Exploring the Majestic Glacial Lakes of the Canadian Rockies

Gorgeous glacial lakes are a hallmark of the Canadian Rockies, with canoeing being the perfect way to fully appreciate the beauty and tranquility they offer. In this article, we will explore three of the most popular lakes for canoeing: Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Emerald Lake. Each of these lakes features incredibly bright turquoise water, a result of silt-like rock flour flowing from the surrounding glaciers. The colors are usually most intense in the middle of summer.

Lake Louise: A Captivating Canoeing Experience

Lake Louise is easily the most popular place to go canoeing in the Canadian Rockies. From the moment you lay eyes on the iridescent surface of the lake, encircled by towering peaks and the imposing Victoria Glacier, you will be spellbound. The milky blue-green colors, visible from up close and in a canoe, appear almost surreal.

Getting to Lake Louise is a breeze, with a short 45-minute drive from Banff, Alberta. The village of Lake Louise is located just off Highway 1, with the lake itself a mere 12 minutes’ drive further. While parking can be challenging, arriving before 8:30 am on weekdays or 7:30 am on weekends will increase your chances of securing a spot. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the shuttle bus service offered by Parks Canada during the peak season.

Canoe rentals are available at the boathouse on the western side of Lake Louise, operated by the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The rental service usually runs from mid-June to the end of September or early October, weather dependent. If you choose to rent, be prepared for long queues, especially during peak times. However, bringing your own paddleboat is a great way to skip the rental line and explore the beauty of Lake Louise at your own pace. Just remember to arrive early to secure a parking spot.

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Moraine Lake: A True Gem in the Rockies

The vibrant turquoise water of Moraine Lake, surrounded by ten dramatic snow-capped peaks, makes it one of the most beautiful places in Canada. This hidden treasure offers a captivating canoeing experience that is truly unforgettable. If you can only paddle one lake, Moraine Lake should be your top choice.

To reach Moraine Lake, take the access road located between Lake Louise and the village of Lake Louise. The drive is 11 kilometers one way and is usually open from mid-May to late October, depending on the weather. Keep in mind that the limited parking lot fills up exceptionally early, often before 5 am. Arriving early or taking advantage of the shuttle service (when available) is your best bet.

Canoe rentals are available at the boathouse on the northeastern shore of Moraine Lake, operated by Moraine Lake Lodge. The rental hours typically run from mid-June to mid-September, with queues being quite common. If you prefer to use your own canoe or kayak, launching it at Moraine Lake is fairly straightforward, although finding a good spot can be a bit challenging due to the crowds.

Emerald Lake: A Hidden Paradise

Emerald Lake, the largest lake in Yoho National Park, is a hidden paradise known for its distinctively blue-green hues. Surrounded by rugged mountains and a glacier of the same name, Emerald Lake offers a more secluded and less crowded canoeing experience compared to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

To reach Emerald Lake, take Emerald Lake Road, an easy 9-kilometer drive from Highway 1. The lake is only a 30-minute drive from Lake Louise village or 70 minutes from Banff. The parking lot is small and fills up quickly during busy periods, usually between 10 am and 3 pm. However, road parking is usually available.

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Canoe rentals are available at the Boathouse Trading Co. on the shore of Emerald Lake, close to the bridge leading to Emerald Lake Lodge. The rental service operates from late May to mid-October. If you have your own canoe or kayak, you can easily launch it from the beach located past the boathouse. Just make sure to complete the mandatory self-registration permit before paddling your own vessel on Emerald Lake.

The Ultimate Canoeing Experience

While each of these three lakes offers a unique canoeing experience, our personal preference is as follows: Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake, and Lake Louise. Moraine Lake takes the crown for its breathtaking beauty and panoramic views of ten majestic peaks. The vibrant water and surrounding glaciers make it a truly magical destination. Emerald Lake comes in second, with its stunning views of glaciers, mountains, and shoreline. It is also slightly warmer, making it ideal for a refreshing swim. Finally, Lake Louise offers its own charm with its iridescent surface and the imposing Victoria Glacier.

If you’re up for an adventure, it is possible to canoe all three lakes in one day. However, this is much easier if you have your own paddleboat, as rental availability and limited hours can be challenging. Starting with an early morning paddle at Moraine Lake, followed by a visit to Emerald Lake, and finishing with Lake Louise in the evening, you can make the most of your day. Just remember to plan ahead, arrive early to secure parking, and be mindful of the mandatory self-certification system.

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Don’t miss the opportunity to explore these breathtaking lakes and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Book your canoeing adventure today and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Published September 2020

Please note that Moraine Lake is no longer accessible by private vehicle. This post will be updated shortly (January 2023).

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