Written by Brian Callender | Photography by Julie Boyd
As we planned out our Canadian adventure, Julie and I each had a long list of “must visit” locations. Many of these destinations were shared, and that was especially true of Moraine Lake. If you spend any time on Instagram (including ours) these days, there’s a good chance you’ve seen photos of Moraine Lake pop up, and the images are always stunning. Spending just a few minutes there, it’s not hard to see why this place is an absolute gem!
Like so many of the lakes in Alberta, Moraine Lake is glacially fed, which means, yes, the water is very cold! Situated just under nine miles from the Village of Lake Louise (and another awesome lake!), Moraine Lake sits at 6,183 ft in what is known as the Valley of Ten Peaks. Fun Fact: So popular is the view of Moraine Lake here, that it was featured on the back of the Canadian Twenty Dollar Bill in 1969 and 1979! The blue color of the lake comes from the reflection of light on the rock flour, which consistently makes its way into the lake. This, of course, makes for some pretty spectacular photos!
We visited Moraine Lake on our first full day in Banff, and made it our first stop of the morning. Ideally, we would have been there for sunrise, but because we stayed about an hour and a half south of the park, we weren’t excited by the prospect of waking up a 4:00 a.m.! With popular tourist destinations, the key to a successful visit is arriving early, as you particularly want to get there ahead of the tour busses. For this trip, we aimed to arrive by no later than 9:00 a.m. for places we expected a large turnout. Even though we arrived past sunrise at Moraine Lake, there was still a good amount of parking available and the crowds weren’t quite overwhelming (yet!).
Once you find parking, you’ll see a large rock pile to your left. You can actually walk along a trail that takes you on the backside of the pile and up to a viewpoint at the top. Many people don’t make the effort to access this easy trail, and instead opt to scramble up the side of the rocks. Do yourself a favor and take the easy way up! At the top, expect it to be crowded, so scout out the areas below the main viewpoint for places that offer some solitude. I hiked down to a rock that provided idyllic views of the lake and some refuge from the crowds above. It’s amazing how peaceful nature can be when you stop for a moment to take it all in.
After we had our fill of the rock pile vantage point, we walked back down the trail and made our way around the lake. The walk is an easy one and lends itself to many points where you can stop for some additional shots of the lake.
At the end of the trail, you’ll reach a small waterfall that flows into the lake. From there, we headed back to grab a small souvenir at the Moraine Lake Lodge, and then to the car. By the time we left, the parking lot was packed with cars trying to find a spot to park and a few large tour busses.
We’ll definitely be back to Moraine Lake!