Upate: The road to Moraine Lake is now closed to all vehicle traffic for the season. It will re-open in mid to late May of 2019.
Moraine Lake is only half the size of its nearby neighbour Lake Louise, but perhaps even more scenic. It’s situated in the beautiful Valley Of The Ten Peaks in Banff National Park. This glacier-fed lake becomes the most intense and vivid shade of turquoise blue. The setting of the surrounding magestic mountain peaks makes the scene almost surreal.
Rent a canoe or try one of the trails in the area that range from casual walks to more strenous hikes. Or just sit and take in the beauty of the lake.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Moraine Lake?
When the road first opens in May don’t count on seeing the turquoise water that Moraine Lake is famous for. The lake sits at a high elevation of 1883 meters. It can remain frozen until late May or into June depending on the temperatures. The water level remains low until the glacier above the lake starts to melt. It usually crests by late June or early July.
If you want warmer weather and the best chance to see the beautiful water the time to visit is from late June to August. The water colour can usually be enjoyed through to the time of the road closure in early October.
The photos below were taken in different years just shortly after the road to Moraine Lake was opened for the season in mid to late May.
When the melt water from the glacier up above starts to flow into the lake it brings with it rock flour or silt. Light reflecting off the silt gives the lake the stunning blue colour.
The two photos below were each taken in early October in different years. As you can see the weather and views can be drastically different.
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 Moraine Lake
The trail switchbacks along the back of the moraine with several sets of stone steps. It brings you to the top of the rock moraine where there are fantastic views overlooking the lake.
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.
You won’t be disspointed with the views. Keep working your way up to the highest viewpont levels to get different vantage points.
- Trailhead – Starts from the lower end of the parking lot across the bridge on the outlet stream.
- Distance – 350 meters
- Elevation – 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 fairly flat trail that works its way along the shoreline to the back of the lake. As the trail weaves in and out of the trees it offers glimpes of the water 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 where a stream of rushing water flows from the Wenkchemna. It’s a total of 2.9 km’s, returning back on the same trail. Allow approximately 45 minutes.
Other Trails At Moraine Lake And Seasonal Travel Restrictions
Due to bear activity some of the trails accessed near Moraine Lake have seasonal restrictions to maximize safety. During these times it is mandatory that hikers 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. Information and a map of the Moraine Lake Group Access area can be found here: Bear Management Moraine Lake Group Access 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 early June to early October. The ammenities include a gift shop and a restaurant.
Below is a view from the top of the rockpile trail looking at the lake shore. On the right you can see the Moraine Lake Lodge accommodations.
Moraine Lake Canoe Rentals
The dock is open from 9:30am to 5pm from mid-June to mid-September. Rentals start at $105 plus tax for one hour per canoe. Paddles, life jackets and basic instruction are provied. The canoes available can accommodate two or three people. Reservations are not accepted, the canoes available on a first-come, first served basis. Guests of the Moraine Lake Lodge take priority.
The operation of the canoe dock is weather dependent. It can shut down without notice due to inclement weather such as snow, rain or strong winds.
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 here: Paddling in the parks.
Is It Possible To Visit Both Moraine Lake And Lake Louise In The Same Day?
Absolutely, these two beautiful attractions are just a 15 minute drive apart. Both Lakes are accessed from Lake Louise Drive. See the directions below.
Directions To Moraine Lake
From the Lake Lousie Village located off Trans Canada Hwy #1 follow Lake Louise drive uphill for approximately 3 km’s. Look for the turn on the left hand side for Moraine Lake Road. Follow the winding road for 11km’s to the parking area at the end. If you keep going past the turn off to Moraine Lake Road and continue up Lake Louise Drive you will reach the parking area for Lake Louise within a few minutes.
Tips For Avoiding The Summer Crowds, Traffic And Parking Chaos
The beautiful setting of Moraine Lake continues to increase in popularity. The parking is limited and in the summer months it can often be full by 8am. In recent years the traffic volume has become so high that restrictions have been put in place. During the peak tourist season the road is controlled from 7:30am to 6pm. Vehicles will only be granted access if parking is available. If the lot is full you will be turned away at the beginning of the road and asked to use the shuttle or try again later.
Although the lake is busy throughout the tourist season it’s worth noting the holidays below that will see the largest amount of visitors.
- Victoria Day long weekend – the first Monday of May.
- Canada Day – July 1 and the entire weekend if the holiday falls on a day that creates a three day weekend.
- Heritage Day Weekend – the first Monday in August.
- Labour Day Weekend – the first Monday in September.
The Larch hiking season is another busy time at Moraine Lake. It has become a popular with both visitors and locals. Prepare for all September weekends through to the first week of October to be busy. This is the time when the trees in the Larch Valley are showing off their golden colours. The peak of the colours usually occurs in the 2nd and 3rd week of September. To avoid the excessive crowds on the trails try to plan your hike for mid-week into the valley. Locals come from all over on the weekends to hike. Try to plan your visit during mid-week into the valley to avoid some of the crowds.
Moraine Lake Transportation and Seasonal Shuttle Information
Moraine Lake Summer Shuttle
Mountain Park Transportation is a private company that operates a shuttle service to Moraine Lake. They have frequent depatures throughout the day. Pickups and drop offs are available at the Sampson Mall in the village of Lake Louise, the campground, Deer Lodge and upon request at the Fairmont Lake Louise hotel. The shuttle is in high demand during the peak season. Reserving your seats is recommended by calling 403-763-9898 or by emailing email@example.com. Schedules and rates can be found here: Moraine Lake Shuttle.
Free Parks Canada Shuttle For The Larch Valley Hiking Season
To help with the high volumes of traffic during the Larch Valley hiking season Parks Canada offers a free daily shuttle. It runs between the Lake Louise Overflow parking lot and Moraine Lake from approximately the 2nd week of September through the 1st week of October. Check the schedule for exact dates and times. Parks Canada Banff Lake Louise Shuttle
Hop On Hop Off Shuttle
From late May to early October the HopOnBanff company has a shuttle bus that offers options for accessing Moraine Lake and other attractions in Banff National Park. Schedules, fares and information can be found here. HopOnBanff
When Does The Road To Moraine Lake Open And Close?
The drawback to this beautiful lake is that due to its high elevation it recevies heavy snowfall and it’s setting is prone to high avalanche risks. For safety the road is closed to all vehicle traffic during the winter.
The road usually opens in mid to late May and closes on the Tuesday after the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday (the second Monday in October).
The opening and closing of the road does not have fixed dates. It’s subject to change from year to year depending on the conditions. Once the road is closed for the winter season there is no way to access the lake by vehicle.
Bicyling To Moraine Lake
If you attempt to bike the road when it is open to vehicle traffic extreme caution is needed on this narrow road. There are alternative trail ride options to get to the lake. More information for road and trail riding can be found here: Biking in the Lake Louise area
In some years the road to Moraine Lake is free of snow when it is closed for the winter season. If you choose to ride a bike to the lake check first with Parks Canada for the most current avalanche conditions.
Is There Any Way To Get To Moraine Lake During The Winter Road Closure?
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 tour company, shuttle, dog sled or any other type of transport that can get you to the lake. The road is closed for good reason. There’s an extreme avalanche risk on the last few kilometers near the lake. Visitors are so eager to see the lake they comtemplate walking through the deep snow or attemptingt to snowshoe. It’s not recommend. Not only would the return distance of 22km’s be exhausting you would be crossing through hazzardous avalanche terrain.
Moraine Lake Road Cross Country Skiing
In the winter the road becomes a popular spot for crosscountry skiing. Once there’s enough snow Parks Canada sets tracks, 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. There is a high avalanche risk from November to late April.