Moraine Lake in Alberta’s Banff National Park is one of my favourite places I’ve ever been. The natural beauty there is unbelievable and so breathtaking that it feels like you’re in a postcard. If you’re looking for picturesque views of snow-peaked mountains, dense pine tree forests and valleys, and a vibrant turquoise-coloured lake along with plenty of fantastic photo opportunities, then you HAVE to go to Moraine Lake.
This summer, I embarked on a solo road trip through the Canadian Rockies and dedicated an entire day to spend at Moraine Lake starting with watching the sunrise over the lake. I also had the privilege of returning to the lake a few days later to watch the sunset, which was just as amazing. I had visited Moraine Lake last summer as well (2016) on a road trip with my mother but afterwards felt like I could’ve spent so much more time exploring the beauty of this amazing place. So that is exactly what I did this time on my second visit.
I had been staying in Canmore, Alberta and woke up early to drive to Moraine Lake, arriving shortly after 7 am. The parking lot was already filling up and there were quite a few people there but the atmosphere was still very serene and being surrounded by such spectacular natural beauty was awesome. The air was crisp and cool and it was perfect for spending time hiking and exploring stunning scenery at this gorgeous glacier mountain lake!
Hikes From Moraine Lake
There are plenty of great day hikes beginning from Moraine Lake ranging from the easier to the more difficult ones. I spent most of the day at the lake and these were the hikes that I did and I loved all of them.
The Rockpile Trail
This short and easy 1.4 km trail is the busiest hike starting from the lake and for good reason. The short uphill pathway literally winds its way to the top of a large pile of rocks where you will find the most amazing and rewarding views overlooking Moraine Lake.
This hike was the first thing I did upon arriving to the lake. At the top of the rock pile, there are some benches and you will find the most incredible views of the lake and surrounding mountains and valleys from a variety of perspectives. The scenery was so gorgeous and awe-inspiring and there were plenty of amazing photo opportunities. I sat on one of the benches and enjoyed watching the sun rise over the mountains and onto the lake. I returned to this spot a few days later in the evening when I was staying at a hostel in Lake Louise and was able to watch the sunset from this spot also. It was such a great experience.
This trail gets busy quickly, so I would recommend doing this one first when you arrive to the lake. Make sure to come back after the sun has fully risen though, as the water looks even more vibrant and incredible when the sun is shining on it.
I ended up spending one night at a hostel in Lake Louise on my way to Jasper (a few days after visiting Moraine Lake from Banff) and decided to drive up to Moraine Lake for a second visit but this time, to experience the sunset in the evening. I arrived there around 8:30 pm and hiked up the Rockpile where I spent the next hour or so sitting on a bench overlooking the lake and admiring the sunset over Moraine Lake. It was such an amazing experience to be able to see the lake twice during my trip – at sunrise and sunset – and the mountain reflections on the water’s surface in the evening were just so spectacular. If you have the time and opportunity to do so, I would recommend checking out the lake at both times of day.
Consolation Lakes is an easy 6 km round-trip trail that starts from along the Rockpile Trail (on the left side, just before the climb to the top of the rock pile) and leads to the beautiful Consolation Lakes with incredible views of the surrounding jagged mountain peaks, glaciers, a rocky landscape with lots of large boulders to climb around on, and a peaceful glacial-fed river flowing through.
The hike started off by descending into the valley and then passing through a very rocky area where I even found some recent avalanche debris and snow patches! The trail then wound through the beautiful forest for the remainder of the hike on a mostly flat path with some short slightly uphill sections (but only 60 metres elevation gain in total). At the end of the hike, the trail emerged from the forest and opened to a field of large boulders with the lake visible in the distance. There were gorgeous views of the tall jagged mountains, sheer vertical cliffs, and the Fay Glacier overlooking the lake.
I enjoyed climbing over the large rocks in order to get closer to the lake, but if you do this, make sure to watch your step as there are lots of crevices in the rocks and it would be easy to trip (I did while jumping from one rock to another and scraped my knee). I ate my snack while sitting on the rocks and loved appreciating the scenery in such a calm atmosphere.
For a short hike, Consolation Lakes was very rewarding and I would highly recommend hiking this trail.
Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail
The Lakeshore Trail is also a short and easy trail that is 3 km in length (round-trip). This peaceful pathway starts from beside the Moraine Lake Lodge and follows along the shoreline of the lake as it passes through a gorgeous lush forest. There were many openings in the trees along the way to provide a variety of perspectives and views of the lake.
Hiking this trail was so peaceful. It eventually lead to a boardwalk area at the far end of the lake where there was a small waterfall flowing from the glaciers and down the mountain into Moraine Lake. When I stepped on the boardwalk and got closer to the waterfall, the temperature suddenly felt like it had dropped ten degrees and was very chilly. There were also beautiful views of the glaciers and mountain peaks from this point.
The trail followed back along the same path and was such a pretty hike to do.
There are also two longer and more challenging day hikes that begin from the shoreline of the lake – Eiffel Lake and Larch Valley. Both of these hikes look incredible from what I have seen and read and offer beautiful views. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to hike either of these trails. When I visit Moraine Lake in the future though, hiking the Eiffel Lake and Larch Valley trails will definitely be at the top of my list of things to do!
Tips for Visiting Moraine Lake
- Arrive Early – Although it is not as crowded and insanely busy as its nearby neighbour Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is still a very popular place to visit for travelers. During the high season in July and August, the parking lot fills up quickly. In order to get a parking spot and beat the crowds and tour buses that will arrive mid-morning and early afternoon, you must arrive early. And by early, I mean you should be at the lake by 7 am or 7:30 am. Most of the parking spots were already taken by 8 to 8:30 am when I visited.
- Plan to Spend at Least Half a Day – There are a variety of wonderful day hikes to do from Moraine Lake,
Moraine Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Canadian Rockies. If you are traveling to Banff National Park, do not miss visiting this one.
I had such an amazing day at Moraine Lake and cannot wait to return again on my next trip to the area!
Have you traveled to Moraine Lake in Banff?
Thanks for reading!