Icefields Parkway and one of the park’s largest lakes. The impressive rock walls, hanging glaciers, and roaring waterfalls around the lake add to its grandeur. It’s a great spot for a canoe, picnic, or hike as the nearby Bow Falls is one of the best hikes in the park.
From the shore, you have terrific views of the Bow Glacier that feeds the lake in the summer months and is the Bow River source. That same river serves as a notable feature throughout much of the park, moving through Banff and onto Calgary before it ends in Southern Alberta, where it joins the Saskatchewan River.
Although Emerald Lake is in Yoho National Park, it’s only a short drive from Lake Louise and you'll have a tough time finding a more magnificent natural scene in the Canadian Rockies. The lake's jewel-coloured waters are flanked by the natural amphitheatre of the President Range. A little-known fact is that Emerald Lake takes its name from Lake Louise. Emerald Lake was the lake's original name, and it is every bit as stunning.
Emerald Lake is a favourite because of the full range of activities available throughout the year. Visitors can scramble up to one of the surrounding peaks or paddle along the shores in a canoe during the summer months or snowshoe and ski along its shores in winter. While popular, the lake is quieter than its more famous neighbour Lake Louise, but it every bit as accessible and only a few kilometers off the TransCanada via road.
Johnson Lake has long been a favourite for locals, due to the warm waters that allow for swimming. It's a lovely lake that's a short drive from Banff town and is possible to reach by public transport. Not only is it great for a swim, but it makes for a beautiful morning or evening walk around the short, three-kilometre lakeshore trail. Johnson is also not as wind-affected as nearby Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka, making it a great paddleboard spot.
The Waterfowl Lakes are two peaceful lakes in the park that see a fraction of the visitors you'll see the other lakes on this list. They're also very conveniently on either side of the Waterfowl Lakes Campground, an excellent campsite in the park. The two lakes are glacial and have the classic blue color that radiates on a sunny day. Combine this with the hike to Chephren Lake, as the lakes are the starting point for the trek.
The trail to Helen Lake takes hikers through one of the best alpine meadows nestled in the Main Range in the Canadian Rockies. It's a breathtaking valley filled with marmots and wildflowers that offers spectacular views to the south of Mount Hector. At the end of the meadow, you'll find Helen Lake nestled below a massive headwall that leads up to Dolomite Pass. Scramblers can continue on to summit Cirque Peak if they are in the mood for more incredible views.
A hike up to Chephren Lake ensures a quiet experience with a glacial lake just as brilliant as the more famed lakes in the park. Chephren Lake can only be reached by foot, but it's a pretty straightforward hike with little elevation gain that's easy enough for almost all to visit. Once you arrive at the sparkling blue waters, stand in awe of the imposing Howse Peak and Mount Chephren, which flank the lake.
Herbert is often overlooked on the Icefields Parkway, as you pass it not long after the gates. Its location and more famous neighbours means the lake remains pretty quiet throughout the summer. It's a gorgeous lake with stunning views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks. Keep an eye out for the diving board if you're brave enough to jump in the water on a warm day.
There is a lot more to Moraine Lake than the world-famous view from the Rock Pile. Such as all of the fantastic hiking opportunities. One of those great Banff hikes is the family-friendly hike to Consolation Lakes. On the way to the lakes, hikers are afforded wonderful views of the Tower of Babel, an old-growth forest, and the imposing Mt. Fay topped with a glacier.
The alpine meadow and wetlands around the Consolation Lakes is a beautiful spot to enjoy a picnic lunch before returning to Moraine Lake. The lakes are the same dazzling color as Moraine, but it is a light teal color that is splendid in its own right.