Peyto Lake Hike to the Bottom | Banff National Park
Written by Brian Callender | Photography by Julie Boyd
The first time Julie and I laid eyes on Peyto Lake in person, we were blown away.
Like so many of the lakes in the Canadian Rockies, the striking blue water is captivating.
Is the water really that blue?
A question we are often asked when showing photos to friends and family. It most certainly is, and it’s something that is best appreciated firsthand.
When the two of us visited for the first time in 2016, we assumed the only Peyto Lake hike was the one which lead you to a viewing platform high above the shore. We walked she short paved path from the parking lot, and when we arrived at the crowded platform, we decided to duck into a little clearing to enjoy unobstructed views of the lake. From our vantage point, I could see a dirt path that descend into the trees below, but I wasn’t certain if there was a true trail to the shore of Peyto Lake.
After returning home, I opened our Canadian Trails book, flipped to the page on Peyto Lake, and sure enough there it was: two routes down to the shoreline. I bookmarked the hike, and added it to our itinerary for our 2018 trip.
Peyto Lake Hike Details
Starting Elevation: 6,051 ft.
Distance: 2.00 miles, round trip
Elevation Gain: 427 ft.
Hike Type: Out and back, day-hike
Difficulty Level: Easy
Date Hiked: June 12, 2018
Finding the Peyto Lake Hike Trail
There are two ways to reach the shore of Peyto Lake with the most obvious one starting from the overlook and gradually working its way down. On our second visit to the lake, I explored a bit further down on the main trail from the viewpoint, and discovered that the trail is easy to follow.
However, an easier route begins just a short drive further along the Icefields Parkway. Here, a small pull-out provides access to an unmarked trail to the lakeshore. When we arrived in the late afternoon, there were no other cars parked at the trailhead, which made sense as I wasn’t able to find any information when researching this hike online, and concluded this isn’t the most popular trek. Admittedly, the classic view of Peyto Lake is from above, but my desire to reach it’s shoreline and visit a place less frequented was running high.
The Peyto Lake hike is a short and easy two miles, round-trip. From the roadside, we descended quickly into a forest before the trail flattened out a bit. We continued along, and across, a small stream before we found ourselves back in the forest. As it was later in the afternoon and we were clearly the only ones on the trail, we made sure to blurt our random noises to alert any nearby bears. In a quick thirty minutes, we made it to shore of Peyto Lake and, as expected, there was not a soul in sight.
Walking on the Shore of Peyto Lake
We spent about thirty minutes hanging out by the lake and enjoying the beautiful blue water we had, up until now, only seen from above. Despite the crowds that frequent the overlook, we felt as though we had stumbled upon a secluded alpine lake, high off in the backcountry as we soaked in the cool temperatures of the early evening.
As the sun began to set, we decided it was best to say our goodbyes to our lakeside solitude and make the short hike back to the car before dark. Again, we were sure to make regular noise, thinking it might be dinner time for some hungry bears, and not wanting to startle one unexpectedly. Once we reached the car, we headed straight for the overlook so that we could capture the setting sun over Peyto Lake. Perhaps the best thing about visiting any destination around 9:00 p.m. is you are assured to be surrounded by little to no other people, at that was definitely the case when we arrived.
Just past 9:00 p.m., the sun finally set on our adventure and we said goodbye once again to the vibrant blue water. I was excited to have checked an item of my list from two short years ago, and to have returned to one of my favorite lakes. I’m certain Julie and I will find ourselves back at Peyto Lake once again in the near future.
Thanks for following along! Let us know if you’ve been to Peyto Lake or if you would like to visit, in the comments!
Resources we used to plan our Peyto Lake hike:
Our favorite Gear for this hike:
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