The Canadian Rockies are home to some of the world’s most stunning, visually appealing lakes. With jagged snowy peaks in the background and beautifully clear lakes in the foreground, it’s a treasure. While the lauded hiking in the region indeed brings crowds, the dazzling lakes by Banff pull their weight just as equally. There are many Banff National Park lakes in the area, but these are the best lakes to visit in Banff and some of the most accessible.
The longest walk to any of these is either the length of the parking lot or around 0.33 miles. While I can’t say they’re all wheelchair accessible due to dirt paths, most are flat approaches which should allow most individuals to visit. Overall, you love the lakes in Banff National Park.
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Lakes by Banff National Park to Visit While Exploring the Canadian Rockies
The 6 Must-See Lakes in Banff National Park
The most famous lake on this list, Lake Louise, couldn’t have been sculpted any better, even if Michaelangelo had done it himself. With 270-degree towering peaks, the view is jaw-dropping. Unfortunately, a parking fee was instituted in 2021, so be prepared to pay or ride the shuttle (which also costs money).
A tip while visiting: Hike to either of the tea houses. The Lake Agnes Tea House sits above the lake to the right, while the Plan of the six glaciers sits behind the lake. These are amazing hikes and will give you views of the surrounding areas. Plus, it will get you away from the hordes of people at the lodge.
Why is Lake Louise so special?
There is something about how the valley is so perfectly shaped. The upside-down V at the back is incredibly visually appealing.
How far apart are Banff and Lake Louise?
Driving from the town of Banff to Lake Louise is about a 40-minute drive without traffic. You can also hop on a shuttle if you don’t want to deal with parking. Learn more about the shuttle system here.
Can you swim in Lake Louise?
Yes, you can! It’s going to be freezing as it’s all snowmelt. But if you’re
tough crazy enough to try it, more power to you. All the lakes by Banff will be very cold year-round.
Is Lake Louise a tourist trap?
Ha, good question. It’s not dull or ugly. It’s stunning, and everyone should see the area. But there will be swarms of people during the summer months. The best time to visit would be early morning or late at night. A later visit is doable because there is light until 10 pm during the summer.
The 1A to the most famous Canadian lakes, Moraine Lake, is incredibly picturesque in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. If you get it on a clear day with a total reflection, you win the lottery, in my opinion. While the biggest attraction is the rock pile with views of the entire lake, various other trails take you along the shoreline or up into the mountains on both sides. Here, there’s no such thing as a lousy hiking trail. The most popular trail is Larch Valley to Sentinel Pass. Of course, you want to hike this.
A tip while visiting: Arrive at least 45 minutes before sunrise if you’re looking to get a parking spot. It’s a big area, but this is uber-popular. If you want to go during the day, I suggest arriving an hour after sunrise. This is when photographers will be leaving, and you can hopefully snag a spot. OR bring a bike and ride in. *Update: Starting in 2023, you can no longer drive your car to Moraine Lake. It’s a bus or bicycle now for the most famous of the lakes by Banff.*
Can I swim in Moraine Lake?
You most definitely can, though you’re not going to last long! With frigid water temperatures, most people only do a polar plunge and get right out. Make sure to have a towel and hot cocoa nearby.
Can I kayak or canoe here?
Yes, kayaking and canoeing on Moraine Lake (and Lake Louise) are pretty popular. Be warned, though; it is very expensive for the lakes by Banff. Expect to pay nearly $100 for an hour on the water.
Are there any bears at Moraine Lake?
There are bears in the Moraine Lake area, but I wouldn’t worry much about them being around the parking lot. With how popular the area is, they won’t want to deal with humans. But up in Larch Valley, I would expect some bear activity. So remember to bring your bear spray on all hikes in the Banff National Park area.
Herbert Lake is a perfect sunset or sunrise location off the Icefield Parkway, just minutes from the Lake Louise Village. You can park by the picnic tables or on the side of the road. With views of the Canadian Rockies and still waters, it’s perfect. It was amazing. This is one of the Banff National Park lakes with the highest reward-to-effort ROI places you can find.
A tip while visiting: Take a seat parallel to the highway and soak it all in. While the slope can be a bit steep at some points, your tripod should do just fine.
About 25 minutes up the Icefield Parkway, Bow Lake is a beauty. The lake has enormous peaks to the south, which seem to erupt out of the ground, and is a lovely sunset spot. It’s 100% one of the lakes to visit in Banff National Park.
A tip while visiting: Be ready for some cold wind. Blowing off the glacier to the west, the wind is cold, and the water is whipping. Honestly, this might be the coldest of the lakes by Banff. You won’t get a perfect reflection here, but it is still a gorgeous stop. I’ve also seen grizzlies here, so keep an eye out!
One of the crown jewels of the Icefield Parkway. It is so popular they closed the entire viewing area for two years to perform renovations. As you can imagine, social media is why they renovated the location. Luckily, it opened on my final day in the area, and the new platform is beautiful. Add this to your Banff National Park lakes to visit.
A tip while visiting: Ditch the crowds and hike two miles up to the Bow Lake Summit Trail. You’ll get a more extraordinary view and have fewer people clamoring for influencer shots.
This is the only one technically not in Banff National Park, but it is next to the town of Banff. Vermillion Lakes is a perfect sunrise location and is also one that requires little effort to reach, yet the photos will be superb. Of the lakes by Banff, this one might be my favorite!
A tip while visiting: Check out the different docks along the road and see how you can incorporate the grass from the lake in your foreground.
Where to stay when visiting the Lakes by Banff
There are plenty of places to stay in the Canadian Rockies. The five cities/towns listed below are your best bets for a home base.
- Lake Louise
- Field, BC
- Banff, AB
- Canmore, AB
- Jasper, AB
If you’re looking for luxury while doing the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies, Fairmont Hotels offer the best quality in the area.
- Book at Fairmont Banff
- Book at Fairmont Lake Louise (Undoubtedly the best-located hotel in Canada, in my humble opinion.)
What to wear while exploring the Canadian Rockies Lakes
- Sunshirts for day hiking: Men’s and Women’s
- Wool base layer to keep you warm: Men’s and Women’s
- Nice comfy fleece as a mid-layer: Men’s and Women’s
- Down Jacket for extra warmth: Men’s and Women’s
- Comfy yet durable pants: Men’s and Women’s
- Rain jacket: Men’s and Women’s
- Wool Socks: Men’s and Women’s
- Sturdy Hiking Shoes: Men’s and Women’s
- Midsized hiking backpack: 20L, 25L, 30L
Other commonly asked questions about the Lakes by Banff National Park
What is the best month to visit Banff?
If you’re looking for warmth and hiking, the best months to visit Banff are July through September. The trails will be melted out, and you’ll have free reign over the area. If you are looking for winter sports, January and February are fantastic as the days are a little longer than in December. Plus, more snow has accumulated for hitting the famous ski slopes.
How many days do you need to spend in Banff?
I would recommend four to five days in Banff National Park. This will provide you enough time to do the classics, such as Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, enjoy the other lakes by Banff, take a drive on the Icefield Parkway, and tackle the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
Can I swim in these lakes?
If you can handle the glacial-fed waters, be my guest to swim in the lakes by Banff National Park and along the Icefield Parkway. You won’t last long, but it could be something you tell your friends and family about for years to come! I will say that I’ve only gone up to my knees in Lake Louise. It was cold.
What are the two famous lakes in Banff?
As we touched on above, the two most famous lakes are Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. Their stunning backdrops are enchanting and without competition.
How far of a drive are these lakes from Banff?
Most of the lakes by Banff on this list are within an hour’s drive of Banff and 2.5 hours from Calgary.
What is the weather like in Banff in the summer?
Summer weather is delightful in Banff! With temperatures hovering around the mid-60s, visiting is a wonderful time. With the light still in the sky until 10 pm, it’s one of the best places to be on Earth.
What lake is better than Lake Louise?
Some would say Moraine Lake is better, and I would have to agree. The Valley of the 10 Peaks is genuinely stunning, and you never get tired of the view and reflection (if you’re lucky). Regardless of how you rank the lakes near Banff National Park, the lakes by Banff are life-changing and will bring you incredible joy and wonder.
Do need bear spray while in Banff?
Yes. Banff National Park is grizzly territory, and it is wise to always carry bear spray with you. However, you don’t need to worry as much in highly populated areas such as the Rock Pile at Lake Moraine or the front of Lake Louise.
Most brown bears frequent less visited areas where they won’t have to interact with humans.
What is the bluest lake near Banff?
It’s probably Lake Louise during the summer months on a sunny day. This is especially apparent if you hike above the lake towards Lake Agnes or even higher to the Beehive. Getting this vantage point will show off just how blue the lake is. Remember, the lakes by Banff are almost all glacial-fed, which is what causes the blue tint.
Wrapping up – Lakes By Banff National Park
In conclusion, lakes by Banff National Park is a true natural wonder that should definitely be on your bucket list. The lakes offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains, crystal-clear water, and diverse wildlife, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Whether you want to enjoy hiking trails, fishing, or simply relaxing by the shorelines, there is something for everyone at these beautiful lakes by Banff.
So plan your next vacation to explore the beauty of Banff National Park and its magnificent lakes!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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