When most people think about the Rockies, they think of Lake Louise. This whole area is a place you have to see to believe and we quickly realised that a lot of the things to do in Lake Louise were on our bucket list: canoeing on the lake, lunch at the Fairmont, seeing the Larch Valley during the fall, witnessing an awe-inspiring sunrise and sipping tea whilst looking over the Plain of Six Glaciers.
If you’re visiting The Rockies, give yourself a good amount of time to ensure you can really take in this special area. If you can manage to book accommodation around the lake itself - do it! You won’t regret it.
Best things to do in Lake Louise
Catch a sunrise - Lake Louise
Seeing Lake Louise at sunrise is a truly magical experience and the best introduction to this area. The lake is a beautiful milky blue at this time of day and hopefully you’ll have clear enough weather to see the glaciers at the back of the lake.
There’s plenty of space around the lake to take in the views, no matter how crowded it gets. We chose to make it special with a bit of breakfast and a cup of tea by the lake!
We recommend aiming for an arrival time of around 30 minutes before sunrise if you want to park at Lake Louise. It is a painful affair as most of the accommodation in The Rockies are in Banff or Canmore - 45 minutes to an hour away. It means if sunrise is at 6.30am, you will need to leave at 5am (and the even more painful 4.30am alarm clock).
It really is worth the early start, especially if you love photography and want to catch the lake at its stillest.
Hire a canoe - Lake Louise
One of the most popular things to do on Lake Louise is take the iconic red canoes out and go exploring. This is undoubtedly one of the best things to do at Lake Louise and had been on our bucket list for years. It definitely lived up to our expectations and it’s undoubtedly the most spectacular place we have ever canoed in our lives!
It can get pretty busy and you’ll find that even in the early morning the queues for the canoes can be quite long in high season. The queue does move quickly, but you may have to wait a little while so factor that in to your timings.
You can hire a canoe for either 30 minutes ($115+GST) or an hour ($125+GST CAD), but you’d want an hour to do the full length of the lake. It isn’t cheap, but this is one of those experiences that is worth the price tag!
Within an hour you can get all the way to the other end of the lake and back with plenty of time for photos and breaks from paddling. In our opinion 30 minutes would be too rushed.
Alternatively you can do something truly unique, combine sunrise with a paddle in a canoe on Lake Louise. For $162 CAD ($120 USD) for Non-Hotel guests (hotel guests get it cheaper) you can skip the queue and paddle on the lake before anyone else as well as experiencing sunrise on the lake. The hotel also includes a continental breakfast as well.
The sunrise canoe is run by the Fairmont Hotel who only sell 10 sunrise canoe tickets per day, so you will want to book well in advance. You can have up to three people in a canoe and you get 1.5 hours on the water.
Lunch at the Fairmont - Lake Louise
The Fairmont at Lake Louise is an institution - a grand hotel in an incredible location. We were lucky enough to have lunch at The Fairview, which serves delicious food with a million dollar view.
We were mesmerised by the whole place and you can’t help keep looking up from your dining table to the world-famous Lake Louise.
For such a premium restaurant, the food was reasonably priced and had the added benefit of including free parking at the hotel.
If you wanted to see the lake but couldn’t face sunrise (to get here before the car park closes) or the long waits of the park & ride, then lunch at the Fairmont is the perfect option for you!.
The Lakeshore walk - Lake Louise
The walk along one side of Lake Louise is a leisurely 2km (one way) stroll and is on a flat, well maintained path all the way.
Whilst many people walk this track, it’s a lot quieter than the boardwalk near the Fairmont Hotel.
We loved this stroll in the early morning as you can get different views and perspectives of this stunning area. You’ll see something new all the way around and it makes for a nice addition to simply taking in the view and leaving again.
If you walk all the way to the end of the track you can see the river that is the source of the lake which was very pretty. The cliffs here are also a favourite haunt of rock climbers so make sure you take a look up, we saw loads on our visit.
Hiking up to Lake Agnes and it’s teahouse - Lake Louise
If you have the energy, we highly recommend hiking up to Lake Agnes for a unique breakfast experience. The trail starts just by the foreshore and takes you uphill for just over 3km. It is gradual and the path is in great condition, but there are no flat sections for a break.
You’ll pass the aptly named “Mirror Lake” half a mile before Lake Agnes which is still, tranquil and perfectly reflects Big Bee Hive which looms over it. From here it’s a short hike to the beautiful Lake Agnes and the teahouse.
The Lake Agnes Teahouse has been serving hikers for years and has a incredibly extensive tea menu! They hike up all the ingredients and have no power so it isn’t cheap ($14 CAD for a large pot of tea!) but it is a memorable experience. Being British, we chose tea and scones whilst taking in the stunning views.
However, don’t turn around and head straight back down again as the best views of Lake Louise can be seen from the Little Beehive track (1km each way, gradual climb) or Big Beehive (1.6km each way, very steep climb).
These viewpoints overlook this stunning lake and provide real pinch yourself moments.
The Plain of 6 Glaciers trail and teahouse - Lake Louise
Any hike with a title as grand as this gets our attention! The Plain of 6 Glaciers is another epic Lake Louise hike, taking you to the far end of the lake where the glacier covered mountain is.
The trail is easier than the hike to Lake Agnes, but it still has some extensive uphill sections and is longer overall.
As well as the view, the highlight is the teahouse which overlooks the glaciers. This place serves hearty lunches, hot drinks and even a few home made desserts.
Whilst not as expensive as the Lake Agnes teahouse, the Plain of 6 Glaciers Teahouse isn’t cheap either, but worth it for the experience.
The trail to the glaciers beyond the teahouse gets slippery and steep. Be careful, take your time and you’ll be rewarded with a close up view of the glacier which you can only see from this specific viewpoint.
We saw so many avalanches as we sat and took in the scene, it really is an other worldly spot.
Spot a wild grizzly bear from the Lake Louise Gondola
After seeing sunrise at Lake Louise, we recommend hopping back in the car and heading towards the Lake Louise Ski Area for the Gondola.
From the top you’ll get some stunning views of the mountains and back to a glistening Lake Louise in the distance but you’ll also have the best chance of seeing grizzly bears in the whole of Banff - Jasper National Park.
We took the gondola straight after sunrise at Lake Louise and saw a grizzly bear with two cubs (who were playing in the meadow) as well as a large black bear. They were out in the open and easy to see, so you won’t need to be a wildlife expert to catch a glimpse of these amazing animals.
Before you get in the chair lift (you can also choose a gondola - which is enclosed - but we preferred the open-air chairlift) ask the staff which area the bears were last spotted in so you get an idea of where to look.
There is a 50-50 chance of seeing bears in the peak season, so you aren’t guaranteed. However, there were quite a few recent sightings when we visited and you can check the sightings calendar before you go to size up how regularly they are being seen.
At the top you can take in the stunning panoramic view, go to the Wildlife Interpretive Center or simply keep an eye out for wildlife around the area. There’s also a short walking trail but it’s grizzly country and you need a minimum of four people which we didn’t have and we couldn’t entice any strangers either!
The other great part about visiting the Lake Louise Gondola is the incredibly cheap breakfast buffet. For $2 CAD ($1.50 USD) you can add breakfast onto your ticket! We’ve never eaten so cheaply in Canada and you’ll have a choice of the full cooked breakfast, make your own waffles or granola with yoghurt, (or you know all of the above, it’s a buffet after all)!
Tickets aren’t cheap at $40 CAD per person ($30 USD), but we felt it was good value for seeing grizzly bears in a safe environment and adding on a big breakfast for $2 more.
Getting to the Lake Louise Gondola
The Lake Louise Gondola isn’t in the vicinity of the lake itself, but across the highway at the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
It’s a 10 minute drive from the lake and there’s so much parking that you’ll never have to worry about getting a spot. If you don’t have a car they operate a free shuttle from Lake Louise.
Getting to Lake Louise
Lake Louise is so popular nowadays that simply getting there requires some planning - you can’t simply turn up when you want and expect to get a parking spot. However, we’ve managed to work out all the best ways to ensure you make the most of your day.
If you want to park, arrive early or late
The car park at Lake Louise gets full very early and then closes. This tends to happen a little after sunrise, so if you want to drive to Lake Louise and get a parking spot, try to arrive before sunrise or around 4-5pm when the car park opens up once again.
The main car park at the lake is reasonably big and there are a couple of other smaller ones on the road to the lake too. You may get lucky with a spot in the middle of the day but it’s a gamble.
Have a meal at the Fairmont & park for free
Yes, diners at Fairmont get parking for free and most people don’t know about this! Book a table in advance (as it is also popular) and you can simply drive up and park in the hotel, then explore after your meal. This means no crazy early starts and the bonus of dining at such a special place.
Get a bus from Banff
Another option is to book one of the buses directly from Banff. The good part is that this means you’ll avoid the queues for the park & ride, but you will also be stuck to an allocated time which makes the hikes less leisurely.
You can see the schedule and cost on this website as the times change depending on the season.
The park & ride
Unless you are willing to arrive early, dine at the Fairmont or take the bus from Banff, the Park & Ride is your only other option. The queues here can be well over two hours long in peak season, taking up valuable time on your holiday. If you go early the queues are much shorter and it won’t be too bad.
The park and ride also provides a shuttle between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. However, the shuttle to Moraine Lake from Lake Louise operates on a one-way loop, meaning you will go to the Park & Ride car park, get in the queue for another bus to get back to Lake Louise which makes for a fairly long journey.
Bucket list things to do near Lake Louise
Sunrise or sunset at Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake has become one of the most famous places in Canada (if not the world) after shooting to fame on Instagram. It’s a location that is worthy of this status as it is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen.
You’ll never forget seeing that blue water for the first time and the background of the Ten Peaks is like something out of a fairytale.
Sunrise here is another truly special thing to do in the Lake Louise area as the soft light and calm weather showcase this landscape at its best. We also visited at sunset and the conditions were also great, the water isn’t as still but the light was still good.
Visiting Moraine Lake in the middle of the day should be avoided if you are a photography fan - we tried it and the glare really takes away from the extreme beauty of the lake.
To park at the lake you’ll need to make an early start (the car park is often full two hours before sunrise), but it is worth the effort. It’s also the starting point for a truly special hike - especially if you’re here in the fall.
The Larch Valley hike - Moraine Lake
If you’re here in the fall, the Larch Valley hike should be high up on your list of things to do in the Lake Louise area.
This incredible hike starts from the shore of Moraine Lake and takes you up to a valley of Larch trees which turn a bright yellow from around mid September to October.
The views from here are staggering as you’ll see hundreds of Larch trees with a backdrop of the snow-capped ten peaks.
You can carry on to Sentinel Pass for some more epic views if you can peel yourself away from this incredible spectacle!
Getting to Moraine Lake
Arrive early or late if you want to park at the lake
The car park at Moraine Lake is small and fills up incredibly quickly. The car park was full by 5.45am when we visited in September (nearly two hours before sunrise!) so you will need to make an early start as Moraine Lake is an hour from Banff.
The alternate is to try to visit about an hour before sunset. This is more risky, but the road was reopened when we visited and we were able to find a space.
Note that Moraine Lake road closes due to heavy snow and avalanche risk roughly between late October and late May but dates are subject to weather conditions and vary year to year.
Get the bus from Banff
You can now get a bus directly from Banff to Moraine Lake, meaning you don’t have to leave in the middle of the night or risk the park & ride.
You can check the timetable and schedule on this website as it changes depending on the season.
The Park & Ride
The park & ride is the final option and - like Lake Louise - isn’t the one we recommend getting. The queues here are really bad (we’ve heard of people waiting for two hours) and you can spend a lot of your day waiting to get on a bus.
You can get the park & ride from Lake Louise if you park there, but as the buses go in a one-way direction you’ll find yourself going back to the park & ride parking lot and changing bus to get back to Lake Louise.
Our trip to Lake Louise was in partnership with Banff Lake Louise Tourism, The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Destination Canada. All opinions are - as always - our own.
Like it? Pin it!
Follow us on social media
Are you planning a trip to The Rockies? What would be the things in Lake Louise you would like to do? Let us know in the comments below!