Moraine Lake Travel Guide Banff National Park
- Apr 18, 2023|
- Adventure, Nature & Wildlife
Moraine Lake's reputation as a world-class natural wonder makes sense when you're standing at the lakeshore, gazing out at brilliant blue waters and reflections of surrounding peaks. What makes this place even more special is that it can only be accessed for a short time each year (June to early October)—so make the most of every moment here by planning your day in advance.
How to Get to Moraine Lake in Summer
Before deciding how to spend the day exploring Moraine Lake, it's essential to work out how you'll get there first. As of summer 2023, you can't drive personal vehicles up Moraine Lake Road at any time of day. This means you must hike, bike, take a shuttle or transit, or go on a tour.
Moraine Lake Shuttle Reservations
Parks Canada shuttles to Moraine Lake depart regularly from the Lake Louise Summer Gondola parking lot. The shuttle operates from June 1 to October 9 and it is recommended that you book your shuttle in advance. Some shuttle tickets are released 48 hours before departure time, so ensure to check two days before your planned trip to Moraine Lake.
Mountain Park Transportation offers a variety of pick-up locations at accommodations in Lake Louise and from Wilson Mountain Sports in Samson Mall. They also offer limited transportation for SUP Boards, please email the office in advance if you plan on bringing your paddleboard to Moraine Lake.
Sunrise at Moraine Lake
Sunrise is a special time of day to see Moraine Lake. There are a couple of options to see sunrise at Moraine Lake. You can hop on a shuttle between 4 and 5 am from the Moraine Lake Bus Company or take a sunrise tour with Radventures to guarantee you can see the alpenglow as it cascades down the Valley of the Ten Peaks.
Join a Guided Sightseeing Tour to See Moraine Lake
Take a guided sightseeing tour, and you'll enjoy a relaxing visit to Moraine Lake as well as other iconic Banff National Park locations. Brewster Sightseeing, Discover Banff Tours, HopOnBanff, Radventures, White Mountain Adventures and WowBanff all offer tours that include a stop at Moraine Lake.
Roam Public Transit
The Bow Valley's regional transit system, Roam Public Transit, operates a lake connector between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake all summer and a direct-to-Moraine Lake bus during the fall season. Booking in advance is highly recommended, especially during weekends, holidays, and Larch season.
Bring your Dog to Moraine Lake
If you plan on bringing your dog with you to Moraine Lake this summer, there are a few dog-friendly shuttle options to get up to the lake.
The Parks Canada Shuttles and Moraine Lake Bus Company can accommodate service animals and pets in a small crate that they can fit on their lap. WowBanff are able to accommodate dogs outside on their upper deck.
Dogs are welcome at Moraine Lake but must follow all of Parks Canada's regulations, including remaining on-leash.
Top Things to Do at Moraine Lake
To start, just walk up to the lake shore and take in the lake and the towering Valley of the Ten Peaks. This is the perfect way to begin your trip to Moraine Lake.
For the classic and iconic view of the lake, head up the Rockpile. The trail is short, has stairs to the top and starts on the east side of the parking lot. From here, you will get slightly above the lake and be able to fully see the surrounding peaks and the turquoise waters. The ecosystem around here is fragile, so please stay on the paths.
Hikes at Moraine Lake
The Lakeshore Hike at Moraine Lake is the perfect path for most explorers. You can go all the way to the small waterfall at the back of the lake or turn around wherever you like. All while experiencing Moraine Lake's glistening turquoise waters and the towering mountain peaks. Heading to the back of the lake and back to the shuttle parking is about 5.1 km with minimal elevation gain. While the path is mostly flat, it is not paved the whole way.
Consolation Lakes is the perfect trail to immerse yourself in awe-striking scenery without putting in too much effort. The trail takes about an hour with minimal elevation gain. Be aware of potential trail restrictions due to bear activity - at certain times of the year, you will be required to hike in groups of 4 or more to see this beautiful lake.
If you're up for a challenge, head up the Larch Valley trail. You'll walk through a forest of larch trees (that turn golden in the fall for a short time) and can admire mountain reflections on Minnestimma Lakes at the top of the valley. The hike is strenuous, with over 500 meters of elevation gain in just 3.5 km. In total, the hike is about 9.5 km to Minnestimma Lakes and back, so expect to be on the trail for 3-4 hours.
At the back of Larch Valley, you can head up Sentinel Pass and peer into Paradise Valley - which connects you to Saddleback Pass and down into Lake Louise with a 20+ km challenging hike. The top of Sentinel Pass gives you the perfect view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks and the forest of larch trees stretched out below. The pass is a steep challenge, with 300 meters of elevation gain in 2 km. To head there, pass the lakes at the end of Larch Valley and follow the trail. Expect this to add an additional 1-2 hours to your hike from Larch Valley.
Visit during fall for a unique chance to see larch trees decorate the trails in stunning golden hues. Roam Transit's exclusive fall service is a great way to access Moraine Lake during this popular hiking season. Roam Transit runs a bus directly from Banff to Moraine Lake just for larch season.
A guided hike could be the perfect addition to your itinerary for those just beginning their love for hiking or simply looking to get the most out of the trails. White Mountain Adventures and Great Divide Nature Interpretation offer daily private hikes for all levels of adventurers.
However you choose to hike in this spectacular area, do your part to preserve its precious landscape by keeping on marked pathways.
If you're keen to include more of Banff's sights in your day, consider joining a sightseeing tour. You'll be spoiled for choice of tour operators who offer unique routes to Moraine Lake with stops such as Johnston Canyon and Lake Louise. Plus, you'll discover fascinating local knowledge from a friendly tour guide along the way!
Remember to pack essentials like bear spray and snacks before heading to the lake since stores are limited when you arrive. Banff is home to various stores and cafes, while the Samson Mall in Lake Louise is the perfect place to pick up ready-made lunches and grocery items closer to the lakeshore.
It's hard to believe that the scenery gets better than standing at the lakeshore or top of the Rockpile viewpoint, but the real magic happens when you venture to the back of the lake and beyond.
There are countless ways to make the most of your mountain summer at Moraine Lake. Plan your day ahead of time to enjoy a seamless experience and soak up every moment discovering its breathtaking beauty.
Ready to make the most of your visit to Moraine Lake? Use our Trip Planner to help you create the perfect itinerary for your getaway!