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Alberta, Canada

How to Explore Moraine Lake: Lake That Has It All

Why we liked Moraine Lake so much; best time to visit; how to get there (and when), and where all those cool picks were taken from. Easy trails to explore with kids and where to eat.

Location: Banff National Park; 20 min drive from Lake Louise.
Time to explore: 2-3 hours or more.
Parking: Limited. The best time to visit during peak season is early in the morning or late afternoon. After 5 PM a lot of people are still coming in, but many are already leaving as well. There is a local shuttle service.
Beware of mosquitoes!

After visiting Moraine Lake, we can say that it is “The Lake that has it all”:

  • An easy hike to the overlook where you will get the best possible views;
  • Lots of greenery to hide from the midday heat;
  • Mountains that are so close, you can even see small pebbles on them!
  • A cafe and a restaurant with pleasing views of the lake.

Moraine Lake, surrounded by the Valley of Ten peaks, is so astonishing that it was featured on the Canadian 20 dollar bill for 10 years (1969-1979):

Valley of Ten peaks on the Canadian 20 dollar bill. photo credit: worldbanknotescoins
Valley of Ten peaks on the Canadian 20 dollar bill. photo credit: worldbanknotescoins

Moraine Lake isn’t as popular as Lake Louise, but it’s surely even more scenic and has one of the most beautiful views in Canada.
Glacier-fed, it thaws only in June, exposing its stunning color: the sunlight reflects of powdered rock flour suspended in water and gives Moraine Lake its glowing turquoise color:

Lake Moraine on the first days of June. photo credit: Bert Kaufmann
Moraine Lake on the first days of June. photo credit: Bert Kaufmann

To get there, the narrow road winds up to 6,183 feet, from the Lake Louise village straight to the Valley of Ten Peaks. When approaching the lake, it feels like the cliffs are so close that they are literally hanging above you.

Why We Liked Moraine Lake So Much

For us, Moraine Lake became one of the most beloved places in Banff. It feels very cozy (it’s not as open-spaced as Lake Louise or Bow Lake). You can enjoy the views from the shore as well as from atop without a ton of effort. Everything is very close: lots of greenery, plenty of shade, benches, the cafe with outside seating, the restaurant.

The paths are stroller friendly, the shallow water is easy to enter for kids to wade, there is plenty of space to roam freely. Moraine Lake has it all and it cannot be missed!

Driftwood piled at Moraine Lake
Driftwood piled at Moraine Lake

Activities at Moraine Lake: Hiking

Make sure you hike the “Rockpile trail“. This huge pile of rocks will be the first thing you notice while approaching the lake from the parking lot. This out-and-back trail is only 0.5 miles long, good for all skill levels and manageable for small children. Our “very tired” 8 y.o. did this hike 3 or 4 times, so excited he was of jumping from boulder to boulder all the way to the top.

This is the best way to experience Moraine Lake: the Valley of Ten Peaks and the lake are right in front of you:

Stunning views at the end of the "Rockpile" trail.  Lake Moraine, Banff National Park
Stunning views at the end of the “Rockpile” trail. Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

Another great option is Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail. It will get you away from the crowds, no elevation gain, 1.8 miles, super easy. Bring a carrier if you have a baby, especially for the Rockpile hike.

Have a Lunch or Dinner at Moraine Lake Restaurant / Cafe

While we didn’t see any picnic tables around the lake, there are some benches at the lake and plenty of outdoor seating at the cafe. The restaurant had a great location, with a floor to ceiling windows overlooking a lush green area:

Walter Wilcox Dining Room at Lake Moraine (cafe tables at the right).  photo credit: booking.com
Walter Wilcox Dining Room at Moraine Lake (cafe tables at the right). photo credit: booking.com

The menu looks yummy, but a little bit pricey:

.Walter Wilcox Dining Room menu. Moraine Lake
.Walter Wilcox Dining Room menu. Moraine Lake

At 7 PM, there were only 3-4 couples in the entire restaurant when we were there.

Canoe Riding

You can bring your own canoe/kayak to the Moraine Lake (there is no boat launch, but parking is very close to the water) or rent it for 95$ per hour (closing at 5 PM). It’s a great escape from the crowds and the scenery is breathtaking!

Canoes piled on the dock at the end of the day. Moraine Lake, Banff
Canoes piled on the dock at the end of the day. Moraine Lake

Thanks for reading and have fun!

Read next: Emerald Lake, Peyto Lake, Planning a Great Trip To the Canadian Rockies: All You Need To Know Before You Go.

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