30 BEAUTIFUL Banff Lakes You Have To Visit

The lakes in Banff are famed around the world for their natural beauty. That is an impressive feat in Canada, the country with the most significant amount of fresh water and the most lakes in the world. Banff National Park has no shortage of pristine wilderness and natural beauty, which includes its resplendent lakes.

You are spoilt for choice for lakes in the park and the greater Canadian Rockies. There is a little bit of everything with Banff lakes that feature scenic overlooks, lakes rich in wildlife, lakes perfect for canoeing, alpine lakes reached only by hiking, and lakes that shine a brilliant blue.

In this post, we share our absolute favorite Banff lakes that are worth checking out when you visit.

The Best Lakes in Banff

Moraine Lake

cameron canoeing on moraine lake with canadian flad

Moraine Lake is easily the most iconic lake in Canada, and the lake was even featured on the Canadian twenty-dollar bill. The brilliant turquoise color lake is set within a natural amphitheater called the Ten Peaks that tower above the lake. It is a magnificent sight to see in person, and there is hardly a more soul-stirring scene on earth. What’s better is getting out on a Moraine Lake hike to see the lake from above!

Moraine Lake is about an hour’s drive from Banff town and only twenty minutes further than Lake Louise. With its rising popularity and millions of Instagram location tags, you used to have to arrive around 5 a.m. to grab a parking spot between June and September. Now, private vehicles are no longer allowed at Moraine Lake, and there are new ways to get there, like the Moraine Lake Shuttle.

Once you reach Moraine Lake you’ll realize that all the effort was worth it, and it will without a doubt take your breath away. Once there hike up the Rockpile Trail for an even better view, after consider renting a canoe to paddle under the peaks.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise is so Blue

Lake Louise has been drawing visitors to the Canadian Rockies for over a century. The alpine lake in Banff National Park is a wild turquoise blue color fed by glacier melt and set by a backdrop of Mount Vicotria and a hanging glacier.

This pristine piece of wilderness draws in millions of visitors a year. It is the premier destination in Banff National Park, with a historic luxury hotel and an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy.

lake louise in the winter
Lake Louise in winter

No matter how often we visit Lake Louise, our opinion has never soured. It’s hard to find a more majestic and awe-inspiring place in the world than Lake Louise. After taking in the spectacular scenery, go for a Lake Louise hike, climb, ski, or canoe in Banff National Park.

Lake Louise in the summer is an image that will last with you for a lifetime. That being said, visiting the lake requires a bit of work, much like Moraine Lake. See all the parking information for Lake Louise.

Peyto Lake

natasha at peyto lake at sunset

Peyto Lake (PEE-toh) is another glacier-fed lake in Banff National Park. Peyto Lake is right off the Icefields Parkway and a must along the famed highway. It’s the perfect place to come and enjoy the stellar Banff National Park views in both winter and summer. This is the third most popular lake to visit in Banff, after Louise and Moraine. The reason is its unique shape, absolutely mind-blowingly blue water, and the scenic overlook that is easily accessible from the parking lot.

peyto lake at sunset

Peyto Lake’s whole area was closed for improvements for almost two years, but thankfully it is open now for all visitors to enjoy! They even have a handicap-accessible section that allows the mobility impaired to witness this jaw-dropping landscape.

Bow Lake

Bow Lake

Bow Lake is another stunner, a brilliant aquamarine color on a summer day. Its scale is impressive, as it’s one of the largest in the park, and the giant mountains surrounding it humble visitors with their scale. It makes an excellent place for a nice picnic or paddle (if you have your own watercraft), or you can hike to incredible Bow Glacier Falls, one of our favorite waterfalls in Alberta.

Bow Lake in winter
Bow Lake in winter

From the shore, you have terrific views of the Bow Glacier, which feeds the lake in the summer months and is the source of the Bow River. That same river serves as a notable feature throughout much of the park, moving through Banff and onto Calgary before ending in Southern Alberta, where it joins the Saskatchewan River.

Lake Minnewanka

lake minnewanka at sunset

One of the top things to do in Banff National Park is to stroll along or take a boat ride on Lake Minnewanka. Lake Minnewanka is just a ten-minute drive away from the town of Banff and the largest lake in the park.

This man-made lake is 21 km long and 142 meters deep and helps power Banff with hydroelectric power. You can also hop on popular boat cruises that will take you to the lake’s start, called the Devil’s Gap.

Lake Minnewanka in winter
Lake Minnewanka in winter

In the summer, it’s a busy place to hike, picnic, and go canoeing, and in the winter, it’s a sight to behold. The mountains towering over Lake Minnewanka are seriously impressive all year round. Oh yea – fun Canada fact – and there’s also a Canadian resort ghost town under the lake.

Two Jack Lake

two jack lake at sunset

Another fantastic lake in Banff is Two Jack. Two Jack Lake is a picturesque emerald green lake in Banff National Park with an impressive view of Mount Rundle. The sweeping landscape attracts both visitors and locals searching for some fresh air. Its easy accessibility from the town of Banff makes it a great place to catch sunset or sunrise with a cup of coffee.

two jack lake in december
ice skating on Two Jack Lake in winter

Two Jack Lake is always a great stop in Banff, no matter the season. During summer, visitors can enjoy swimming, kayaking, stand-up paddleboard, and hiking. In the winter, it’s a great lake to ice skate on, take some photographs, or snowshoe along the surrounding trails. The Two Jack Lake Campground is one of the most popular Banff campsites, providing spectacular lake access.

Johnson Lake

johnston lake in november with an amazing sunset
ice skating on Johnson Lake with the most amazing sunset

Johnson Lake is one of our favorites because it’s often overlooked by the more popular Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka, making it a bit quite and more of a “locals” lake. Take a pleasant stroll around Johnson Lake and enjoy the mountain scenery. It’s a straightforward walk with an even elevation and makes for a great evening or morning walk as it’s not too far from the Town of Banff and very close to Two Jack Lake campsite.

Swimming in Johnson Lake in the summer
Swimming in Johnson Lake in the summer

The trail works its way through the forest and offers some astounding views out over the lake back to Cascade Mountain, looming high above. The lake is tranquil and a great place to go stand up paddleboarding or even take a swim if you’re brave enough. Keep an eye out for a rope swing! PS this can be one of the best lakes to ice skate on in the winter.

Vermilion Lakes

Vermilion Lakes Sunset Couple

Vermilion Lakes is largely a marsh, so it doesn’t hold the brilliant blue waters like many of the other lakes around Banff, but it still makes for an incredible place to enjoy the park. These Banff lakes are well protected by the winds, and the shallow water means that the waters remain calm on most days, so it’s a more accessible place to canoe, kayak, or SUP in Banff.

The Vermilion Lakes are prime habitats for wildlife and a well-known spot for birders. We’ve personally seen beavers, bald eagles, owls, elk, muskrats, buffleheads, and herons. The docks also make it easy to enter the water, and you don’t even have to get your feet wet.


If we’re looking for a quick and easy sunset spot in Banff, we’ll usually head to Vermilion Lakes. It’s a reliable sunrise and sunset spot, and it’s hard to get sick of Mount Rundle ahead of you!

Waterfowl Lakes

Waterfowl Lakes

The Waterfowl Lakes are two peaceful lakes in the park that see a fraction of the visitors you’ll see the other lakes on this list. They’re also very conveniently on either side of the Waterfowl Lakes Campground, which we consider one of the best campsites in Banff. The two Banff lakes are glacial and have the classic blue color that radiates on a sunny day.

Waterfowl Lakes

Even if you’re not staying at the campground, there is a public parking lot that provides access to hiking trails around the lake and a classic Banff hike up to Chephren Lake.

Chephren Lake

Natasha at Chephren-Lake
Freezing in Chephren Lake in July

Chephren Lake sits at the base of Mount Chephren and requires a short hike to get to from Waterfowl Lakes Campground, but this lake is so worth the hike! Since you have to hike 7 km and 80 meters, not many people venture out to it, meaning it is super quiet. Once you arrive at the lake, you’ll be met with yet another picture-perfect glacial lake. I would allow at least a 2-hour stop to do this hike and actually enjoy Chephren Lake.

The hike is pretty mild up to the lake so we’ve been debating carrying our inflatable paddle boards up in backpacks to Chephren Lake; I’ll update you if we make the trek with the boards!

Consolation Lakes

Consolation Lake in Banff

This is a family favorite as it is an easy hike that can be paired with a visit to Moraine Lake. It’s an excellent step up from just walking along the Moraine Lakeshore Trail, as the terrain is more difficult with more significant elevation gain and a short section that crosses over a boulder field.

Along the hike, you get views of the scree slopes from the Tower of Babel. The hike passes through the old-growth forest before arriving at an alpine field and wetlands with the Consolation Lakes at its end.

You get tremendous views of the backside of the Ten Peaks, Mount Babbel, and Mount Fay, topped by glaciers from the lakes. The lakes may not be the same brilliant color as Moraine, but they do have some light teal color that is brilliant in its own right.

Helen Lake

Natasha admiring The view over Helen Lake
The view over Helen Lake

Helen Lake is a beautiful Banff lake along the Icefields Parkway, and the hike starts across the Parkway from Bow Lake. To get to Helen Lake, you must hike in on a moderate trail for 6km (one way). The trail is well-maintained and absolutely stunning, with views of mountains and blooming wildflowers everywhere!

Bring lunch here, enjoy the views, and keep an eye out for hoary marmots. Due to the stunning alpine meadow views out to Mount Hector, the hike can draw a crowd, so be prepared for limited parking.

Rockbound Lake

Rockbound Lake

Rockbound Lake is one of our favorite lakes in Banff because it’s easy to find some peace and quiet if you climb up past the lake and look down. The views also continue to open up and provide some jaw-dropping views of the Bow Valley.

The trail spends a lot of time in the forest, but once you ascend a series of steep switchbacks, you arrive at Tower Lake, and the views really open up. Further past another series of switchbacks, you arrive at Rockbound Lake, which is flanked by steep cliffs and looks out to extraordinary views.

For a truly epic day, you can summit Castle Mountain by continuing past the lake or Helena Peak. That being said, it’s a very demanding day at 27km and 1,540 meters of elevation gain.

Herbert Lake

Sunrise at Herbert Lake
Sunrise at Herbert Lake

Herbert Lake is a small lake just off the Icefields Parkway which you can find on your left hand side not long after you pass the park gates from Lake Louise. Its location and the fact that it’s not considered a big highlight in Banff means the lake remains quiet throughout the summer.

However, the lake is gorgeous and has some phenomenal mountain views from its waters. A picnic area right along the lake shores makes putting a SUP or kayak in the water easy. While you’re paddling around, keep an eye out as there is a diving board; if you’re brave enough to take a dip in the frigid waters — make sure you pick a warm day.

Boom Lake

Boom Lake in Banff

This is one of those lakes that can only be reached via a hike and, when compared to the other lakes in Banff, feels like an undiscovered gem. It’s a sub-alpine lake that is set beneath the dramatic mountain face of Boom Mountain on the border with British Columbia.

A pristine forest surrounds the lake, and you can spot a large hanging glacier at the far end of the lake. Chimney Peak and Quadra Mountain are the two other notable mountains that flank Boom Lake.

Vista Lake

Vista Lake
Overlooking Vista Lake

Vista Lake is located right off the Banff Windermere Highway before you cross into Kootenay National Park. Vista Lake is an excellent lake to check out because you can literally do so from right off the highway.

There’s a small parking area for Vista Lake on the left-hand side of the road when driving from Banff to Radium Hot Springs. Keep an eye out for it once you pass Storm Mountain Lodge.

Once you park, all you have to do is get out of the car for an awesome viewpoint of Vista Lake. However, it’s just a short 1km hike down to the lake should you want to see it up close, which is well worth the effort and an easy hike in Banff. That being said, make sure to take a photograph from above, we found this vantage point much more beautiful.

Arnica Lake

Arnica Lake-Banff
Arnica Lake in late September – can you spot me?

If you hike down to Vista Lake and have the energy for more, continue on to Arnica Lake. This 10km (out and back) hike is well worth the effort, especially if you visit Banff in September during the larch season.

The whole area is surrounded by beautiful larch trees that turn golden the last few weeks of September, making it a great place to hike. It’s a relatively simple hike in Banff that is sure to get you a bit off the beaten path. It’s not typically a commonly thought of lake in Banff, but I promise you won’t be disappointed here.

Lake Agnes

Lake Agnes at sunset

The hike to the Lake Agnes Teahouse is a classic in Banff National Park. It begins at Lake Louise and has grown to be one of the most popular hikes in the park. The trail provides access to stunning natural landscapes and finishes at a historic teahouse on Lake Agnes where you can enjoy a tea and pastry yourself

The Lake Agnes Teahuose has a rich history and dates back to 1901. The name itself takes the name of Canada’s first First Lady, Lady Agnes MacDonald. It’s a stunning alpine lake set inside a breathtaking cirque formed by the peaks of Mt Saint Piran, Niblock, and Whyte.

Taylor Lake


Taylor Lake sits at the base of Mt. Bell and offers spectacular views. It’s a really serene place and a fantastic day out in the mountains for active visitors to Banff who don’t mind hiking.

Taylor Lake in Winterr
Taylor Lake is a great snowshoe in the winter

We’ve been up to Taylor Lake in the larch season and in the winter for some ski touring, but it also makes a great snowshoe or winter hike. It’s a very popular hike that is exceptional during the summer and fall. In late September it’s a popular larch hike as there are thousands of larches around the lake.

Continue on the trail and enjoy the nearby Panorama Meadows. The widely spaced trees and elevation provide great views of the valley below. The downside of this hike is that the vast majority occurs in the forest, so there isn’t much for views until the end. It’s a great payoff, though!

Bourgeau Lake

Bourgeau Lake
Looking down on Bourgeau Lake

Bourgeau Lake is set within a massive amphitheater of limestone, and the summit of Mount Bourgeau looms high overhead. Keep an eye out for marmots that are found around the lake and the nearby meadow.

Mount Bourgeau is a great trail for hikers looking to have a full day out and one of our favorites in all of Banff. The first section is straightforward to follow the well-maintained trail that is 7.4 km to Bourgeau Lake.

There is nothing abundantly difficult about this section, and it’s all a gradual uphill climb to Bourgeau Lake. With an elevation of 750 meters, it’s appropriate and short enough for a moderate hiker to enjoy. However, the real views open up after you pass the lake and continue on to Harvey Pass. The mountain pass unveils massive alpine meadows of wildflowers and stunning views of the Monarch Ramps and Mount Assiniboine.

Hector Lake

Hector Lake
Hector Lake seen from the summit of Mt Little Hector

Hector Lake lake is one of the best Icefields Parkway hikes you can enjoy. Hector Lake doesn’t get visited as much as many of the other lakes on the Icefields Parkway simply because you have to hike 2.2 km to reach it.

This deters many people, but in fact, it’s very short and well worth it to see this glacial-fed lake. If you don’t want to hike to it no worries – there’s a pullover viewpoint, but it has partially obstructed views. Be forwarned, Hector Lake is very easy to miss if you’re not paying attention for the lookout or the trail access!

The photo above is taken from the Mt Little Hector summit, which is a moderate scramble, but gives excellent vantage points over the lake.

Lake Annette

Lake Annette
A lone larch tree at Annette Lake

Annette Lake is in the Moraine Lake/Lake Louise area. It sits right under Little Temple; from it you’ll have some amazing views of the famous Mount Temple. To get here is a half-day hike from Moraine Lake Rd.

However we think it’s best seen when hiking the Paradise Valley Trail between Moraine Lake and Lake Louise (20km point-to-point hike); however, it is possible to see it with just an 11km hike and under 400 meters of gain from the Paradise Valley Trailhead. In other words, you have to put some work in to get here, but your reward is a crowdless lake in Banff National Park.

Ptarmigan Lake

Ptarmigan Lake

Ptarmigan Lake is a stunning alpine lake at the foot of Ptarmigan Peak. It’s in the backcountry, and to access it, you’ll need to hike 9 km (one way) from the Skoki Lodge car park. However, we’ve done the hike several times and have never been disappointed.

It’s best to plan a camping trip back in the Skoki Valley to really appreciate the surroundings. I mean it when I say this is one of the prettiest areas I’ve been in Banff. There are several backcountry campgrounds around Baker Lake (close by) and even an awesome Banff cabin – the Skoki Ski Lodge just over Deception Pass. Once you get to Ptarmigan Lake, there are so many fantastic hiking and scrambling opportunities!

Skoki Lakes

The Skoki Valley in the larch season
The Skoki Valley in the larch season

I hesitate to put Skoki Lakes on this list as they are unspoiled. Compared to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise they see hardly any visitors. Though to reach Skoki Lakes 0 or Zigadenus Lake and Myosotis Lake – will require you to put some true work in.

Skoki Lakes

To reach these magnificently blue Banff lakes will require hikers to make it to Ptarmigan Lake, and then up Deception Pass, and continue hiking to Skoki Lakes. Altogether, it is easily a 30+km day, so these lakes are best seen by staying at Skoki Lodge or backcountry camping in the Skoki Valley.

These are some of the bluest lakes in Alberta I have seen, rivaling Peyto and Lake Louise. The only difference is you’ll likely be the only one at these lakes. It’s a great thing to do in Banff in the fall, as the colors back here are out of this world.

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake is not in Banff but in neighboring Yoho National Park, making it one of the best lakes near Banff. Given its close proximity, accessibility, and natural beauty, it felt wrong not to include it. Emerald Lake is a stunning lake and makes for a great family-friendly day out.

It’s the largest lake in Yoho National Park, and when you see the color of the water, it’s easy to see where the lake received its name. The sparkling emerald color lake is a stunning sight and one of the premier attractions in Yoho National Park.

A walk around the lake is fantastic as you view the lake from different angles with a background of various mountains. The trail follows along the lakeshore and moves in and out of the forest. Its beauty can only be matched by Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

Lake O Hara

Lake O Hara - Opabin plateau viewpoint
Opabin plateau viewpoint

I know, I know, Lake O Hara is not in Banff, or even an Alberta Lake for that matter. However, it is in the Rockies and is one of the most stunning lakes I have ever seen.

Not only is the lake mesmerizing, but the whole area is truly pristine. To reach Lake O Hara, you’ll have to score backcountry camp permits, a bus shuttle, or hike 11km on an access road. All will require work though, because reserving a Lake O Hara campsite is no easy feat.

mcarthur lake yoho
Lake McArthur – don’t skip it

Once back here, you’ll have access to plenty of hiking trails from the Obapin Plateau to Lake McArthur.

Canmore Lakes to Visit

Ha Ling Mountain in Canmore
Quarry Lake at Sunset

Just next to the town of Banff is the wonderful town of Canmore. In Canmore and around the area are a plethora of lakes I love to visit. A few of my favorite Canmore lakes are:

  • Quarry Lake: A local favorite in Canmore as it’s a serene setting to walk around the lake and take in the views of Ha Ling Peak. There’s a dog park nearby, which keeps this area busy. On weekends in the summer, it stays exceptionally busy with Calgarians coming to enjoy nature.
  • Canmore Reservoir: Right up the road from Quarry Lake is the Canmore Reservoir. It’s my favorite place to stand up paddle board as the water is almost always calm and well-protected. The views of the Little Sister and Ha Ling Peak are out of this world.
  • Whitemans Pond: Across the road from the start of the EEOR scramble is this pond that sits right under Ha Ling. There aren’t many places to lounge around here, but it makes for a great stop before driving down the Smith Dorrien Road.
  • Goat Pond: Along the Smith Dorrien is this wonderful “pond” (though it’s really quite large) that is ideal for kayaking, canoeing, and even ice skating in the winter.

Things to do in Banff

Natasha Hiking Sentinel Pass
Hiking Sentinel Pass

If you are looking for the best things to do in Banff, we have you covered! We visited this little mountain town a few years back and fell in love so much that we decided to move to the Canadian Rockies.

There’s really nowhere quite as remarkable as Banff National Park. Whether it’s the winter or summer in Banff there is so much to do in Banff it’s impossible to get bored. We could spend a lifetime exploring these spectacular mountains.

Where to Eat in Banff

the best banff restaurants

Seeking out the best restaurants in Banff or wondering where you should eat in Banff after seeing all these Banff lakes? We share our favorite spots in the picturesque mountain town. While most mountain towns might struggle to supply visitors with a wide selection of restaurants, that is certainly not the case in Banff.

You can find a wide range of cuisines, restaurants, price points, and places to eat in Banff. It’s the perfect place to fill yourself up after a long day out exploring the wild Canadian Rockies.

The Best Places to Stay in Banff

the rimrock
the moose
banff caribou

Best Banff Lakes Map

Hopefully, this helped you determine what Banff lakes you want to visit! If you have any other questions leave a comment or see our Canadian Rockies travel guide for more articles about photography spots, lakes, hikes, and everything else.

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About Cameron

Cameron is a resident of Canmore, Alberta. After traveling the world for six years, he settled down in the beautiful Bow Valley with Natasha. He has been featured as a travel expert with numerous publications worldwide and has spoken on several occasions about the power of travel. He has a passion for all things in the Canadian Rockies and loves to spend his time snowboarding, scrambling, camping, biking, and trail running. Conservation is a deep fundamental in his life, and he aims to inspire others to care about our natural world. You can learn more on the about us page.

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