Must See Rocky Mountain Lakes
"If you are a fan of breathtakingly beautiful lakes, you absolutely need to visit the Canadian Rockies."
1. MORAINE LAKE
Topping the list of must-see Canadian Rockies lakes is none other than beautiful Moraine Lake. This picturesque lake was one of the first places I visited in the Canadian Rockies, and boy did that put things off to a great start. Located in Banff National Park, Moraine is an easy lake to visit. There are viewing options right from the parking lot or alternatively a short walk up the infamous rock pile for more elevated views.
Though pricey ($105 CAD for one hour), getting out paddling on the lake is a fun way to explore the turquoise water, get away from the crowds, and take in the views. There are also numerous hiking trails that lead from the lake, which provide alternative and arguably more stunning views of Moraine, the Valley of the Ten Peaks, and nearby Mount Temple.
It’s not surprising that Moraine Lake is one of the most photographed locations in the country and it should be at the top of your list of places to visit! My tip would be to arrive 45-60 minutes before sunrise to ensure you get a parking spot, avoid the tour buses, and get stunning morning light on the mountains.
2. LAKE LOUISE
Everyone has heard of Lake Louise, right?! For good reason too, because Lake Louise deserves the worldwide fame and celebration. The milky turquoise color of Lake Louise is so vibrant that on a sunny day it’s almost hard to believe. Soaring mountains provide an epic backdrop.
Located nearby Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, it probably won’t surprise you that this kind of convenience and breathtaking beauty comes with large crowds. The trick is to go at sunrise or sunset (my preference is sunrise) for fewer people and more space along the lake-shore. I would also recommend getting out on the lake to experience that crazy blue water up-close. You can bring your own kayak/canoe or rent one for $115 per hour.
Getting out on one of the nearby hiking trails is another great way to explore the area. Some to consider are Fairview Lookout, Big Beehive, and the Big Agnes Tea House. The lake is frozen from November – early June which allows for ice skating and other winter activities.
3. PEYTO LAKE
Another on our list of must-see Canadian Rockies lakes is beautiful Peyto. Similar to Moraine and Louise, Peyto Lake is located in Banff National Park and can be accessed via the famed Icefields Parkway. The lake gets its magnificent blue color from Peyto Glacier (part of the Wapta Icefield) and subsequent minerals.
It’s a short uphill walk from the parking lot to a viewing platform with spectacular views of this foxy lake – many visitors say Peyto Lake looks like a fox, wolf or a seahorse (my vote is a fox!) Alternatively, visitors can take a short trail up to Bow Summit for an elevated view and fewer people. Sunrise and sunset are both ideal times to visit Peyto Lake for gorgeous light and minimal crowds.
4. BOW LAKE
Also making the top 6 list of must-see Canadian Rockies lakes is gorgeous Bow Lake. A quick detour from Icefields Parkway, Bow Lake is a slightly less touristy stop compared to the lakes listed above. Bow Lake is a beautiful blue color and to top it off the area is surrounded by impressive mountains and glaciers.
Visitors can enjoy the lake via a short 1-2 minute walk from the parking lot and there is also a lodge for those looking to stay. I would recommend visiting at sunrise for the best chance to experience windless conditions and epic reflections. There’s a small bridge by the lake that makes for some fun photographs!
5. EMERALD LAKE
Located in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake is another beautiful lake worth adding to your Canadian Rockies itinerary. It’s hard to describe the blue/turquoise color of Emerald Lake, but trust me when I say that it is gorgeous!
When exploring Emerald Lake, visitors can take an easy 3.2 mi / 5.2km hike around the lake shore. It’s also an option to rent a canoe (or bring your own) and experience the lake from on the water. Emerald Lake Lodge has cozy cabins and guest rooms for those wishing to spend more than a day in the area. Again, I would recommend visiting at sunrise or sunset for smaller crowds and optimal light (my favorite is sunset).
6. MALIGNE LAKE
Last (but certainly not least!) on the list of must-see Canadian Rockies lakes is Maligne Lake. Located a little further north in Jasper National Park, Maligne Lake and its surrounding area are absolutely worth the visit. Maligne Lake is famous for its azure-blue waters and at 13.7mi / 22km long it’s the second-largest glacier-fed lake in the world.
Popular things to do at Maligne Lake are canoeing/kayaking, boat tours, biking, fishing, and hiking. We opted to take a midnight paddle out to Spirit Island to capture sunrise and what an incredible experience that was! The national park also runs day-time boat tours out to Spirit Island if you aren’t feeling up to the long paddle.
BONUS: 4 MORE MUST-SEE CANADIAN ROCKIES LAKES!
Some other popular and beautiful lakes in the Canadian Rockies are Lake O’Hara, Vermilion Lakes, Two Jack Jake, and Lake Minnewanka. I am sure there are WAY more I haven’t visited or even heard of so I encourage you to do your own research and get off the beaten path. The Canadian Rockies are full of hidden gems!
My name is Renee and I’m the storyteller behind Renee Roaming.
Renee Roaming isn’t a typical travel blog... whilst I write about travel and adventure, I also share tips about photography, social media, being a woman in the outdoor community and traveling as a couple.
“I strongly believe life is meant to be experienced, not just dreamed about or put aside for another day”
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