The Rocky Mountains are jam-packed with incredible mountain peaks, magnificent glaciers, and turquoise blue alpine lakes. In this post, we will go over 12 of our all-time favorite lakes in the Canadian Rockies and why you should put them at the top of your bucket list!
Lake O’Hara is without a doubt one of the most incredible lakes in The Canadian Rockies and one of our very favourite places on earth. The crystal clear water is surrounded by massive mountains, dozens of hiking trails, and several other alpine lakes. The best part about Lake O’Hara is that you can’t drive right up to it. You either have to book the bus (and be sure to book early) or hike in and out on the 11-kilometre service road.
So why is that such a good thing? Well, you won’t find this place buzzing with tourists looking to get a quick “insta-perfect picture” and then drive away. The amount of people is always limited allowing you to truly enjoy the serene beauty. The Lodge and campground book up really quickly every year; so make sure to plan ahead!
Moraine Lake is one of the most photographed lakes in Canada, and for good reason! The turquoise water and stunning mountain backdrop make this a perfect place to hang out for the day. Relax with a book, take a canoe out on the water, or set out on one of the several hikes in the area.
TIP: Go before 8 am during the summer to beat the crowds and make sure you get a parking spot. If the lot is full when you arrive, you will have to take the shuttle from just outside the town of Lake Louise.
Maligne Lake is well known for the colour of its water, the 360-degree mountain views, and the three visible glaciers in the area. Spirit Island, a small island near the middle of the lake, is one of Canada’s most photographed areas. There are several hiking trails in close proximity including Opal Hills Loop and Bald Hills. Both of these offer a birds-eye view of Maligne Lake as well as the entire valley. If you’re interested, you can take a boat tour of the lake to learn about the area and find some unique views.
TIP: Boat tours start at 9:30 am throughout the summer months. If you’re looking for a quiet and less crowded experience, we would highly recommend going before the tours begin. It will also significantly improve your chances of seeing wildlife!
Floe Lake is hands down the most incredible lake in Kootenay National Park and one of the best overnight campgrounds in The Canadian Rockies. Although part of the 55km Rockwall Trail, you are also able to hike in for the day via The Floe Lake Trailhead.
This trail takes you up a few switchbacks right off the bat and then the elevation levels off. You will spend the majority of the hike in a burnt valley full of new growth and wildflowers. Once you get to the end of the valley, the work begins. You gain about 500 meters of elevation over the last 2km before reaching the alpine lake. You will be blown away, we promise!
Named after its memorizing colour; Emerald Lake is another exceptional mountain lake in The Canadian Rockies. Located in Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake Lodge offers a rustic meets luxurious experience for those wanting to stay right on the lake. You can rent canoes, hike around the lake or enjoy a meal at one of the two fantastic restaurants.
LOCAL TIP: Especially over the past few years, Emerald Lake has become an increasingly popular tourist destination. This means busses and heavy traffic usually arrive at 10 am. Go early on a weekday to avoid the crowds or try a hike in the area.
Lake Louise is an iconic hamlet in Banff National Park known for its turquoise, glacier-fed lake. The surrounding mountains and Fairmont Chateau standing proudly on its shore make it an ever-popular tourist destination. There’s a canoe dock that offers rentals for anyone who’d like to paddle out and explore the lake. This is an awesome way to get some peace and quiet, but I’ll warn you now, they are not cheap!
TIPS: The parking lot fills up daily by 8:30-9 am. Make sure to get there beforehand if you’re looking for a quieter experience. For a view from the top and to escape the crowds, hike up to the Big Beehive Lookout or The Devil’s Thumb!
This unique mountain lake is known for its colour and the fact that it is shaped like a wolf’s head. The trail to the viewpoint is an easy 15-minute walk from the parking lot. Although very convenient; this also means that heavy traffic will frequent the area each day.
LOCAL SECRET: Want to ditch the crowds? We’ve got you! Once you’ve seen Peyto from the viewpoint, jump in your car and drive north for 2-3 minutes. You will soon see a small unmarked parking lot on your left, pull in there. Following the only trail for about 2km will take you right to the shore of the lake! We hiked in on a Saturday with a SUP and had the entire place to ourselves.
30 minutes down Highway 93 past Peyto, you will find Glacier Lake. If you are into backcountry camping this is a phenomenal place to visit for the night! The hike is actually fairly easy and the campground is located directly on the lakeshore with views of the glacier on the other side.
The best part? You can leave your vehicle, get to this spot, and set up your hammock in less than 2 hours! The trailhead is located on the Icefields Parkway near the Saskatchewan River Crossing. Make sure to reserve a spot as early as possible, this campground tends to book up months in advance.
This pristine, kidney-shaped lake is well known for its location at the base of the statuesque Pyramid Mountain which towers over the town of Jasper. You can spend a few hours walking along the shore or rent kayaks & canoes from Pyramid Lake Resort. Don’t forget to check out the bridge over to Pyramid Island, the place is just screaming for a photo or two!
TIP: Keep your eyes peeled for the Elk heard that frequent the area year-round.
This stunning lake is surrounded by towering peaks, several hiking trails, and a massive waterfall! Not to mention a few other lakes that are just as breathtaking. The easiest way to get there is to take the gondola up to Sunshine Village. From there it’s a 13-kilometre hike, most of which is downhill, to the campground and the lake.
Make sure to book your campsite or the Egypt Lake Shelter well in advance; you can do that HERE. I strongly recommend hiking up to Scarab Lake since along the way you can hang out at the top of the waterfall! From there you have access to The Sphinx Route which will bring you to a jaw-dropping viewpoint over Scarab and Mummy Lake.
Bow Lake is actually one of the largest lakes in The Canadian Rockies and is located just south of Peyto Lake on the Icefields Parkway. On a calm day, Bow Summit is perfectly reflected in the clear glacier water making it a great place for a picnic or a short walk along the shore. There are also a few hiking trails in the area that offer excellent views from above. If you’re into waterfalls, you can also hike up to Bow Falls!
Marvel Lake is a magnificent destination located on the trail into Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park (in BC) from the Mount Shark Parking Lot. This can be a bit confusing – you actually park in Kananaskis Country and cross the border over into Banff National Park on your way to Marvel Lake. If you go further than the lake, you cross the AB/BC border.
The Marvel Lake Campground is a great place to stay on its own or you can add it to a longer loop that includes stops in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. If you’re just planning to stay at the lake, we would encourage you to stay two nights and hike up into Wonder Pass on your second day. From there, you will get incredible views of Marvel Lake and the lake that feeds into it, Lake Gloria.