Can You Visit Moraine Lake in May?

So you’ve booked your trip to Banff during the wonderful month of May. However, upon further research after booking, you realize that Moraine Lake Road does not typically open until June 1st. It’s a story we hear often. As visitors are nailing down their final plans, one of our most asked questions in April is how to get to Moraine Lake in May.

Depending on your perspective, I have good and bad news for you. The good news is that you can still get to Moraine Lake in May! The bad news is that it will require extra effort to get to a place that already requires plenty of effort. Let’s break it down!

About Visiting Banff in May

Natasha at Two Jack Lake in May
Two Jack Lake in May

We’ve had readers ask us if they should rebook their trip or if they made a mistake planning it in May. If this is you, let me stress that you did not make a mistake! While May is a month when the seasons change, it can be quite a lovely and quieter option compared to the peak summer months. Plus, near the month’s end, it feels like summer.

Summer attractions are opening, lakes are thawing, the peaks are covered in snow, and the grass is getting greener and greener. Most importantly, though, the summer crowds have yet to descend upon Banff, and you can still get some great shoulder season pricing on hotels – yay! If you are wondering exactly what May is like, read this article.

Is Moraine Lake Road Open in May?

An Empty Moraine Lake Rd Before It Opens For The Season
Moraine Lake Rd

Every year is different, but Parks Canada has not opened Moraine Lake Road until June 1st for the past few years. 2024 is no different. The road to Moraine Lake is set to open on June 1st and close on October 15th, 2024.

Once Parks Canada sets a date, it’s highly unlikely it will change. Everything revolving around Moraine Lake is now fixated on this date, including the Parks Canada shuttles, private operators, and the Moraine Lake Lodge. Besides the lodge and Parks work vehicles, no vehicles can access Moraine Lake any sooner.

Why is Moraine Lake Road Closed?

Since Moraine Lake is accessed by one small road and lies at a high elevation surrounded by huge mountains, it is prone to high avalanche risk. For safety, the road is closed to all vehicles during the Banff winter months (mid-October to early June). It crosses two large avalanche paths under Temple Mountain, which must be clear before allowing public access. The short period also provides some much-needed breathing time for Moraine Lake.

What Are Your Options?

Sitting on the Shoreline after biking to Moraine Lake in May
Sitting on the Shoreline after biking to Moraine Lake in May.

If you’re dead set on seeing Moraine Lake in May, your only option is to bike up the road. It’s nearly 14km all uphill (around 400 meters of gain from Lake Louise Village) to Moraine Lake. It’s not the easiest climb in the world, but it’s doable for anyone confident on a bike. Also, because it’s all uphill on the way up, the way down is super fun and cruisy. Seriously, the way down takes about 15 minutes!

When Can You Bike To Moraine Lake?

Natasha at Moraine Lake in May
Not quite as blue or “full” as you likely have seen.

Moraine Lake Road is surrounded by tall mountains, and one section is prone to avalanches. Because of the high avalanche dangers, biking to Moraine Lake is only considered “safe” in the last few weeks of May. No set date is marked as “safe,” but generally, it’s around the last week of May. This is the only time we have ever personally biked to Moraine Lake.

Also, the road is typically not clear of snow until mid-May. The last week of May is often right after the snow is cleared (or has been plowed) but before the road opens to vehicles—it’s the perfect time for a car-free bike ride. Of course, every year and season is different as it relies entirely on snowpack melting.

Hiking Tower of Babel after biking in
We climbed the Tower of Babel above Moraine Lake after biking to the lake.

There is no official announcement on biking conditions to Moraine Lake, which are usually spread through word of mouth and Facebook groups. There is a sign on Moraine Lake Road warning of avalanches around the viewpoint of Consolation Valley about 2km from Moraine Lake. If you do not feel safe, you should not go any further. Remember, you are responsible for your own safety. If you want to double check with Parks Canada before your bike ride, there is nice information centre in Lake Louise at the Samson Mall.

How Long Does it Take to Bike?

Cameron enjoying Moraine Lake all to himself after we biked in
Cameron enjoyed Moraine Lake all to himself after we biked to the lake.

We’ve biked to Moraine Lake a few times in the past. From Lake Louise Village, it’s approximately 14 km uphill. I consider myself a fairly fit mountain person, and it takes me about 50 minutes on a mountain bike and 40 minutes on a road bike. As it is a road, eBikes are permitted, which is not the case for trails in the park. I would plan for the whole endeavor to take anywhere between 3 and 4 hours.

Where Can You Rent Bikes?

If you don’t have a bike, Wilson Sports in Lake Louise Village is the best place to rent one. They don’t officially start reserving and renting out bikes until June 1st. If you want to bike to Moraine Lake sooner, it’s best to call them to see if they’ll rent one to you before, as sometimes they do this on a case-by-case basis. We expect bikes to sell out, especially during the May Long Weekend.

If not, you can rent bikes at Snowtips Bactrax in Banff and Rebound Cycle in Canmore. You will then need a vehicle capable of transporting bikes from the towns. The Roam Transit bus to Lake Louise (8x) has a limited number of bike racks and begins service on May 17th. Reservations are recommended.

What’s Moraine Lake Like in May?

Snow covered Moraine Lake in May
Moraine Lake the last week of May
Lake Louise Melting The Last Week Of May With Patches Of Water
Lake Louise the last week of May

Moraine Lake is a glacial lake, meaning it recedes in the winter. So when the snow and ice melt in June, the lake fills up again. This means you may find it less blue and “full” than you have likely seen in photos in May. It’s not exactly the best time to visit Moraine Lake. There will probably even be some ice chunks floating around! Depending on the year, you might even find quite a bit of snow around the lakeshore. When we biked to the lake in mid/late May, we found it frozen and covered with snow.

Biking to Moraine Lake in Other Months

You can cycle to Moraine Lake all summer if you desire. However, we would not advise doing so unless you are comfortable with road biking due to the traffic on the narrow, steep, and winding road. The Moraine Lake access road is 14km all uphill, and plenty of buses run up and down that road all day.

There’s no real shoulder for cyclists, and it can get super dusty. Therefore, I only recommended biking the road during the last week of May when there are no cars. Regular cyclists who have experience biking on active roads should not have an issue, but it’s not a very pleasant experience for the average person.

Don’t Forget Bear Spray

Natasha Biking Away From Moraine Lake In The Evening
Biking back to Lake Louise after spending the day at Moraine Lake in May

In May, animals emerge from hibernation and seek the easiest route to food. They can be seen on the road, also enjoying the vehicle-free experience. It’s important to carry bear spray while biking Moraine Lake Rd.

Also, keep in mind that Moraine Lake will not have services before June 1st. Moraine Lake Lodge is not open, the bathrooms are still locked, and there is no cell service in the area. You need to be prepared to be completely self-sufficient.

Can You Walk Or Hike To Moraine Lake?

Moraine Lake Biking

If you do not want to bike or spend the money on a rental, you can walk to Moraine Lake. We do not recommend it, but plenty of people walk the road. If you can get parking in the small lot at the gate to the lake, it will be a 12km uphill walk that should take two to three hours one way. If you park at the Samson Mall, it’s 2 km further.

Two great hiking routes link Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, but unfortunately, the trails are unlikely to be safe or snow-free in May. So, your only reliable option is the road, which is obviously not as pleasant to walk as a hiking trail.

This means you’ll likely spend six hours walking a road to see a lake that is potentially still frozen or half-filled. In our opinion, there are better ways to make use of your time in Banff. May is a great time to check out many other sights around Banff. We hope you find this helpful in making your decision about a visit to Moraine in May.


In the past, we have parked at the Samson Mall when biking to Moraine Lake, but as of now, their official maximum parking is 2 hours, which isn’t enough time to cycle to Moraine Lake. We’re unsure how this will be enforced as there is no paid parking at Samson Mall

Our other parking recommendations are to get to the village early and find parking on the Village road, past the Lake Louise Inn, or park at the Lake Louise Ski Resort. However, this creates an even longer ride.

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About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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