Beautiful Turquoise lakes. Super cute cabins. Towering mountains in every direction. Lake Louise has easily become my favourite place in Canada (Shh don’t let BC know…) It’s also one of the most visited places in Canada. Located inside Banff National Park, this bucket-list destination is also one of the most beautiful areas in Canada, so much so that it attracts more than 3.6 million visitors per year. While you’re unlikely to have this place to yourself, it helps to plan ahead.
This post documents all the best things to do in Lake Louise and surrounding area. Whether you want to hike the iconic Big Beehive, sip tea at the Lake Agnes tea house or go canoeing at Moraine Lake.
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How To Get To Lake Louise
Lake Louise is situated on the border of British Columbia and Alberta. It is approximately 2 hours from Calgary, 4.5 hours from Edmonton and 9-11 hours from Vancouver.
From Calgary: From Calgary you’ll need to get onto the Highway 1 West and continue until you see signs for Lake Louise. Take the exit for Lake Louise and you’ll arrive in the small village.
From Edmonton: There are two routes you can take from Edmonton to Banff. The first route takes you into Calgary via the Highway 2 South and then onto Highway 1 West through Canmore and Banff.
The second route is longer but you’ll get to see the Icefields Parkway as part of your drive into Lake Louise. For this route you’ll need to take Highway 2 South and then take Highway 12 West to Rocky Mountain House. Once you reach Rocky Mountain House take Highway 11 West all the way to Saskatchewan River Crossing. Turn left onto the Icefields Parkway and carry on until you reach signs for Lake Louise.
From Vancouver: The drive to Banff from Vancouver is a popular but long route. You can do this drive in around 10-12 hours total without stopping or make a road-trip of it and stop along the way.
To get to Lake Loiuse from Vancouver take the Highway 1 East until you reach the town of Hope then then follow signs for Highway 5 North and continue until you see signs for Highway 1 East. Stay on Highway 1 until you see signs for Lake Louise at the BC/Alberta Border.
From Banff Town: Take Highway 1 North for approximately 40 minutes until you reach signs for Lake Louise.
What To Pack For Lake Louise
Knowing what to pack for a trip to Lake Louise is important because conditions in the mountains can change dramatically. In the summer months you van expect highs of 16c degrees and lows of 4c degrees.
You’ll also need to think about what kind of activities you want to take part in during your trip. Are you into hiking? If so, what kind of hikes are you planning?
For easy to moderate hikes in Lake Louise, such as Lake Agnes, you can probably get away with wearing a good pair of Nikes (for example) But this probably won’t cut it going up to the Devil’s Thumb (Not saying it can’t be done, but it won’t be as fun!) You Can download my day hike packing list below!
It can snow (and has!) snow at any point during the summer. Do not assume that because it’s July you will get super hot temperatures. You need to come prepared for both hot days and cold days, and rain!
Here are ten essentials for any trip to Lake Louise:
2) Hiking Boots
3) Hiking Poles
4) First Aid Kit
5) Warm Coat
6) Decent pair of socks
10) Bear Spray
Some days in the rockies can be really warm too – so shorts and dresses can absolutely be packed but it’s always good to be prepared for increment weather. Download the full packing list below!
Where To Stay In Lake Louise
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the most famous hotel in Lake Louise. It is known across the world due to it’s iconic location. If you want the ultimate bucket-list experience for your stay in Lake Louise then consider booking this beautiful hotel. Staying at the Chateau Lake Louise is a luxury experience like no other in the area. This hotel doesn’t come cheap but staying here is a dream come true. Perks of staying at the hotel are it’s proximity to the lake (it literally sits on the shore of Lake Louise!) easy access to the Lake (only guests can enter the hotel from the Lake itself, non-guests have to enter via the lobby) and discounted canoe rentals. The hotel has an indoor pool, fitness centre, spa and several dining locations. Paid parking and Valet is also available.
Moraine Lake Lodge – Apart from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the other sought after luxury experience is Moraine Lake Lodge. Just like the chateau at Lake Louise, this hotel sits at the shore of the famous Moraine Lake. The decor of this hotel is quite different to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Moraine Lake Lodge has more of a log cabin type architecture. The lodge is beautiful and has easy access to the lake and also offers discounted canoe rentals for guests.
Deer Lodge – Deer Lodge is another mid-range hotel in Lake Louise. This hotel is located just before the lake itself, just a few minutes drive. The great thing about the hotel being so close to the lake is that its actually within walking distance so no need to pay for the day parking at Lake Louise. Amenities offered by the Deer Lodge include free parking, free wifi, hot tub and sauna.
Lake Louise Inn – The Lake Louise Inn is a moderate to budget option in Lake Louise. This hotel is beautiful and has a lot of character. The lobby is beautiful with a full rustic fireplace. Amenities are the hotel include an inside pool, hot tub, several dining locations and free parking. There is easy access to the actual town of Lake Louise as well which you can reach on foot to access the local grocery stores and gift shops.
HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre – The HI is your backpacker or budget friendly option in Lake Louise. You may think that because it’s a hostel that only young people stay here but you’ll see people from all walks of life including families. Different size dorms are offered as well as private rooms and the location is just a 15-minute from from Lake Louise. The hostel has an onsite restaurant which is budget friendly and offers free parking for guests. The HI Alpine Centre is located just opposite the Lake Louise Inn, so again very close to local shops and grocery stores.
Quick Facts About Lake Louise
Did you know?…
Lake Louise is the highest village in the world, sitting at an elevation of 1540 metres while the lake itself sits at 1750 metres.
Lake Louise stretches 2 kilometres long and 500 metres wide.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise started as a simple log cabin built by Canadian Pacific Railway general manager Cornelius Van Horne.
Prior to being named Lake Louise it was known as Ho-Run-Num-Nay by the Stoney First Nations.
Then the lake changed names again. In 1882 a Canadian Pacific Railway worker named Thomas Wilson heard sounds of a nearby avalanche. The local First Nations people brought Thomas to the lake on horseback, upon setting eyes on the lake he named it Emerald Lake.
The lake was later renamed “Lake Louise” after Princess Caroline Alberta, the daughter of Queen Victoria and wife of the Governor General of Canada.
Things To Do In Lake Louise
1) Visit The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
One of the most famous hotels in the world, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise first opened it’s doors as a log cabin in 1882 and has operated in it’s current state as a hotel since 1911.
The majestic Chateau Lake Louise graces the shores of Lake Louise overlooking this bright blue lake. A trip to Lake Louise isn’t complete without at least taking a stroll through this beautiful hotel. The hotel itself can only be accessed by non-guests through the front lobby. Guests of the hotel have the convenience of exiting and entering through the doors lakeside.
Make a reservation for afternoon tea at the Fairview Lounge or lunch at the Lake View Lounge. Both of these dining rooms feature amazing views of the lake through big arched windows.
2) Canoe On Lake Louise
Canoeing on Lake Louise is a must for most visitors and it’s easy to see why. For most people this is a once in a lifetime experience. Canoeing is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Lake Louise but it doesn’t come cheap.
Rates for for non-hotel guests are $125 for 30-minutes or $135 for 1 hour. Guests staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise can skip the long lines and the rates are cheaper. As a guest at the hotel you’ll pay $85 for 30-minutes and $95 for 1 hour, prices do not include GST. The boathouse at the Fairmont is open from 8:30am to 7pm in the summer.
The Boathouse at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise gets very busy in July and August and you can expect long lines and waits to rent a canoe. The best time to come to Lake Louise to canoe is early in the morning. Not only is the lake calm but there are substantially fewer people as well. If you’re after that bucket-list photo, early morning is the time to come!
3) Walk Around The Lake Shore
If you’re not into hiking or have people in your party who are less mobile, the lake shore trail is perfect for a relaxing walk or easy hike in Lake Louise. There is no elevation gain, the trail simply takes you from the top of the lake, along the side and to the back where the beach is! This is something the whole family can do gives you a unique perspective of Lake Louise.
4) Have Tea At Lake Agnes Tea House
The Lake House at Lake Agnes is one of the most popular things to do in Lake Louise. The hike up fairly easy for the average person and there are no technical sections of this hike so many visitors add this hike to their Lake Louise itinerary.
The hike itself is 7.4km long there and back and a total of 435 metres of elevation gain. It does require a bit of effort and everyone in your party will need to be in good health as this is still considered a moderate hike. The trail itself is pretty well maintained but as always I recommend bringing lots of water and your ten hiking essentials, as even on easy well-maintained trails, anything can happen!
5) Hike The Big Beehive
If you’re an intermediate to advanced hiker and you’d like to go further than the Lake Agnes Tea House, Lake Louise has plenty of hikes leading to beautiful viewpoints.
One of the most popular hikes in Lake Louise is the Big Beehive. This is considered a difficult and more technical hike than that of Lake Agnes and should only be attempted for those with hiking experience.
The Big Beehive is just 2 kilometres from Lake Agnes, however the elevation gain is an additional 340 metres of elevation. Most of the elevation on this hike is gained within 1.5km over a series of switchbacks.
It’s important to pack the hiking essentials when attempting this hike or any other difficult hike in the Lake Louise area as cell service is not guaranteed.
I also recommend bringing hiking poles like these to help relieve some of the strain on your knees and legs. My hiking poles have helped me on so many technical hikes and are a real game changer.
Once you eventually reach the lookout for the Big Beehive take a moment to sit, relax and enjoy this incredible panoramic view of Lake Louise. It truly is an unbelievable sight.
6) Hike The Devil’s Thumb
If you’ve already tackled the Big Beehive or simply want to challenge yourself a little more, the Devil’s Thumb is another hike in the Lake Agnes region that features incredible views of the lakes and valley below. This lookout is much higher than the Big Beehive and therefore more difficult. I would absolutely recommend the hiking poles for this one.
The round trip length of the Devil’s Thumb is 12.9km and an elevation gain of 883 metres. This hiking trail takes the same route as the Big Beehive through the steep switchbacks until you reach the top. Then the trail veers off in the other direction to Big Beehive. Once you arrive at the top you’ll be greeted by one of the most unique views of Lake Louise. From here you’ll be able to see both Lake Louise and Lake Agnes.
7) Hike The Plain Of Six Glaciers
The Plain of Six Glaciers hike offers different views and landscapes to that of the Big Beehive and Devil’s Thumb. This hike is 14.6 kilometres round trip and a total elevation gain of 588 metres.
This trail starts at the Lake Louise shore and follows the lake shore until you reach then end of the lake, this is where you’ll start to gain elevation. On the way you’ll pass the “other” tea house in Lake Louise, the Plain of Six Glaciers tea house. You can either stop here on the way in or take a moment to rest your feet on the way back.
Aptly named the Plain of Six Glaciers, besides wildflowers and mountain peaks, you’ll get glimpses of some of the amazing glaciers that call Lake Louise home.
8) Watch The Sunrise At Moraine Lake
Watching the sunrise at Moraine Lake has to be on your list of things to do in Lake Louise. Moraine Lake is equally, if not more, popular than Lake Louise. This turquoise glacial lake has a deeper blue colour than that of Lake Louise and it’s beauty attracts thousands of visitors every year.
The downside to visiting Moraine Lake is that parking is vastly limited in comparison to that of Lake Louise. The good side of this of course, is that it’s somewhat quieter.
We left our hotel at 4:00am to drive to Moraine Lake. When we arrived it was around 4:30am and there were already a few cars parked. We hung out in the car until 5:30am and during that hour the parking lot slowly filled up, by 6am it was completely full.
Watching the sun slowly creep over the valley illuminating the peaks a fiery red and orange colour is an experience money can’t buy and a true bucket-list moment. The clearer the day the more breathtaking the view.
9) Canoe At Moraine Lake
Besides Canoeing on Lake Louise, the next best place to canoe is Moraine Lake. The best time to canoe on Moraine Lake is early in the morning when the boathouse first opens. Summer hours are generally between 9:00am to 5:00pm depending on the day.
Just like the boathouse at Lake Louise, canoeing on Moraine Lake comes with a hefty price tag. The good news however, is that it’s actually cheaper than Lake Louise! Current prices (2021) are $115 per hour plus GST. There is no half an hour option available here.
Canoe rentals are available from mid-June to mid-September.
10) Hike Consolation Lakes
Consolation Lakes is one of the most stunning hikes within the Lake Louise area and the great thing about this hike is that it is relatively easy and therefore most visitors can experience this quieter area.
This hike climbs initially and then levels out and takes you through lush forest before spitting you out at the most scenic landscape. In total this hike is a round trip length of 6 kilometres and a total elevation gain of 250 metres.
11) Take A Ride Up The Lake Louise Gondola
The Lake Louise summer sightseeing gondola is worth a visit during your time in Lake Louise. The gondola is a 10-minute drive from Lake Louise an located opposite the Highway 1 junction. There are a variety of things to do at the Lake Louise gondola. Once you reach the top there are views in every direction and lookout points great for taking those bucket list trip photos.
The Whitehorn Bistro is the perfect mountain-top eatery on a bluebird day. The patio features panoramic views of Lake Louise and Victoria Glacier in the distance.