Are you planning a visit to Banff National Park? And do you have Moraine Lake down on your list of stops? Don’t be on the fence about visiting this renowned hot spot — it’s a must-see destination you won’t soon forget.
Whatever your upcoming itinerary, you’re sure to have a few unanswered questions about the region, and maybe a little clarity will help you better plan your trip.
You’re in luck! As locals to the area, we’ve heard absolutely every question you can imagine about Moraine Lake — which means that we also have all the answers.
Here, we’re going to break down some of the most commonly asked queries about the lake, the surrounding trails, and how to get there while giving you some insights, tips and pointers from the locals’ perspective.
First, let’s get to the bottom of Moraine Lake’s exact location.
Where Is Moraine Lake in Canada?
If you’re Googling ‘Where is Moraine Lake?’, then let’s clear this up right away. There was a tiny clue in our intro; it’s in the province of Alberta in Banff National Park — one of four national parks in the Canadian Rockies.
The lake is in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at an elevation of 6,183 feet (or 1,885 meters). The nearest major city is Calgary, Alberta; Moraine Lake is a two-and-a-half-hour drive west from there. And the village of Lake Louise is the closest community; it’s just 14 kilometres north of the lake.
Lake Louise Village has plenty of accommodations and first-class dining opportunities. It’s also the location of our two pick up zones. One of these is by the Samson Mall — in the heart of the village — and the other is at the Lake Louise Ski Resort and Summer Gondola — which is just outside of it.
If you’re still tempted to Google ‘where is Moraine Lake located’ or have any further questions about the location, feel free to get in touch. We’re always happy to chat about our favourite Canadian destination.
Now, onto the next commonly asked question!
When Does Moraine Lake Open?
Moraine Lake is technically open year-round. But the only road that leads there is not. During the winter season the road closes due to avalanche risk, the road is then used as a cross-country ski route right up until the avalanche zone.
In case you didn’t know, regardless of the time of year, the road to Moraine Lake is closed to private vehicles. June is the first full month of the year that the road is open to commercial buses like ours. Our shuttle buses run from June 1st onwards.
Now is as good a time as any to answer the next likely question: When does Moraine Lake close? The road to the lake closes in mid-October. Our shuttle service finishes for the year come the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, which is on October 9th.
To sum things up, you can reserve a ticket on our buses to and from Moraine Lake between June 1st and October 9th.
What Month Should I Visit?
Ultimately, Moraine Lake is beautiful at any time from early June to mid-October. The answer to this question really depends on what you’d like to see the most.
Between mid to late June, the lake is at its most vibrant — and we’ll explore this further below! July is the warmest month, with seasonal wildflowers in the alpine meadows on some of the trails.
So if you’d like to see the lake at its brightest, come in June and early July. If snow and bright yellow trees are for you, then September is a great time to visit.
What’s the Best Time of Day to Go to Moraine Lake?
If you’re wondering what hour to arrive at Moraine Lake, ultimately, the choice is yours. We can say with confidence that whatever time of day you go, you’ll have a wonderful time.
That being said, if you were to force us to pick a time to arrive, seeing the sunrise at Moraine Lake is a truly special experience.
At sunrise, the area is quieter, and the lake is serene. It’s a wonderfully peaceful way to start a day of your vacation. We think the sunrise here is so phenomenal that we have a shuttle that leaves Lake Louise Village at 4 a.m., which gets you there on time to see it for yourself!
Can You Visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise on the Same Day?
If you read our answer to the popular query, ‘Where is Moraine Lake located,’ you’ll know that it’s close to Lake Louise Village. With that, the answer to the question ‘Is it possible to visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise on the same day?’ is a resounding ‘yes!’
These two famous lakes are just 14 kilometres apart, so it’s absolutely doable to visit them both on the same day.
We can help here, too. Some of our Moraine Lake shuttles include a one-hour stop at Lake Louise. We’ve highlighted these shuttles on the rates page of our website, but if you have any questions, as always, just ask!
Now, onto the science!
Why Is Moraine Lake So Blue?
If you’ve seen photos of Moraine Lake, you’ve no doubt wondered how it gets its bright, magical blue shade — the answer is rock dust, also known as rock flour.
The lake is glacially fed; its primary inflow is from the impressive Fay Glacier. Rock dust is produced by massive glaciers, like the Fay Glacier, grinding against the bedrock. This action creates rock dust. When this dust is suspended in the lake’s water, the sunlight reflects off it, creating an amazingly intense colour!
When Is Moraine Lake Bluest?
Moraine Lake reaches its bluest come June and July when the lake is at its fullest following the seasonal melt.
How Big Is Moraine Lake?
The lake is by no means enormous, which makes its fame even more impressive. It has a surface area of 50 hectares or 120 acres. To help you visualize this, nearby Lake Louise is almost twice the size of Moraine Lake at 90 hectares.
You may also be wondering: how deep is Moraine Lake? Its approximate maximum depth is 14 metres or 46 feet, though this fluctuates as the lake surface freezes and thaws.
Is it Possible to Spend the Night at Moraine Lake?
Yes you can, but there’s only one accommodation at Moraine Lake — the aptly named Moraine Lake Lodge. All other hotels, hostels and campsites are in the nearby Lake Louise Village.
Are There Washrooms at Moraine Lake?
Yes! There are washrooms located near the parking area.
What Activities Can I Enjoy at Moraine Lake?
There’s lots to do at Moraine Lake for all ages, abilities, and interests. Here are just a few of our favourites:
- Bring a thermos of tea or coffee and spend some time at the viewpoint at the end of the very short and easy Rockpile Trail hike.
- Rent a colourful canoe at the Moraine Lake Lodge and spend an hour paddling across the water.
- If you like to collect a keepsake or two from memorable vacation moments, you can visit the Moraine Lake Trading Post at the lodge for souvenirs, clothing, and other memorabilia.
- Wildlife watch! Children will be delighted to see curious squirrels, native birds, and spirited chipmunks — you may even spot a marmot sunning itself on a nearby rock.
- Explore one of the many Moraine Lake hiking trails that start at the lake. Some take just 20 minutes, while others take multiple hours. Such variety means that whatever your interest in hiking — there’s something for you!
- Grab lunch at Moraine Lake Lodge’s café. You can get light food — like soup and baked goods — and hot and cold beverages to go, or you can sit outside on their patio and take in the scenery.
- Take photos. If you’re an avid photographer, Moraine Lake won’t disappoint.
This area is world-famous for its beauty. It’s so picturesque that photos of the lake have been used on global platforms, including as a background on Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 10, and in the video games The Last of Us, The Ultimate Fishing Simulator, and Until Dawn (and though the location was labelled as Calgary, we’ll let it slide). Moraine Lake was even featured on the 1969 and 1979 issues of Canada’s twenty-dollar bill.
Such an impact goes to show exactly how breathtakingly beautiful Moraine Lake is and why it’s one of the most popular locations for engagement photos in Banff National Park.
Can You Swim in Moraine Lake?
Now to answer a question we get asked a lot — can you swim in Moraine Lake? The short answer is sure. The long answer is, do you really want to?
While it’s not illegal to swim in Moraine Lake — nobody is going to stop you — as you now know, the lake is glacially fed, making the water incredibly cold; it’s only about 5 degrees Celsius.
What Should I Bring?
This depends on how long you plan on spending at the lake and the time of year you visit. If you’re planning to hike and make a full day of it, bring some water, snacks or lunch for on the trails. However, if you want to see the sunrise and then head back to town, you’ll just need some comfy layers and your camera!
Here’s a quick ‘to bring’ list to help get you started.
- Layers —extra layers, like a light fleece and a raincoat, won’t go amiss.
- Sun protection — like a hat and sunscreen.
- Your reusable water bottle and water.
- Comfortable, closed-toe walking shoes.
- Bug repellent — Bugs generally aren’t too troublesome here. However, if you plan on taking a hike through the alpine meadows and tree-lined trails, bug repellent might prove handy.
What Wildlife Will I See at Moraine Lake?
We quickly mentioned above that you’ll likely see squirrels, chipmunks, and birds. There are also larger, more charismatic creatures that live in Banff National Park, including wolves, rabbits, elk, bears — both grizzly and black varieties — big horn sheep, elk, and coyote.
Despite their size, most of these animals are reclusive and will do their best to avoid well-worn pathways and trails, so it’s unlikely you’ll encounter them around the lake. If you have any questions about this or about other hiking restrictions, feel free to ask!
Can I Bring My Dog?
You bring your dog on our shuttle bus, but only if they can fit in a carry case that’s small enough to fit on your lap.
Service animals of any size are welcome. When you’re on any trail, in any national park, please keep your dog on a leash. This helps protect the pathways and small animals. It’s also the law.
Did We Cover Everything?
To wrap things up, and as a friendly reminder, you can no longer drive to or park at Moraine Lake. Instead, you can rely on a friendly and convenient shuttle service — like ours! — to get you there.
Our service is super easy to book. We give you a pickup and drop-off time that we stick to — there’ll be no waiting around in lines or wondering where we are (“Where is my shuttle bus?” won’t be yet another question you’ll be asking when you book with the Moraine Lake Bus Company).
If we’ve missed anything, or if you have any questions about our shuttle services to and from Moraine Lake, please don’t hesitate to reach out! We hope to see you soon.