It’s no secret that visiting Moraine Lake is one of the best things to do in Banff. But once you get there and admire her astounding beauty, what is there to do?
Spend some time in this stunning area and enjoy all the best things to do at Moraine Lake. Whether it be a peaceful canoe, or a hard Moraine Lake hike, you’ll have views of the Ten Peaks and memories that will last a lifetime.
The Best Things to do at Moraine Lake
One of the best things to do at Moraine is secure parking! Okay, this is a joke as it’s not truly one of the best things to do at Moraine Lake. However, if you get parking at Moraine Lake, you can check one thing off for the day because you just overcame a severe hurdle that many face on any trip to Banff.
Parking at Moraine Lake is difficult and often means you need to get to the Moraine Lake parking lot well before sunrise. Thankfully, this year, we detail a few other options.
Catch Sunrise or Sunset at the Rockpile Trail
The most popular thing to do at Moraine Lake is take a stroll up the Rockpile Trail. The Rockpile Trail is where you can get some of the best photos of Moraine Lake, especially at sunrise and sunset.
A nice walking trail will lead you to the top, and you will no doubt find plenty of photographers at any point in the day. We encourage everyone to take in the view from the Rockpile but be forewarned; this is where all the crowds hang out. You’ll have to hike further away or get out on the water to get away from people.
The best times to enjoy the view are at sunrise and sunset!
Walk the Moraine Lake Lakeshore
This flat trail goes around Moraine Lake and is one of the most accessible hikes you can do in the area. The Moraine Lake Lakeshore trail starts near the canoe docks and continues along the lake, moving in and out of the forest.
The trail is 5.15 km out and back, and despite being an easy one with little elevation gain, it sees far fewer visitors than the Rockpile trail. The hike ends at a boardwalk near the waters flowing down from Wenkchemna pass.
Canoe on Moraine Lake
Canoeing on Moraine Lake is one of the most sought-after activities in the entire park. There’s no better feeling than paddling on a brilliantly blue-colored Banff lake with the most majestic mountain peaks ahead of you.
You can either bring your own canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard or rent a canoe from the canoe docks operated by Moraine Lake Lodge.
Canoe rental fees are hefty at $115 an hour here, so if you can split the cost with one or two other people, it will help keep costs down. Canoe rentals come with paddles and a lifejacket and operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Have Lunch at Moraine Lake Lodge
After two years of closure, we’re happy to report that Moraine Lake Lodge will be open for the 2022 season. This means that visitors to Moraine Lake can enjoy dining in the Walter Wilcox Dining Room at Moraine Lake Lodge.
This is one of the top restaurants in Banff National Park, set in one of the most pristine locations. Make reservations and surround yourself with a large stone fireplace, an elegant interior, and huge windows looking out to Moraine Lake.
If you don’t want to dine in, there is always the Snowshoe Café open between 9-4 every day for a quick bite to eat.
Cycle to Moraine Lake
Biking to Moraine Lake is more fun than it sounds! Although it’s 14km one way and all uphill, your reward is fantastic.
We’ve biked to Moraine Lake a few times in the past, and every time get to enjoy Moraine Lake without the crowds. From Lake Louise, it’s approximately 14 km uphill. This takes me 50 minutes on a mountain bike and 40 minutes on a road bike. It’s all uphill, but the fun ride down makes it all worth it.
The best time to bike to Moraine Lake is when it is car-free. This happens around the third week of May for a very short period. This one short week in Banff is when they plow Lake Moraine Road but don’t open the road to vehicles. Meaning you can bike to Moraine Lake and have it all to yourself – which we guarantee is impressive. (Though you can bike to Moraine Lake anytime you want.)
To bike to Moraine Lake, you can park at a small parking area right at Moraine Lake Rd. Alternatively, you can park at Lake Louise Village.
Scramble the Tower of Babel
This is the most well-known scramble in the Moraine Lake area, but it’s a pretty steep climb at 2.9 km and 518 meter gain. Still, it’s appropriate for entry-level scramblers. You’re guaranteed some fabulous views 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 Moraine Lake and has a steep, consistent climb to the top. It’s a scree bash (loose rock), but it’s a pretty well-worn trail due to its popularity. It’s a challenging 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 be one of the first to the top in the morning so you don’t have loose rock falling on you from hikers above.
Hike to Consolation Lakes
Consolation Lakes is a more accessible, family-friendly alternative to Tower of Babel. This is a great beginner Banff hike that can be paired with the Moraine Lake Lakeshore Trail or Moraine Lake Rockpile Trail.
You get views of the scree slopes from the Tower of Babel along the hike. The hike passes through the old-growth forest before arriving at an alpine field and wetlands with the Consolation Lakes at the end. Once at the lakes, you’ll get tremendous views of Mount Fay.
Enjoy the Larches
The larch season is everyone’s favorite season in Banff. Sometime around the third week of September, the needles on the larch trees turn a beautiful golden color before dropping to the ground before the winter.
While there aren’t many larch trees around Moraine Lake herself, you can quickly be surrounded by them with a great Moraine Lake hike. Most notable is the Larch Valley up to Sentinel Pass.
Hike Sentinel Pass
Hike up to Larch Valley from Moraine Lake and continue on to Sentinel Pass. This is a relatively challenging and hugely popular hike in Banff. Though, it’s easy to see why as it offers some of the best views in Banff – especially during the larch season.
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.
You can descend Sentinel Pass along the Paradise Valley Trail if you really want a long but epic hike. This trail will take you past Lake Annette, and you also have the option to end at Lake Louise! There are so many trail options in this area you’ll have to grab a map to see which is best for you!
Have Lunch at Minnestimma Lake
Lake Minnestimma is a beautiful lake that you’ll see by hiking the Larch Valley Trail. It sits right below the significant push-up to Sentinel Pass. If you don’t want to hike the final 200 meters up to Sentinel Pass, some at Minnestimma Lake with a packed lunch and enjoy the view of the Ten Peaks.
Scramble Up Eiffel Peak or Mount Temple
If you want to try some significant mountain objectives, there are some fantastic scrambles in the area. The first is Effiel Peak, which at 11.3 km distance and almost 1300 meters of elevation gain, is no simple task.
This is an excellent option for those with plenty of Canadian Rockies hikes and a few scrambles under their belt.
From the top of Eiffel Peak, you’ll get astounding views of Paradise Valley, Valley of the Ten Peaks, Mount Temple and Moraine Lake. Next to Temple, it’s one of the highest mountains you can climb without mountaineering or rock climbing experience.
Then there is Mount Temple, a popular objective for those that want to climb the second-highest mountain in Alberta. At 11,627 ft in elevation, it’s a big day out.
To summit Mount Temple, you’ll have to gain 1,682 meters. It’s a long day out and needs to be summited at the right time of year; usually, it’s best summitted between mid-July and mid-September 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.
Hike to Lake Louise
Did you know you can connect Lake Louise to Moraine Lake via a hiking trail?
The Paradise Valley trail is an extension of Sentinel Pass mentioned above. This 20 km point-to-point hike can begin at either Lake Louise or Moraine Lake.
Though this trail is best done starting at Moraine Lake and then hiking up to Sentinel Pass and dropping down into Paradise Valley, that way, you’re gaining most of your elevation gain on a well-worn trail up to Sentinel Pass, and descending on a rough scree trail to Paradise Valley rather than ascend up to it.
You’ll pass through thousands of larches along the route while hiking under Mount Temple. You’ll pass by Annette Lake along the trail, which is a great place to stop for lunch. It’s best to utilize the Parks Canada Shuttle for this hike as it’s a point-to-point hike.
Cross Country Ski to Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake isn’t accessible in the winter, that is unless you cross country ski to it. There are set tracks that almost go all the way to Moraine Lake.
The track set ski trail will take you to a viewpoint over Consolation Lakes, and not all the way to Moraine Lake. Nevertheless you’ll still get breathtaking views. It is not recommended to go past this point as there is high avalanche risk. Anyone getting back to Moraine Lake in the winter should have avalanche gear and training.
Hike to Lake O Hara
For the super adventurous! One of the best things to do at Moraine Lake is hike Wenkchemna Pass to Lake O Hara. This route takes a full day and involves lots of elevation gain and loss (over 1000 meters over 18km).
This is best done with a guide as it involves roped glacier travel over the Opabin Glacier. This route is best reserved for those with intermediate to advanced hiking ability and fitness. Tours start at $240 a person with Alpine Air Adventures.
Stay at the Moraine Lake Lodge
There aren’t many places to stay at Moraine Lake. Actually, there is only one place to stay on the stunning lake: Moraine Lake Lodge. Recently renovated and open for guests in 2022 after two years of closure, 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.
When is the Best Time to Visit Moraine Lake?
Moraine Lake is only accessible once Parks Canada opens Moraine Lake Rd. This typically happens around the last week of May, and will stay open until the second week of October. This all depends on snow conditions.
However, these time periods are also the busiest times in the park.
Can You Visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise in the Same Day?
You absolutely can visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise in the same day, and we’ve done it many times. Though to do this will take some planning during the summer months as they are both very busy lakes. They have some obstacles to overcome when it comes to parking.
If you are planning to take on any large hikes or want to canoe on both lakes it’s best to plan your day and start early to make the most out of your Banff itinerary.
Hopefully you found these things to do at Moraine Lake helpful for your trip planning!
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.
Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out Safetywing or World Nomads offers competitive rates for all travelers.
- 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 or embarking on an epic campervan trip with companies like Outdoorsy.
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