When is the Best Time to Visit Lake Louise?

So you are planning an amazing trip to Banff National Park and now wondering when the best time to visit Lake Louise is? Well that question is completely subjective to what you want to do and what kind of temperatures and weather. I love visiting Lake Louise in both the winter and summer. Unlike nearby Lake Moraine, Lake Louise is open and accessible year round and therefore fantastic most of the time.

I’ve visited Lake Louise now during every month, and the experience during each one is completely different. Let’s dig into the best time to visit Lake Louise.


When is the Best Time to Visit Lake Louise?


Lake Louise in January


Best time to visit Lake Louise

Expect Lake Louise to be cold and have a lot of snow in January. The average temperature is -5°C, but you will likely get some beautiful sunny days in the winter. Because of its location in the mountains, you’ll want to get to Lake Louise earlier in the day rather than later. Sometime around 10am will give you optimal sunshine on the lake.

It’s a great time to bring or rent ice skates or walk on the frozen lake. Thankfully when you’re feeling cold you can duck into the Fairmont Château Lake Louise and warm up with hot chocolate. Also, make sure to Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition that happens every January! If you’re a skier or snowboarder now is a great time to head to Lake Louise Ski Resort for some turns too!


Lake Louise in February


Best time to visit Lake Louise

There’s very little change between January and February at Lake Louise. It’s still cold, and it’s still very much winter. Lake Louise will remain frozen for another few months. It’s a good time to walk around the lake, ice skate, and drink hot chocolate at the Fairmont. The days are still short, but they are getting longer so you can maximize your time at Lake Louise more.

Temperatures are still low – very low. It’s one of the coldest times to visit Banff and Lake Louise, but it’s one of the best times to visit Lake Louise if you want to ski epic powder at Lake Louise Ski Resort! It’s still a great time of year to spend days on the slopes and nights back at the lodge warming up.


Lake Louise in March


Best time to visit Lake Louise
Overlooking Lake Louise from the Lake Louise Ski Resort in March

The average temperature in March creeps above freezing (finally) up to around 4°C. The sun shines over the mountains this time of year (12 hours a day, people), the snow glistens, but it still very much winter at Lake Louise. Ski season is still in full swing; and you’ll probably still get some epic powder days if you go skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort.

Like January and February, you can still skate on Lake Louise, snowshoe around the lake, or enjoy a dog sled ride. If you like the snow and feeling like you are inside a snowglobe March is an excellent time to visit Lake Louise. It’s definitely not a bad time to travel to Lake Louise if you’re a powder hound.


Lake Louise in April


Best time to visit Lake Louise

Sadly I’m here to report that the weather in April in Banff is still very much wintery, especially in higher up elevation places like Lake Louise. That being said, Spring is starting to show up, especially towards the end of the month. The average temperature is 11°C, and the snow is starting to become slushy and spring-like. You can still walk on the frozen lake and skate.

Although in your heart and mind you expect the weather to be warm in April, you have to remember you’re in the Canadian Rockies and it’s winter for what seems like nine months out of the year. Remember to pack warm clothes still. A down jacket, gloves, hats, and boots, can make all the difference.


Lake Louise in May


May 4th at Lake Louise

It’s almost full spring in the Canadian Rockies. Temperatures are creeping up, and there are a few very beautiful and warm days in May. Lake Louise, at the earliest, will be completely thawed by the last week of May. However it really all depends on the year. In 2020 Lake Louise was not thawed until June. If you’re visiting Lake Louise in early May you can still expect the lake to be frozen and lots of snow in the surroundings. It’s also the last month of the season for the ski resorts, so if you want some great spring conditions head to Lake Louise Ski Resort the first week of May.

Hiking up the Lake Agnes Teahouse or the Little Beehive won’t be ready until the last week of May, but you might have to possibly wait until June depending on the year. I’ve gone the first week of June and it’s been a glorious hike and also gone the second week of June and had to battle snow.


Lake Louise in June


Little Beehive in June

Yay! Summer is finally here at Lake Louise. June, is one of the best times to visit Lake Louise, in my opinion. Lake Louise should be completely thawed now, and the water will be so blue your eyes may hurt! Heading to the Fairview Lookout, Lake Agnes Teahouse, and even the Beehives are attainable now as the snow has melted in most of the higher elevation places. Although attempting summits like Devils Thumb, Mount Niblock, Fairview Summit, and Mount Whyte will need a few more weeks.

I love visiting Lake Louise in June because it’s summer, the weather is amazing, the water is Kool-Aid blue, and the crowds aren’t at their peak…yet.

It’s possible to rent a canoe now and hit up the water. Lake Moraine Road should be open by now and a fun thing to do is combine Lake Louise with Moraine Lake for the day!


Lake Louise in July


Lake Louise

July is without a doubt the best time to visit Lake Louise. It is a beautiful summer month in Banff. Rainfall is low and if you’re lucky your vacation will be filled with sunshine and long days. The snow is melting and the average temp is 24°C, but you will still need a jacket at night especially if you are doing any mountain hikes.

However, July means crowds, and lots of them. One of the first places these crowds head is Lake Louise, so you can expect to have lots of people surrounding you when you visit. To avoid the crowds aim to visit Lake Louise at sunrise or in the evening. Midday is the worst time to visit Lake Louise and you will have a very tough time parking (more on that later).

All that being said, it really is beautiful in Banff National Park in July and cannot be beaten.


Lake Louise in August


Natasha Lake Louise

Lake Louise in August is just as good, if not better than July. Long days and warm weather is what you can expect at Lake Louise. The good news is that most of the snow should be melted off the higher peaks as well. Meaning if you wanted to scramble Devils Thumb or Mount Niblock it should be almost totally snow-free.

Crowds are still here, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a parking spot if you arrive after 8am or before 6pm.

One of the best things to do at Lake Louise during this time is hire out a canoe, or bring your own canoe, or stand up paddleboard! Hiking the Plain of Six Glaciers will also prove to be beautiful. When you are done at Lake Louise make sure you save time to head up to Lake Moraine or cross the highway and venture up the Lake Louise Gondola for some absolutely incredible views! August is just another fantastic time to visit Lake Louise and Banff National Park.

That being said, if you thought July is busy you haven’t seen August. With school holidays and everyone getting their summer on you’ll still see lots of people around the town of Banff and main sites.


Lake Louise in September


Big Beehive
Hiking the Big Beehive in September

Things begin to cool off slightly in September, but it’s still relatively warm… for Banff National Park, that is. The average temperature for this month is around 18°C, but nights – as always – can feel quite cold. It’s the true start of fall, which makes it one of the best times to visit Lake Louise. There are generally fewer tourists than during the summer months, but you will still have people visiting for Labor Day and in late September chasing the larches and fall colors, and there are plenty of Larch Trees around Lake Louise.

For the best views of golden larches head up Saddleback Pass. It’s still possible to canoe out on the lake and there’s plenty of hiking to be had. Just keep in mind that it is September, and the weather can be changeable, so make sure you check the forecast before you head out on an adventure (and be prepared with waterproofs).


Lake Louise in October


Lake Louise in October

There’s still plenty of sunshine in Banff in October, but it’s most definitely fall weather and you should plan your trip to Lake Louise accordingly. Early October means larch season and a good time to go hiking, so it’s not a bad time to visit Lake Louise! The temperature on average is about 10°C, and after dark, it can drop below freezing. All I can say is layers, layers, and layers. This is pretty much your last month to enjoy Lake Louise before it is frozen.

So get out on that canoe, but wear a life jacket, falling in would surely shock you to hypothermia quickly. By mid-October, the first snow of the season will begin to fall (if it hasn’t already in September), which makes it a beautiful time to visit Lake Louise. I love seeing the trees dusted in snow.

If you want to head to Moraine Lake this is your last month to do it. By mid October, Moraine Lake road will close for the season.


Lake Louise in November


Lake Louise in November – about to freeze!
Best time to visit Lake Louise
At the Lake Louise World Cup in November

If you’re lucky, and I mean really lucky, you might be able to ice skate on Lake Louise before the snow falls onto the frozen lake, it happens every few years. Meaning you’ll be skating on frozen blue Kool-Aid. Yup, November at Lake Louise means that it’s winter again and you can expect to find Lake Louise frozen.

The good news? Lake Louise ski resort opens up in Late November and there is plenty of early-season skiing fun to be had. The other good news? It’s the locals season in Banff National Park. Yup, the summer tourists are gone and the holiday tourists have yet to arrive so it’s a very quiet time to visit Lake Louise.

Don’t forget to check out the Lake Louise Alpine Ski World Cup which happens the last weekend of November and first weekend of December!


Lake Louise in December


Lake Louise Winter
Lake Louise in December
Best time to visit Lake Louise
Enjoying the Ice Bar

December is one of the best times to visit Lake Louise! Truly there are few places that are as amazing for the holidays as Banff National Park. The holiday cheer is in the air and it’s absolutely beautiful. The Fairmont’s Ice Castle is built by Mid December as well as the famous ice bar. Head here with family and friends to feel merry and cherry. It’s the perfect time to enjoy a horse drawn carriage around the lake.

Another fun thing to do is ski or snowboard at Lake Louise. It’s also a fun Christmas Day activity once the presents are unwrapped. The Holidays are a busy time to visit Banff National Park, but not nearly as busy as the summer. So it’s still very easy to get parking and enjoy Lake Louise to the fullest. Just dress warm and get to Lake Louise early. It’s the shortest month of the year and you can expect the sun to be set by 5pm!


How Late is Lake Louise Open?

Lake Louise is a natural setting and doesn’t have set open and closing hours. The lake is accessible all day and night, though it’s best to visit during the day. It’s worth noting that attractions and things like the Icebar at the Fairmont will close down come night time.


History of Lake Louise


Historical Chalet Lake Louise

Interestingly enough Lake Louise was originally named Emerald Lake by Tom Wilson leading an early survey party in 1882. The name didn’t last long because in 1884 it was named after Alberta’s Governor General’s wife Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll. The name Emerald Lake then shifted to the nearby lake of Emerald Lake 39 km away from Lake Louise where the name did stick.

In 1890, Cornelius Van Horne a Canadian Pacific Railway manager built a large one-story log cabin on the shore of the lake. The small cabin was called the Chalet Lake Louise and he would accommodate just 50 guests in its first year. Over the next two decades, the hotel saw several upgrades and by 1912 it had drawn in 50,000 visitors. The beauty was drawing in major public figures and the hotel quickly expanded to a luxury property by 1920 earning the name of Hollywood of the North.

Historical Mount Lefroy and Mount Victoria

Mountaineering in North America and Canada for that matter is closely tied with Lake Louise, and Banff National Park. In fact, in 1897 the first mountaineering death in North America occurred on Mount Lefroy. You can get great views of this mountain on the Plain of Six Glaciers hike. The mountaineering death spurred the Canadian Pacific Railroad to hire Swiss mountaineers to help with the safety of visitors hoping to mountaineer in the park.

Over the years more mountaineers would follow and the Swiss impact on the Canadian Rockies can be seen to this day. Many restaurants around Banff serve up fondue, mountaineering is a popular hobby for locals, there are two teahouses that serve hikers around Lake Louise, and a series of alpine huts are managed by the Alpine Club of Canada. The Swiss mountaineers would also have a major impact on bringing the sport of skiing to the forefront in the Canadian Rockies which eventually opened up Lake Louise to winter tourism and a year-round destination.


So Then When Is The BEST Time To Visit Lake Louise?


Lake Louise

As you can see, Lake Louise is a year-round destination. It’s such a spectacular part of the world that it’s never a bad idea to visit. In the winter months, you can enjoy sleigh rides, ice skating, ice climbing, skiing, and snowshoeing. While during the summer you’re spoilt for activities and the views are spectacular. Since the lake is fed by Glacier melt it’s water level and color changes based on temperatures.

To ensure warmer weather, it’s never hot in the Rockies, and a good chance to witness the most vivid turquoise water visit, Lake Louise, from late June to August. That being said the color never leaves and you can witness the melted lake until October when the lake freezes over. Every few years the lake freezes over enough to skate on before receiving significant snowfall. This means you can ice skate on a frozen ice surface that is the same dizzying turquoise blue.

If you want to vacation in a winter wonderland the best time to visit Lake Louise is between December and March.


When Does Lake Louise Melt?


Lake Louise
On Lake Louise the day after it melted in 2020

The ice on Lake Louise usually melts the first week of June. This is season dependent so it has occasionally unthawed earlier and a little later. That being said it’s safe to assume the lake will be unfrozen by June.


When Does Lake Louise Freeze?


Lake Louise Winter

Lake Louise usually begins to freeze in November. The month of October usually brings heavy snowfall in the area and the Lake Louise Ski Resort usually opens up the first week of November around the same time the lake freezes.


What Time of Day is Best to Visit Lake Louise?


Lake Louise

We’re pretty sad to say that’s Lake Louise’s beauty and popularity are also its downfalls. The demand to see the lake by almost every visitor to the park means you’ll need to be there by about 8am in the summer. On weekends even earlier.

If you don’t feel like waking up early to see the lake don’t fret too much. Parks Canada has a bus service available from the Lake Louise Park and Ride (called the overflow) lot off of the TransCanada highway. There are signs on the highway so it’s tough to miss the Park and Ride lot. It’s on the left side of the highway if you are driving from the Town of Banff. Although, be forewarned when this lot fills up they will start turning people away and you’ll have to think of alternative plans. (See the best things to do in Banff here).

You can also choose to stay at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on the lake or many of the hotels in the village offer shuttles so you don’t have to deal with parking. As it gets late in the evening the crowds do thin out and you can usually get a parking spot in the evenings when everyone else is having dinner. We’ve never struggled to get parking at Lake Louise in the winter months.

If you are feeling active we’ve also parked at the Lake Louise village and rode our bikes up to Lake Louise before, although it’s all uphill!


Parking at Lake Louise


You have a few options for parking at Lake Louise, but for most visitors, there are really two viable options. Obviously, if you’re a guest of the Fairmont hotel you have that as an option. However, be forewarned they charge an additional $30 per day for parking although if you’re paying their summer rates it’s unlikely to faze you. Many of the other hotels in the village do offer a shuttle or you can take advantage of the public shuttle bus for those staying at the Lake Louise Campground.

For everyone else staying elsewhere like in Banff or Canmore you can arrive early in the morning and snag one the valuable public parking spots at the lake. The parking lot is free and typically fills up between 7:00-8:00 if not earlier in the summer. Keep in mind that holidays and the workweek play a large role, peak August on a weekend means you’ll need to fight for a spot.

If you aren’t lucky enough to score a parking lot you’ll need to park at the Lake Louise Park and Ride parking lot. While the parking lot is free you are required to have a reservation on the shuttle bus to Lake Louise. This is new in 2020 so if you see older information please disregard it as it out of date. The shuttle bus operates from May 15 to October 12 in 2020. Reservations can be made online on the Parks Canada website.

Your shuttle reservation fee gives you rights to ride the park shuttles at no additional cost on the day of your reservation. This means you will not need a separate reservation to return to the parking lot or to reach Moraine Lake. The two lakes are now connected via the Lake Connector Shuttle bus that operates every 15 minutes. This is all new in 2020 so we will update once we have an opportunity to test it our ourselves.

Shuttle Prices

  • Adult (18 to 64): $10
  • Senior (65+): $5
  • Youth (6 to 17): $5
  • Child (under 6 years) – free

The Canoes At Lake Louise


Canoeing on Lake Louise

There is likely no place more quintessential to rent a canoe in Banff than Lake Louise. It’s one of the most spectacular scenes in the world. It’s tough to find a more spectacular scene to paddle through as you look out to Mount Victoria and the hanging Victoria glacier. No need for fancy edits on your photographs the water in Lake Louise like Moraine Lake is truly that radiant turquoise blue.

You can pick up canoe rentals at the Lake Louise boathouse because even if you have your own you’d have to arrive very early in the morning to secure a close parking spot to carry the canoe.

  • Location: Fairmont Lake Louise Boathouse
  • Canoe Cost: $125 first hour / $100 additional hours
  • Season: Mid June to October

Can you bring a private canoe, kayak, or SUP to Lake Louise?

Visitors are allowed to bring their own personal watercraft to any of the lakes or rivers within Banff National Park. The tricky part with Lake Louise is acquiring a parking spot and then launching from the lakeshore. Of course, you can get inflatable SUPs like us and pack them up a lot smaller than a canoe.


Hikes Around Lake Louise


These are some recommended hikes around Lake Louise. I’ve attempted to rank them in difficulty.


Fairview Lookout

Best time to visit Lake Louise

The Fairview Lookout trail is a short sweet hike that provides great views over the Lake Louise from some elevation. It’s quieter and less strenuous than the classic Lake Agnes Teahouse hike below so it’s a good option if you’re not up the elevation gain required for Lake Anges or just want a quick jaunt in the area.

There is a nice platform that also provides views back out to the impressive and historic Chateau Lake Louise Hotel. Don’t expect the view on the way up as its forested, but the lookout platform from the top is a lovely view worth the effort.

  • Length: 2.4 km
  • Duration: > 1 hour to 1 hour
  • Elevation Gain: 165 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Gear Needed: Hiking Shoes, Water, Bear Spray

Lake Agnes Teahouse

Best time to visit Lake Louise

The Lake Agnes Teahouse hike is a popular thing to do in Banff for visitors to Lake Louise. It’s also one of the most iconic and popular hikes in all of Banff National Park and has been enjoyed by visitors for well over a century. It ends at the Lake Agnes Teahouse which has been serving visitors since 1905 when it first opened. A rustic old cabin that sits along the banks of Lake Agnes and over a rushing waterfall.

Its popularity is perhaps its only downfall as the teahouse can attract a crowd in the summer months with a line out the door. Never the less it is a classic and ends at the lovely Lake Agnes the perfect spot for lunch. This is an easy to moderate hike above Lake Louise that is suitable for all visitors to Banff.

This is an easy hike that can be done in under two hours and is an iconic thing to do in Banff. However, be warned it is a busy one! To escape the crowds (and get better views) keep climbing to the Big or Little Beehive.

  • Length: 7.6 km
  • Duration: 2 – 3 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 433 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: All Year, Summer Months Best
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

The Plain of Six Glaciers

Plain of Six Glaciers Lake Louise Hike
Epic Trails

This is an incredible hike that starts out strong with a walk along Lake Louise and finishes in an open plain of glaciers. To sweeten the deal the historic Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse is there to reward hikers with a cup of tea or a fresh-baked goodie. It’s a stunner of a hike with a whole bunch of reward vs effort.

At one point this massive valley was the convergence of six glaciers that have all since retreated due to warming temperatures. All that is left now is the monstrous debris field that will leave hikers in all of their earth shaping capability. It’s also possible to combine this hike with the Lake Agnes / Big Beehive hike for an incredible day in the mountains.


The Little Beehive

The-Little-Beehive-Lake-Louise-Banff-Hike

From Lake Agnes, you have two popular additions to continue your hike and gain some of the best views of Lake Louise from above. The Little Beehive despite its name is not much smaller than the Big Beehive so I wouldn’t base the two hikes on difficulty. That being said, the Little Beehive is slightly easier.

The real difference lies in how busy and the view from these two hikes. The Little Beehive sees fewer hikers and offers views over Lake Agnes and Lake Louise along with Mount Whyte and Mount Niblock. It’s a really nice hike, and I’d recommend it for anyone with the energy to escape the crowds at the Lake Agnes Teahouse.


The Big Beehive

Natasha Top of Big Beehive Lake Louise Hike

The Big Beehive is a classic addition to the Lake Agnes Teahouse trek and well worth the effort, much like The Little Beehive. The trail to the Big Beehive extends past Lake Agnes and then climbs a ridge through a series of switchbacks to reach the top of the Big Beehive.

From there you have amazing views over Lake Louise as it’s closer to the Lake than the Little Beehive. It’s also the most popular photo spot of Lake Louise for social media, similar to the rocks as Peyto Lake.


Mount Saint Piran

Mt St Piran

If you want to continue on even further past Lake Agnes and the Little Beehive head for the summit of Mount Saint Piran. The trail follows along the Little Beehive trail until it veers off 400m from the summit of the Little Beehive. You follow a signed path through the thinning forest until you reach the alpine out of the tree line.

From there it’s a beaten path or cairns through rock fields and scree. It’s not a technical challenge, but it does require some solid physical stamina. Once you reach it’s summit though you’re rewarded with some stellar views over the area as you can see the Waputik Icefield to the North. It’s a sharp departure from the busy throngs of crowds down at Lake Louise as only a few complete the hike. You also get to claim you summited another peak in the Canadian Rockies.


Mount Fairview & Saddleback Pass

This is a really great day out in the mountains for active hikers and a real gem in the Lake Louise area. You’re guaranteed stunning views on a quiet trail. The trail leaves from Lake Louise and heads up to Paradise Valley, onto Saddleback Pass, before the summit of Fairview Mountain. You’ll be surrounded by staggering peaks, larch trees, gain a high mountain pass, and summit a mountain that rewards you with stunning views of Lake Louise down below. Altogether, it’s probably one of the best Lake Louise hikes.

I wouldn’t let Fairview or St Piran detract anyone from attempting the hikes. They’re really not that difficult for anyone with decent fitness and adequately prepared with some snacks/lunch, water, and proper clothing. It gets cold on the mount summits all year round. When we summited in August it was freezing at elevation.

This hike is also a tremendous one in the larch season as the valley is full of larch trees. A great alternative, although still busy, to the famous Sentinel Pass hike. Plus the mountain is photographed by almost every visitor to Lake Louise which makes it a nice one to cross off the list, and say “I climbed that.”

  • Length: 9.2 km
  • Duration: 3 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1012 meters.
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: June – October (Late September for Larch Season)
  • Gear Needed: Daypack, Lunch, Layers, hiking poles, High Ankle Hiking Boots

Scrambles Around Lake Louise

This is for experienced hikers and people who have spent their fair share of time in the outdoors. These scrambles occur in very serious mountains with real hazards that can result in death. Every year tourists are evacuated by Search and Rescue on one if not all of these hikes/routes.

If you plan to tackle any of these please plan accordingly and be prepared for the elements — also wear a helmet. The most approachable is The Devil’s Thumb and it’s popular with tourists looking for a thrill. However, the other mountains see maybe one or two summits a day by experienced climbers in the

  • The Devil’s Thumb
  • Mount Niblock
  • Mount Whyte

Lake Louise Lodge Accommodation

There is only one place to stay on Lake Louise, and that is the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Staying at the lake allows you to take advantage of the lake at all times of the day and they have a private parking lot so you’re guaranteed a spot to park. But there are plenty of places to stay in the area of Lake Louise, see our posts below.


When Are Holidays at Lake Louise?


Christmas Eve at Lake Louise

The Lake is always busy in the summer, but you should take note of the following holidays as they are also busy times.

  • Victoria Day Long Weekend – 1st Monday of May.
  • Canada Day – July 1st
  • Heritage Day Weekend – 1st Monday of August.
  • Labour Day Weekend – 1st Monday of September.
  • Christmas – December 24th and 25th

Travel Planning Resources

  • Packing Guide — Check out our Banff packing list to help pack your bags and ensure you don’t leave anything at home.

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