Hiking to Moraine & Consolation Lakes | Banff National Park
Written by Brian Callender | Photography by Julie Boyd
Have you ever visited a place so magical that it captures your heart and makes you want return over and over again?
For Julie and I, one such place is Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. We first had the opportunity to explore Moraine Lake in 2016 and were instantly captivated by its striking beauty.
Moraine Lake sits at an elevation of 6,183 feet and is an 8.7 mile drive from the Lake Louise Visitor Center. Because the lake lies at the end of a mountain road it feels far more secluded than its neighbor, Lake Louise. The stunning blue water of Moraine Lake against the imposing background of the Valley of the Ten Peaks makes Moraine Lake a destination we want to spend endless hours enjoying.
Once we had planned our return trip to Banff, it was an easy decision to head back to Moraine Lake. This time, we also planned to add a hike to Consolation Lakes to explore a bit more of the area. On a chilly June morning, we left our guesthouse in Field and made the forty-minute drive to Moraine Lake.
Exploring Moraine Lake
In August of 2016, our first trip to Canada, we had ideal conditions throughout our stay. When we stopped at Moraine Lake to explore a place we had seen countless times in social media, we were blown away by the mountains reflecting in the still water and the wonderful shades of blue. By comparison, our second visit to Moraine Lake was nothing like the first and provided us with a completely different perspective.
Driving north on Moraine Lake Road the weather went from cloudy to light snow as we approached the parking area for the lake. The trees surrounding the road were dusted in a soft white snow, which continued to fall lightly as we drove. Despite the poor weather, the parking lot lot looked like we were visiting on a sunny day, as there was no shortage of cars. Throwing on our jackets, we grabbed our gear and headed for the lakeshore.
A short trail that can be accessed just to the left of the parking lot, will take you up above the rock pile for stunning views of the lake. It always amazes us though, to see how many people are trying to climb along the rocks, rather than following the clearly marked trail. From the top of the rock pile you will find the classic Moraine Lake scene among the Valley of the Ten Peaks. After spending some time admiring the beautiful lake, we were ready for our next adventure, a short hike to Consolation Lakes.
Hiking to Consolation Lakes
The trail to Consolation Lakes starts at the beginning of the Moraine Lake Rock Pile Trail and heads left. With a light, dry snow falling overhead, we hit the trail and headed on the 1.67 mile (2.7 kilometer) one-way trek to Consolation Lakes.
We had seen the trail on our first visit, but decided not to do it in favor of spending as much time as possible capturing the main attractions. In hindsight, Julie and I both wished we had done the hike on the first go-round as the trail is almost entirely flat and easy. While there are some rocks to cross near the beginning of the hike, the rest is a gentle grade of dirt, and thanks to thawing out conditions, a pretty solid amount of mud.
To get to the lakeshore requires some boulder scrambling, but it’s definitely worth the adventure. On a clearer day, there is a trail that continues from Lower Consolation Lake to Upper Consolation Lake. We decided against making the further trek this time, as there was still a fair amount of snow along the lakeshore but will definitely be back again in the future.
After enjoying our solitude at Lower Consolation Lake, we were ready to make the short return hike to Moraine Lake.
As the morning had gotten later, we saw a number of other hikers headed to the lake and were glad to have gotten an earlier start. Back at Moraine Lake, we spent some more time admiring its beauty before it was time to leave.
Have you been to Moraine or Consolation Lakes? Let us know in the comments!