There are many things to do in Lake Louise for all visitors to the beautiful Banff National Park. Lake Louise has been drawing in 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 Victoria and a hanging glacier. This pristine piece of wilderness draws in millions of visitors a year, making a visit to the famed lake one of the best things to do in Banff.
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 hike, climb, ski, or canoe in the area, Lake Louise is an image that will last with you for a lifetime. Here’s all you need to know before visiting Canada’s famous lake, including updated parking information and updated Lake Louise shuttle information.
Lake Louise FAQs
Where is Lake Louise?
Lake Louise is located 60 km northwest of the town of Banff. It will take you about 40 minutes to get there from Banff, 60 minutes from the town of Golden, 20 minutes from the village of Field, and 50 minutes from Canmore.
The only way to access Lake Louise is from the Trans-Canada highway. Once you get off on the exit, you’ll see the Lake Louise village and Samson Mall on your right-hand side. Continue up Lake Louise Drive until you can’t go further. Lake Louise Ski Resort is on the opposite side of the Trans-Canada.
Is Lake Louise Worth Visiting?
Although Lake Louise is one of the busiest places in Banff National Park, it is absolutely worth seeing. The first time you lay your eyes on the beautiful lake it will probably take your breath away.
Venturing to Lake Louise at least once while you visit Banff is essential. We personally try to make it to Lake Louise at least once per month as it is just that beautiful with so many things to do!
How to Get to Lake Louise?
There’s no airport in either Lake Louise or Banff. The closest airport is the Calgary International Airport, 200 km away. From Calgary, it will take about two hours to get to Lake Louise.
The best way to get to Lake Louise from Calgary is to rent a car for your trip to Banff. See below for the details on how to get to Lake Louise from wherever you may be:
- Downtown Banff to Lake Louise: It is 60 km from Downtown Banff to Lake Louise and should take you just over 40 minutes to get there in your own car on Trans-Canada Hwy/AB-1. Roam Transit also runs buses daily between Banff and Lake Louise. See their schedule here.
- Canmore to Lake Louise: Canmore is slightly further than Banff from Lake Louise. It takes just under an hour and 80 km on the Trans-Canada to reach Lake Louise from Canmore.
- Jasper to Lake Louise: It’s 235 km to get from the Town of Jasper to Lake Louise. Expect this drive to take you three hours along the Icefields Parkway without stops. In actuality, it will take at least five as there are so many amazing pull offs along the way.
- Edmonton to Lake Louise: It is 468.7 km via AB-2 S and Trans-Canada Hwy/AB-1 W to get to Lake Louise from Edmonton. Expect this drive to take you five hours without stops.
- Golden to Lake Louise: It is 82.6 km to get from the Town of Golden in British Columbia to Lake Louise. Expect this drive to take you one hour without stops.
Parking And Getting Around Lake Louise
You have a few options for parking at Lake Louise, but for most visitors, there are really only a few viable options. If you’re a guest of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, you have that as an option as you get to park right at the lake. However, be forewarned they charge an additional $30 per day for self parking, although if you’re paying their summer rates, it’s unlikely to faze you.
Many of the other Lake Louise hotels in the village offer a shuttle, or you can take advantage of the public shuttle bus for those staying at the Lake Louise Campground.
Parking at Lake Louise
For everyone else staying elsewhere, like in Banff or Canmore, you can arrive early in the morning and snag one of the valuable public parking spots at the lake. This is now a paid parking lot (7am to 7pm daily) and typically fills up before 8:00, if not earlier in the summer. Remember that holidays and the workweek play a significant role; peak August on the weekend means you’ll need to fight for a spot, likely before 7am.
If you aren’t lucky enough to score a spot in the parking lot, you’ll need to park at the Lake Louise Park and Ride parking lot (which is at the Lake Louise Ski Resort). While the parking lot is free, you are required to have a paid reservation on the shuttle bus to Lake Louise.
New* Paid parking will be in effect for Lake Louise from 7am-7pm between May 19th and October 9th. It is not in effect in the winter. This is in addition to your Parks Canada Pass needed for all of Banff National Park.
Look for pay stations when you arrive to Lake Louise; the fee is $21 per vehicle per day and $8 for accessible parking. You’ll need to input your license plate number into the pay kiosk. You cannot park overnight at Lake Louise Lakeshore.
Lake Louise Park & Ride
Also new is the need for a reservation to ride the shuttle to Lake Louise from the Lake Louise Park and Ride. Reservations open in April 2024 (dates tbd), and can be made on the Parks Canada website. This option guarantees you will get to Lake Louise while the paid parking is on a first-come/first-serve basis.
Once at the Lake Louise Lakeshore, you can connect between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake on a first-come, first-serve basis via the Lake Connector shuttle (free with shuttle reservation); they run every 15 minutes.
There will also be a portion of seats released on a rolling basis for the Lake Louise shuttle, 48 hours before departure day at 8 am MST. You’ll be able to book your seat reservation on the Parks Canada website.
Walk-up tickets are available at the Park and Ride, but it is highly recommended that you plan ahead and reserve your shuttle ticket in advance. The shuttles do sell out. When space is available, Parks Canada staff at the Park and Ride will assist visitors with the reservation process on site. Visitors can reserve up until the end of the timeslot.
Shuttle Prices (Return Fare)
- Adult (18 to 64): $8
- Senior (65+): $4
- Youth (6 to 17): $2
- Child (under 6 years) – free
- Reservation Fee: $3
Lake Louise sees far fewer visitors in the winter, and parking at the Lake Louise Lakeshore is rarely a problem.
Roam Transit to Lake Louise
If you don’t have a vehicle, or what to utilize public transport, you can take the Roam Transit bus to Lake Louise.
The Roam Transit Route 8x (Lake Louise Express) runs daily between May and September to Lake Louise from Banff. The Roam Route 8X: Lake Louise Express runs from the town of Banff to Lake Louise Lakeshore along the Trans-Canada Highway, with a stop at Lake Louise Village.
The Roam Route 8S: Lake Louise Scenic stops at scenic sights like Johnston Canyon and Protection Mountain Campground. Route 8S will run 3 days/ week (Fri-Sun), July 1 – Aug 31.
The cost is $10 per adult, reservations are recommended however you can walk- up to the fare boxes. Roam buses accept US and Canadian Dollars as small as a nickel, and up to $20. Children 12 and under are free, but still require a reservation.
New – The Roam Transit Super Pass. Roam has a One Day Super Pass which allows travel on any/all Roam routes – From Canmore to Banff to Lake Louise for just $25. The Super Pass is sold only on the bus, at the Roam office in Banff, or through the Token Transit App.
With the Super Pass comes free access to the Parks Canada Lake Connector shuttle. With the purchase of the new Roam Transit Super Pass visitors will receive free access to the Parks Canada Lake Connector shuttle from the Lake Louise Lakeshore or Moraine Lake. Show a valid Roam Super Pass to Parks Canada staff at Lake Louise or Moraine Lake to receive your Parks Canada boarding pass.
The History of Lake Louise
Interestingly enough, Lake Louise was originally named Emerald Lake by Tom Wilson, leading an early survey party in 1882. The name didn’t last long because, in 1884, it was named after Alberta’s Governor General’s wife, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll.
The name Emerald Lake then shifted to the nearby lake of Emerald Lake, 39 km away from Lake Louise, where the name did stick.
In 1890, Cornelius Van Horne, a Canadian Pacific Railway manager, built a large one-story log cabin on the shore of the lake. The small cabin was called the Chalet Lake Louise, and it would accommodate just 50 guests in its first year. Over the next two decades, the hotel saw several upgrades, and by 1912 it had drawn in 50,000 visitors.
The beauty was drawing in significant public figures, and the hotel quickly expanded to a luxury property by 1920, earning the name of Hollywood of the North.
Mountaineering in North America and Canada, for that matter, is closely tied with Lake Louise and Banff National Park. In fact, in 1897, the first mountaineering death in North America occurred on Mount Lefroy. You can get great views of this mountain on the Plain of Six Glaciers hike.
The mountaineering death spurred the Canadian Pacific Railroad to hire Swiss mountaineers to help with the safety of visitors hoping to mountaineer in the park.
Over the years, more mountaineers would follow, and the Swiss impact on the Canadian Rockies can be seen to this day. Many restaurants around Banff serve up fondue, as mountaineering is a popular hobby for locals. Two teahouses serve hikers around Lake Louise. And also, a series of alpine huts are managed by the Alpine Club of Canada.
The Swiss mountaineers would also have a significant impact on bringing the sport of skiing to the forefront in the Canadian Rockies, which eventually opened up Lake Louise to winter tourism, becoming a year-round destination.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Lake Louise?
Lake Louise is a year-round destination that will take your breath away any time of year. It’s such a spectacular part of the world that it’s never a bad idea to visit.
You can enjoy sleigh rides, ice skating, ice climbing, skiing, and snowshoeing in the winter months. While during the summer you’re spoilt for activities and the views are spectacular. Since the lake is fed by Glacier melt, its water level and color change based on temperatures.
- To ensure warmer weather (it’s never very hot in the Rockies) and a good chance to witness the most vivid turquoise water you should strive to visit Lake Louise from late June to August. A Lake Louise summer is unlike anything you’ll ever witness.
- That being said the color never leaves and you can witness the lake thawed until the end of October when the lake freezes over. Every few years the lake freezes over enough to skate on before receiving significant snowfall, this typically happens in November. However, it’s a rare occurrence.
- From December to April, Lake Louise turns into a winter wonderland. It’s especially magical around Christmas time when there is ice skating, an ice castle, ice rink, and a hot cocoa ice bar with maple syrup popsicles!
- My favorite time to visit Lake Louise is in August when the weather is the warmest, and the color of the lake is unreal. It’s the best time for hiking as most of the snow has melted off the surrounding peaks.
- My least favorite times to visit Lake Louise are in early/mid May when the lake is not yet thawed and in November when it’s cold, the lake is covered in snow, but the area has yet to go full on winter wonderland snowglobe.
Lake Louise Tour Recommendations
- Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Icefields Parkway Tour
- Gypsy Guide for Lake Louise, Moraine & Yoho
- Lake Louise and the Icefield Parkway – Full-Day Tour
- Radventures Moraine Lake Sunrise & Lake Louise
- Open-Top Shuttle to Moraine and Lake Louise
- Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour
Gypsy Guide Lake Louise, Moraine & YohoLake Louise and the Icefield Parkway - Full-Day Tour
The Best Things To Do In Lake Louise
Experience the Magic of Lake Louise
Lake Louise has been drawing in 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 Victoria and a hanging glacier. This pristine piece of wilderness draws in millions of visitors a year.
It is a stunning sight, and the magic of the natural beauty is not lost. Despite visiting Lake Louise many times, it still takes our breath away. Maybe this is because it’s only unfrozen for four-five months out of the year. One of the best things to do at Lake Louise is simply sit and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Walk the Lake Louise Lakeshore
The Lake Louise Lakeshore is the easiest walk you can complete in Lake Louise. This route circles the eastern section of Lake Louise and has no elevation gain. This is a nice easy trail that is well maintained and provides astonishing views at all times.
The trail ends at the start of the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail and is about 2km one way. If you decide to walk the whole trail and back, expect it to take you around 1 hour.
Canoe at Lake Louise
For many, canoeing on Lake Louise is a highlight of their trip to Banff National Park. There is likely no place more quintessential to rent a canoe in Banff than Lake Louise. It’s one of the most spectacular scenes in the world. It’s tough to find a more spectacular scene to paddle through as you look out to Mount Victoria and the hanging Victoria glacier.
No need for fancy edits on your photographs, the water in Lake Louise is truly that radiant turquoise blue. While we don’t all bring a canoe with us to Banff, you can pick up canoe rentals at the Lake Louise boathouse.
If you do own a canoe, you’ll have to arrive very early in the morning to secure parking close enough to carry the canoe to the lakeshore. This is one of the things you can do at Lake Louise that you’ll likely never forget.
Hike From Lake Louise
Lake Louise is an extraordinary piece of wilderness and presents an abundance of options for hikes. It’s tough to find a bad hike here, whether that’s to a mountain summit, picturesque alpine lake, glacier field, or historic teahouse.
At the center of all these hikes is Lake Louise, as it shines a dazzling blue and serves as a centerpiece to the Banff National Park.
Many hikes start from Lake Louise and are sure to have stunning views of the turquoise lake, surrounding mountains, and awe-inspiring glaciers. Any hiker who gets the opportunity to hike around Banff National Park and Lake Louise should consider themself very fortunate.
What’s also great about these trails is their ability to be combined; for example, we hiked to Lake Agnes, to Big Beehive, and then scrambled up Mount Niblock in one day. On another Lake Louise summer day, we hiked to Mirror Lake, then to the Little Beehive, and ended on Mount St Piran.
Or another great option would be to hike the Big Beehive to the Plain of Six Glaciers for a fantastic day in the mountains. The best Lake Louise summer hikes are:
- Lake Agnes Tea House
- Plain of Six Glaciers
- Beehive Circuit (Little Beehive and BIg Beehive)
- Devil’s Thumb (Easy Scramble)
- Saddleback Pass
- Mount Fairview
- Mount St Piran
- Mount Niblock (Moderate Scramble)
- Mount Whyte (Hard Scramble)
Horseback Ride on Scenic Trails
Take a scenic horseback ride from Lake Louise and explore some of the fantastic trails from horseback. You have a nice range of rides to choose from that range from a two-hour ride all the way to a 7-hour full day ride.
Horseback riding has been a new hobby we’ve picked up in the last year after spending some time on a horseback safari and Dude Ranch. It’s a great experience, and we encourage anyone curious about riding to give it a try. We even took a whole five-day trip into the Banff backcountry via horseback!
Brewster Adventures runs horseback tours up to Lake Agnes – check out all their tours here. They also have tours back to the Plain of Six Glaciers, and the Highline. Their tours range in price but start around $200.
For more experienced riders, try heading to Kananaskis Country or Golden, where you can travel with operators who have advanced level rides where you can reach a lope or canter.
Scramble to a Mountain Summit
If you’re looking for what’s our favorite thing to do at Lake Louise, climbing up to a mountain summit is our jam. There are several great mountains you can summit around Lake Louise without technical climbing. This moves into the realm of what is called alpine scrambling, which is somewhere in between rock climbing and hiking.
The use of hands is typically required and possibly exposure to serious injury or death. Not all of these are challenging and fall more along with the likes of hiking. Of course, there is the physical feat, but if you want to say you’ve summited a mountain in the Canadian Rockies, try for Mt. Saint Piran or Fairview Mountain, these are both classified as easy scrambles.
An excellent introduction to scrambling for experienced hikers would also be Devil’s Thumb. I recommend a helmet if you try, as it is common for other hikers to knock loose rock down the steep trail.
Of course, not everyone is a beginner! For more experienced scramblers, try to summit Mount Niblock (a tough scramble with some exposure) or Mt Whyte (one of the hardest scrambles in the Rockies) that borders on rock climbing without a rope. Neither of these are places to test your skills and present the real risk of death, so they are best left to those with experience in the mountains.
Lake Louise also presents some challenging mountaineering goals, such as Mt. Lefroy or Mt. Victoria, classics in the Canadian Rockies. To learn more about mountaineering or hire a guide, there are great companies based in Canmore and Banff. We took a mountaineering course with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures and can’t recommend them enough!
Enjoy Alpine Views From the Lake Louise Gondola
One of the best things to do in Lake Louise is head up the gondola in the summer or winter. The Lake Louise Gondola operates almost all year round. When summer rolls around, and the snow melts, the Lake Louise Ski Resort transitions to summer operations.
During this time, Lake Louise takes visitors up their chairs and cable cars for wonderful mountain views without all the leg work.
From there, you can explore the mountain on your own, grab a bite to eat at the Whitehorn Restaurant with sublime views, or hop on one of their guided hikes to learn more about flora and fauna of Banff National Park. This is an excellent way for families to safely get the hiking experience and views around Lake Louise.
There is also a good chance you spot bears; they frequently spot bears along the grassy ski slopes. Last year visitors got a real treat as a mama grizzly bear bedded down underneath the gondola and nursed her young cubs.
Indulge in Afternoon Tea
While afternoon tea is not something, most of us regularly indulge it’s hard not to at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. If you’re looking for something romantic in Lake Louise, this is a great option. Take your choice between 35 teas, prosecco, or champagne to go alongside your tower of sweets, scones, and finger sandwiches.
You’ll need to make a reservation beforehand at the Louise Lounge, and as would be expected, it’s a pretty luxurious experience. If you’re lucky enough, try to score a table by the window for an extraordinary view.
Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is available from 12:00p.m. – 3:00p.m. daily, and costs $75 per person, $90 for prosecco, and $100 for champagne. It’s the priciest afternoon tea in the area, so the value is pretty poor, as should be expected at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Regardless, it’s one of the prettiest places you’ll likely ever have a scone.
Hike To Skoki Lodge
The historic Skoki Lodge is a Lake Louise cabin lodge located in the backcountry of Banff National Park and one of the best Banff cabins. The lodge can only be reached by hiking or skiing 11km from the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
It’s one of the first backcountry ski lodges in North America, dating back to 1930. In the winter, activities include ski touring, cross country skiing, and telemark skiing.
During the Lake Louise summer months, you can hike, climb, fish, or go horseback riding. It’s well known as one of the best backcountry lodges in the world, and nights are in high demand. Even if you can’t score a night in the lodge, you can still make the gorgeous hike out to the lodge and back.
Visit the Lake Agnes Tea House
The Lake Agnes Teahouse hike is a popular thing to do in Lake Louise in the summer. It’s also one of the most iconic and popular hikes in all of Banff National Park and has been enjoyed by visitors for well over a century.
It ends at the Lake Agnes Teahouse, which has been serving visitors since 1905, when it first opened. A rustic old cabin that sits along the banks of Lake Agnes and over a rushing waterfall.
Its popularity is perhaps its only downfall as the teahouse can attract a crowd in the summer months with a line out the door. Nevertheless, it is a classic and ends at the lovely Lake Agnes, the perfect spot for lunch. This is an easy to moderate hike above Lake Louise that is suitable for all visitors to Banff.
The Lake Agnes Teahouse Hike can be done in under two hours and is an iconic thing to do in Banff. However, be warned it is a busy one.
To escape the crowds (and get better views), keep climbing to the Big or Little Beehive and onward to Devil’s Thumb. In the summer, the earlier you get up and at it, the better. By mid-afternoon, Lake Louise and the Lake Agnes Teahouse Trek are a bit chaotic.
*Keep in mind the Lake Agnes Teahouse is only open from June 4 until Canadian Thanksgiving (second Monday in October) from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Drive The Bow Valley Parkway
One of the best things to do in Lake Louise in the summer and winter is take one of the most scenic drives in the world. From Lake Louise to Banff, visitors can drive or ride a bike down the Bow Valley Parkway.
While it’s far faster to take the highway to town, the Bow Valley Parkway takes a much more relaxed pace and is even more stunning.
The road winds through the valley with many scenic viewpoints, picnic areas, and attractions like Johnston Canyon, Morant’s Curve, and Castle Mountain. It’s a gorgeous drive that is also popular with cyclists in the summer and provides an excellent chance to spot wildlife.
Photograph Morant’s Curve
Morant’s Curve is a scenic viewpoint near Lake Louise of a dramatic bend along the Bow River where trains pass through the Canadian Rockies. As trains pass around the bend, they have a spectacular backdrop of the Lake Louise mountains and surrounding valley.
The famed photo spot is along the Bow Valley Parkway and is famous for photographers. The photo spot is a short drive from Lake Louise, and you can even see the mountains surrounding the glacial lake.
Photographers must plan their time here strategically, and to catch a shot of a train heading west in the morning light is sure to be a winner. However, anyone can appreciate the spectacular view, so it’s well worth a stop for anyone driving along the parkway.
If you are trying to time your visit with a train passing, you may want to give up. There is no set train schedule, and seeing one while you visit Morant’s Curve is complete happenstance. They pass by every 1-2 hours, so you can possibly catch one if you are patient.
Take in the Views at Moraine Lake
There is no image more iconic of the Canadian Rockies or Canada for that matter than Moraine Lake. The alpine lake is a wild turquoise blue fed by glacier melt and set with a backdrop of the Ten Peaks. This pristine piece of wilderness draws in millions of visitors a year and once graced Canada’s twenty-dollar bill.
It’s hard to find a more majestic and awe-inspiring place in the world. If you are already at Lake Louise, you may try and see Moraine Lake. From Moraine Lake, you can enjoy more hiking, canoeing, or doing nothing at all. It’s one of the top things to do in Lake Louise as coming in from the village is the only way you can access the 11 km Moraine Lake Road.
Beware, in the peak summer, Moraine Lake is a congested area, and you must take a shuttle or find another way to get to Moraine Lake. However, it is the best time to visit Moraine Lake. Read our full guide to visiting Moraine Lake from Lake Louise below.
Hike to Moraine Lake
One of the best hiking trails in the area actually connects Lake Louise to Moraine Lake via Sentinel Pass on the Paradise Valley Trail. You can start this hike either at Moraine Lake or Lake Louise.
Starting at Moraine Lake would be the better option so that you climb up to Sentinel Pass and drop down into Paradise Valley rather than climb up to Sentinel Pass, which is a very steep and unmaintained trail.
Nevertheless, both can be done if you seek a long 20km point-to-point hike! (Best to use the Parks Canada shuttle system to do this).
The reward for hiking the entire Paradise Valley trail is to check off Lake Louise, Saddleback Pass, the Sheol Valley, Lake Annette, Sentinel Pass, and Moraine Lake all in one go! Once you drop into the Sheol Valley and get to Lake Annette, it’s unlikely you’ll see many people too.
You won’t be disappointed if you can save this hike until the Alberta larch season.
Kayak or SUP on Lake Louise
You can only rent kayaks or SUP in the towns of Banff or Canmore, so if you’d like to kayak or SUP at Lake Louise, you’ll need to bring your own or pick one up from one of those rental locations.
The Banff Canoe Club rents out kayaks and paddleboards in the summer. A stand-up paddleboard is the easier choice as you can get inflatable rentals that will fit in a rental car and that you can carry to the lakeshore.
However, keep in mind you’ll still need to secure parking at Lake Louise to do so, which is not easy in the summer months. Or you can bring an inflatable watercraft on the Lake Louise shuttle. If you are lucky enough to kayak or SUP on Lake Louise, you’re in for a wonderful experience.
Have Lunch With Bill Peyto
Of course, you may be wondering about the name. Bill Peyto’s Cafe is named after Bill Peyto, a pioneer, mountain guide, and early park warden in Banff. Legend says that Bill caught a lynx at the turn of the 20th century, strapped it to his pack, brought it to his favorite bar, and released the cat as he didn’t love company at the bar.
He died about 80 years ago, so you can’t have lunch with him or ask him if that story is true. But you can sit inside this cafe! Bill Peyto’s Cafe is located inside the HI Lake Louise Hostel and dishes fantastic breakfast and even better burgers for lunch.
Check Out Nearby Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake is a stunning lake in Yoho and makes for a great family-friendly hike. 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. It’s less than an hour away from Lake Louise, so I would definitely continue to check it out if you have the time.
Things to do in Lake Louise in the Winter
Ice Skate or Play Hockey on Lake Louise
One of the best things to do in Lake Louise in the winter is enjoy the frozen lake. There is no place to ice skate in Banff more iconic or scenic than the famous Lake Louise. Not much of a surprise, but it’s regularly been considered one of the world’s best ice skating rinks.
It’s also tremendous as the frozen lake is maintained by the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The lake is regularly cleared of snow and resurfaced, so visitors can enjoy ice skating during the winter despite conditions on other natural lakes.
Lake Louise, every few winters, can freeze very early before a significant snowfall, and the result is a blue glass lake. It’s an absolutely stunning natural occurrence and can happen in November, but don’t count on seeing the lake this way as November is generally the worst month to visit Banff.
The lake freezing like this does not happen every year and it is a very short time frame. In 2020, Lake Louise literally froze over enough for five hours of enjoyment, before a big snowstorm hit and covered it. It’s a short window, so if you happen to be in Banff at this time and hear of it happening, you better get your butt there.
I say this only to manage expectations, as the surface will likely be a frosted white, but the views are stunning.
Snowshoe Around Lake Louise
Lake Louise is a great place for a snowshoe tour. Every year as the lake freezes over, it is blanketed in a heavy layer of snow. Take advantage of the winter trails along the lakeside, or hire a local guide.
The most popular snowshoe is along the Northern side of Lake Louise, but you can also head up to Mirror Lake or over to Paradise Creek. You can grab rentals at Wilson Sports in the village, or you can book a tour with Great Divide Nature Interpretation.
Careful venturing too far. The areas around Lake Louise are extreme avalanche terrain, and slides happen often, and deaths have occurred. Proper avalanche training (even for snowshoeing) is recommended in the Canadian Rockies.
Ski at Lake Louise Ski Resort
There is arguably no ski resort in the world with a better view than the Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Canadians flock from all over to come and experience the views and the incredible terrain.
It’s a great ski resort for beginners and expert skiers, and boarders. Some of the chutes off the Whitehorn may even make your butt clench up. They are that steep.
Mush On a Dog Sled Team
Kingmik Dog Sled Tours runs dog sledding adventures at Lake Louise. We’ve done this four separate times, and it’s always an amazing experience! I particularly love how quiet the ride is, with only the sound of the dog team’s steps against the snow.
Enjoy the Ice Bar
During December and January, the Fairmont set up an outdoor bar made completely of ice. It’s a great place to enjoy a hot toddy and enjoy the fire with endless views. This ice bar is typically serviced throughout the winter and closes in mid March/early April.
Take an Authentic Horse Sleigh Ride
In the wintertime, you might not be able to take to the trails on horseback, but you can ride on a horse-drawn sleigh. There aren’t many places you can still ride on a real sleigh through a winter wonderland. The ride is about an hour long and moves along the lakeside trail to the end of the Lake.
The sleigh rides start around mid-December, just in time for Christmas in Banff, and run until mid-April, but it’s all weather-dependent. Lake Louise largely sits in the shade during the winter months, and it’s typically well below freezing, so come prepared and dress warm.
Though, you will be provided a blanket on your tour, but bringing some hot chocolate in a thermos would be a nice treat. You can book this experience directly with the Fairmont Château Lake Louise, when you arrive or by calling ahead. Private sleigh rides are available upon request! You can also check out Brewster Adventures for more sleigh ride info!
Tackle the Trail on Cross Country Skis
There are several managed cross-country trails for you to take in the views of the Lake Louise area from a pair of skis. Trails are rated by difficulty, so even if you’re a beginner, you can find a trail appropriate for your skillset.
Two of the most popular trails are the Moraine Lake road trail and the Great Divide Trail. See Parks Canada trails here.
Cheer on The World’s Fastest Skiers at the Ski World Cup
There’s no better way to kick off winter in the Canadian Rockies than attending the Audi FIS Ski World Cup at Lake Louise. Every year a small army of visitors, volunteers, media, and world-famous athletes descend on the tiny resort town with big mountain terrain.
It’s the start of the World Cup speed circuit where the fastest skiers in the world compete to be crowned champ as they travel around the world. You’ll also enjoy some of the best skiing in North America in November.
Experience the Ice Magic Festival
For 12 days between Jan – Feb, 2024 (Jan 26-28 & Feb 2-4, 2024, 6pm – 9pm), there is an extraordinary event at Lake Louise. The Ice Magic event is what winter in Canada is all about. This is where ice comes alive and serves as a form of art and architectural design. During this time, you can watch artists from around the world carve different frozen figures.
While it used to be free to visit the ice carving events and wander around between Monday – Friday and on the weekends before 10 a.m. or after 5:30 p.m. You’ll now need tickets to join in the fun, these are available for purchase starting December 12, 2023. Tickets allow public viewing from 6 pm to 9 pm every weekend. The main events will go down like this:
- January 26 – 27: Witness skilled artisans create breathtaking ice sculptures during the 2024 Ice Magic Competition.
- January 28: Attend the Award Ceremony to discover the champions of the 2024 Ice Magic Competition and savor a captivating live carving demonstration.
- February 2 – 4: Appreciate the completed ice sculptures and experience live carving demonstrations.
The Ice Magic 2024 experience starts at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, where a complimentary shuttle will take you to the event. Ticket prices are $14 for adults, $9 for seniors, and $7 for children. Lake Louise Ski Resort Guests, Banff Hotel Guests, Lake Louise Area Hotel Guests, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Guests either receive complimentary or discounted tickets. Contact your hotel for more information.
Other Things to Know About Lake Louise
Can You Swim at Lake Louise?
Technically yes, you can swim at Lake Louise, but it probably won’t be for long. The water temperature rarely gets above 4°C, meaning you only have about 15 minutes or so until you start to become hypothermic.
So the question should be, “Can you take a dip in Lake Louise?” Which absolutely you can if you feel like an icy dip!
Is Lake Louise Busy?
Lake Louise is incredibly busy between June and September. Visitors flock from all parts of Canada and the world to see the lake in all her blue glory during the summer. Things start to mellow out by October, and visiting Lake Louise is a much quieter (albeit colder) experience.
Lake Louise gets busy again between Christmas and New Years and on nice winter days, but it’s nowhere near as busy in the summer.
Parking at Lake Louise during the summer months becomes problematic as there is limited parking and oodles of people trying to see Lake Louise. Your best chance at getting parking during the summer is to arrive before 7am or after 6pm. Between those times, consider yourself lucky if you get a spot, which is why we recommend booking the Lake Louise shuttle bus.
However busy Lake Louise gets in the summer months, the more hiking you do, the fewer people you will see. Crowds really come to a halt past Lake Agnes Teahouse and are pretty much non-existent if you do a big scramble to Mount Niblock. In general the higher and further you hike, the fewer people you will see. During the winter at Lake Louise, there are rarely any issues with parking.
When Does Lake Louise Melt?
The ice on Lake Louise usually melts the first week of June. This is season-dependent, so it has occasionally thawed earlier and sometimes a little later. That being said, it’s safe to assume the lake will be completely unfrozen by the second week of June at the latest.
When Does Lake Louise Freeze?
Lake Louise usually begins to freeze sometime in November, weather-dependent. The month of October usually brings heavy snowfall in the area, and the Lake Louise Ski Resort usually opens up the first week of November around the same time the lake freezes.
Is Lake Louise Colder than Banff?
Lake Louise is always a few degrees colder than Downtown Banff as it sits at a higher elevation (1600 meters). This is important to pay attention to in the winter. If you are chilly in Banff, you’ll be extra cold at Lake Louise so wear thermals, bring ear muffs, and good gloves. In the winter, Lake Louise sits in the shade for most of the day, making it extra cold.
We are typically wearing down feather parkas by December here, and warm boots, hats, and gloves. Bring it all and thank me later!
Lake Louise Points of Interest
Where to Stay at Lake Louise?
There aren’t a ton of places to stay in Lake Louise, and there is only one place to stay actually on the lake. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the only lakeside property, and it just so happens to be one of the most sought-after places to stay in Banff and conventionally the most expensive. You pay for the location here! Read our full review of the Chateau here.
Our recommendations for the best place to stay in Lake Louise in the summer
There are a few other Lake Louise hotels in the area, but most visitors might choose to stay in Banff as there are more options. You can read more by clicking the buttons below.
Lake Louise Tours
If you don’t want to deal with the headache of parking or dealing with the shuttles there are a few tours that operate at Lake Louise. Many of these also include Moraine Lake, which is great if you are dying to see both lakes (which you likely are!)
- 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
- Lake Louise and the Icefield Parkway – Full-Day Tour
- Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Icefields Parkway Tour
- Open-Top Shuttle to Moraine and Lake Louise: Drive to the lakes with the wind in your face!
Should You Stay in Lake Louise or Banff?
There are a lot of advantages to staying in Banff over Lake Louise and vice versa. We break down all of the points in this article here. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide your priorities for your Banff itinerary and vacation.
Hopefully, this helped you determine what to do in Lake Louise and how to experience Lake Louise efficiently!
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. If you are looking for things to do in Lake Louise in the summer see here, if you are looking for specific things to do in Lake Louise in the winter please see these articles.
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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.
- Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service that will connect you right from YYC to the town of Banff or Canmore.
- Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and 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!
- Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out HeyMondo, which offers competitive rates for all travelers.