Emerald Lake canoe rentals are an experience of a lifetime. Emerald Lake is in the stunning Yoho National Park, one of BC’s best destinations. This lake has both turquoise-colored water and astounding mountain views. The attractive surroundings and the beginner-friendly waters make for the ideal canoeing destination.
Canoeing on Emerald Lake is breathtaking and relaxing as you paddle through the crystal-clear water and fully immerse yourself in nature. We highly recommend adding this to your bucket list during your trip to British Columbia!
- 10 Tips You Need to Know About Canoeing on Lake Louise
- Everything You Need to Know About Canoeing on Moraine Lake
- 20 Amazing Places to Paddle in Banff
All About Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake was named after its impressive color, resembling the gemstone. The lake has this remarkable color due to the sunlight reflecting off the white layer of marl found at the bottom. Marl is a calcium carbonate clay formed in the water before settling at the bottom of the lake.
This lake was discovered by Tom Wilson in 1882, during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Interestingly, the original lodge found at Emerald Lake was built in 1902 and could only be accessed by railway. In the mid-1920s, the lodge was renovated and expanded, and car access was available.
The Good and the Bad About Emerald Lake Canoe Rentals
There are so many things to consider when planning an outing to Emerald Lake. We want to leave you feeling informed and in the know about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to Emerald Lake canoe rentals.
Emerald Lake Canoe Rentals: The Good 1 - Emerald Lake has so much good to offer. The "Gatorade" coloured water is our favourite thing about the area. On a sunny day especially, the lake colour comes to life, making for a once in a lifetime experience. 2 - Canoeing at Emerald Lake is beginner friendly. Seeing as motorboats are not permitted on the lake, the water is calm and there is ample space for you to learn and soak in this amazing experience. Before starting, the friendly workers will ask you if you've canoed before and give you instructions from there. Being a plus sized woman, I felt totally comfortable canoeing on Emerald Lake. Choosing Emerald Lake as your first ever canoeing experience would not only be a wise choice in terms of learning conditions, but would set the bar high in terms of experience! 3 - One of the things that we love most about Emerald Lake, is that there is so much more to offer than just canoeing. We love heading to Cilantro Café for a bite to eat and a drink on their patio, putting up our hammock and walking the 5.2 km loop around the lake.
Emerald Lake Canoe Rentals: The Bad 1- Seeing as canoeing on turquoise water is quite niche and it is one of the only options to choose from in the area, The Boathouse Trading Co. can choose their own price points. Though the rental price could be seen as expensive if you are travelling on a budget, this is one experience that we found to be worth every dollar. It's worth noting that canoe rentals on Emerald Lake are lower than nearby Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. 2- The weather can be super unpredictable. Surrounded by mountains, the weather in this area changes quickly. If you're travelling with time restraints and had allocated a certain day to canoe on Emerald Lake, you might be dissapointed if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate. Though this experience can still be enjoyed on a cloudy day, without the sun, the lake will not show of its beautiful turquoise colors to the same extent. 3- The Boathouse Trading Co, the canoe rental shop, will close down for the day if the weather is not safe for canoers. Though this can be dissapointing for your trip, please know that they are taking all precautions to keep you safe.
Emerald Lake Canoe Rentals: The Ugly 1- Though it isn't shown in the Instagram worthy photos you will come across, Emerald Lake can be extremely busy in the summer months. Consider arriving early on in the day in the hopes of finding a parking spot. 2 - Once you are out on the water, you will be immersed in a tranquil and serene atmosphere. That said, when touring around the facilities, it may be pretty packed, depending on the season, the weather and time of day. 3 - Though we did not have any trouble getting a canoe rental, this is something to keep in mind when planning your trip. With a limited amount of canoes, there could be a wait time. They do not take reservations in advanced, so be prepared to enjoy the other activities that the lake has to offer while waiting your turn. Pack water, sunscreen and food in case you are put on a wait list and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you in the meantime.
Pricing for Canoe Rentals
|Canoe Rental at Emerald Lake
Though you could rent the canoe for more than one hour if you are an enthusiast, we were more than satisfied when the hour ran out. This gave us enough time to paddle, take multiple photos, and float along the lake. There is nowhere to store your belongings while you’re on the lake, so consider leaving anything you don’t want to risk getting wet in your vehicle.
TOP TIP: Bring your furry friend along for the adventure! One dog is permitted in the canoe with a maximum weight of 50 lbs.
Emerald Canoes Hours of Operation
Canoe rentals are open daily until Oct 8th, 2023, from 8:00 am to 2:45 pm. (on October 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th they are CLOSED). The hours depend on daylight, which is much longer in the summer months. 2023 hours are as follows.
|Open 7 days a week
|8am – 2:45pm (the last canoe goes out at 2:45pm for one hour)
In 2023, the closing weekend is October 8th. The closing weekend may fluctuate based on the weather, as every year’s weather looks different in the Rocky Mountains!
HELPFUL INFO: There is no cell phone reception at Emerald Lake. Keep this in mind as you prepare for your trip. Once you've arrived, sit back, relax and enjoy a chance to disconnect from the world of technology and connect with nature.
**2024 operational dates are TBD, but the canoe house is scheduled to open sometime in May**
Are Emerald Lake Canoe Rental Prices Expensive?
Regarding the upfront cost of $90/ hour, canoeing at Emerald Lake can seem expensive. That said, breaking it down isn’t quite as unreasonable as meets the eye. Canoes can fit up to 3 adults or 2 adults with 2 small children. Enjoying this experience with others can significantly decrease the cost per person.
|$30/ each for the hour
|Two adults and two small children
|$45/ each adult for the hour
Though it may feel like this is an expensive activity, it is quite a reasonable rate compared to its competitors. The closest canoeing opportunities on breathtaking turquoise waters are at Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.
With Moraine Lake only accessible by shuttle/ bus and Lake Louise, which charges for parking, Emerald Lake is the most cost-effective and accessible option out of all the major lakes to canoe on in the Rockies.
|Moraine Lake Public Canoe Rentals
|Fairmont Lake Louise Public Canoe Rentals
Can You Bring Your Own Canoe to Emerald Lake?
As of September 2023, visitors can no longer bring their watercraft to Emerald Lake. It’s a bummer, but we’re happy people can rent canoes on-site. All the photos in this post on the stand-up paddleboard were taken before the closure. Find more information about the closure here.
That said, it’s not all bad. The beauty of rentals is that you can visit from anywhere and experience this classic Canadian activity. Not to mention, the convenience of not having to lug around your own canoe is more than worthwhile!
What Else Can I Do at Emerald Lake?
Emerald Lake is so much more than its canoeing experience. You could easily spend a half day or more at this impressive location.
We love making the most of our day and grabbing a bite to eat at Emerald Lake. After working up an appetite out on the lake, we enjoy heading to Cilantro Café to grab a cold drink and food. If there is a lineup, it is worth the wait to be out on the patio.
The patio is intimate and is right on the edge of the lake. It is a great way to take a little break from the sun and to rehydrate after being out on the lake. There is also a quick grab-and-go cantine-style nook for quick snacks and drinks. It is past Cilantro Café on the path to Emerald Lake Lodge.
What better way to soak in the views of the lake than to walk around it? A 5.2 km path loops around the lake, with an approximate round trip of 1 hour and 20 minutes. This Yoho hike offers post-card-worthy views of the lake and the Rockies. We recommend packing good walking shoes for this trail, as there are some uneven areas. Don’t forget to pack your water and sunscreen while you’re at it!
Though this area isn’t renowned for its hammocking spots, we found a cozy shaded spot nuzzled in the trees and overlooking the lake. Bring a book and comfortable clothes, and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in your hammock.
If the canoe rental is already at the high end of your budget, consider packing a picnic before or after your canoe trip. Though picnic tables are available as you walk down the trail to your left, they tend to fill up quickly. Consider bringing a picnic blanket or some camping chairs instead.
Did you know you can bring a small picnic on the canoe to enjoy while floating on the lake? Keep all food scraps and garbage while on the canoe, and take them when you leave. Alcohol is not permitted on the canoe.
The Natural Bridge
If you’re heading to Emerald Lake, you must stop at the Natural Bridge on either your way in or out. The Natural Bridge is a stop-off point on Emerald Lake Road. The turn-off is easy to miss, so watch for it on your left as you head up to Emerald Lake.
The natural bridge is what it sounds like. A natural bridge made out of rock that was cut by the Kicking Horse River. It’s an unusual sight to see, especially in the winter!
Parking at Emerald Lake
Parking at Emerald Lake can be challenging, like any other top attraction in the Rocky Mountains, especially during the prime summer months of July and August. We recommend heading to the lake earlier to increase your chances of finding a spot.
Once you’ve arrived at the parking lot, try taking a full loop around to see if anyone with a closer spot has recently left. That said, seeing as the parking lot can get quite congested, be courteous and don’t stop and wait for a spot to open up. Allow for traffic to flow smoothly.
If you want to easily get parking during the summer, arrive before 8:30am or after 5pm for the most ease. We have never had an issue parking at Emerald Lake in the shoulder and winter months.
Do You Need a Parks Pass For Emerald Lake?
You must have a Parks Canada Pass to visit or park at Emerald Lake. These passes allow you to enjoy the beauty of the area and the National Parks to be maintained, and not only look beautiful but be safe for your arrival.
TOP TIP: You must purchase your National Park Pass before arriving to Emerald Lake. There is no where to purchase it at Emerald Lake.
You can purchase your park pass at the east gate when leaving Canmore or coming west, about halfway between Golden and Field. There is also the option to buy it at the Information Centre near Field, British Columbia.
Yoho National Park Pass prices are as follows:
Parks Canada Day Pass Rates
|Youth (up to 17)
|Family/Group (7 Persons)
Parks Canada Discovery Pass Fees (Yearly Pass)
|Pass Type (Yearly Pass)
|Youth (up to 17)
|Family/Group (up to 7 Persons)
Parks Canada Discovery Pass is an annual pass that gives you access to over 80 destinations, covering over 450,000 km2 of land. This pass might be worthwhile if a long travel itinerary awaits you!
Can I Stay the Night at Emerald Lake?
If you want to make Emerald Lake into an overnight getaway, consider staying at Emerald Lake Lodge. They offer a serene experience without phone service or TVs and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Emerald Lake Lodge has a rich history dating back to the 1820s, and its stone fireplaces and hand-built timber structure make for a cozy-rustic feel.
It offers a renowned dining room, cozy reading and relaxation rooms, verandas, a game hall, and conference spaces. Though the pricing can be steep, it is a great way to fully immerse yourself in the Canadian experience.
Where Else Can I Canoe in the Area?
If you are searching for other canoe experiences, look no further. There are opportunities to canoe on Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka, and the Bow River. All of these experiences require a Banff National Park Pass before arriving.
Moraine Lake is located in Banff National Park. Moraine Lake is a dream-worthy location known for its vibrant blue glacially-fed water and exclusiveness. In the past, travelers would arrive at the parking lot before sunrise, hoping to snag a spot.
Now, Moraine Lake can only be accessed by bus/ shuttle. This will make for a trickier experience when it comes to canoe rentals. If you hope to canoe at Moraine Lake, book your shuttle in advance and be prepared to be put on a waitlist for your turn to paddle.
Canoeing on Lake Louise is a highly desired activity due to the popularity of its location. Found in Banff National Park, Lake Louise is one of Alberta’s top tourist destinations. Because of this, rentals tend to be quite popular. If canoeing on Lake Louise is part of your bucket list, consider arriving early to secure a parking spot and organize your rental.
If there is a wait time, it’s a great opportunity to hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House or to enjoy a meal at one of the Fairmont Lake Louise restaurants. However, you may not book a time, and they operate by queue on first-come-first-served.
Canoeing down the Bow River is a great activity to add to a Banff itinerary for anyone looking to stay within the parameters of the Town of Banff. Located near downtown Banff, canoeing on the Bow River is a relaxing and scenic experience.
What we love about this option is that you can rent a canoe and choose between a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or a big canoe tour. The canoe hourly rate is the lowest of all options in the area. That said, though it does offer beautiful views with stunning colors, it is a more narrow body of water and isn’t quite as renowned as the other options mentioned throughout this article.
Emerald Lake Canoeing: Main Takeaways
Here are some main takeaways to help you plan your canoe adventure at Emerald Lake.
- Canoeing on Emerald Lake is the true Canadian experience.
- If you are flexible, plan your canoe trip on a sunny day.
- At least 1 person in the canoe must be 19 years old.
- There might be a waitlist. Enjoy what the area has to offer in the meantime.
- Consider arriving early on in the day for better chances of finding parking.
- Bring a hammock, a picnic, or sturdy walking shoes to extend your day.
- You must purchase your Parks Canada National Park Pass ahead of time.
- You cannot book your canoe reservation in advance.
- You can bring your dog canoeing (max weight: 50 lbs).
- There is no cell phone reception at Emerald Lake.
- You cannot bring your own canoe, kayak, or paddleboard anymore.
- Food can be brought onto the canoe for a small picnic. Do not throw food or scraps into the lake. Pack out what you bring and dispose of your trash in the bear-proof bins on the lake shore.
- No alcohol is permitted on the canoes.
- You must wear a life jacket.
- Other canoeing options: Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka, the Bow River, and many more places (if you have your own canoe!)
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.