Moraine Lake is a vibrant blue, glacier-fed body of water situated in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. It’s one of the most visited destinations in Canada — and it’s easy to see why. Beautiful scenery and plenty of opportunities for both adventurers and sightseers guarantee that everyone in your party will have a fantastic visit.
Just take these two Google reviews from happy visitors to Moraine Lake this year: “Absolutely breathtaking and so very peaceful! And yes, the water does look exactly like the photos, no filter added!” and “This is the most beautiful lake I’ve seen in my life.” With rave reviews like this, you know you’re in for a special experience.
Here’s everything you need to know about Moraine Lake and why you should add it to your list of travel destinations this year.
Facts About Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake rests at an elevation of over 6,000 feet in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. While exact details on the lake’s formation are murky, it was likely formed when a surrounding glacier pushed forward, hollowing out the lakebed and leaving behind boulders and rocks — also known as moraines. Walter Wilcox — an early explorer in the Canadian Rockies — gave the lake its name.
The main inflow to Moraine Lake comes from Fay Glacier and Larch Creek. It’s approximately 50 feet deep and has a surface area of 120 acres. While Moraine Lake is by no means a contender for ‘biggest lake in Canada,’ it more than makes up for beauty where it lacks in size.
How Can You Get to Moraine Lake?
In late 2022, to help manage summer traffic, Parks Canada announced that personal vehicles could no longer use the only access road to Moraine Lake.
Now, convenient and efficient shuttle services such as those provided by MoraineLakeBus Company commute visitors to and from the lake’s car park. Riders can book seats between early June and mid-October through an exceptionally easy-to-use website. This shuttle company also offers sunrise shuttles to Moraine Lake — a highly recommended experience! — they also let you book both your outgoing and return trip.
Catching a shuttle allows visitors to enjoy their time at the lake. All you need to do is turn up, buckle up, and enjoy — this is especially true when you’re able to pre-book your return.
The recent switch to shuttle services not only manages congestion for visitors and locals but fewer individual vehicles in natural areas like these will help reduce air and noise pollution and minimize disturbances to native wildlife, with The Southern Alberta chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society praising the move as it will allow grizzly bears to move through the landscape.
When’s the Best Time to Go?
Due to the avalanche risk, the road to Moraine Lake is closed between November and May. Fortunately, early June to Thanksgiving weekend offers visitors some of the best sightseeing opportunities and opportunities for adventure.
What can you expect per month? Come mid-June, the ice is melting on the lake’s surface, unveiling the turquoise shade it’s known for. Thawing, combined with melt from the surrounding glaciers, fills the lake to its highest level between June and August.
In July, Moraine Lake’s hiking trails see wildflowers in bloom, and come September, the larch trees turn a stunning shade of gold. At this time, temperatures can drop below zero and you’ll likely see fresh snow on the tops of the Ten Peaks.
For those of you swayed by climate, the area is warmest between July through August, where daytime temperatures reach an average high of 19 degrees.
If you’re unsure of what time to visit, sunrise is an amazing opportunity for beautiful views you will never forget — it’s also the quietest time to visit. Once you’ve experienced sunrise, you can either head back to Lake Louise Village for breakfast or stick around and enjoy a day at the lake.
If an early a.m. wake-up isn’t for you, arriving later in the morning or early in the afternoon will still give you plenty of time to see the sights and explore some of the trails.
Ultimately, Moraine Lake is beautiful whenever you visit, from spring to early fall, early morning through the afternoon — the area will leave a lasting impression.
What Is There to Do?
Whether you prize relaxation and simply take in the scenery on your vacations, or you’d prefer something a little more strenuous, Moraine Lake has you covered. Here are just a few activities that visitors regularly enjoy.
There’s hiking at Moraine Lake, whatever your skill level or ability. Easy trails like the Lakeshore Trail and the Rockpile Trail (just a 15-min walk!) are great for hiking newbies. Trails like Larch Valley and Eiffel Lake, both with optional extension trails, and a hike to the Consolation Lakes are ideal for those who’d like to hike a little further and a little higher.
Exploring the Water
Exploring Moraine Lake from a canoe or a SUP is a comfortable and relaxing way to see the area from a different perspective. You can rent canoes at the lakeside upon your arrival (on a first-come-first-served basis), and some shuttle services let you bring your inflatable SUP onboard.
Paddling is a popular activity here; many consider the lake a paddler’s paradise due to its clarity and tranquility.
Scrambling and Rock Climbing
If you’re an experienced climber, Moraine Lake can cater — the surrounding Valley of the Ten Peaks are a climber’s dream.
A great activity if you have young kids (though it’s fun for adults, too!) — is wildlife watching. Pikas, squirrels, marmots, spotted sandpipers, and golden-crowned kinglets are just a few examples of the mammals and birds you might see while sitting by Moraine Lake or exploring one of its many trails.
Of course, there’s no pressure to be upright. Feel free to sit and enjoy your surroundings. Bring a picnic and a thermos and spend some time simply enjoying the moment.
If you’re visiting Banff this year, Moraine Lake should be top of your list of things to do. It’s convenient to get to, promises breathtaking scenery — whether you go in June or early October — and there’s a load of things to do for all ages. Add Moraine Lake to your vacation schedule today!