6 unmissable lakes in the Canadian Rockies

Outstanding scenery is what the Canadian Rockies does best. If you're visiting the national parks this summer, here are six lakes you should not miss. Paddle a canoe through turquoise waters, take a lazy stroll along the lakeshore or sip on a hot chocolate from a luxury lodge. Even if you're short on time, it doesn't matter as it's possible to visit all of these lakes in one day.* Check out the map at the bottom of this article to plan your route. 

 

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake may not be the most famous lake in the area, but is one of the magnificent bluey-turquoise lakes in the Rockies you should not miss. 

From the parking lot at Bow Summit, a short paved trail leads you to this spectacular viewing platform. It's pretty cool as you get to see the water flowing down from Peyto Glacier, into the lake, with swirling currents as the water stills and rock flour begins to settle. 

During the busy summer season, the viewpoint can get very busy, so hiking the 3km up to the Bow Summit will provide peacefulness where you can enjoy even more impressive vistas. 

Peyto Lake

 

Bow Lake

Bow Lake is a great place to stop on your Icefields Parkway road trip. It's less-touristy than many of the other well-known lakes in the area but is just as beautiful. Take 10-minutes out to enjoy the impressive views of the imposing Crowfoot Glacier from the lake shore. 

Bow Lake

 

Lake Louise

Lake Louise is world-famous and is one of the most visited lakes on the planet. Framed by soaring mountains with the backdrop of the Victoria glacier the view is breathtaking. 

With the lake being so popular, try and visit before 9am or after 7pm to soak up the beauty without the crowds. Or arrive by shuttle bus at any time and go beyond the lake shore where you will quickly loose the tourists. Big Beehive is a spectacular point to view the lake from as is the Fairview fire lookout. The lake is frozen from November to early-June, but you can still enjoy the lake in winter by venturing out ice skating or sipping on a cocktail from the ice bar. 

Lake Louise winter

 

Moraine Lake

Just a short 300 meters from the car parking lot, you can climb the actual moraine. Sitting on top of the rock pile as you look out at Moraine Lake is one of Canada's most photographed places and is known as the "Twenty Dollar View" as it featured on Canada's $20 bill back in the 1960's & 70's. 

There are several other excellent (and longer) hiking trails that begin from Moraine Lake. The Tower of Babel is a hike not listed in the official day hiking booklet. You scramble 430m to reach the summit, with the views from above making the lake appear even more turquoise. You also have unparalleled views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks and Mount Temple with Consolation Lakes below. 

Moraine Lake

 

Emerald Lake

Situated across the border in British Columbia, Emerald Lake is without doubt one of Yoho National Park's gems. It's also the biggest lake in Yoho. Once you are there, there is an easy 5.2 km (3.2 mile) hiking trail that takes you around the lake shore or you can cross-country ski across the frozen ice in winter.

If you're looking for lakeside lodging, then you can't beat staying in one of the cosy cabins, with your very own crackling fire. The main lodge houses plenty of board games to play in the evenings plus a huge billiards table. Guests also have exclusive access to the super-scenic hot tub to relax in whilst looking out on the surrounding mountains. 

Emerald Lake

 

Lake O'Hara

I'd heard nothing but amazing reviews, and was dying to visit the area. However, getting the chance to explore the area and see the lakes with your own two eyes is reserved for the lucky, or very determined, few. Why? In order to protect this delicate alpine area, Parks Canada operate a shuttle bus service to limit the number of people accessing the area. Without securing bus tickets, this leaves only one other option - to walk in. It takes about 2 hours but is absolutely worth it.

When you arrive on the shores of Lake O'Hara it's clear you've arrived in a true wilderness destination. Being such a hidden gem, the whole area is peaceful and uncrowded. After you've taken in the alpine scenery from the shore, there's plenty of trails to venture off on. We chose the hike that takes you to the top of Opabin Plateau where you can enjoy undoubtedly the best view of Lake O'Hara. 

Viewing Lake O'Hara from the Obapin Plateau.png

*With the exception of Lake O'Hara (due to needing advance bus reservations) it's possible to visit all these lakes on the same day. 

Outstanding scenery is what the Canadian Rockies do best. If you're planning a trip out west this summer, there are two National Parks and six gorgeous lakes you should not miss. Check out Alamo Rent-A-Car’s Banff and Jasper travel guide here.

Best lakes in the Canadian Rockies map

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