Looking for the best Moraine Lake hikes? We share the most popular hikes around the lake and all of the details in this guide to experience the best hikes around Moraine Lake.
I’ve attempted to rank these Lake Moraine hikes in difficulty based on my own personal experience on them. If you want to add some more hikes to your Banff itinerary, check out our list of the best Banff hikes.
All of these Moraine Lake hiking trails actually start right from Moraine Lake and are certain to have views of the stunning turquoise lake, Valley of Ten Peaks, surrounding mountains, and awe-inspiring glaciers.
- When is the Best Time to Visit Moraine Lake?
- Everything You Need to Know About Canoeing on Moraine Lake
- A Guide to Visiting Canada’s Most Beautiful Lake
- Best Lakes in Banff You Have To Visit
Amazing Moraine Lake Hikes
Moraine Lake Shore Trail
- Trailhead: Begins at the canoe docks.
- Distance: 2.9 km
- Elevation: 162 meters
- Time: 45 to 60 minutes (return)
Anyone visiting Moraine Lake should embark on this easy Moraine Lake trail. This flat trail from the Canoe docks works its way along the lake’s shoreline and back. It’s a wonderful trail that moves in and out of the forest with great lake views and mountains.
You’ll be shocked at how few visitors to Moraine Lake venture on this trail. Instead, most just stick to the Rockpile trail, get their photo, and leave. However, you’ll find fewer crowds and still spectacular scenery on just this short trail around the lake.
It’s the easiest Moraine Lake trail that almost any visitor to the lake can accomplish. At the end of the hike is a boardwalk near the waters flowing down from Wenkchemna Pass.
Consolation Lakes Trail
- Trailhead: Begins from the Rockpile Trail
- Distance: 5.8 km
- Elevation: 255 meters
- Time: 1.5 to 2 hours (return)
This is a family favorite in Banff as it can be paired with the Moraine Lake Rockpile, and it’s pretty easy with a little elevation gain. It’s an excellent step up from the Lakeshore Trail as the terrain is more difficult with greater elevation gain and a short section that crosses over a boulder field. You also get the bonus of seeing Consolation Lakes in addition to Moraine Lake.
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 the end. You get tremendous views of the backside of the Ten Peaks Mount Babbel and Mount Fay, topped by glaciers from the lakes.
Eiffel Lake Trail
- Trailhead: Begins at canoe docks
- Distance: 11.7 km
- Elevation: 570 meters
- Time: 3 to 4 hours
Witness amazing views of the Valley of Ten Peaks as you climb to two mesmerizing glacial lakes on the Continental Divide. The trail from Moraine Lake is pretty easy to follow up to the fork for Eiffel Lake or Sentinel Pass.
The route up to the fork is pretty demanding as it climbs 350m at a relatively high grade for about 40 minutes. From the fork, you take the less-traveled path to the Eiffel Lakes (there’s a sign ensuring you don’t miss it). Past the lakes lies Wenkchemna Pass Trail that passes through the mountains into Yoho National Park. The top of the pass provides stunning views of the Ten Peaks.
- Trailhead: Begins at canoe docks
- Distance: 19.4 km
- Elevation: 929 meters
- Time: 6-8 hours
Up for a challenging longer hike past Eiffel Lake? Consider trekking beyond Eiffel Lake to reach Wenkchemna Pass. On this trail, you’ll cross a beautiful alpine meadow and then ascend a rocky slope. Most of the trail is pretty easy going, but the last bit to the pass will have you panting a bit. The last stretch involves a relatively effortless scramble, though it’s easy to lose sight of the path as you make your way over some large boulders.
At the top, you’ll find yourself standing on the Continental Divide, with a breathtaking view of British Columbia to the west and the majestic length o the Valley of the Ten Peaks, and the rocky expanse of the Wenkchemna Glacier.
This is a great Moraine Lake hike if you are up for a full day adventure out. As it’s nearly 20km (round trip) and almost 1000 meters of elevation gain you should prepare accordingly and bring plenty of snacks/lunch.
Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley
- Trailhead: Begins at canoe docks
- Distance: 10.9 km
- Elevation: 792 meters
- Time: 2.5 to 4 hours
This is the quintessential Canadian Rockies hike. It’s fairly challenging, hugely popular, and offers some of Canada’s most stunning natural scenery. This Moraine Lake hike follows a similar route at the Eiffel Lakes hike but departs at the fork before it veers up into the Larch Valley.
The pass is most well known and attracts hundreds of photographers and hikers during the larch season in late September, so don’t expect to be here alone. For the best chance at a quiet experience hike this one on a weekday or start at sunrise.
During the larch period, the valley trees turn to a bright golden color, and the mountains are topped with the first signs of the new season’s snow. It’s a soul-stirring scene that can easily be considered one of the best day hikes in the world.
Paradise Valley Trail
- Trailhead: Moraine Lake canoe docks, or at Lake Louise
- Distance: 20 km
- Elevation: 800 meters if going from Moraine Lake to Lake Louise
- Time: 6-8 hours
If the Larch Valley trail up to Sentinel Pass is a bit too crowded for you, we have got a great idea for you. However, it requires strong legs and some surefootedness as this hike is a pretty long day.
The Paradise Valley Trail connects Moraine Lake to Lake Louise and is a 20km point-to-point hike. In 2020 we only had one car, so couldn’t complete this hike even though it had been on our list for years. However in past years, with the Moraine Lake shuttle bus system, we could easily grab the shuttle to Moraine Lake from the Park and Ride, and once we reached Lake Louise, we caught the shuttle back.
The hike was exactly what we were looking for. Although the hike up to Sentinel Pass was busy in September, as soon as we dropped down into Paradise Valley, it was exactly like we expected – humanless.
This trail is best done in the larch changing season as you’ll see plenty of golden larches on the route. Stopping at Lake Annette is a real treat and a good place to recharge and eat lunch on your journey between lakes.
You can complete the Paradise Valley trail from Moraine Lake to Lake Louise or vice versa. I recommend starting at Moraine Lake, so then you can hike down into Paradise Valley rather than hike up to Sentinel Pass.
Bear in mind that the terrain connecting Sentinel Pass to Paradise Valley is pretty rough and requires good shoes and surefootedness. There was a light dusting of snow when we completed this and we were extremely thankful we had poles.
- Trailhead: Paradise Valley Trailhead off Lake Moraine Rd.
- Distance: 11.4 km
- Elevation: 392 meters
- Time: 3-4 hours
I mentioned Lake Annette above and that’s because if you hike the Paradise Valley trail you’ll hit Lake Annette. However if you don’t want to commit to the entire Paradise Valley trail, it’s possible to hike just to Lake Annette from Moraine Lake Rd.
Look for the trailhead to the Paradise Valley Trail/Lake Annette right off of Moraine Lake Rd. The Moraine Lake shuttle makes a stop here, just inform the bus driver if you intend to get off here. The trail in Lake Annette is an easy to moderate one with less than 400 meters of gradual elevation gain. You’ll be in the forest for most of the trail, but you’ll get some stunner views of Mount Temple.
Once you reach Lake Annette, sit back and take in the most majestic views of the Rockies. Mount Temple is to your right, and Little Temple is directly in front of you.
Saddleback Pass/Sheol Valley
- Trailhead: Lake Louise, or Lake Annette, or Moraine Lake depending on which way you hike it.
- Distance: 14 km (many variations that make distance hard to determine)
- Elevation: 500 meters give or take depending on how you take this trail
- Time: 3-6 hours
The Saddleback Pass hike is an uncrowded hike in the Moraine Lake/Lake Louise area that is always forgotten about. I’m pretty happy about that because it’s a stunner and really let us escape the crowds.
This hike is best done from Lake Louise, but we connected it with our long day on the Paradise Valley Trail, so we included it in our Moraine Lake hikes list.
Saddleback Pass is one of the best larch hikes in the area; from Lake Louise, you’ll start towards the trail to the Fairview Lookout and up continue on the trail up to summit Fairview Mountain. From the pass, you’ll enjoy views of Mount Temple, Haddo Peak, and Sheol Mountain.
When you get to the top of the pass, there is signage to continue through Saddleback Pass to the Sheol Valley, or you can continue up Saddle Mountain (easy mountain summit) or Mount Fairview (scree slog). All are great quiet options that you could hit on a single day if you have the time.
We highly recommend taking the Sheol Valley Trail that loops around Saddle Mountain on a well-distinguished trail until you make it back to the lake connector trail.
As mentioned, we had a long 24 km day that allowed us to cross Saddleback Pass off the list. With a start at Moraine Lake, up to Sentinel Pass, through the Paradise Valley Trail to Lake Annette, and onwards through the Sheol Valley to Saddleback Pass, up to summit Saddle Mountain and down to the Lake Louise Chateau, it made for very long, but utterly epic day in Banff.
Hiking Gear We Recommend for the Rockies
The vast majority of hikes and easy scrambles in the Rockies, you’ll find us in our trusty Salomon Speedcross.
Arc’teryx Cerium is our pick for the best down jacket. It’s incredibly light, and we bring it on almost every hike in the Rockies.
This nifty clip from Peak Design secures a camera to my backpack strap for easy reach. No more digging in the backpack!
A pair of durable and lightweight hiking poles are a great asset on the hiking trail.
20L feels like the ideal size for quick hikes and scrambles. We love the Nano from Gregory with a hydration reservoir.
There is not much cell service in the Canadian Rockies. In case of emergencies, we carry an emergency beacon with GPS.
Scrambles Around Moraine Lake
This is for experienced hikers and people who have spent their fair share of time in the outdoors. These are easy to moderate scrambles but occur on very serious mountains with real hazards that can result in death.
Every year tourists are evacuated by Search and Rescue on one, if not all, of these hikes/routes. If you plan to tackle any of these, please plan accordingly and be prepared for the elements.
An “easy” scramble can easily become hard or even a mountaineering experience if the weather is not ideal. Also, wear a helmet to protect yourself from the loose rock.
Tower of Babel
- Trailhead: Begins at Rockpile Trail
- Distance: 2.9 km
- Elevation: 518 meters
- Time: 2.5 to 4 hours
This is the most well-known scramble in the Moraine Lake area, and it’s appropriate for entry-level scramblers. You’re guaranteed some awesome views too of Moraine Lake, Consolation Valley, and the Bow Valley. Tower of Babel is a sub-peak that’s pretty easy to access.
The route heads up a gully right off of Moraine Lake and has a steep, consistent climb to the top. It’s a bit of a scree bash (loose rock), but it’s a pretty well-worn trail due to its popularity. It’s a tough workout for novice hikers who may underestimate the 518m climb to the top as it’s literally straight up.
The biggest threat on this route is a loose rock falling down the gully from a party above; I strongly recommend wearing a helmet! It’s also best to start early and to try to be one of the first to the top in the morning, so you don’t have loose rock falling on you from hikers above.
Don’t look at the elevation and length and take this Moraine Lake trail lightly. However since it’s a quick route, you can opt for a light backpack, like a trail runner pack to go with you to the top.
The reward at the top of the Tower of Babel is some amazing views of Moraine Lake and Mount Temple. It’s probably one of the best views for the effort required in all of Banff.
- Trailhead: Begins at canoe dock
- Distance: 11.3 km
- Elevation: 1,270 meters
- Time: 5 – 8 hours
The climb to the top of Eiffel Peak is one of our favorite Moraine Lake hikes. It’s an amazing hike with astounding views of Paradise Valley, Valley of the Ten Peaks, Mount Temple and Moraine Lake. At 10,095 ft in elevation, it’s no little mountain and is one of the highest in the region.
The views at the top are astounding at the summit and it’s a worthy challenge for hikers and scramblers. Next to Mt. Temple, it’s one of the highest mountains in the area you can climb without mountaineering or rock climbing experience. That being said, it’s a moderate scramble as the elevation and the use of hands are real considerations you shouldn’t take lightly.
- Trailhead: Moraine Lake Parking Lot
- Distance: 14.6 km
- Elevation: 1,682
- Time: 8-12 hours
Mount Temple is a source of accomplishment for many hikers and scramblers who enjoy the Canadian Rockies. It’s a gorgeous mountain in Banff and an endless source of inspiration in the Canadian Rockies. At 11,627 ft in elevation, it’s the second-highest mountain in Alberta.
It’s well known as a proving ground for various sports, whether that’s a hike/scramble to the summit, ski descent of the Aemmer Couloir, or climb up the East face.
The scramble is a gorgeous day out in the mountains, and at 1,682 meters in elevation gain along with high altitude make this a very serious mountain that only people with experience scrambling in the Canadian Rockies should attempt. It’s a long day out and needs to be summited at the right time of year.
Typically Mount Temple has a very short window for summiting as scramblers have to wait for the snow to melt off enough for a safe summit and also time it right before the next season’s snowfall in late September/October.
If you hope to summit Mount Temple, August would be the best time, but it’s essential to keep an eye out on trip reports before attempting. There have been avoidable deaths on Mount Temple, and we must repeat again, that Mount Temple is not a hike.
Moraine Lake Parking / How to Get to Moraine Lake
Personal vehicles are no longer able to drive up to Moraine Lake. The Moraine Lake Parking lot is reserved for the Parks Canada shuttle, taxis, and private tour operators only.
Tours to Moraine Lake
Now that personal vehicles are no longer allowed at Moraine Lake, a plethora of tour operators have popped up. Here are some popular options:
- 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 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
Where to Stay at Moraine Lake?
There aren’t many places to stay at Moraine Lake. Actually, there is only one place to stay on the stunning lake – the Moraine Lake Lodge. Recently renovated and open for guests in 2022 after two years of closure, the Moraine Lake Lodge is accepting bookings.
You won’t forget your time here if you can score a reservation and dish out the $1000+ a night. There’s something special about being some of the only people to watch the night sky on top of the Rockpile trail – and then getting to retreat back to your luxurious room when you get cold.
If you want to stay at Moraine Lake Lodge you also get access to park at Moraine Lake. It’s recommended to book well in advance as Moraine Lake Lodge sells out well in advance, for obvious reasons.
When is the Best Time to Complete These Moraine Lake Hikes?
Moraine Lake is only accessible once Parks Canada opens Moraine Lake Rd. This typically happens around the last week of May or first week of June, this year it is set to open on June 1st. Moraine Lake Rd will stay open until the second week of October. It usually closes the Tuesday after Canadian Thanksgiving, but this all depends on snow conditions.
Seeing that Moraine Lake is only open between June and mid-October, this would be the best time to go and the only times to hike around Moraine Lake. If you’re really determined you can bike to Moraine Lake before the road opens to vehicles, usually around the last week of May, and complete a hike like Consolation Lakes or scramble Tower of Babel, but you must be wary of avalanche conditions during this time.
My favorite times to visit are July, August, and late September for the larches in Larch Valley. However, these time periods are also the busiest times in the park.
Advice on Hikes in the Canadian Rockies
- If this is your first time hiking in the Rockies take a conservative approach. Pick an adequate hike for your fitness, plan for plenty of time, pack water and food, and don’t be afraid to turn around. If you want to learn more about what to wear hiking we have a great post.
- For long hikes, set a turnaround time at the departure. Any time we set out for an objective I determine a time at which we need to turn around in order to arrive at the parking lot or campsite by dark. I would recommend not hiking in the dark as it’s easy to get lost and it’s not fun in bear country.
- Always carry bear spray if you plan to hike in the park. We carry ours in the neighborhood and bears have been known to stroll through town and busy parking lots. Always practice wildlife awareness when you’re on a trail, and please give animals space.
- Keep in mind your mountain fitness in mind — as it’s different than the gym. The low end of the times in this post is a constant fast pace uphill with little to no breaks and a brisk pace downhill. Most hikers should plan for a middle of the road time with the estimated duration.
- A GPS tracker could save your life – it’s one of those backpacking essentials I like to have on me just in case I need to hit SOS.
- Alltrails is our favorite app to have on a hike. It shows the correct trail way, elevation, and other hiker reviews. Keep in mind it’s not always 100% accurate, and you’ll have to combine using it with a bit of your hiker and wilderness skills and common sense, but it’s a great tool to use with other guidebooks and trip reports, and we love that we can access it right on our phone. We paid the subscription fee so that we could download all the data we needed to our phones.
Other Banff National Park Hikes
Of course, there are so many more hikes in Banff and tons of exploring. We have a great guide, if you’re looking for some easy Banff hikes for the family, see here.
You’ll find on many of these hikes in Banff high alpine passes lined with wildflowers, jagged peaks topped by glaciers, and a healthy dose of turquoise blue Banff lakes.
↓ Join the community ↓
The Banff Blog Facebook Group is your headquarters for the Canadian Rockies’ travel advice and information. Including hike info and off-season travel information. You can also meet new adventure buddies.
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.
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Pack for the Rockies: See our complete Alberta packing list here.
- Get Around: We suggest either renting a car to get around, you can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip with companies like 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!
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out HeyMondo, which offers competitive rates for all travelers.