Understanding the New Parks Canada Alpine Start Shuttle

Every summer millions of people flock to Banff, and most have one lake at the top of their bucket list – Moraine Lake. Many of those visitors want to see sunrise at Moraine Lake. Though it’s not just visitors with the sunrise goal, but plenty of locals are looking for a cheap and efficient way to see Moraine Lake. This is especially true for climbers and mountaineers who absolutely need an alpine start to complete their objectives.

The Alpine Start Shuttle is a brand new initiative from Parks Canada aimed at getting early risers to Moraine Lake before the sun rises over the Ten Peaks. Here’s all you need to know about the new shuttle.

When Does the Parks Canada Alpine Shuttle Start?

sunrise at the moraine lake with the  Parks Canada Alpine Start Shuttle

Like the Moraine Lake Shuttle, the Alpine Start Shuttle runs from June 1 to October 14th, when Moraine Lake Rd is open. There are two departures daily: one at 4 a.m. and the next at 5 a.m. Both should leave you with plenty of time to enjoy sunrise at Moraine Lake, but if you want to make sure you’re set up for photography, we recommend booking the 4am.

How Much Are Tickets?

Thankfully, getting to Moraine Lake at sunrise will not cost you any more than a regular shuttle ticket.

Park And Ride Shuttle Fairs (Return Trip)

  • Adults (18–64): $8
  • Seniors (65+): $4
  • Youth (17 and under): Free
  • *There is a $3 non-refundable transaction fee per reservation when purchasing shuttle tickets on the Parks Canada Reservation System, $6 if booking by telephone.
  • It’s important to note that these fees are in addition to your National Park Pass.

Another Cost

lake louise parking stalls
Pay stations at Lake Louise

If you plan on taking the Alpine Start Shuttle, you must know about another cost you’ll face. Due to overnight wildlife closures on Whitehorn Drive, access to the Park and Ride lot at the Lake Louise Ski Area is closed early in the morning. All visitors taking the Alpine Start Shuttle must park and leave their vehicles at the Lake Louise Lakeshore parking lot, which sounds great, however it costs $36.75 per vehicle per day. If you’re just one person, this is a hefty cost, but if you’re a group, it’s not so bad.

All Alpine Start buses depart from Lake Louise Lakeshore, visitors can return to Lake Louise via the Lake Connector bus that is free with a shuttle reservation. The Lake Connector Bus runs from 7am to 7pm and will bring you back to Lake Louise.

You don’t have to be concerned about parking: Parks Canada will have designated parking at the lake shore for Alpine shuttle users

How to Make Reservations

Like the Parks Canada regular shuttles, the 2024 reservation launch date for shuttle reservations is April 18, 2024, at 08:00 a.m. MDT. At this time, Parks Canada will release 40% of the operating season. The remaining 60% will be released on a rolling window at 8 a.m., two before departure day, throughout the entire season. You can reserve these tickets on the Parks Canada Reservation Page. Make sure that you click on the “Day Use” section on the right and then tick “Shuttle to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.”

day use to moraine lake

It’s essential to make reservations for the Alpine Start by 5 p.m. the day before departure. It’s not possible to walk up for the Alpine Start, and it would be quite a gamble to wake up so early and not secure a spot on the Alpine Start bus.

What if I Don’t Get Tickets?

Moraine Lake Bus Company at Sunrise
Moraine Lake Bus Company at Sunrise

If you don’t get tickets for the Alpine Start shuttle but still have your sights set on seeing sunrise at Moraine Lake, you have options.

First remember that only 40% of tickets are released in advance, the other 60% will be released two days prior to departure, so don’t lost hope with the Alpine Start.

Your next best option is to look into the Moraine Lake Bus Company’s Sunrise Shuttle service. They offer tremendous service and ensure you get to Moraine Lake for sunrise every single day. Yes, as a private company, they are more expensive than the Parks Canada buses, though keep in mind you don’t have to pay to park at Lake Louise with the Moraine Lake Bus Company, which saves you $36 right there.

What to Do After Sunrise at Moraine Lake

canoeing on moraine lake

Unless you have a climbing or mountaineering objective, you may not have any plans after you see the sun rise over the Ten Peaks. Though, don’t just hop on the bus back to Lake Louise! You woke up very early for this experience, so it’s best to make the most of it! Here are some suggestions.

  • Hike to Consolation Lakes: This is a family-friendly favorite that begins from the Rockpile Trail and takes hikers back to Consolation Lakes. So you get multiple lakes on one visit to Moraine Lake, and Banff is all about lakes. The trail is almost 6km return with 255 meters of elevation gain. It should take about 2 hours to complete!
  • Canoe on Moraine Lake: The Moraine Lake Lodge operates the canoe dock, and while expensive, canoeing on Moraine Lake is a worthwhile experience.
  • Walk the Moraine Lake Lakeshore: Don’t just take in the views and leave, grab a coffee from Moraine Lake Lodge Cafe and walk the lakeshore trail.
  • Hike to Sentinel Pass: This is a tough climb and a popular one. Though since you’re already going to be one of the first at Moraine Lake you’ll have a head start on everyone!

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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