From Banff to Jasper, the Canadian Rockies are stunning at every turn. Towering mountains, multiple glaciers and a variety of blue/green lakes litter the landscape. The best way to personalise a Canadian Rockies trip is by swapping the tourist trail for a Moraine Lake Hike.
Moraine Lake is still partially frozen early June with the highest water level being at the end of June. As the glaciers melt the lake fills and glacial silt turns the lake turquoise.
Where is Moraine Lake?
It is a mere 14 km from the village at Lake Louise to Moraine Lake on a sealed road that opens early June. The lake sits at the end of a winding drive through pine clad mountains with tempting views of the ten peaks. This map tells all.
Moraine Lake Road
Make no mistake – this is a mesmerising drive – considered to be one of the best in the Canadian Rockies. Moraine Lake winter provides the opportunity to ski in on the snow-bound road. The Parks Canada ski track culminates at the viewpoint for Consolation Lakes and the Ten Peaks due to avalanche danger beyond that point.
Moraine Lake Hike
Last week was all about the hikes at Lake Louise, in particular a Teahouse Hike on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail. Incredibly, even though Moraine Lake is so close to Lake Louise, it has it’s own exclusive set of hikes.
The hikes are listed from shortest to longest and possibly easiest to hardest.
The Rock Pile trail is a quick and easy hike from the lower carpark with interpretive signs about the area. The scene from this viewpoint was immortalised on the reverse side of the “Canadian Twenty Dollar Bill” series 1969 and 1979. It is that special.
- 350 metres one way
- Allow 20 minutes all up.
- Elevation gain 30 metres
- Cute marmots live in the rocks
This hike ends in a great view over the lake and peaks so don’t miss it. Even if you are time challenged and hate hiking do this short hike!
The Twenty Dollar Shot Hike
Where there is a beautiful lake, there is a beautiful Lakeshore Trail. Begin at the Canoe dock and end at the southern boardwalk where the Wenkchemna Glacier stream enters. The further along the track you venture, the less people you will encounter.
Lakeside Trail view.
Consolation Lakes Trail continues on from the rock pile, progressing through boulder fields, spruce and fir forests, and meadow to the double Consolation/Taylor lake. The meadow is surrounded by glacier covered cliffs while the forest is home to porcupines, marmots and birds. In summer pack a picnic and swim gear. Brrrrr.
Larch Valley Hike – Spring Wildflowers and Autumn Colours. In fall the larch needles turn yellow, making this one of Banff National Park’s most popular hikes. Turn right past the canoe dock and start climbing up and up through switchbacks before reaching the Larch forest and spring wildflower meadows.
Return now or continue on to the highest trail point in the area at 2605 m. Great views of Ten Peaks and Paradise Valley. For serious hikers the trail continues even further to Sentinel Pass.
Eiffel Lake/Wenkchemna Pass – Valley of the Ten Peaks Hike. Follows Larch Valley switchbacks for 2.4 km, then turns left and flattens out for 3.3km. This section has beautiful views of Moraine Lake and Valley of the Ten Peaks. After Eiffel lake it is a further 4.1 km to Wenkchemna pass which leads to Yoho N.P.
Paradise Valley/Lake Annette – Complete Hiking Experience. Described as: an alluring combination of forest, lakes, glaciers, meadows, waterfalls and imposing mountains, providing one of the most complete hiking experiences in the Canadian Rockies. Wow.
Moraine Lake Lodge has hike descriptions here.
Important Hiking Information.
Parks Canada has strict guidelines to protect both bears and people in this area. Basically they involve tight hiking in groups of four or more people who stay close enough to hear each other speak. If your group is less than four, team up with others on the trail. The noise and mass of the group is usually enough to keep bears away. Read up about it here.
Sturdy walking boots, lunch, snacks and extra clothing layers are suggested once leaving the lakes shoreline.
Moraine Lake Lodge
The lodge (June 1 to October 1) offers a premium sustainable experience with Lake and Mountain views from every cabin or room.
Camping Near Moraine Lake
The closest campground (where we stayed) is 14 km away at Lake Louise.
Parking at Moraine Lake
Moraine Lakes carpark is smaller than those at Lake Louise. Toilet facilities are close by.
Restricted road access.
To ease frustrations and keep things safe the road closes when the car park is full. There is however a shuttle service (see below).
RV’s are not allowed on the road at certain peak times. You can read more about that here.
Shuttle from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake
Parks Canada runs a free shuttle bus for peak times plus there is a private shuttle that charges $20/return.
Moraine Lake Canoe Rental
From all reports canoeing on Moraine Lake is a beautiful experience.
- It comes with a price tag of $95/hour.
- Operating hours 10 am- 6pm.
- Arrive before opening time as the queue forms quickly.
You can use your own canoe.
If you intend paddling more than one lake/river and have a vehicle with suitable roof racks, it would be worth while bringing your own canoe or looking into hiring one for the whole trip. For example it costs $175/week to hire a canoe from Calgary.
Although the fall colours of Larch valley near Moraine Lake are beautiful, they come at the price of huge tourist traffic. In early June there is the risk that Moraine and possibly Lake Louise will not be fully thawed. However, the pay-off of less tourists and the fact that Emerald Lake will be thawed, makes early June our choice of the best time to visit.
Moraine Lake Elevation.
Moraine Lake Weather
Statistics say the best time to visit (weather-wise) is Mid June to the end of July, with peak lake water levels at the end of June.
Note to Photographers.
The best time for lake photography is early morning. The sun rises behind the peaks providing reflections on the lake. Canoes join the lake at 10 a.m. so reflections are best before then.
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