As we love to ski in the winter at Lake Louise, and explore and hike deep in the Banff backcountry in the summer, we have driven from Canmore to Lake Louise hundreds of times.
We know that many visitors to the Canadian Rockies choose to stay in Canmore over Banff, but still have famous sights like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake high on their bucket list. No matter where you are staying on your trip, if you haven’t seen Lake Louise yet, it’s well worth the effort.
Getting from Canmore to Lake Louise can be as simple as driving if you have a vehicle, however if you are visiting without a car, rest assured knowing you still have options!
How Long Does it Take to Get From Canmore to Lake Louise?
The distance between Downtown Canmore and the Lake Louise Village is about 80km via the Trans-Canada Hwy/AB-1 W. It takes approximately 50 minutes to drive from Canmore to the Lake Louise Village, depending on traffic conditions. From Canmore to Lake Louise (the actual lake), it takes one hour (85km); from Canmore to the Lake Louise Ski Resort, it takes 55 minutes. For most of this article, we’re referring to the actual lake unless otherwise noted, when talking about going from Canmore to Lake Louise.
You’ll pass the Banff Park East Gate between Canmore and Banff. You need a park pass to visit Banff and Lake Louise (but not Canmore). If you already have a Parks Canada pass, stick to the right-hand lanes and keep going. If you have yet to purchase your park pass, stop at one of the booths to buy your pass. Don’t worry; there are signs to let you know where to go.
How Do You Get From Canmore to Lake Louise?
Canmore to Banff: By Car
If you have a car while visiting the Canadian Rockies, the easiest way to get from Canmore to Lake Louise is by vehicle. As mentioned, driving from Canmore to Lake Louise will take about one hour. Parking at Lake Louise is rarely an issue in the winter, except around the holidays.
However, in the summer, the area is very congested, which is unsurprising as Lake Louise is on most visitors’ Banff itineraries. To get parking at Lake Louise in the summer, you’ll need to arrive well before 8 am, and we suggest before 7 am if it’s a beautiful August day. Parking at Lake Louise is not free in the summer and costs $21.
To avoid waking up at the crack of dawn on your vacation, we recommend utilizing the Lake Louise shuttle run by Parks Canada. If you get shuttle tickets, you’ll park at the Lake Louise Ski Resort and then shuttle into Lake Louse. The great news is that shuttle reservations include Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, so you can see both lakes in one day!
Canmore to Lake Louise: Public Transport
No public transport will take you right from Canmore to Lake Louise. However, you can take the Roam Transit to Banff and then hop on a bus to Lake Louise in Banff. Getting from Canmore to Banff on the Roam Transit bus is possible by taking Route 3. The bus starts early in the morning and runs well into the night, making multiple stops in Banff and Canmore. You can see the schedule here.
The Route 3 – Canmore/Banff Regional service will drop you at the Banff High School Transit Hub, and then you can transfer to the Route 8X – Banff/Lake Louise Express. On this bus, you can travel to the Lake Louise Lakeshore.
The bus costs $6 one way, or you can purchase a $15-day pass. In the summer, you can also buy a $25 Super Pass from Canmore to Banff to Lake Louise. If it’s a summer day, we recommend looking at reservations.
Canmore to Lake Louise: By Tour
There are plenty of tours traveling from Banff to Lake Louse. However, there are far fewer traveling right from Canmore to Lake Louise.
This full-day tour has pickups in Calgary, Canmore, and Banff. In Canmore, the pickup point is the Canmore Inn and Suites. Expect an action-packed day traveling to Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Johnston Canyon. You’ll also get some time to enjoy Banff Avenue, Bow Falls, and Surprise Corner. It’s one of the best tours if you haven’t seen these sights in Banff yet, but they are on your list!
Canmore to Lake Louise: By Bus
Another option for traveling between Canmore and Lake Louise is booking a transfer. Brewster Express offers transfers between the Coast Canmore Hotel and various hotels in Lake Louise for $55 one day. This is a great option if you want to transfer between Canmore and Lake Louise and don’t want to make any Stops. This is not a tour.
Brewster Express is a legitimate company owned by Pursuit, which also operates tours and offers tickets at many popular attractions in the Canadian Rockies, like the Banff Gondola and Jasper Skywalk. You might also use the Brewster Express service to travel between locations like Banff or Jasper.
Brewster Express Rates (Canmore to Lake Louise)
Another option is the affordable Rider Express. The Rider Express travels every day from Vancouver to Banff. They make one stop at the Canmore Bus Station (1602 2 Ave) and stop at the Lake Louise Village on their route, this costs $57, which at that point you may want to look into a tour.
Parking at Lake Louise
Can you drive to Lake Louse? The answer is yes! However, if you drive your own (or rented) vehicle to Lake Louise, you must find parking. As mentioned previously, this isn’t always the easiest task. As Lake Louise is a popular tourist destination, parking can be a significant challenge, particularly in the summer.
As Lake Louise is a hot spot, the nearby parking lot fills up quickly in the morning and can remain full for the day. Arriving at sunrise or sunset provides the best chance of finding a parking spot at Lake Louise. There is a $21 daily charge for parking between May and October.
If you have a hotel booked at Lake Louise, check with them so you know their own parking situation. Most hotels at Lake Louise have hotel parking for their guests, but you still must find your way to the actual Lake Louise Lakeshore (the actual lake).
The Best Stops Between Canmore and Lake Louise
Your first stop is the beautiful Alberta mountain town of Canmore. When choosing between Banff or Canmore, many visitors opt for Canmore, as there is plenty to do in Canmore, without all the crowds of Banff.
If you’re after a chill day, walking down Main Street and enjoying shops like Stonewaters and the Jason Carter Ryan Gallery is a great way to spend an afternoon. After shopping, stop in one of the Canmore restaurants – our favorite is Ramen Arashi!
Lake Minnewanka Scenic Road
You’ll pass Cascade Ponds after you pass through the Banff Park Gates when driving from Canmore. They are on your right-hand side of the road and are very easy to miss if you don’t know what you are looking for. Take the first exit for Banff, but turn right. You’ll hop onto Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive, and within three minutes off the highway, you have a beautiful area to relax.
Cascade Ponds is a fantastic place to head if you want to enjoy nature around the beautiful surroundings below Cascade Mountain. What I love about Cascade Ponds is that there are plenty of picnic benches and fire pits to enjoy with friends. We love grabbing a cooler with drinks and heading here for a day out. You can even bring a paddleboard around the small ponds in between beverages.
Please remember to pack out what you pack in, there are plenty of bear safe trash cans around here, but still we always find trash left about.
Johnson Lake is one of our favorites because it’s often overlooked by the more popular Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka. Head here for a pleasant stroll around the lake and enjoy the mountain scenery. It’s a straightforward walk without much elevation and makes for a great evening or morning walk if you have the time on your drive.
The trail works through the forest and offers astounding views from the lake back to Cascade Mountain, looming high above. The lake is tranquil and a great place to stand-up paddleboarding or swim if you’re brave enough. In our opinion, it’s one of the warmest lakes in Banff to take a dip (that doesn’t mean it’s warm, though!)
Two Jack Lake
Another Banff favorite just a few km past Cascade Ponds and Johnson Lake is Two Jack Lake. While this lake isn’t quite like the other vivaciously blue glacier-fed lakes in Banff, it has gorgeous views of Mount Rundle.
It’s a great lake in Alberta to catch at sunrise or sunset, which is easy if you’re camping in Banff at the Two Jack Lake Campground. In the summer, you can kayak, stand-up, paddleboard, or even swim if you don’t mind the cold!
Lake Minnewanka is just a few km past Two Jack Lake and is the largest lake in Banff National Park. It’s a huge man-made lake that is 21 km long! One of the most popular things to do here is enjoy a Lake Minnewanka Boat Cruise that will take you to the lake’s start called Devil’s Gp.
You can also rent your motorboat here with friends, as it’s one of the only lakes in Banff that allows motos. Even if you don’t have time to get out on the water, taking a short walk around Lake Minnewanka is well worth your time.
Vermilion Lakes is a great stop right off the highway and a nice and quick stop when driving from Canmore to Lake Louise. You can’t miss Vermilion Lakes when driving, as it’s quite a jaw-dropping sight on your left-hand side.
Stop here to take quick photos of the lakes with Mount Rundle in the background. It’s a marshy area in the summer that is fun to paddle around if you have a watercraft.
Hop on the Bow Valley Parkway
While you can continue along the Trans Canada to get to Lake Louise, the more scenic route is to hop on the Bow Valley Parkway (1A) after Vermilion Lakes and enjoy the twists and turns that this beautiful road provides.
Perhaps the most famous and well-known stop on the Bow Valley Parkway is Johnston Canyon. Johnston Canyon is a highlight for many on their trip to Banff. The whole family can enjoy a nice, easy hike on a maintained trail. It’s great to enjoy both in the winter and summer and get out on a nice 2-3-hour hike if you have the time.
In the winter, the falls freeze, creating the most beautiful scene, and in early summer, the falls roar as the snow melts off the surrounding mountains.
However, Johnston Canyon is a popular stop and one of the most popular things to do in Banff – meaning you can expect it to be busy, especially during the summer, so plan your visit for the morning or evening if possible.
Just before you get to Lake Louise, you’ll pass a spot on your left-hand side that overlooks the train tracks down an epic valley. This is called Morant’s Curve and is a photo hot spot in the Rockies. It looks ideal in the winter when the mountains and trees are blanketed in snow, but that doesn’t mean it’s also not stunning in the summer.
It looks great without a train passing by, but you’ll need to wait for the Canadian Pacific train to pass by to really nab the shot. It requires patience and warm clothes, but it can be done with time and luck! The train seems to pass through about once an hour, but there’s no schedule, so you’ll just have to wait until you hear the choo choo.
Woohoo – you made it to Lake Louise! While it’s likely that you will want to spend some time along the lakeshore gazing at the stunning Lake Louise, here are just a few of the outdoor activities that you can enjoy on your visit:
- Canoeing: Rent a canoe at the Lake Louise lakeshore e. It’s the closest you’ll get to the lake’s turquoise waters!
- Hiking: There are several epic hiking trails around Lake Louise. Lake Agnes Teahouse is popular, or you can also try the Plain of Six Glaciers or Mount Fairview Lookout.
- Skiing: If visiting Lake Louise in the winter, the Lake Louise Ski Resort is only 10 minutes from Lake Louise. Skiing or snowboarding here is a great option for those looking to hit the slopes.
- Skating: During winter, bring your skates and enjoy the most gorgeous views while skating on Lake Louise. If you do not have skates, you can rent a pair at Chateau Ski and Snow Rentals near the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise lobby.
Well, you have made it to beautiful Lake Louise. While this might be your final destination, we are guessing you’ll want to see Moraine Lake sometime during your trip! If you have no idea what I am talking about, just type “Canada” into Google and see the images that pop up!
Driving to Moraine Lake and parking in the parking area is no longer an option for personal vehicles. However, there are some ways to still get to Moraine Lake from Lake Louise.
Moraine Lake Shuttle Bus: If you have purchased a spot on the Parks Canada shuttle to Lake Louise, it will also take you to Moraine Lake via the Lake Connector Bus.
Radventures Earlybird Explorer: One of the best tours that runs through Lake Louise and Moraine Lake is the Radventures Sunrise tour, which will take visitors to Moraine Lake at sunrise, followed by time at Lake Louise.
Moraine Lake Bus Company: Choose the option that includes both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise!
Renting a Car in Canada
If you don’t have your own car but would like the freedom of your own wheels, renting a car in Calgary before your trip to Canmore or Lake Louise is best. You can rent one at Calgary International Airport (YYC) or Downtown Calgary. There are a few locations to rent a car in Downtown Banff, but they are typically more expensive than in the city.
Rates tend to get cheaper once you get away from the airport and into the city. We like to use Discover Car Hire and RentalCars.com to find the best deals. See our best Banff rental car tips before renting!
Where to Stay in Lake Louise
You have made it to Lake Louise! You may have an idea of where you want to stay, but just in case you don’t, below are just a few options for accommodations in Lake Louise. Note when booking your accommodations that the village of Lake Louise is located about 4km from the lakeshore along a steep and often busy mountain road.
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: The most luxurious option and only hotel on Lake Louise. Visitors here have the beautiful Lake Louise mere steps outside the hotel. Accommodation here is expensive, but it is the only hotel along the lake.
- Paradise Lodge and Bungalows: Only 500 meters from Lake Louise, this accommodation provides charming and rustic lodging with convenient access to the lake. Note that this accommodation is only open in the summer months.
- Lake Louise Inn: This hotel is located in the village of Lake Louise and is a more budget-friendly option when staying in the area.
Looking for additional accommodation options? Check out this list of 10 Awesome Lake Louise Hotels.
I hope this article helps you plan your trip from Canmore to Lake Louise! Whether you’re visiting for a day or even longer, any visit to the area is well worth the trip.
Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Hiking in the Rockies: Purchase an AllTrails subscription to have a mobile map on you as you hike.
- 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!
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service that will connect you right from YYC to the town of 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.
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards. 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!
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out HeyMondo, which offers competitive rates for all travelers.