A highlight of your trip in the Canadian Rockies, will be visiting Moraine Lake & Lake Louise. So why not do it right?
No doubt that with the increasingly popular use of Instagram, you have seen some pretty incredible photos of these lakes. I certainly did! I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about, including whether they were really that blue!
As we were visiting in peak season (September), I did my research. I can honestly say that having prior knowledge about visiting these lakes, saved us. It is what enabled us to experience a ‘once in a lifetime moment’.
So if you want to get a headstart in your planning, read further to find out what you need to know when planning a visit to Moraine Lake & Lake Louise!
What to be prepared for
Something that I also touched upon in my Canada Roadtrip Itinerary is that you must be prepared for a few things:
An early wake up call
If you are staying in Banff (which is likely), Lake Louise is a 45 minute drive and Moraine Lake is an hours drive. There are limited parking spaces at both car parks, with Moraine Lake’s being much smaller than Lake Louise’s.
Once they are full, the park rangers close both the car parks and the roads leading to them. Only shuttle buses and guests staying at the on-site hotels will be able to pass.
They will either inform you to try again later in the afternoon or redirect you to the overflow car park (Lake Louise Park & Ride) – more on that later.
Prior research advised me to get there no later than 6.30am.
With a 4.30am alarm, we were out the door just gone 5.00am and we arrived at Moraine Lake for 6.07am. We were one of the last cars to get a space.
So I guess the lesson here is – be prepared to arrive EARLY!
Tourists, tourists, tourists
I think I saw more people at Moraine Lake & Lake Louise alone, than I saw on our whole roadtrip through the Rockies (excluding the cities).
Whilst this didn’t necessarily surprise me at Lake Louise, I was taken back by the shear number of people at Moraine Lake. Trying to capture a shot with no-one either side of you is pretty hard!
Nevertheless, there is still something quite spectacular about being huddled together with like minded people, at the edge of a lake in darkness, waiting patiently for the sun to rise. It definitely does not take the magic away and is worth that early wake up call :).
The cold weather
If you plan on being at the lakes for sunrise, then make sure you dress warm! The temperature at the lakes can drop massively over night, even in summer. When we visited in early September, it it dipped into the minus; I could have definitely done with a wooly hat and gloves!
Lake Louise Park & Ride (Overflow Carpark)
If you are not an early riser or the car parks located directly at the lakes are full, then your best bet is to go to the Lake Louise Park & Ride.
The Park & Ride is located along the Trans-Canada-Highway 1 (as shown by the green tick icon in the map above). It is from here that you can park and take a paid shuttle bus to Moraine Lake & Lake Louise. This is not to be mistaken with the car park at Samson Mall (red cross on the map). The bus stops next to this car park are for the free shuttle busses, connecting Lake Louise Village, Lake Louise Campground and the Park & Ride (something we unfortunately learnt the hard way!)
You can find the most updated schedules and pricings for the Park & Ride on the official Parks Canada website here.
Whilst the shuttles are fairly frequent (every 20 minutes or so), it is important to note that this does not necessarily mean you will get on the next bus. Depending on the number of people there, you could be queuing for quite a long time before reaching the front.
They have signs in the car park which give you an estimate of how long you could be waiting – whilst we were there, it was an hour!
*NEW FOR APRIL 2020: Parks Canada has announced that shuttle tickets to Moraine Lake & Lake Louise via the Park & Ride must be reserved and paid for in advance.
WALK UPS WILL NO LONGER BE AVAILABLE.
I guess this will help relieve the increase in congestion which has been building up over the years. However, I can imagine that tickets in peak summer will book up fast, so make sure you get yours!
You can rent canoes at both Moraine Lake & Lake Louise.
Moraine Lake: Canoe rentals are open daily between 9.00am – 5.00pm from mid June to mid September. It will set you back an eye watering $120 CAD for a one hour rental, and they are available on a first come first serve basis.
Lake Louise: Operating times are similar to Moraine Lake and will cost $125 per hour or $115 per half hour. Rates are cheaper for guests staying at the Fairmont Hotel and they will also get priority.