It’s no secret that the province of Alberta is home to some stunning lakes. Any visitor to Alberta probably “visit beautiful lake” on their list of things to do.
Whether it’s a lake you can swim in, paddle around, or enjoy from the lakeshore and photograph in the summer, or skate on in the winter one thing is for sure – Alberta has the perfect lake for you. It’s unlikely you’ll leave the province unchanged after visiting these mesmerizing bodies of water.
Here are the most amazing must see lakes in Alberta.
Beautiful Lakes in Alberta to See
It’s hard to write an article about the best Alberta lakes and not mention Moraine Lake. It’s easily the most iconic lake in Alberta, if not all of Canada, or perhaps even the globe.
Moraine Lake once graced the Canadian twenty-dollar bill. It’s the most popular spot to visit in Banff and it’s no secret why. This stunningly blue lake with the iconic ten peaks right behind is an amazing sight to see. It only takes a paddle on the lake to feel like you are paddling in heaven.
At just an hour’s drive away from Banff, it’s one of the best things to do in Banff National Park.
Behind Moraine Lake, Lake Louise is the most popular lake to visit in Alberta. This is another glacier lake with turquoise blue color. The blue color comes from the glacial melt. The glaciers grind rock down into the rock flour which is then carried downstream into the lake. This rock flour then refracts the light and gives off a vivid blue or teal color.
What results is a fabulous bright blue Alberta lake, like Lake Louise! No matter how many times I visit this lake I still can’t get over how beautiful it is. It’s fantastic in the summer when you can enjoy the hikes around the lake, and even in the winter when you can ice skate on it.
You’ve likely seen photos of Abraham Lake in Alberta whether you know it or not. Abraham Lake is a man-made lake on the North Saskatchewan River in David Thompson Country. It’s a great place to head in the summer as you can camp around the lake and enjoy the beautiful water.
In the winter most Albertans know Abraham Lake as the lake with the famous ice bubbles. If you come here between December and March you stand a very very good chance at seeing methane ice bubbles. Just bundle up really good, it’s one of the windiest places in Alberta.
Bow Lake in Banff is another glacial lake visitors to Alberta shouldn’t miss. On a summer day in July or August, this lake sparkles blue. I love heading to Bow Lake to enjoy a paddle or just sit by the lake and have a picnic. If you want to check out an epic waterfall walk around Bow Lake and check out Bow Glacier Falls.
Barrier Lake is one of the first lakes you’ll come upon when driving into Kananaskis Country from Calgary and it’s one of those Alberta lakes that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. It’s a bright blue lake that sits right under Yates Mountain and from it you can get a great view of Mount Baldy.
Albertans love this lake as there is a small beach area to relax at, easy parking, and it’s a fun lake to paddle around on.
Lesser Slave Lake
Lesser Slave Lake is the second largest lake that is located entirely in Alberta. It’s well known as it’s three hours from Edmonton and a popular place to enjoy in the summer. It’s easily accessible by vehicle.
The Waterfowl Lakes are two relaxed lakes in Banff that see far fewer visitors than other lakes in the park. The two lakes are glacial and have the classic blue color that radiates on a sunny day. They are easy to enter the lakes with a kayak or canoe from the Waterfowl Lakes Campground. For optimal enjoyment consider camping on Waterfowl Lakes for a few days!
Peyto Lake (PEE-toh) is another glacier-fed lake in Banff National Park, and is a must-visit when driving the Icefields Parkway. Peyto has a unique shape that looks like a fox head, which you can easily see from the Peyto Lake viewpoint. The viewpoint takes under 10 minutes to get to, making it a great Alberta lake for people of all ages and abilities to see.
Sylvan Lake is only 25 kilometers from the town of Red Deer which makes it a popular spot for people from the city to head to in the summer.
This 15-kilometer long lake is a well-known recreational spot that offers fun boating opportunities as long as dragon boat racing and swimming, windsurfing, and water skiing!
Kananaskis Lakes make up two lakes (Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes) in Kananaskis Country. On a hot summer day in July or August, they are among some of the best places to head. There’s a beach area to lay a blanket down and enjoy the sunshine. There are also picnic benches nearby for the whole family.
Kananaskis Lakes is one of the best places to head in the Canadian Rockies for a paddle. Whether that be on a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard it’s super fun and not insanely windy or cold.
There is a large area to park and a boat launch here. Keep an eye out for the motorboats here, it’s one of the few lakes in the Rockies you can bring an engine boat on.
Spray Lakes are an amazing sight to see in Kananaskis Country. Though there’s not a great place to sunbathe here, this is a fantastic Alberta lake to bring your boat out on or go fishing from the shore on.
In the winter you can ice fish on the lake, or if you’re really lucky and catch Spray Lakes when they freeze over, but before the snow falls on the lake you can ice skate on it.
My favorite view of Spray Lakes however is from elevation. If you hike up Tent Ridge, West Wind Pass, Rimwall Summit, or Windtower
A Canmore locals favorite is Quarry Lake right outside of town. It’s a charming lake that is warm enough to swim in the summer, and small enough to walk around many times over. Come summertime it’s a popular hang-out spot as there are plenty of picnic benches to relax at and a nearby off-leash dog park.
I love venturing up to Rawson Lake in Kananaskis, mainly because you have to hike over 3 km to reach it, keeping crowds down.
Two Jack Lake
Another Banff favorite is Two Jack Lake right near the Town of Banff! While this lake isn’t like the other glacier-fed lakes in Banff it does have 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!
Pyramid Lake in Jasper National Park sits right under the iconic Pyramid Mountain. It’s a warm (for Alberta) lake to swim in and is not as wind-affected as other lakes nearby. The highlight of Pyramid Lake is Pyramid Island, which is a small island accessible by bridge from the road. If you are already paddling on the lake you can easily reach it by boat! It makes for stellar photographs during the winter and summer.
Lake Minnewanka is right near Two Jack Lake and is the largest lake in Banff National Park. It’s a huge mand made lake at 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 Gap. You can also rent your own motorboat here with friends.
Lake Minnewanka is often wind affected and very cold, meaning it’s not a great lake to paddle on or swim in.
Beauvert is one of the clearest, bluest lakes in all the Rockies. Seriously you can see straight to the bottom of this one! While it’s a bit too cold to ever take a swim in the Jasper Park Lodge has a boathouse that rents out canoes, paddleboards, and paddleboats.
While Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff, Maligne is the largest in Jasper. Maligne is a must-visit for anyone visiting Jasper as it’s glacial fed and bright blue in the summer. There’s a boathouse here where you can rent canoes and kayaks.
It’s also possible to take a Maligne Lake Boat Cruise to Spirit Island. As you may have guessed by its name, Spirit Island is a serene and revered place, especially to the area’s indigenous people. Due to its sacredness, the island is off limits, but boat tours are available which will take you close enough to appreciate its splendor.
For those who need a little more exertion and adventure, it’s possible to view the island by kayak or canoe; this option is only for the physically fit because the roundtrip is difficult to complete in a day and you’ll need to camp at one of the Jasper campsites nearby. In peak summer these campsites book up fast and well in advance, so if it’s on your wishlist to camp next to Spirit Island always check back with the Parks Canada camping reservation site.
While only 26% of Lake Athabasca is in Alberta (the rest is in Saskatchewan) I knew I still had to mention it on this list as it’s truly a sight to see. Mainly because at almost 2 million acres and a depth of 410 feet it is the largest and deepest lake in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the eighth largest in all of Canada!
Lake Athabasca is near Wood Buffalo National Park, which if you look at a map is pretty far up there near the NWT border. It’s a remote section of the world that is not so easy to get to with only lesser traveler access roads to get you there.
Vermilion Lakes are the closest lakes to the Town of Banff and a super popular Alberta lake to head for sunrise and sunset. If you are visiting Banff you literally cannot miss this lake as you can see it right from the TransCanada. It’s a marshy area that is fun to paddle around. There are a few boat docks in the area to enjoy with a drink in hand.
How Many Lakes are there in Alberta?
While Alberta is a landlocked province, one can always find a lakeshore to enjoy as there are over 600 lakes in Alberta!