Moraine Lake vs Lake Louise: Which Banff Lake Should You Visit?

Comparing two of the most beautiful lakes in the world is no easy feat. Regardless we often get asked which Canadian Rockies lake is better to visit – Lake Louise or Moraine Lake.

I don’t have children yet, but I feel like this question would be like asking me to compare two of my offspring. It’s impossible to answer! However, many aspects of each lake might make visitors prefer one over the other.

Of course, if you are on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Banff, you have to go to both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise! However, in the rare occurrence you can only visit one, we want to assist!

About Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is perhaps the most well-known lake in all of Canada and North America. This brilliant glacial lake sits under the iconic ten peaks. Which are ten beautiful mountain peaks in the Canadian Rockies.

In 1894 the peaks were named from east to west using the numbers from the Stoney Indian language as follows: Heejee, Nom, Yamnee, Tonsa, Sapta, Shappee, Sagowa, Saknowa, Neptuak, and Wenkchemna. They are now named Mount Allen, Mount Bowlen, Deltaform Mountain, Mount Fay, Mount Little, Neptuak Mountain, Mount Perren, Tonsa, Mount Tuzo, and Wenkchemna Peak.

It’s honestly hard to believe a natural setting as perfect as this exists. Moraine Lake is located 14 km away from Lake Louise at the end of the Moraine Lake Rd. Everyone that visits Banff wants to see Moraine Lake, and it’s easy to understand why.

Moraine Lake • Guide to Visiting Canada’s Most Beautiful Lake

About Lake Louise

banff lakes - lake louise

Lake Louise is located 60 km northwest of the town of Banff and one of the most scenic lakes in Banff. In the summer it is bright blue, which has everyone taking a million photos as soon as they lay eyes on it!

In the winter it’s a cold winter wonderland, especially around Christmastime. Lake Louise was first named “Ho-Run-Num-Nay, which means the Lake of Little Fishes, by Stoney natives that had settled in the area. The area has been drawing hikers, tourists, and mountaineers in for well over a century.

20 Things to Know Before Visiting Lake Louise (Alberta)

Accessibility: Moraine Lake vs Lake Louise

Moraine Lake Accessibility

Moraine Lake is not nearly as accessible as Lake Louise. This is mainly due to the fact that it is located at the end of Moraine Lake Rd (12km). The road closes in the winter, from mid-October to the end of May.

Unless you are cross country skiing or ski touring Moraine Lake is completely inaccessible in the winter. The summer poses its own problems because of parking concerns (more on that later).

Lake Louise Accessibility

Lake Louise never closes and is a great place to head in winter and summer. Besides parking struggles during peak summer months, Lake Louise gets an A+ for accessibility!

Parking: Moraine Lake vs. Lake Louise

Moraine Lake Parking

Parking at Moraine Lake is always an issue. From the time the road opens up in late May/Early June, through the summer, and to the end of the larch season parking is limited here. The parking area at Moraine Lake is much smaller than Lake Louise. There are only 100 or so parking spaces at Moraine Lake, meaning that the lot often fills up before 6am in the summer.

Almost every visitor to Banff National Park is dying to see the bright blue lake with the famed ten peaks behind it and therefore will wake up well before 3am and leave their hotel room to guarantee a space.

Once the parking lot at Moraine Lake fills up, it will close to vehicles, and you will be turned around before even turning onto Moraine Lake Rd.

Thankfully, a Parks Canada Park and Ride shuttle is reservable in advance to Moraine Lake; we recommend most visitors take this shuttle to guarantee seeing Moraine Lake.

There are other options to getting to Moraine Lake, and they involve hiking in, biking in, walking the Moraine Lake Rd, or waiting until sunset to try to nab a spot. We break down all you need to know in our ultimate guide.

Lake Louise Parking

Parking at Lake Louise is slightly less complicated than at Moraine Lake. However, that doesn’t mean it comes without struggle. All park visitors want to see Moraine Lake AND Lake Louise, so you can expect crowding and parking issues at Lake Louise.

The Lake Louise parking lot is larger than Moraine Lake, so it takes longer for spaces to fill up. Typically we recommend visitors arrive before 8am to get a spot at Lake Louise, sometimes earlier.

The Lake Louise parking area is well managed by parking attendants. Once the lot fills up, they will turn you around. Meaning you can waste a lot of time driving up to Lake Louise to not get parking, forcing you to make alternative plans.

To avoid this, we highly recommend booking the Roam Transit bus from Banff, getting the Super Pass, or book the Park & Ride.

Lodging: Moraine Lake vs. Lake Louise

Moraine Lake Lodging

There is only one lodge at Moraine Lake, the Moraine Lake Lodge. It is one of the most exclusive places to stay in Banff, and its high rates reflect that. As Moraine Lake is only open during the summer months, the Moraine Lake Lodge has a short operating timeline.

There are few rooms and high demand, so it’s well worth it to book Moraine Lake Lodge well in advance. Expect rates to fetch well above $1000 per night in the summer. On the flip side, guests get a free canoe rental and easy access to parking at Moraine Lake with the room rate.

There is nowhere to camp at Moraine Lake.

Lake Louise Lodging

There are many more options to stay at Lake Louise, though not nearly as many as Banff or Canmore. The only place to stay on Lake Louise herself is the Chateau Lake Louise. This is a Fairmont property and one of the park’s most desirable hotels. Due to its location on Lake Louise, the Chateau books up well in advance during the summer months, even with a $1000 per night price tag.

There are other places to stay at Lake Louise, though they aren’t located on the lake but around the Lake Louise area. Paradise Lodge is our favorite place to stay, which is only open during the summer and is walkable to Lake Louise. The Deer Lodge is near Lake Louise but is poorly reviewed and run down.

There are other options in Lake Louise village, including a hostel. You can also camp at the Lake Louise campground.

10 Awesome Lake Louise Hotel and Accommodation Options

Hiking: Moraine Lake vs. Lake Louise

Moraine Lake Hiking

Some of the best hiking in Banff can be found around Moraine Lake. Sentinel Pass and the Larch Valley is arguably the most popular hike in the entire park come larch season.

Some of the more accessible hikes are Consolation Lakes and the Moraine Lake Lakeshore, but most are considered more difficult hikes like the Tower of Babel scramble and Effiel Peak Scramble. Then there is the granddaddy of them all with Mount Temple. Mount Temple is a famous mountain in the Canadian Rockies as it’s over 3000 meters, and you can summit it without having a mountaineering experience.

The only issue with hiking at Moraine Lake is securing parking in the morning.

10 Moraine Lake Hikes With Amazing Views

Lake Louise Hiking

I always love hiking around Lake Louise as almost every hike gives beautiful views of the brilliant Lake Louise below. There are many hikes around Lake Louise for beginners and advanced hikers. The most popular is the Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail, followed by the Plain of 6 Glaciers and the Beehive Circuit.

Fun scrambles in the area include Fairview Summit, Devil’s Thumb, and Mount Niblock.

As Lake Louise sits at a lower elevation than Moraine Lake, many hikes are accessibly quicker. Starting in late May/Early June, you can begin to complete some of the lower elevation hikes.

15 Stunning Lake Louise Hikes and Trails You’ll Love (from Easy to Hard)

Canoeing: Moraine Lake vs. Lake Louise

Canoeing at Moraine Lake

Canoeing on Moraine Lake is a beautiful experience. Canoe rentals are run by the Moraine Lake Lodge. They are the only operator at Moraine Lake, though you can bring your own kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or canoe to Moraine Lake if you would like. Canoe rentals cost $115 per hour from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (last boat at 4:00 PM).

 Moraine Lake Canoe Rental: Everything You Need to Know

Canoeing on Lake Louise

If you thought the canoe rentals at Moraine Lake were expensive, you might not want to see the prices at Lake Louise. The Lake Louise canoe rentals are run for the Fairmont who charge a whopping $135 per hour. The Fairmont Boathouse is the only operator at Lake Louise though it is possible to bring your own floating device to Lake Louise.

Lake Louise Canoe Rental: 10 Tips You Need to Know

Other Activities at Moraine Lake and Lake Louise

Activities at Moraine Lake

Besides hiking on your own and canoeing, there aren’t any other guided or tourist experiences at Moraine Lake. Some people prefer this, but if you are looking for a more serviced vacation with more activities, you may choose to spend time at Lake Louise.

Activities at Lake Louise

There is much more going on at Lake Louise during the winter and summer. Thanks to the Fairmont, it plays host to many activities. There is, of course, hiking and canoeing. The Chateau has activities like Afternoon Tea and plenty of dining experiences in the summer. There is trail riding operated by Brewster adventures, and there is also rock climbing in the area.

Lake Louise has dog sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, an ice bar, an ice castle, and sleigh rides in the winter. If you time your visit right in January, you may even get to take part in the ice magic Festival.

Truthfully, we don’t think Lake Louise is better than Moraine Lake or vice versa, and you should try to make plans to see both if you can!

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 Natasha

Natasha lives in Canmore, Alberta. 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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