Vermilion Lakes (or Lake Vermilion) reflect the iconic Mount Rundle that looms over the town of Banff. The three lakes are situated west of Banff and fed by the Bow River in the Canadian Rockies.
Photographers seek out the lakes during golden hours as they provide a sublime landscape and the opportunity to spot wildlife close to town. Finding a better place to end the day in Banff is tough.
Why You Must Visit Vermilion Lakes (Lake Vermilion)
It’s One of the Best Sunset Spots in Banff
One of the finest spots to observe the sunset in Banff is the Vermilion Lakes. They are a splendid setting of natural beauty and, compared to many parts of the park, relatively quiet.
On a warm evening, head here with some drinks and comfy clothes to witness a spectacular end to the day as the final light of the day strikes Mount Rundle. All those who relax along the shores will hardly find a more calming way to end the day. The striking scene is equally suited to enjoy in the morning with a coffee.
If you score some space on one of the docks, consider yourself lucky, you have the best view in the house!
Vermilion Lakes are an Ideal Place To Paddle
An extensive network of marshland supplies the habitat for much of the birdlife in the area. The marshlands are best explored by a canoe or kayak as a series of channels connect the lakes that are prime for exploration. Reeds, trees, and the landscape provide natural protection so the water remains gentle perfect for novice paddlers.
It’s the perfect way to take in the lakes from a different perspective as you can paddle a canoe or kayak through the marsh. Keep an eye out for beavers, muskrats, or a bald eagle.
Canoes and kayaks are available for rent from the Banff Canoe Club on Bow Avenue. From the Banff Canoe Club, you can paddle the calm waters of Echo Creek and Forty Mile Creek.
Spot Some Wildlife
The marshlands are prime habitats for wildlife and birdlife. Not only are Vermilion Lakes a wonderful spot to relax and enjoy the serene nature, but there is a good chance you won’t be alone as wildlife frequent the area. The most common animals to see are elk, mule deer, and the occasional moose or bear.
There have even been sightings of wolves in the area, but don’t expect to see the elusive animals. If nothing else you’re guaranteed to find some birdlife such as eagles, osprey, loons, bufflehead, and a slew of rare and common birds. It’s a given that you’re never alone at Vermilion Lakes.
Stretch The Legs on a Short Hike
If you’re looking for a small walk in nature the Fenland trail is a nice trail that loops through a white spruce forest and the marshlands near Vermilion Lakes. This is an easy Banff hike that is just a short 2 km kilometer loop along a gravel trail and a fabulous way to take in some nature.
A small trail connects Fenland Trail to Vermilion Lakes Drive where you can walk to one of the several docks on the lakes to take in some views of Mt. Rundle and Sulphur.
Capture Breathtaking Photos
Vermilion Lakes is one of the best locations for photographs in Banff. Photographers seek out the lakes during golden hour as they provide a sublime landscape and the opportunity to spot wildlife close to town. It’s a great spot as it doesn’t take much effort to get to Vermilion Lakes, but the scenery still remains breathtaking. Evening light is best as it strikes Mt. Rundle and creates a serene reflection in the lakes.
Northern Lights and Ice Bubbles
With close proximity to town and no light pollution, they’re a great spot for stargazing. If you’re particularly fortunate you can even catch the Northern Lights in Banff between the months of September-April.
Winter months are best as the days are shorter and the sky is darker. The lakes do freeze over in the winter and it is common to find methane bubbles stuck in the ice.
FAQ About Vermilion Lakes
Do You Need a Parks Pass to Visit Vermilion Lakes?
Vermilion Lakes are located in Banff National Park, so a Parks Canada pass is needed to visit the lakes. Parks passes cost $10.50 per day per person.
Or you can buy them from Parks Canada in advance online. If you’re staying in Banff for more than a few days, I highly recommend a Discovery Pass. A Parks Canada Discovery Pass which gets you entrance to all Parks Canada destinations for the year is only $145.25 for a family.
Are There Facilities at Vermilion Lakes?
There are no restroom facilities at Vermilion Lakes. However there are a few picnic benches to sit and enjoy the view.
Where Can You Park at Vermilion Lakes?
There aren’t many places to park along Vermilion Lakes Rd. Most visitors will park along the road and get out for a quick stop, however this is limited especially during the summer months. If you can’t find parking near the Vermilion Lakes Viewpoint you can park at the Fenland Trailhead off of Mount Norquay Rd.
Can You Swim in Vermilion Lakes?
I suppose technically you could? However, not only are the Banff lakes freezing, but Vermilion Lakes in particular are shallow and marshy, so it’s truly best left for the ducks to swim in.
What is the Mountain By Vermilion Lakes?
The mountain you see in front of you when visiting Vermilion Lakes is the beautiful Mount Rundle.
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.
↓ 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.