11 Best Alternative Lakes to Lake Louise

Morain Lake

When visiting Lake Louise, you might want to explore other nearby lakes to make the most of your trip. These lakes offer stunning views, outdoor activities, and a chance to experience the beauty of the Rockies without the crowds.

Lakes to Visit Near Lake Louise

Here are some of the best lakes to visit near Lake Louise.

Herbert Lake

Herbert Lake is a charming alpine lake framed by snow-capped mountains, making it a perfect spot for a quick visit. The lake often has a mist hovering above the water, creating an eerie and mysterious atmosphere that adds to its allure. Despite its beauty, the lake remains relatively quiet.

The lake's clear green waters reflect the surrounding trees. It's an ideal stop for a refreshing break while driving along the Icefields Parkway.

How to reach there:

Herbert Lake is easily accessible with a pull-off parking area from the Icefields Parkway. From the parking lot, head left towards the bathrooms.

Things to Know

  • Easy hike around the lake, only 1.6 km
  • Quiet and less crowded, even in summer
  • Bring a swimsuit for a refreshing dip

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake is one of the most stunning lakes near Banff, known for its vibrant green waters that set it apart from other lakes. The majestic President Range surrounds the lake.

If you want to get out on the water, you must rent canoes from the Emerald Lake Boathouse, as bringing your own is prohibited as of September 2023. You can find some food options and picnic areas near the boathouse around the lake loop.

For those interested in hiking, there is an easy trail to Takakkaw Falls from the lake loop. This hike offers stunning views, especially in the late afternoon when the mist and rainbows around the falls create a magical atmosphere.

How to Reach There

Emerald Lake is located in Yoho National Park, a 30-minute drive from Lake Louise. Follow the signs to Yoho National Park, and you'll find Emerald Lake easily.

Things to Know

  • Parking can be limited in summer; arrive early or late
  • Observe speed limits to protect wildlife
  • May need to park down the road and walk a bit in peak hours
  • Canoes are available on a first-come, first-served basis

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake, pronounced "PEE-toh," is a glacier-fed lake in Banff National Park, renowned for its unique shape that resembles a wolf's head.

From the parking lot, a short 15-minute, family-friendly hike leads to a newly built viewing deck where you can take in the stunning panorama of the lake. The viewpoint also includes a handicap-accessible section.

How to Reach There

Peyto Lake is 44 km north of Lake Louise on the west side of the Icefields Parkway. Access the viewpoint from the Peyto Lake parking lot.

Things to Know

  • Free parking is available but fills up quickly in summer
  • Handicap-accessible viewing deck
  • For hiking, wear sturdy shoes with a good grip

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is a breathtaking turquoise gem drawing millions of visitors and countless Instagram posts. The lake's stunning colour, set against towering peaks, is a sight to behold and is best seen from June to October when the roads are open and the waters are thawed.

Beyond enjoying the incredible views, there are plenty of activities to enhance your visit. You can test your paddleboarding skills, take a picturesque canoe ride, or hike up to the Tower of Babel for a nearly bird's-eye view of the lake.

How to Reach There

Moraine Lake is about an hour's drive from the Town of Banff and just 20 minutes further than Lake Louise. Private vehicles are no longer allowed, so you'll need to book the Moraine Lake Shuttle, departing from the Summer Gondola parking lot.

Things to Know

  • Best time to visit: June to October
  • Make shuttle reservations in advance; late afternoon/evening shuttle buses are less busy
  • Moraine Lake Lodge Cafe is available, but expect long lines

Bow Lake

With its bright teal waters, Bow Lake sits at an elevation of 1,920 meters, making it too chilly for swimming but perfect for other activities.

The lake is one of the largest in Banff National Park, and the towering mountains surrounding it offer a humbling and awe-inspiring backdrop.

From the shore, visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the Bow Glacier, which feeds the lake during the summer and is the source of the Bow River.

How to Reach There

Bow Lake is conveniently located about half an hour north of Lake Louise along the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). Bow Lake has a large free parking spot for personal vehicles.

Things to Know

  • Best hiking time: July to mid-September
  • Combine the visit with nearby Peyto Lake
  • Mosquitoes can be bothersome, so come prepared
  • Canoeing and fishing are also popular activities.

Waterfowl Lakes

The Waterfowl Lakes are a pair of serene blue lakes offering a peaceful retreat within Banff National Park. These glacial lakes are perfect for those looking to canoe or paddleboard. However, you must bring your own watercraft as rentals are unavailable.

The area is also a fantastic campsite, ideal for hiking and scrambling. The hike to Chephren Lake also starts from Waterfowl Lakes.

How to Reach There

The Waterfowl Lakes are located along the Icefields Parkway on your left-hand side if you're driving from Banff to Jasper.

Things to Know

  • Limited parking is available; most options near the campground
  • National parks pass required for entry

Hector Lake

Hector Lake, the second lake from the headwaters of the Bow River, is a hidden gem along the Icefields Parkway. Unlike the more frequently visited lakes, Hector Lake requires a 2.2 km hike.

The trail can be pretty muddy, so it's recommended to wear hiking boots or shoes that you don't mind getting dirty. Along the way, you'll encounter an icy river fjord that needs to be crossed.

How to Reach There

Hector Lake is located 18 km from the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway and Icefields Parkway. Look for a small dirt pullout on the left and a wooden sign marking the trailhead for Hector Lake Hike.

Things to Know

  • Avoid hiking in late spring/early summer due to high river levels (August is the best month)
  • Fishing gear recommended for rainbow trout

Helen Lake

The Helen Lake Trail leads you through a breathtaking valley filled with marmots and wildflowers.

At the end of the alpine meadows, you'll discover Helen Lake, nestled below a massive headwall that ascends to Dolomite Pass. For those seeking an additional adventure, scramblers can continue to summit Cirque Peak for more incredible views.

How to Reach There

The Helen Lake Trailhead is located along the Icefields Parkway, directly across the road from the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint and the shore of Bow Lake. It is approximately 23 miles (or about 30 minutes) north of Lake Louise.

Things to Know

  • Best hiking time: July through October
  • Trail length: 13 kilometres, roughly 6 hours to complete
  • Trail elevation gain: 585 meters

Consolation Lakes

Consolation Lakes is a popular destination that pairs well with a visit to Moraine Lake. The 6-km round trip hike offers hikers stunning views of the Tower of Babel, an old-growth forest, and the majestic Mt. Fay, topped with a glacier. The lakes themselves boast a light teal colour.

How to Reach There

Consolation Lakes can be reached by following the trail from the Moraine Lake parking lot. Follow the signposts to the left from the lot, cross the bridge, and continue along the trail.

Things to Know

  • No parking at Moraine Lake. Must take shuttles from Lake Louise Summer Gondola.
  • It is recommended to hike in groups due to bear activity

Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake is a tranquil spot perfect for a relaxing visit. The walk around the lakeshore is straightforward, with an even elevation. Its proximity to the Town of Banff and the Two Jack Lake campsite makes it easily accessible.

In winter, Johnson Lake transforms into one of the best spots for ice skating.

How to Reach There

Head towards Lake Minnewanka on the Trans-Canada Highway to reach Johnson Lake from Banff. Take the second right towards "Two Jack Lake" and follow this road. Then, take the first right, leading you to Johnson Lake.

Things to Know

  • Ideal for stand-up paddleboarding and swimming
  • Look out for a rope swing

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park (21 km long). It is a man-made lake, rich in history, with archaeological sites and artifacts dating back up to 14,000 years scattered along its shores.

Popular boat cruises take visitors to the lake's start, known as the Devil's Gap, offering stunning views and a chance to explore the lake's beauty from the water. The lakeshore is a favourite spot for picnicking, mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, diving, and snowshoeing.

How to Reach There

Lake Minnewanka is a ten-minute drive from Banff town. From Calgary, take the "Banff/Lake Minnewanka Loop" exit. In summer, Roam Public Transit's Route 6 bus leaves downtown Banff every 30 minutes.

Things to Know

  • Best visited from June to October for the full range of activities
  • The lake conceals a submerged Canadian resort town preserved underwater.

Conclusion

All the lakes are exciting, but Lake Louise is special in its own way. There’s a reason why they are the most visited lakes in Banff National Park. While it can be difficult to access due to being so busy, you can always see it from the sky by riding the gondola.

If you truly want to enjoy all the activities with a comfortable stay, plan your visit to Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola. With lift tickets, guided hikes, dining options, and more, you'll have everything you need for an amazing trip. Get tickets for this summer today!

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