Update: Parks Canada is busy clearing the snow to Moraine Lake Road. It is scheduled to open on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
Moraine Lake is only half the size of its nearby neighbour Lake Louise, but perhaps even more scenic. It’s a glacier-fed lake situated in the beautiful Valley Of The Ten Peaks in Banff National Park.
When the road first opens in late May or early June, don’t expect to see the turquoise glacier water that Moraine Lake is famous for. At a high elevation of 1883 meters the lake does not start to thaw until June, the water level usually crests by late June.
Don’t worry if your visit is when the lake is still thawing, it’s still a very scenic spot and there are lots of interesting photos to be taken.
Once the melt water from the glacier up above starts to flow into the lake it brings with it rock flour or silt. This is what the light reflects off to give the lake its stunning blue colour.
There are several trails around the lake that range from casual walks to more strenuous hikes. Due to bear activity some of the trails have seasonal restrictions to maximize safety. Hikers must travel in a tight group of four or more. Occasionally trails may be closed off completely. It is always best to check ahead with Parks Canada for the current trail conditions.
The Twenty Dollar View
It’s more like a million dollar view, but the iconic image of Moraine Lake and the Valley Of The Ten Peaks was used on the back of Canadian twenty dollar bills issued between 1969 and 1979. The beautiful deep blue water with a backdrop of towering snow-capped mountains is one of the most photographed spots in the Canadian Rockies and possibly in all of Canada.
The Rockpile Trail Offers The Best View Of The Moraine Lake
The Rockpile is a short trail of less than half a kilometer with minimal elevation gain. The trail switchbacks along the back of the moraine bringing you to the top of the rocks where there are fantastic views overlooking the lake.
This is the spot where the photograph for the Canadian twenty dollar bill was taken.
As you make your way along the trail watch for pikas, marmots, squirrels, chipmunks and variety of birds that are frequently spotted in the area.
- Trailhead: starts from the lower end of the parking lot across the bridge on the outlet stream.
- Distance: 350 meteres
- Elevation: easy elevation of 30 meters
- Time: 40 minutes return trip
Moraine Lakeshore Trail Will Leave The Crowds Behind, Even On Busy Days
Starting near the canoe docks there is an easy walk that works its way along the shoreline to the back of the lake. As the trail weaves its way in and out of the trees there are views of the water and mountains. stunning views of the lake and mountains.
Only a dent of the crowds will venture onto the Lakeshore trail and even fewer still will go the full distance of it. A boardwalk is located at the end of the lake near the stream of rushing water that flows from the Wenkchemna Glacier. The trail is fairly flat. The 2.4km round trip will take approximately 45 minutes.
Other Trails At Moraine Lake And Seasonal Restrictions
The Lakeshore Trail branches off to hikes in the Larch Valley, Eiffel Lake, the Wenkchemna Pass and Sentinel Pass trails. During part of the year when there is a high amount of grizzly bear activity there are hiking restrictions put in place for many of the trails in the Moraine Lake. A map shows the Moraine Lake Group Access area where a party of four hikers is required. Moraine Lake Group Access Seasonal Travel Restrictions.
Moraine Lake Lodge Accommodation
Moraine Lake Lodge is the only accommodation at the lake. Staying at the lodge allows you to take advantage of the early morning or late hours of the day when the tourists have left the area. It’s open from June to early October. They have a gift shop and restaurant.
Moraine Lake Canoe Rentals
The dock is open from 10am to 6pm during the summer season. Canoe Rentals are $50 an hour.
Can I Bring My Own Private Canoe Or Kayak To Moraine Lake?
Yes, you can bring your own canoe or kayak to Moraine Lake or any of the lakes or rivers within Banff National Park. There’s no public boat launch at Moraine Lake, you will have to launch from the shore. Parks Canada offers more information on paddling in the parks.
Directions To Moraine Lake
From the Lake Lousie Village located just off the Trans Canada Hwy follow Lake Louise drive uphill until you see the access road for Moraine Lake on the left. Follow the winding road for 11km’s to the parking area at the end. If you continue on Lake Louise drive past the Moraine Lake access road you will reach Lake Louise within a few minutes.
Tips For Avoiding The Summer Crowds, Traffic And Parking Chaos
In recent years the summer traffic has become so bad that the RCMP have had to make temporary road restrictions to access the lake. The road to Moraine Lake is winding, narrow and full of tour buses and RV’s.
Parking is limited, the lot can be full by 10am. To ensure you get a spot and to avoid the crowds visit the lake as early as possible or after 5pm.
The parking lot is also busy during the last half of September. This is the time when the trees in the Larch Valley are showing off their golden colours. To avoid the excessive crowds try to plan your hike for mid-week into the valley. To avoid parking issues there are two shuttle options, see the info below.
Moraine Lake Seasonal Shuttle
There is no public transportation in the Lake Louise area or to Moraine Lake. A privately operated seasonal shuttle run has recently been started to service Moraine Lake. It operates in from July through mid-September.
The shuttle does stops and pickups at the Lake Louise Inn, Samson Mall, the Lake Louise Village campground, Chateau Lake Louise hotel and the staff housing. Six runs leave every two hours from the Lake Louise Inn starting at 8:30 and the last one leaving at 6:30pm.
Only cash is accepted. The fare is $20 for adults return trip, $10 one way. Children 12 and under $10
For more information call Mountain Park Transportation at (403) 522-522-2525 or (403) 522-2700
The only other options for getting to Moraine Lake are hiring a taxi, finding a ride or renting a bicycle. Keep in mind it is 14km’s from the village of Lake Louise to Moraine Lake with the first 3km’s being up a very steep hill. Bicycles can be rented at Wilson’s Sports at the Samson Mall in the village of Lake Louise. If you’re staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, check with the concierge for information on using the hotel’s bicycles.
Free Parks Canada Shuttle For The Busy September Larch Valley Hiking Season
In the last few years Parks Canada has been offering a free shuttle to Moraine Lake to help with the traffic volumes during the busy 2nd and 3rd week of September for hiking into the Larch Valley.
Weekends from September 10 to 25, 2016 – A free public shuttle runs to Moraine Lake.
Pick up and drop off is from Lake Louise Overflow Camping, located on the Trans Canada Highway 5.5 km east of the village of Lake Louise.
Parks Canada also runs a shuttle on weekends from July 1st to September 5th to the viewpoint at Lake Louise. More information can be found here: Parks Canada also runs a shuttle on weekends from July 1st to September 5th to the viewpoint at Lake Louise. Lake Louise Shuttle And Parking
When Is The Road To Moraine Lake Open?
Due to conditions that include heavy snowfall and avalanche risks the road to Moraine Lake is closed to all vehicle traffic in the winter. Depending on the conditions the road opens sometime between the third week of May and the first week of June. The road is usually closed for the season in October after the Canada Thanksgiving holiday weekend. (the second Monday in October). However there is no fixed date. Parks Canada monitors the area and when they feel there is risk of avalanche the road is shut down. Once the road is closed there is no way to access Moraine Lake by vehicle.
In the few days prior to the seasonal opening of the road some people choose to rent a bicycle and ride to Moraine Lake. It’s likely that you won’t be totally alone, but you can enjoy the lake in relative solitude before the crowds start to arrive when the road opens to vehicles.
Is There Any Way To Get To Moraine Lake In The Winter?
This is the most frequent question we get about Moraine Lake. To clarify there are no vehicles of any kind permitted on the road once it is closed for the season. There’s no dog sled or any other type of transport that can get you to the lake. The access to the lake is closed for good reason, there’s an extreme avalanche risk on the last few kilometers closest to the lake.
Once there’s enough snow Parks Canada sets tracks for cross country skiing, but they end at the viewpoint for the Consolation Valley and the Ten Peaks. The total distance is 15.6km return. The trail has a steady climb with gentle rolling and hilly stretches. It’s rated as easy/novice.
Going past the track sets the road crosses large avalance chutes and is not recommended. Anyone attempting to go past the end of the grooming should be equipped and trained in avalanche rescue and first aid. Then entire trail is 22km round trip.