Most people visiting the Canadian Rockies have the majestic Lake Louise on their bucket list. However, getting to Lake Louise may not be as easy as some may think, particularly if visiting during the summer months.
Whether you are driving, using public transport, or mapping out a tour, we break down how to get to Lake Louise below.
Can You Drive to Lake Louise?
Unlike Moraine Lake, visitors are still able to park at Lake Louise. However, finding a parking spot at Lake Louise can be challenging from mid-June to October, and to relieve the stress of parking at Lake Louise, you may want to look at other ways to get to Lake Louise.
To park at Lake Louise, visitors usually have to arrive well before 8:00 am to secure a spot during the summer. This requires quite an early rise if coming from Banff or Canmore.
Parking at Lake Louise is rarely an issue during the shoulder season or winter. Parking at Lake Louise is not free during the summer months, and paid parking is present from 7 am to 7 pm between Mid-May and Mid-October.
Paid parking dates align with the operation of the Lake Louise shuttle. The parking fee is $21 per vehicle per day. You will also need a valid Parks Canada Pass for all National Parks in Canada.
Is Lake Louise Accessible in the Winter?
Again, unlike Moraine Lake, Lake Louise is accessible year round and this includes the winter. Lake Louise welcomes all visitors 365 days a year – even Christmas. In the winter, the easiest way to get to Lake Louise is by driving yourself. The Parks Canada shuttle only runs during the summer months, and many tour operations are summer-only tours.
If your goal is to get to Lake Louise Ski Resort, there is a free shuttle service that connects Lake Louise Village hotels and Banff hotels directly to Lake Louise Ski Resort. The Lake Louise Ski Resort shuttle runs during the ski season, from November 3rd, 2023 to May 5th, 2024.
How To Get To Lake Louise
Drive There Yourself
As you can still get parking at Lake Louise, many people’s first choice may be to drive to Lake Louise. At $21, the parking fee may not be cheap for one person, but if you have a car full of people driving to Lake Louise is definitely going to be cheaper than the Parks Canada shuttle or a tour.
However, Parks Canada has made it clear that they do not want people driving themselves to Lake Louise during the summer months to reduce congestion, and introduced a parking fee a few years ago. Since its inception, the parking fee has increased every year. Parks Canada suggests booking the Park & Ride shuttle, but this may not be viable for all visitors.
Parking at Lake Louise is rarely an issue between October and mid-May. Even on a busy Christmas day we could still get parking at Lake Louise.
However, if you have your heart set on driving to Lake Louise during the summer months you’ll have to plan accordingly, especially in July or August. It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend or weekday during these months, Lake Louise is always busy. To score a parking spot, we would recommend arriving before 7am to get parking at Lake Louise. If you don’t get parking at Lake Louise in the morning, we would recommend having a backup plan so you don’t waste more time. Return in the evening, sometime after 6pm, will likely get you parking at Lake Louise.
Have a Backup Plan
You’ll want a backup plan if you don’t get parking at Lake Louise. Some of our suggested backup plans include:
- Try your luck at the Park and Ride Lot and get on the Lake Louise shuttle without a reservation. If there is space available, Parks Canada will try to accommodate.
- Book a Parks Canada shuttle reservation online if they are available. There is service around Lake Louise.
- Drive part of the Icefields Parkway and stop at Bow Lake and Peyto Lake
- Drive the Bow Valley Parkway and stop at Morants Curve.
- Head to Emerald Lake and Tak Falls, for a long day hike opt for the Iceline Trail.
- Go up the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola
Stay at the Fairmont
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is easily one of the most famous and well sought after places to stay in Banff. It’s also one of the most expensive places to stay in Banff, though if you book a night or two there, you get one major perk. You get to wake up at Lake Louise, and not have to deal with parking, shuttles, or tours.
That being said, you certainly pay for this privilege, as the Fairmont easily reaches over $1000 a night during the summer months, and even guests have to pay an additional parking fee of $30! Though many people still find it worth it to be able to stay at Lake Louise and wake up at one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
Stay at a Lake Louise Hotel
Guests of Lake Louise hotels do not get special access to Lake Louise. Unless you are staying at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise, right on Lake Louise, where you can wake up on the lake’s shore. The Deer Lodge and Paradise Lodge are within walking distance of Lake Louise, and are alternative options to the Fairmont.
There are other Lake Louise hotels that are near the Lake Louise Village, like the Mountaineer Lodge and Post Hotel. These hotels are not at Lake Louise, and instead in the village, about a 10 minute drive (7km) away. Some of these hotels offer shuttles to Lake Louise (best to call ahead and speak to them), or you can still book the Parks Canada shuttle to get to Lake Louise.
Parks Canada Shuttle
Parking at Lake Louise has become a growing concern year after year, and finding a spot without waking up at the crack of dawn can be challenging for visitors in the summer, so Parks Canada has their own shuttle to take visitors to the Lake Louise Lakeshore. Book in advance and never worry about getting to Lake Louise.
For visitors who want to see Lake Louise in the summer without the hassle of parking or paying for a tour, the best option is to take advantage of the Lake Louise Shuttle. The Lake Louise shuttle is an excellent option for any park visitor with both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake on their Banff itinerary, as riders can make use of the free Lake Connector shuttle to get to both lakes in one day.
This convenient service ensures that visitors can enjoy Lake Louise and nearby Moraine Lake while avoiding the stresses of finding a parking spot. It also reduces congestion and emissions, making it an excellent environmental choice. The shuttles are a great choice if you want to enjoy a very long hike between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake on the Paradise Valley Trail.
It’s highly recommended to book your shuttle reservations in advance, as Lake Louise is easily the most popular place to visit in all of Banff, and shuttle reservations do sell out, especially on beautiful summer weekend days.
Park And Ride Shuttle Fairs (Return Trip)
(prices listed in CAD)
- Adults: $8
- Seniors (65+): $4
- Youth (6-17): $2
- Children (under 6): Free
- *There is a $3 non-refundable transaction fee per reservation when purchasing shuttle tickets on the Parks Canada Reservation System.
It’s important to note that these fees are in addition to your National Parks entry fee.
**The 2024 reservation launch date for shuttle reservations is April 18, 2024 at 08:00 a.m. MDT. You can reserve your shuttle on the Parks Canada website.
Public Transit Option: ROAM Transit to Lake Louise
If you don’t have a car while visiting Banff or would prefer to leave your car back at your hotel, it’s possible to catch public transport to Lake Louise.
The Roam Transit Route 8x (Lake Louise Express) runs to Lake Louise from Banff. The Roam Transit Route 8S: Lake Louise Scenic also runs to Lake Louise during the summer months. (stops include Johnston Canyon and Protection Mountain Campground).
The cost on the bus is $10 per adult. Reservations are recommended; however, you can walk up to the fare boxes. Roam buses accept U.S. and Canadian Dollars as small as a nickel and up to $20. Children 12 and under are free but still require a reservation.
Then there is also The Roam Transit Super Pass in the summer months. Roam has a One Day Super Pass, which allows travel on any/all Roam routes – From Canmore or Banff to Lake Louise for just $25. The Super Pass is sold only on the bus, at the Roam office in Banff, or through the Token Transit App.
The Super Pass offers free access to the Parks Canada Lake Connector shuttle. With the new Roam Transit Super Pass purchase, visitors will receive free access to the Parks Canada Lake Connector shuttle from the Lake Louise Lakeshore or Moraine Lake, making it a fabulous way to leave the car at home and still get to both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Show a valid Roam Super Pass to Parks Canada staff at Lake Louise or Moraine Lake to receive your Parks Canada boarding pass.
Guided Option: Book an Organized Tour
A great way to see Lake Louise is by booking an organized tour. Many tour operators have access to to also park at Moraine Lake and often provide transport plus a guided tour in the area. So if you want to see Moraine Lake and Lake Louise in one day, without having to worry about a thing, you may want to look into a few tour options.
Radventures is one of our favorites as they offer small group (max 14 guests) guided tours, starting and ending with hotel pick up in Banff, with local interpretation and an amazing guide on hand to answer questions. Enjoy complimentary hot drinks, see the best spots at Moraine Lake to view the sunrise, and get our guests set up for sunrise photos (as their guiding team has photography training).
After guests can get an optional hot cafe breakfast at Trailhead Cafe, before heading to Lake Louise where you get front of the line access to canoe rentals (something unique to only a Radventures tour). Book that tour here.
Other Lake Louise Tours
If you don’t want to deal with the headache of parking or dealing with the shuttles there are a few tours that operate at Lake Louise. Many of these also include Moraine Lake, which is great if you are dying to see both lakes (which you likely are!)
- Hop on Hop off Bus: Explore the most popular spots in Banff at your own pace. Hop on and off when you please!
- Moraine Lake Bus Company: An alternative option to the Parks Canada shuttle, the Moraine Lake Bus Company provides early access to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise with shuttles starting as early as 4am.
- Radventures Earlybird Explorer: offers small group (max 14 guests) guided tours, starting and ending with hotel pick up in Banff, with local interpretation and an amazing guide on hand to answer questions. Enjoy complimentary hot drinks, see the best spots at Moraine Lake to view the sunrise, and get our guests set up for sunrise photos (as their guiding team has photography training). After guests can get an optional hot cafe breakfast at Trailhead Cafe, before heading to Lake Louise, where you get front-of-the-line access to canoe rentals (something unique to only a Radventures tour). Book that tour here.
- From Banff: Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour
- Lake Louise and the Icefield Parkway – Full-Day Tour
- Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Icefields Parkway Tour
- Open-Top Shuttle to Moraine and Lake Louise: Drive to the lakes with the wind in your face!
Multiple Stops Option: Hop On Hop Off
The Banff Hop on Hop Off Bus has become quite popular in recent years. The hop-on-hop-off bus is exactly what it sounds like – a bus that lets you hop on and off when you want! The bus starts in Banff and stops at Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise Gondola, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake. We recommend utilizing your time to enjoy some of the Lake Louise hikes like the Plain of Six Glaciers or Lake Agnes.
Buses depart 7 days a week from either the Moose Hotel and Suites on Banff Avenue (7:45AM , 9:30 AM, and 12:15 PM) or The Banff Heritage Train Station (7:50 AM, 9:35 AM, 12:15 PM). Just note that the later you depart the fewer places you can explore so we recommend hopping on the earliest tour so you can make the most our of your day in Banff! The buses come back to Banff at 4:55 PM and 6:00 PM. Book that bus here.
Group Option: Taxi to Lake Louise
Let a taxi take you all the way from Canmore or Banff to Lake Louise and even to Moraine Lake if you want. This is way from the cheapest option, however if you have a group and don’t want to deal with any headaches, it may be an option for your group.
Three Sisters Taxi: Offers return service to Lake Louise & Moraine Lake from Canmore or Banff for up to 6 people. This self-guided option offers one hour at Lake Louise and one hour at Moraine Lake for a total of 5.5 hours ($100 per additional hour). The taxi option is great if you want flexibility as it gives you the option to leave on your time.
Bike to Lake Louise
Those looking for a fantastic uphill bike ride can park their car at the Lake Louse Village or Lake Louise Ski Resort and bike up to Lake Louise.
The bike ride is roughly 4.5 km from Samson Mall, but it has a 200+ meter gain, which is relatively steep in such a short period. Cyclists are advised to travel along the shoulder of Lake Louise Drive or take the Tramline Trail, which is gravel.
Are you a big biker? Another option is to bike from Banff along the Bow Valley Parkway, and up to Lake Louise. If you return to Banff via bike, you’re looking at a huge day (140km+) with lots of elevation gain, but hardcore bikers love this challenge!
Getting to Lake Louise Ski Resort
If you are visiting Banff in the winter and want to go skiing at one of the best ski resorts in Canada, without the hassle of driving, there is a free shuttle service that connects Lake Louise village hotels and Banff hotels directly to Lake Louise Ski Resort. The Lake Louise Ski Resort shuttle runs from Lake Louise hotels to the ski resort during the ski season, from November 3rd, 2023 to May 5th, 2024.
Banff to Lake Louise shuttles have a slightly shorter operating window, from December 8, 2023 20 April 14th, 2024. The shuttles run often to and from the ski resort.
Calgary to Lake Louise
If you have just arrived to Calgary International Airport and plan on visiting Banff without a car, you have options to get to Lake Louise.
- Brewster Express is the largest operator of group tours and bus services in and around the Canadian Rockies. Their parent company, Pursuit, also operates major attractions like Banff Gondola and the Lake Minnewanka Cruise. They run daily shuttles from Downtown Calgary and YYC to Lake Louise and back.
- The Rider Express travels everyday from Vancouver to Banff and make one stop at Lake Louise Village on their route. This is one of the most cost-effective ways to get between Calgary and Lake Louise.
- Mountain Park Transportation runs daily shuttles from Calgary to Lake Louise hotels. See all their fees and schedule here.
Can I Visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake on the Same Day?
The good news is you can easily visit the two famous Banff lakes in one day. While you can’t drive to both lakes, the easiest way to get between the two is the Lake Connector shuttle (for Parks Canada shuttle reservation holders only), which connects the two every 15 minutes.
If you have a Moraine Lake or Lake Louise tour booked, chances are it includes both lakes so you don’t have to fret about seeing both!
Readers often ask us which lake they should visit first, and all we can say it’s up to personal preference. There is no benefit to seeing one lake before the other, unless you plan on hiking around or canoeing on one. Then we think you should visit that lake first so you have enough time!
Getting to Lake Louise Important Notes
- Whether you book the Lake Louise Shuttle, or a tour, make sure you know the departure point. Many Lake Louise tours leave from Downtown Banff, while the Parks Canada shuttle leaves from the Lake Louise Ski Resort (so you must get yourself there first). Other bus companies like the Moraine Lake Bus Company also depart for the lakes from 1 Whitehorn Road, and not downtown Banff. If you book these options, make sure you can get yourself to Lake Louise Ski Resort, which is about 40 minutes from the Town of Banff.
- Make sure you know the difference between Lake Louise Lakeshore, Lake Louise Village, and the Lake Louise Ski Resort. You can see a simple map of the whole Lake Louise area below.
- If you want to get to Moraine Lake, we have an entire article detailing that process.
- Although you’ll see train tracks, there is no passenger train service to Lake Louise.
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.