The Most Beautiful Lakes in Banff National Park

Must-See Lakes in Banff National Park

Banff National Park is teeming with must-see, bucket-list lakes. Banff, gem of the Canadian Rockies, is one of the most beautiful places in Canada, if not the entire world. Travelers to Banff are spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful sights to visit. But if you only have a limited amount of time in Banff, you’ll want to make sure you hit these truly “must-visit” lake locations.

Banff is world-renowned for its stunning beauty, incredible mountains, and mountain lakes. This is indeed a pretty massive achievement for a country like Canada, which has the largest amount of fresh water and the highest number of lakes in the entire world!

Banff National Park offers a little bit of everything, with gorgeous must-visit lakes that offer scenic lookout spots, lots of wildlife, and crystal-clear blue water perfect for canoeing.

Read on for a local’s opinion of the BEST Lakes in Banff National Park that are a must-see during any visit to this incredible part of Canada.

QUICK LINKS: BEST LAKES IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is without a doubt the most iconic lake in all of Canada – it’s so iconic, in fact, that it was even featured on Canada’s twenty-dollar bill!

A series of impressive mountains known as the Ten Peaks tower above Moraine Lake and create a natural amphitheater. This natural amphitheater surrounds the lake’s incredibly turquoise-blue sparkling waters, creating a sight that leaves its visitors breathless. This is a truly magnificent view to behold, easily one of the most beautiful views in the entire world. And that’s not just my biased opinion as a local – Moraine Lake makes many “most beautiful views in the world” lists, year after year!

Moraine Lake also offers canoe rentals, so you can view its beauty from right on the lake itself. Or, you can take in its splendor from above, from one of the many stunning and exciting hikes it offers, such as the famous Larch Valley Hike.

Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

TIPS FOR VISITING MORAINE LAKE

Moraine Lake is located about an hour’s drive from the town of Banff, and just a short twenty minutes from Lake Louise (learn more about Lake Louise, below). Thanks in part to being featured on popular social media channels like Instagram, its popularity as a destination has absolutely soared during the last few years. Now, it can be difficult to so much as get a parking spot in the lake’s parking lot! A few quick tips for ensuring you’re able to see this picturesque destination:

ARRIVE EARLY

At one point, you had to arrive at the lake’s small parking lot by 9 am to land a parking spot. Then, it became 8 am, 7 am, and so on. Now, in the last quarter of 2022, I’ve been hearing that you need to be at the parking lot by an absolutely insane 3 am if you wish to see Moraine Lake for sunrise! When the parking lot is full, Moraine Lake Road closes to traffic.

ARRIVE AROUND DINNER TIME

I’ve also heard that many people clear out around dinner time, so you could try your luck this way and potentially see Moraine Lake for sunset, which is indeed an amazing show to behold!

Moraine Lake - Banff National Park

RESERVE A SPOT ON THE SHUTTLE

There is also a shuttle bus that runs from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake from June 1 – Thanksgiving weekend. For the sunrise chasers and early hikers, the first bus departs from the Ski Louise parking lot at 6 am and runs every half hour until 8 am. Then after that, it runs at 8:10 am every hour at the top of the house, with the last bus departing to Moraine Lake at 5:10 pm. Return departures from Moraine Lake will return to the Ski Louise parking lot at the bottom of every hour, with the last return departure leaving at 5:30 pm.

You can make a reservation for the Lake Louise to Moraine Lake Bus Shuttle at this link. Reservations can be made up to 4 hours before the scheduled departure time.

STAY AT MORAINE LAKE LODGE

Consider staying at the beautiful Moraine Lake Lodge, located right on the lake, to avoid fighting the crowds. You can roll out of bed at leisure and visit the stunning lake right outside your door without needing to worry about parking, shuttles, etc. The food here is delicious, too. This is a true bucket list stay, and the room prices are reasonable to boot!

Moraine Lake Lodge, Best Lakes in Banff National Park
The views at Moraine Lake lodge are stunning

Moraine Lake Lodge, Best Lakes in Banff National Park

DON’T PLAN TO VISIT IN THE OFF-SEASON

Unlike popular spots in many other national parks, you cannot simply “plan to visit in the off-season”. Unfortunately, the road to Moraine Lake is closed between October to the beginning of June (exact dates vary depending on conditions). The road becomes covered in a thick layer of snow, and the avalanche risk in this area becomes high. You can still go to the lake, but you cannot drive; you’ll need to either snowshoe, cross-country ski, or fat bike. However, if you’re hoping to see the lake when it is quiet and don’t mind if the lake is frozen under a layer of snow, this could be a great option for you! Read my blog about the Best Things to Do in Winter in Banff to plan the perfect winter trip to Banff.

I’ve written an entire blog post dedicated to Tips for Visiting Moraine Lake, and I highly recommend checking it out before any visit to Banff National Park to make sure you’re not disappointed and get to see the lake of your dreams without issues!

Moraine Lake - Banff National Park

BEST HOTELS WHEN VISITING MORAINE LAKE

BUCKET LIST STAY:

As mentioned previously, Moraine Lake Lodge is a true bucket-list hotel option to stay at when visiting Moraine Lake. This will be a visit to Banff you never forget! Open your hotel window and take in the views of this perfect turoquise-blue lake and smell the crisp mountain air, then simply take a (very) short stroll to the lake edge when you’re ready to leave your room.

However, if you’re looking for a more affordable options, here are some other excellent options:

AFFORDABLE STAYS:

Lake Louise

Even though Moraine Lake is becoming increasingly popular with tourists, Lake Louise is still the most famous and popular lake in Banff National Park. Lake Louise is located just 45 minutes from the town of Banff and is well worth the drive. Its picturesque setting is something straight out of a fairytale: vibrant turquoise-colored water, towering mountain peaks, the Victoria glacier, and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise resort creating a scene that is so striking, tourists flock here from all over the world to take it in.

Much like Moraine Lake, one of the best ways to experience Lake Louise is via canoe rental. Canoes can be rented from the Lake Louise boathouse, located on the west shore of the lake. This is a magical bucket list experience, but also a pricey one at that.  Canoe rentals (as of October 2022) are priced at $145 CAD + GST per hour, or $95 CAD + GST per hour for guests staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Lake Louise, Best Banff Lakes

Also much like Moraine Lake, there are plenty of hikes you can do that will take you up and above Lake Louise for a bird’s eye view back down over the lake. Check out Lake Agnes Trail, which is a shorter and easier hike that will take you to a beautiful tea house at Lake Agnes, where you can order a coffee/tea and some snacks. It also offers a few great viewpoints of Lake Louise on the way up. For the more adventurous and those looking for more of a challenge, the Beehive and Devil’s Thumb are hikes you can do if you continue on from Lake Agnes that will take you up to stunning views over Lake Louise. These hikes are also not as busy as Lake Agnes, as they are more of a challenge.

Lake Louise, Best Banff Lakes

TIPS FOR VISITING LAKE LOUISE

Lake Louise is located a short 8-minute drive from the village of Lake Louise. While finding parking at Lake Louise isn’t quite as crazy as finding parking at Moraine Lake, it’s no walk in the park, either. However, there are ways to make the entire procedure less painful.

Read on to learn my top tips for visiting Lake Louise:

ARRIVE EARLY

In the “nicer weather” months between June to October, parking at Lake Louise is a struggle, and you’ll want to arrive before 8 am to secure your parking spot in the parking lot at Lake Louise. That will require an early rise. Or, if you’re staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, you can simply roll out of bed whenever you like and head to the lake – a major perk of staying at the beautiful resort.

STAY AT THE FAIRMONT CHATEAU LAKE LOUISE

Besides being absolutely beautiful, a stay at this gorgeous hotel also comes with a lot of conveniences, such as using the hotel’s parking lot (hello, not having to fight for parking at the lake parking lot), priority access to the resort’s restaurants (which can be guests-only during busy times), guest rates on canoe rentals, tours etc., and, of course, amazing views right out your room window.

They also serve an incredible brunch buffet and the afternoon high-tea here is fantastic! I highly recommend a stay at the Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise as a bucket list item or for a special occasion – it is truly magical, and an experience you’ll never forget. Get discounted rates on a stay at the Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise here.

Lake Louise, Best Banff Lakes
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise looks like a castle straight out of a fairytale
Lake Louise, Best Banff Lakes
The view from the rooms at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is breathtaking

VISIT IN THE OFF-SEASON

Unlike Moraine Lake, Lake Louise stays open year-round, and the winter can be a lovely time to visit. Though the lake will likely be frozen and covered in snow, there are other ways to enjoy the lake, such as grabbing a hot chocolate and going ice skating on its surface, or enjoying the beautiful ice castles that are set up on the lake. Keep in mind there will be winter driving conditions in the mountains and you will want to come prepared. Check out the Best Things to Do in Winter in Banff to plan a great Banff winter itinerary.

Lake Louise, Best Banff Lakes
Lake Louise is turned into a beautiful skating rink in the winter

BEST HOTELS WHEN VISITING Lake Louise

BUCKET LIST STAY:

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the quintessential bucket-list hotel option to stay at when visiting Lake Louise, or Canada in general! You’ll feel like royalty staying at this castle-like hotel located right at Lake Louise. This will be a stay you never forget and is a MUST when visiting Lake Louise for a special occasion, such as an anniversary or birthday. This hotel will leave you speechless.

Here are some more affordable options, if that’s more your jam:

AFFORDABLE STAYS:

Vermilion Lakes

If you’re looking for the lake that is the closest to the Town of Banff and just a short drive away, you’ve found it!

At Vermilion Lakes, a network of lush marshlands and 3 gorgeous lakes located in the Bow Valley make up a popular spot for visitors and locals alike to seek some solitude from the lively town of Banff. And its indeed the proximity to Banff that makes these lakes such an awesome spot to get away – they’re located just 2.4km (or 1.5 miles) from Banff Town, just a quick drive or cycle away, so you can easily pop on over for a visit during the middle of the day or right after dinner and enjoy a stroll, gazing at the beautiful mountain views all around.

The orientation of the lakes and striking mountain backdrop (hello, Mt Rundle!) make these lakes a perfect place for watching both sunrise and sunset, and a prime spot for seeing wildlife like moose, deer, and sometimes even bears. You can bring along a SUP, kayak or canoe and enjoy the lakes from a different perspective – the waters here are often still and glassy.

Vermillion Lakes - Banff National Park

TIPS FOR VISITING VERMILION LAKES

Visit at sunrise if you can!

These lakes are a gorgeous spot for either sunset or sunrise, but are much less busy at sunrise. I’ve photographed these lakes numerous times (hello, proximity to Banff!), and have really had some banger sunrises here. The sunsets have been nice, too, but the sunrises have been something special.

Vermillion Lakes - Banff National Park

If you’re a photographer, shoot night photos here

The below photo was taken at night, and the cool colourful skies are the result of the ambient light from the town of Banff. Such a unique result for those interested in some interesting night photography conditions.

Vermillion Lakes - Banff National Park

Explore all the way down the road

There are a few different pull offs to explore at, but if you want to get to the really quiet end of the lake, follow the road all the way to the end and park there. You’ll often see wildlife down in the marshes of this area, and avoid any crowds gathering around the docks (which are all earlier in the drive).

BEST HOTELS WHEN VISITING VERMILION LAKES:

BUCKET LIST STAY:

There are many amazing hotels in Banff National Park, but one bucket list option that is close to Vermilion Lakes is Rimrock Resort, which feels like staying at a modern, luxurious castle – their rooms are truly amazing!

Here are some more affordable options, if that’s more your jam:

AFFORDABLE STAYS:

  • Ptarmigan Inn – Cozy rooms at a great price walking distance from lots of Banff shops

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka is a beautiful, man-made, sprawling lake, at 21 km long and about 140 meters deep. It’s located just a short 15-minute drive from the town of Banff, which is a simple (and lovely) drive up Minnewanka Loop Drive. It’s location is also not far from Johnson Lake and Two Jack Lake, so you can visit all 3 of these lakes in one day!

Lake Minnewanka - Banff National Park

Lake Minnewanka helps to power the town of Banff with hydroelectric power.

Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park, and the only lake in Banff where power boats are allowed, so you can bring your boat here for a day on the water. Or, consider renting a boat from the Lake Minnewanka Boathouse (see prices here).

Lake Minnewanka - Banff National Park

You can also hike right about the lake, named the Lake Minnewanka Shoreline Trail. This out-and-back trail departs from the Lake Minnewanka Day Use Area and continues for 15 km until you reach the warden’s cabin with an easy 300m of elevation gain. The Day Use Area is where you’ll find the tourist facilities, such as the Black Anchor Café, picnic tables, bathrooms, and the Lake Minnewanka boat cruise, so this is also the busiest part of Lake Minnewanka. However, once you continue past this area, the crowds will thin out considerably.

Lake Minnewanka - Banff National Park

TIPS FOR VISITING LAKE MINNEWANKA

Take a Cruise on the Lake

You can also take a cruise of Cruise of Lake Minnewanka, which I highly recommend as an exciting way to explore the lake and learn more about the mysteries of the area – including an underground town (?!) The cruise is approx $50 CAD per person.

On this 1-hour cruise, you will:

  • Sail on the largest lake in Banff National Park
  • Marvel at the beautiful valley landscape of Canada’s oldest national park
  • Listen to stories from a knowledgeable and entertaining guide
  • Learn about Minnewanka Landing, the underwater town below the lake

Lake Minnewanka has plenty of picnic spots to enjoy a relaxing day at the lake, and there is also fantastic hiking in the area.

Lake Minnewanka - Banff National ParkPack a Picnic

Head to the market in Banff and pick up some fresh veggies, meat and cheese, and put together a picnic for the day. Lake Minnewanka has an awesome picnic area in the Day Use area, so make the most of it and enjoy the views of the lake!

BEST HOTELS WHEN VISITING VERMILION LAKES:

BUCKET LIST STAY:

There are many amazing hotels in Banff National Park, but one bucket list option that is close to Minnewanka Lake is Rimrock Resort, which feels like staying at a modern, luxurious castle – their rooms are truly amazing!

Here are some more affordable options, if that’s more your jam:

AFFORDABLE STAYS:

  • Ptarmigan Inn – Cozy rooms at a great price walking distance from lots of Banff shops

Two Jack Lake

Two Jack Lake is a beautiful emerald-green lake located in Banff National Park that features a beautiful view of Mount Rundle. Vermilion Lakes, mentioned above, has a view of Rundle, too, but this is a different angle, and doesn’t feel like the same lake at all. Both are a must-see!

The accessibility to Two Jack Lake from the town of Banff makes it another great place to watch a sunset or sunrise. They have picnic tables set up here, so having a picnic at this gorgeous spot on a nice day is a must!

There’s plenty you can do at this spot to enjoy the vistas, such as swimming, kayaking, SUPing or canoeing the lake in the summer, or ice skating on the lake in the winter. This is one of the best spots to go ice skating in Banff National Park!

Two Jack Lake - Banff National Park

Tips for Visiting Two Jack Lake

Stay at Two Jack Campground

Yup, there is a campground just a short distance from this lake by the same name, and it’s so lovely (and convenient)! Book your Banff camping spot here.

Go Ice Skating at Two Jack Lake

This really is one of the best places to go ice skating in Banff if you visit during the winter months. There’s short period of time where the lake freezes but isn’t yet covered in snow, and you can see right down to the bottom, making it exhilarating to skate on!

Two Jack Lake - Banff National Park

Chase Sunrise at Two Jack Lake

Some of my favourite sunrises ever have been at Two Jack Lake. If you’re lucky and arrive in the right conditions, you might be able to see the fog dancing low on top of the lake – it’s truly incredible!

Two Jack Lake - Banff National Park

BEST HOTELS WHEN VISITING TWO JACK LAKE:

BUCKET LIST STAY:

There are many amazing hotels in Banff National Park, but one bucket list option that is close to Two Jack Lake is Rimrock Resort, which feels like staying at a modern, luxurious castle – their rooms are truly amazing!

Here are some more affordable options, if that’s more your jam:

AFFORDABLE STAYS:

  • Ptarmigan Inn – Cozy rooms at a great price walking distance from lots of Banff shops

Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake is located along the same road as Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake, but it is often overlooked. However, it’s a lovely lake to talk a walk around, complete with beautiful mountain views. Johnson Lake is known as a locals’ favourite lake in Banff for many reasons, one of which is that it doesn’t usually draw the large crowds of the more popular lakes.

You can go swimming at the lake (as long as whirling disease isn’t present here – check the signs before visiting). And of course, kayaking, canoeing or SUPing at the lakes in Banff are always a fantastic way to spend the day. Although the lake is only about 1km long, you can take the outer loop trail to find the hoodoos viewpoint, or take the inner loop trail to find Hermit of Inglismaldie’s cabin. Also, the views here of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain are gorgeous!

Johnson Lake - Banff National Park Best Lakes

Tips for Visiting Johnson Lake

Find the Hidden Swing in the Trees!

That’s right, there are some hidden hangout spots around the lake perfect for a photo op! To find this swing, take the trail on the left side of the lake (before you reach the picnic area) and after approx. 500m, when you reach the fork in the trail, head uphill and you’ll stumble upon the fun rope swing!

Take the Hidden Rope Swing into the Lake!

There’s another secret hidden around this lake, that isn;’t quite so secret anymore – the Johnson Lake Rope Swing! You’ll find this on the south side of the lake. The water can be pretty shallow near shore, so be careful and use at your own risk. On a hot summer day, there may be a lineup at this not-so-secret gem!

Avoid Banff’s Famous Winds

Johnson Lake is not as prone to wind gusts as other lakes in Banff National Park, so this is an excellent choice to visit on a windy day!

Johnson Lake - Banff National Park Best Lakes

BEST HOTELS WHEN VISITING JOHNSON LAKE:

BUCKET LIST STAY:

There are many amazing hotels in Banff National Park, but one bucket list option that is close to Johnson Lake is Rimrock Resort, which feels like staying at a modern, luxurious castle – their rooms are truly amazing!

Here are some more affordable options, if that’s more your jam:

AFFORDABLE STAYS:

  • Ptarmigan Inn – Cozy rooms at a great price walking distance from lots of Banff shops

Bow Lake

Bow Lake is located just off the highway when driving the Icefields Parkway. It’s a popular place for visitors to Banff National Park to stop and explore along the drive. The Canadian Rockies are teeming with spectacular lakes, and Bow Lake is no exception. This is indeed a gem of a place!

Once you arrive, you can take a short stroll along the lakeshore trail for an easy little family-friendly activity. There’s a lovely bridge to stop at for a photo, and you’ll often see visitors and locals alike taking SUPs, canoes or kayaks out on this lake. A stop here is a MUST on any drive down the Icefields Parkway!

Bow Lake - Banff National Park

Tips for Visiting Bow Lake:

Visit at Sunrise

This is an absolutely beautiful place to visit for sunrise! The mountains are lit up and the light is soft, and the water is often still. Plus, the place is usually empty, so you can enjoy the solitude!

Bow Lake - Banff National Park

Explore Nearby Hikes:

Some pretty exciting hikes start from this trailhead. I’m not going to lay them all out here on this blog, but I urge you to do some research on your own and find some awesome trails where you can explore perspectives above the lake!

Bow Lake - Banff National Park

BEST HOTELS WHEN VISITING BOW LAKE

Bow Lake’s closest town is Lake Louise, so this will be the best place for you to stay during your visit to Bow Lake. That is, until The Lodge at Bow Lake reopens (more info below).

BUCKET LIST STAY:

There is a lodge right at Bow Lake, which used to be called Num-Ti Lodge.  It is currently being rebranded to The Lodge at Bow Lake and should open in 2023! This will be a wonderful place to stay right at beautiful Bow Lake once it is open.

Another amazing bucket list option near Bow Lake is Baker Creek Mountain Resort. These beautiful cabins will make your cabin dreams come true! They feel secluded, but aren’t a far drive from Banff and Lake Louise. (Read my blog about Baker Creek Cabins)

Here are some affordable options in the closest town, Lake Louise:

AFFORDABLE STAYS:

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake - Banff National Park

Peyto Lake is one of the most unique lakes in this entire area, if not all of Canada: the lake is shaped like the head of a wolf/dog! Can you see the resemblance?

This is all one of the most famous lakes in Banff National Park, with its turquoise blue glacier-fed water. This lake is located about 40 km north of Lake Louise and a short distance from Bow Lake. Much like Bow Lake, it’s also a popular stop along the gorgeous Icefields Parkway drive. This lovely lake is fed by the Peyto Glacier towering high above the lake, and is a part of the Wapta Icefield.

Since this viewpoint is one of the most jaw-dropping in all of Banff National Park, it is indeed also a super popular spot for photographers. You can get some stunning photos here, especially at sunset!

Tips for Visiting Peyto Lake

Visit in the summer for the best chance at seeing wildflowers

The wildflowers are at their best from mid July to mid August. You can see different species, such as: Alpine Forget-Me-Not, White Mountain Avens, Mountain Sorrel, Silky Phacelia, Moss Campion, Purple Saxifrage, Glacier Lily, Alpine Speedwell, and three different types of heathers.

Peyto Lake - Banff National Park

Visit in Early Winter after Snowfall for Amazing Conditions

If you plan your visit after a snowfall but before the lake is frozen, you can see the treetops lined in fluffy white snow contrasting with the bright blue lake – and i’ts amazing!

Hunt Around for Photo Spots

There are SO many more places you can take photos of this lake than just from the expected viewing platform – go for wander (stay on the trail network!) and find new and exciting angles to shoot photos at Peyto Lake.

Peyto Lake - Banff National Park

Enjoy the New and Improved Platform in 2022 and Beyond

The Government of Canada has invested $2.9 million CDN towards infrastructure work at Peyto Lake. More parking was added, old restrooms were replaces, new signage was added, and the viewing platform was expanded, allowing more room for more visitors!

Peyto Lake was closed for almost two years for this work, and is once again open for visitors! So if you have Peyto Lake on your bucket list, head on over and enjoy the new infrastructure!

BEST HOTELS WHEN VISITING PEYTO LAKE

Peyto Lake’s closest town is Lake Louise, so this will be the best place for you to stay during your visit to Peyto Lake.

BUCKET LIST STAY:

An amazing bucket list option near Bow Lake is Baker Creek Mountain Resort. These beautiful cabins will make your cabin dreams come true! They feel secluded, but aren’t a far drive from Banff and Lake Louise. (Read my blog about Baker Creek Cabins)

Here are some affordable options in the closest town, Lake Louise:

AFFORDABLE STAYS:

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake - Banff National Park

Located not in Banff but near Banff, Emerald Lake is actually located in in Yoho National Park (British Colombia), but it had to make this list. It is one of the Canadian Rockies’ most beautiful lakes and a must-visit on your trip to Banff. Emerald Lake is the largest lake in Yoho National Park. It’s surrounded by the President Range, and the lake color is indeed emerald green!

Visiting Emerald Lake on a summer day is one of the most beautiful scenes in all of the Canadian Rockies, and access to the lake is surprisingly easy. Emerald Lake is located just a few kilometers off of the Trans-Canada highway, and you wouldn’t even know it was there as you drove by. However, it is so very worth the detour!

Tips for Visiting Emerald Lake

Visit in the Winter to Experience a True Winter Wonderland

A visit to this lake in the wintertime is like stepping right into a snow globe. You can cross-country ski on the lake, and warm up afterwards with a hot chocolate (boozy, or not!) in the lodge. There is also a fantastic, delicious restaurant on site called Cilantro.

Emerald Lake - Banff National Park

Stay at Emerald Lake Lodge

If you’re visiting Emerald Lake, you absolutely MUST stay at least one night at Emerald Lake Lodge, right onsite. Imagine: gorgeous mountains and lake views right out your window, enjoying a coffee on your patio, then warming up in the beautiful outdoor hot tub with mountains views all around.

Emerald Lake - Banff National Park

Read my blog about staying at Emerald Lake Lodge for more info!

Emerald Lake - Banff National Park

Emerald Lake - Banff National Park

BEST HOTELS WHEN VISITING EMERALD LAKE

BUCKET LIST STAY:

As mentioned previously, by far the best place you can stay while visiting Emerald Lake is at Emerald Lake Lodge. This will be a stay you never forget! Wake up to Emerald Green water and then enjoy your coffee on your deck gazing at the lake and mountain views before heading off to a delicious on-site breakfast followed by a soak in the outdoor hot tub.

Here is an affordable option in the closest town, Field:

AFFORDABLE STAYS:

Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake - Banff National Park

This is one special lake, with a world-famous icon of a Canadian Rockies viewpoint located 14km from the docks of Maligne Lake: the enchanting Spirit Island!

Spirit Island is a small peninsula “island” that sits about halfway down the lake. The beauty and mystery of Spirit Island have been shared around the world, and for good reason – this spot is magic.

Maligne Lake is the second largest lake in the Canadian Rockies, located about a 45 minute drive from the town of Jasper in Jasper National Park. On a bright sunny day, the lake sparkles a striking cerulean blue. Its waters are glacier fed by the magnificent Coronet Glacier, and the lake is surrounded by towering mountains. It is such a sight to behold and a must for any visitors to Banff National Park. Make the trip to Jasper if you’re already in the area – it is so worth the drive.

Spirit Island is a very spiritual place for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation people. Mountains are considered a physical representations of their ancestors, and you’ll no doubt feel the mystery and splendor of this special place during your visit.

Tips for Visiting Maligne Lake:

Take a Boat Ride to Spirit Island:

The other way to reach Spirit Island is by canoe or kayak (no engines allowed; small electric trolling motors are permitted only). Paddling can take up around 4-5 hours each direction. However, if you’re looking for a quicker (and easier) option, you’re in luck!

You can take a leisurely boat ride to Spirit Island with Pursuit Banff Jasper. There are two tour options – one is 1.5 hours in duration and another is 2 hours in duration (allowing you an extra half an hour to enjoy Spirit Island – highly recommended). They suggest booking your tickets in advance as cruises often reach capacity on this popular tour.

Maligne Lake - Banff National Park

Rent a Canoe or Kayak and Paddle

If you’re feeling up to the challenge, you can rent a canoe or kayak right at Maligne Lake (or consider renting from a local outdoor gear company in Jasper town, to save yourself some cash). Then, paddle your way to Spirit Island (if the weather is looking good!)

This is a great way to get a workout in and also enjoy the lake. If you do decide to paddle to Spirit Lake, try to arrive outside of the hours that the boat runs so you can experience Spirit Island without the crowds! Or, you could try to…

Snag a Backcountry Campground

Try your luck at snagging a backcountry campground so you can stay overnight and see Spirit Island anytime you choose!

There is no campground right at Spirit Island, but there are three different backcountry campgrounds along the lakeshore you can reserve campsites at (with the closest campsite being Fisherman’s Bay).

These campsites require advance reservation and are difficult to book, as they are very popular – especially Fisherman’s Bay Campground in the summertime. You can find more information about backcountry camping at Maligne Lake here.

Maligne Lake - Banff National Park

BEST HOTELS WHEN VISITING MALIGNE LAKE

Jasper National Park has many excellent accommodation options, from the luxorious to the more affordable. Here are my recommendations:

BUCKET LIST STAY:

For a truly special stay, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is a open year round and a must-visit in every season. This hotel is located on the shores of beautiful Beauvert Lake and boasts an award-winning golf course, 8 on-site restaurants and a 10,000 square foot spa, not to mention a stunning outdoor pool and hot tub. This place is incredibly dreamy!

Here are some affordable options in the closest town, Lake Louise:

AFFORDABLE STAYS:

  • Alpine Village Cabin Resort – Choose to stay in a cozy cabin in an awesome location in Jasper National Park. The outdoor hot tub is beautiful, and you’ll spot plenty of wildlife around these cozy and perfect cabins. Read my full review of Alpine Village Cabin Resort.
  • Sawridge Inn – Cozy and affordable accommodation in Jasper National Park

PIN FOR LATER

Best Lakes in Banff National Park

Best Lakes in Banff National Park

Disclaimer: This blog post may include affiliate links. At absolutely no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission for any purchase made through these links. Any commissions received are very much appreciated, as they help me to be able to continue posting travel blog content free of charge to my lovely readers. Of course, all recommendations are unbiased, and I will always only recommend products and services that I truly believe in. Thank you for your support!

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Do you have questions for me about any of these Banff National Park lakes or have feedback on this blog post? Please feel free to shoot me a comment below; I would love to hear from you!
The Most Beautiful Lakes in Banff National Park


I’m Jenn, a photographer, travel writer, and content creator based out of the beautiful Canadian Rockies. I’m glad you’re here – now let’s explore!

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