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A Complete Guide to Visiting Moraine Lake: Getting There, Things to Do + Tips

Visiting Moraine Lake is a highlight on any Banff itinerary.

The breathtaking glacial lake is one of the most iconic sights of the Canadian Rockies. It’s a sight that is so iconic that it graces the Canadian $20 bill.

It was seeing photos of Moraine Lake that first made me want to go to Banff. And I was almost afraid to visit thinking that there was no way that it would be as beautiful as in all the Instagram photos.

As it turns out, it was even more stunning in person. The vibrant turquoise waters, surrounded by craggy peaks, literally took my breath away. It is truly one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s one of the most photogenic places in Banff.

Visiting Moraine Lake isn’t as easy it used to be, thanks to new rules that recently went into effect. You can no longer drive personal vehicles on Moraine Lake Road. It now requires a bit of planning in order to get to experience the magic of Moraine Lake. 

Sure, there are tons of other lakes all around Banff that are much easier to visit. But Moraine Lake’s beauty is on a whole ‘nother level and is absolutely worth the effort it takes to visit.

In this guide, I will tell you exactly how to visit Moraine Lake, including how to get there, when to visit, things to do, and more.

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When to Visit Moraine Lake

When is Moraine Lake open?

Moraine Lake Road, the main road to get to the lake, is only open from June 1 to October 14. Do note that the road may close even earlier depending on when it starts to snow.

Since Moraine Lake is located 1883 meters in elevation, it experiences significant snowfall and hazardous avalanche conditions in the winter. The high elevation also means that the lake is frozen through late May. Because of this, the road does not open until June.

While you can technically visit Moraine Lake in the winter on snowshoes, cross-country skis, or fat tire bikes, it is not recommended unless you have experience traversing in avalanche conditions. Do not attempt to visit Moraine Lake in the winter unless you are very experienced and well-equipped.

What are the best months to visit Moraine Lake?

Honestly, there’s no *bad* time to visit Moraine Lake. The lake is beautiful no matter when you visit! However, the absolute best months to visit are going to be July and August. This is also when you will experience the best weather in Banff.

Moraine Lake is fed by the Fay Glacier that sits on the mountains above it. The lake gets its brilliant turquoise color because of the particles in the glacier melt. 

Both the water levels and color change depending on temperature. If you visit too early in the season, the water levels will still be low. Later on in the season, the lake does lose a bit of its color.

Yes, July and August are the peak tourist months in Banff and it will be busy! It may be challenging to get shuttle reservations, and accommodations must be booked months in advance. So really, whenever you get a chance to visit is the best time, because the lake will still be beautiful no matter when you visit!

What is the best time of day to visit Moraine Lake?

Photo by Jacky Huang on Unsplash

Sunrise: Sunrise is said to be the most magical time to visit Moraine Lake.

You’ll see the sun rise over the Ten Peaks, and see the mountains get cast with a golden glow. This is also when the water is the stillest and you’ll have the best chance to see those mirror-like reflections on the lake.

It used to be that Moraine Lake got so popular that people would get to the parking lot as early as 3am in order to guarantee a spot. However, since you can no longer drive to Moraine Lake, this is no longer possible.

If you want to visit Moraine Lake for sunrise, you still have a few options:

  • Parks Canada Alpine Start Shuttle: In 2024, Parks Canada added this new shuttle service that runs at 4am and 5am from the Lake Louise Lakeshore. Shuttle tickets cost $8, and advance reservations are required. There are 40% of the reservations released on April 18, and 60% of the slots can be booked 2 days in advance of your planned visit. Do note that you must also pay the daily parking fee at the Lake Louise Lakeshore.
  • Private shuttle: If you were unable to snag a reservation on the Parks Canada Alpine Start shuttle, there are a number of private shuttle companies offering transportation for sunrise at Moraine Lake. Two companies that offer sunrise shuttle service are the Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle and the Moraine Lake Bus Company. Do note that these services cost significantly more than the Parks Canada shuttle, at around $100 CAD.
  • Guided Sunrise Tour: Another option is to take a guided tour that visits Moraine Lake at sunrise. This Moraine Lake & Lake Louise sunrise tour is a highly rated option that visits two of the most iconic lakes in Banff. You’ll visit Moraine Lake in time for sunrise and have 1.5 hours there, then stop at Lake Louise for 1.5 hours.
  • Biking or hiking: While you can technically bike or hike along Moraine Lake Road, it is not recommended for sunrise as it is dark and this is bear country. 

If you plan to get to Moraine Lake for sunrise, I suggest getting there at least an hour in advance to stake out a good spot. This means that you should hop on the 4am shuttle if you can.

Evening/Sunset: The next best time for visiting Moraine Lake is in the evening, or around sunset. While sunset at Moraine Lake is beautiful, it’s not considered to be as good as sunrise since the sun will be in the opposite direction of the mountains.

However, it is the most peaceful time to visit. Most of the crowds will have gone home, or be eating dinner. When we visited (while we still could drive to the lake), we were able to snag a parking spot just in time for sunset. We found that while there were still people around, the crowd levels weren’t too bad (certainly far less crowded than at Lake Louise the next morning).

It’s a bit more challenging to time your visit for sunset because you can no longer drive yourself on Moraine Lake Road. Depending on the time of year, the shuttles may not be in operation during sunset. If you’re visiting in the summer, when the sunset is around 10pm, you will probably not be able to visit for sunset.

Evening is still an ideal time to visit because the later shuttles tend to be far less crowded than the morning ones. You may even be able to snag a spot the day of (although I still *highly* recommend booking in advance to guarantee a spot!).

Do note that the last shuttle to Moraine Lake leaves the Lake Louise Park and Ride at 6pm, and departs Moraine Lake at 7:30. You must be careful to not lose track of time so you don’t miss the last shuttle!

Early Morning: Another option is visiting Moraine Lake in the morning, between the hours of sunrise and 9am.

If you can’t get on a sunrise shuttle, the earliest Parks Canada shuttles run every 30 minutes starting at 6:30am. The tour buses will start showing up between 8:30 and 9am. If you hop on one of the earlier shuttles, you can enjoy the lake before it turns into madness.

How to Get to Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is located about 14 kilometers southwest of Lake Louise.

Unfortunately, Moraine Lake has become a victim of its own popularity. The lake has a tiny parking lot that could not meet the demands of all the people wanting to visit. 

Because Moraine Lake Road got shut down when the parking lot was full, people would arrive as early as 3am in order to get a parking spot. Otherwise, they’d drive up and down the highway for hours waiting to get lucky enough that the road would reopen again as they drove by.

If that sounds ridiculous to you, well, it was quite ridiculous. Not only was it highly stressful, the lake was starting to experience some of the harmful effects of having too many visitors.

So, to try to solve the problem, Parks Canada decided to close Moraine Lake Road to most personal vehicles in 2023. It may or may not be the best solution, but it is what it is.

Only vehicles with a valid parking placard, visitors with disabilities (with hang tag), and guests of Moraine Lake Lodge are permitted to drive on Moraine Lake Road.

For all other visitors, the only way to access Moraine Lake is via shuttle, Roam Transit bus, guided tour, taxi, biking, or hiking. I will tell you about each of these options below:

Parks Canada Shuttle

The most affordable way to get to Moraine Lake is via a Parks Canada shuttle.

It is *highly* recommended that you make a reservation online in advance. Day of shuttle tickets may be available as space permits, but are not guaranteed. Demand is very high, especially in July and August. If you absolutely cannot make a reservation and want to try your luck, your best bet is to try to get on a late afternoon or evening shuttle.

When to reserve: Parks Canada releases 40% of the available reservations on April 18. The remaining 60% of tickets will be available on a rolling basis starting at 8am MST 2 days before your intended visit. For example, if you plan to visit on July 3, reservations will be released starting at 8am MST on July 1.

To make a shuttle reservation, go to the Parks Canada website, click “Reserve Now” and select “Day Use” under the green tab. Select “Shuttle to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise,” then select “Banff-Lake Louise” under Park and then enter your party details and selected date.

Fares: Tickets cost $8 for adults and $4 for seniors aged 65 and over. Youth 17 and under ride free. There is also a $3 online booking fee ($6 if reserving by phone).

What time do the shuttles run? The Parks Canada shuttles run every 30 minutes from 6:30 am to 6pm. 

They also offer an Alpine Start option, with a 4am and 5am departure. Reservations for these slots go very fast, so be sure to be on the site right when reservations are released!

The last shuttle leaves Moraine Lake at 7:30 pm. Watch the time to ensure that you do NOT miss the last bus!

Where to catch the Moraine Lake shuttle: The Alpine Start shuttles depart from the Lake Louise Lakeshore at 4am and 5am. If you take one of these shuttles, you must also pay the $36.75 parking fee at Lake Louise.

All other shuttles leave from the Lake Louis Park & Ride. You can also catch the Lake Connector bus from here to visit Lake Louise on the same day. The service is free for reservation holders only. The Lake Connector runs from 7am to 7pm daily.

What can you bring on the Parks Canada shuttle?  

  • Small certified assistance animals, as long as they fit on the owner’s lap and are crated
  • Non-motorized watercraft (paddleboards, packrafts, inflatable kayaks, small hard-sided kayaks), as space permits
  • Camping equipment, climbing gear, and large backpacks
  • Strollers

Roam Transit

If you are visiting Moraine Lake in the fall, you have the option to take a Roam Transit bus. In 2024, Roam Transit will only operate Route 10 – Moraine Lake Regional Express between September 19 through October 10.

Roam Transit also operates the 8X – Lake Louise Express from Banff town to the Lake Louise lakeshore. The fare is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and youth, and children under 12 ride free. It is highly recommended that you make reservations.

You can also purchase a one-day Super Pass, which allows for unlimited travel on any Roam Transit route between Canmore and Banff for $25. You can purchase the pass on board the bus, online, or on the Token Transit app.

A Reservable Super Pass also grants you access to the Lake Connector shuttle to Moraine Lake. Simply show your pass to the Parks Canada staff and they will give you a boarding pass for the Lake Connector.

If visiting both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake on the same day, Roam Transit advises you to visit Moraine Lake first to ensure you have ample time. They also suggest departing Banff Town no later than 4pm in order to catch the last bus to Moraine Lake at 6pm.

Private shuttle

In response to the demand, a number of private shuttle companies have popped up offering service to Moraine Lake.

These are a great option if you want to visit Moraine Lake for sunrise, but were unable to snag a reservation on the Alpine Start shuttle offered by Parks Canada. However, do note that these services are significantly more expensive than taking a park shuttle.

Note that these companies just offer transportation to and from the lake. It is not a guided tour.

Here are two companies that offer shuttle service to Moraine Lake:

  • Moraine Lake Bus Company: This is a new bus company launched by a local couple, wanting to provide an option for people to visit Moraine Lake at sunrise. They offer two shuttles from Samson Mall in Lake Louise Village – one at 4am and another at 5am – to arrive at Moraine Lake in time for sunrise. They also offer departures throughout the day from the Lake Louise Park and Ride. Fares start at $49 round-trip, and $99 for sunrise service.
  • Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle: Here’s another option for getting to Lake Louise for sunrise. Departure times vary, as they pick you up and have you at the lake 45 minutes before sunrise. You’ll have 2 hours to spend at Moraine Lake, before catching the bus back to your pickup point. They also give you a blanket and a hot beverage to enjoy. This option costs $95.

Hop-on, Hop-off Bus

Taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour is not only a convenient way to get to Moraine Lake, it’s also a fantastic way to get around to all the top sights in Banff.

In addition to Moraine Lake, the bus makes stops in Banff town, Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise, and the Lake Louise gondola. You can hop on and off the bus at any of these points.

There’s also a guide on board who will provide commentary and stories about the area, and can also help you with directions, booking activities, and more.

It’s a great way to get around the Banff area, especially if you don’t have a car, and to learn more about it.

Guided Tours

Another way to visit Moraine Lake is via a guided tour. This is an ideal option for those visiting Banff without a car, as many of these tours also make stops at attractions that would otherwise be difficult to access without driving.

One disadvantage about taking a tour to Moraine Lake is that most of them visit the lake at the same time. You’ll be visiting when everyone else is there, which means that you’ll encounter the most crowds.

Here are some highly rated tours that visit Moraine Lake:

  • Moraine Lake & Lake Louise Sunrise Tour: Booking this tour is one of the few options  to see the sunrise at Moraine Lake (and get there before the crowds). You’ll depart Banff town at 4:15 am, then get to Moraine Lake in time for sunrise. You’ll have 1.5 hours there before visiting Lake Louise.
  • Open-top Double-decker Moraine Lake + Lake Louise tour: This is a fun way to see the two most famous lakes in Banff. Buses leave every 45 minutes from the Lake Louise ski resort between 8am and 3pm, then make stops at the Lake Louise Lakeshore and Moraine Lake. You can spend as little or as much time at each lake before hoping back on the bus.
  • Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Yoho NP: This tour takes you to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake (June-October), then visits the stunning Emerald Lake in nearby Yoho National Park.
  • Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and the Icefields Parkway Full-Day Tour: See Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, along with some of the highlights of the Icefields Parkway, including Bow Falls, Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, and Peyto Lake.

Biking to Moraine Lake

If you’re a cycling enthusiast, another option is to bike to Moraine Lake. It is 14 kilometers each way from Lake Louise, with a steady incline. The ride takes about an hour each way.

The best time to bike to Moraine Lake is when the snow has melted but the road has not yet opened to cars, specifically in late May. 

While you can still bike to the lake in the summer, do note that there will be buses on the road. Biking early in the morning will have less traffic on the road. Try to avoid the middle of the day, when the most amount of tour buses will be on the road.

Walking/Hiking to Moraine Lake

While you can walk to Moraine Lake, do note that Moraine Lake Road spans 12 kilometers each way (or 24 kilometers round-trip) – that’s a very long walk! You’ll also have to watch out for buses driving on the road.

Another option is to hike via the Paradise Valley trail, but this is only recommended for experienced hikers as it is 20 kilometers with a very steep section. You start off on Moraine Lake Road for 2 kilometers before turning right when you see the sign for the Paradise Valley trail.

You can also take the Moraine Lake Highline trail, which is a slightly easier option. You’ll start off on the Paradise Valley trail, then go left at the fork after a kilometer. From there, it’s another 8.5 kilometers to the lake.

Things to Do at Moraine Lake

Rockpile Trail

If you’ve seen a photo of Banff, chances are that it was taken from the Rockpile trail. This is where you’ll find *the* million dollar view of Moraine Lake (or the twenty dollar view, since this is the view that graces the Canadian $20 bill). 

The best part is that it is fairly accessible and doesn’t require a long or strenuous hike that almost any able-bodied person can do!

The trailhead for the Rockpile trail is on the left, about halfway down the parking lot. From here, it is a short 0.5 mile hike, which takes about 15 minutes. 

As the name suggests, you’ll come to a pile of rocks. From here, you can capture a postcard-worthy photo of the brilliantly turquoise lake backed by the majestic Ten Peaks.

Photo by Justin Roy on Unsplash

Walk along the lakeshore

While the best views of Moraine Lake are from the Rockpile trail, it’s also worth walking around the lakeshore to catch a different view of it.

The Lakeshore Trail is relatively flat and spans 1.5 kilometers each way. The trail starts from the canoe docks and ends at a wooden platform from where you can see the creek flowing from Wenkchemna Pass, which feeds the lake and gives it its vibrant blue color.

Paddle out on the lake

Another popular activity at Moraine Lake is to rent a canoe and go paddling in the lake. Getting out on the water offers a different perspective of the lake and the mountains surrounding it.

Canoe rentals are available from mid-June to mid-September from 9am to 5pm, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Rentals are not cheap – they start at $140 CAD + tax for an hour for up to 3 people – but they are still cheaper than renting one at Lake Louise. Canoe rentals are free for guests at the Moraine Lake Lodge.

You are also welcome to bring your own watercraft, or rent one from one of the many companies in the Banff area. This is the most affordable option if you want to get out on the lake.

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

Go for a hike

Hiking is one of the best things to do at Moraine Lake, and there are a number of beautiful trails that run through the area.

Do note that Moraine Lake is located in bear country, so carrying bear spray is a must. It is also necessary to hike in groups of 4 or more people.

Here are some of the most popular trails in the Moraine Lake area:

  • Consolation Lakes (5.8km, 65m elevation gain): This is a fairly easy hike that starts off from the Rockpile Trail, and leads you to two beautiful lakes. You’ll pass through a beautiful meadow and catch some amazing views of the rear of the Ten Peaks and Mount Babbel.
  • Larch Valley (6km, 603m elevation gain): If you’re visiting Banff in the fall, this hike is a must. Larch Valley is the best place to see the spectacular fall foliage in Banff. You’ll see the larches transform into vibrant golden shades, backed by the majestic mountains covered in a dusting of snow.
  • Sentinel Pass (10.9km, 725m elevation gain): If you want a bit of a challenge, continue from Larch Valley onto Sentinel Pass, where you can catch some epic views of the Valley of Ten Peaks. Trekking poles are a must for this one.

Things to Do Near Moraine Lake

There’s plenty to do in the Banff area, which surrounds Moraine Lake. If you’re looking for more things to do nearby Moraine Lake, here are some options:

  • Lake Louise: Banff’s other famous lake offers a multitude of activities, from hiking, canoeing, and hanging out at the famous Fairmont Chateau, which offers fine dining, afternoon tea, and spa services. Lake Louise is located only 14 miles from Moraine Lake, making it easy to visit both lakes in one day.
  • Emerald Lake: While Emerald Lake is technically located in neighboring Yoho National Park, it is less than an hour drive from Moraine Lake and well worth visiting. The lake boasts brilliant emerald waters, which is how it gets its name.
  • Icefields Parkway: Icefields Parkway is known as one of the most scenic drives in the world. It goes all the way to Jasper National Park, and is dotted with scenic overviews and unique attractions. Even if you don’t have time to go all the way to Jasper, I recommend doing at least a part of the drive, at least to Peyto Lake.
  • Johnston Canyon: Another one of Banff’s most popular attractions, Johnston Canyon features towering limestone cliffs, gushing waterfalls, and vibrant turquoise pools, created by erosion. There are a number of accessible trails here, which offer a view of the canyon and its waterfalls.

Where to Stay in Moraine Lake

Photo by David Kovalenko on Unsplash

The only place to stay at Moraine Lake is at Moraine Lake Lodge.

It is very pricey to stay at the lodge (upwards of $1000 a night!), and reservations book up fairly quickly. However, the rooms and cabins here were recently renovated and are fairly luxurious.

However, if you can swing it, staying at Moraine Lake Lodge does offer a unique experience, and gives you the advantage of being right at the lake so you can take advantage of it and enjoy the views all day long! 

Some other benefits include being able to drive on Moraine Lake Road, and free canoe rentals.

There is also a cafe, restaurant, and gift shop at the lodge.

Can you camp at Moraine Lake? No, camping is not available at Moraine Lake.

A Few More Tips for Visiting Moraine Lake…

Getting to Banff National Park

The nearest airport to Banff National Park is in Calgary (YYC), 140 kilometers away. From here, the fastest way to get to Banff is via rental car. The trip takes about an hour and a half.

While you don’t necessarily need a car in Banff, having a car will give you the most flexibility in getting around.

For the best deals, I recommend searching for a car on, which allows you to compare prices from the top car rental companies and offers a price match guarantee.

Park Entrance Fees

In order to visit Moraine Lake, you will need a valid National Parks Pass. You will also need it to stay in Banff, visit the park’s attractions, and explore the area, including the Icefields Parkway.

The fees collected go back towards conserving and maintaining the park. Please make sure you purchase a pass – not only will you avoid a big fine, you’re investing in the park for future generations,

There are several options for passes. While you can buy them when arriving in Banff, I highly recommend purchasing one online for the most convenience. 

  • Day Pass: Costs $11 CAD for adults 18-64, $9.50 CAD for seniors 65+, and free for youth 17 and under. These passes are valid for a single person for a single day. It is a good option if you are visiting solo and only plan to stay for a few days
  • Family/Group Day Pass: If you’re traveling as a group or family, this will get you entry into the park for your entire vehicle (for up to 7 people) for one day for $22 CAD.
  • Discovery Pass: This pass gets you unlimited entry into all participating National Parks in Canada (similar to the America the Beautiful pass in the US). It costs $75.25 CAD for adults 18-64 and $64.50 CAD for seniors 65+. There’s also a group pass for up to 7 people in a single vehicle, which costs $151.25 CAD. Depending on how many people are in your car, and if you plan to extend your itinerary to visit other parks, this option might end up being the most cost effective.

What to Pack for Banff

Here are some things to pack for your trip to Banff:

  • Puffy Jacket: It does tend to get chilly at night and early in the morning, even in the summer. Bring something lightweight and packable, like the Patagonia NanoPuff (my fave!), or the Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Parka (a good budget option).
  • Rain jacket: It does sometimes rain, even in the summer. At the very least, bring a packable rain jacket that you can just throw in your bag. 
  • Fleece zip-up: Makes a nice, comfortable, and warm layer.
  • Base layer:  Might be good to have for chillier days.
  • Sunglasses: It can be BRIGHT up in the mountains! Grab a polarized pair – I love the ones from Goodr, as they’re also cute and affordable! 
  • Sunscreen: On that note, be sure to bring some SPF – here’s my favorite. This one is also my favorite face sunscreen (and this one is great as a top off).
  • Water: Be sure to take plenty of water when hiking! Fill up a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic usage as well. You can also bring a hydration bladder (I use the one from my hydration pack – sometimes I just take out the bladder and stick it in my daypack).
  • Day Pack: For holding all your gear, snacks, camera equipment, and more. You can also get a hydration pack to hold your essentials and for easy access to your water (super convenient since it can get hot).
  • Power bank: Your phone is likely going to drain its battery as it tries to connect to cell reception. Plus, you’ll probably snap a bunch of photos and videos! Stay powered up with a portable charger.
  • Camera: Banff is *so* beautiful that you’ll snap tons and tons of photos! A phone camera will do, but consider bringing a dSLR for upgraded images. The Sony a6000 is my favorite travel camera!
  • Collapsible lantern: If you plan to be out for sunset, be prepared with some lighting for when it starts to get dark afterwards.
  • Bug spray: Yes, there are mosquitos and yes, they are aggressive! Bring bug spray! 
  • Bear mace: You’ll be in bear country so be prepared, just in case. You can’t actually fly with this, but you can pick some up when you arrive in Canada.
  • First Aid Kit: Be prepared, just in case! This one is compact but has all the essentials.
  • Snacks: I always have some protein bars on hand to fuel me up on a hike. These Think bars are my favorite!
  • Electrolytes: They’re perfect for extra hydration, but they also work wonders for recovery after tough hikes. I *swear* by Liquid IV!

Have you ever been to Banff? What are your favorite tips for visiting Moraine Lake?

More Banff content you may enjoy:
An Epic 3 Day Banff Itinerary
16 Magical Banff Photo Spots

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