On day 2 of our Banff trip, which was a Friday in July, we’d plan to visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. I wanted to visit both of these extremely popular lakes on one of the weekdays we were there, to hopefully avoid most of the crowds.
This is the second post in the series about our Banff trip during July 2022. Read the first blog here.
Getting to Moraine Lake
We looked into potentially driving to Moraine Lake for sunrise, but the more research I did into it, it just seemed impractical to get a car parking spot there. In the past, it seemed like if you got there at 5:00 AM, you’d easily nab a parking spot, but it seems like post-pandemic, more and more people are doing this to the point where people are saying that you need to get there at like 1:00 AM, 2:00 AM, 3:00 AM and there’s still a high chance you’d be turned away by Parks Canada staff – it’s very unpredictable. So, to me, it just wasn’t worth the stress. I felt it wasn’t worth getting up in the middle of the night to be more than likely being turned away and then having to scramble to see if there were any shuttle tickets available.
Take the Parks Canada Shuttle
We ended up booking the shuttle on the Parks Canada website, where they have a specific reservation system for Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. I would recommend doing that unless you’re willing to take your chances getting a parking spot or you’re considering going a sunset when the car park is likely to be more quiet.
But seriously, take the shuttle – I’m so glad we did. You have to book it online and can’t buy tickets in person. Parks Canada releases tickets on a rolling basis two to three days ahead, so check the Parks Canada website for the schedules and what’s available. If the days and times you want aren’t available, keep an eye out for those rolling tickets and any cancellations that may reappear (the latter is how we got the day and time slot we wanted).
When getting the shuttle, you park at the Lake Louise Ski Lodge, and there are signs and buses telling you where you need to go. You’ll first need to check-in with someone from Parks Canada, where you show them the printout of your ticket, and they give you what looks like a business card with the time slot you have written down and the lake you’re going to first. You can visit both lakes with the same ticket/booking, but you must choose your first destination upon booking online.
Visiting Moraine Lake
The bus journey to Moraine took almost 30 minutes, and we got there at about 8:00 AM. The road up is 11 kilometres of mountain road, so you certainly cannot walk it if you didn’t have a ticket, so don’t even consider it!!
Moraine Lake is smaller compared to Lake Louise but incredibly beautiful. The walk along the lake shores is short, too; the main thing to do is walk up to the Rock Pile. You can go up there and get the iconic picturesque view of Moraine Lake. It’s so beautiful! Photos do not do it justice; the scenery and colour of the lake is a stunning turquoise colour.
Plus, when we were up there, we got engaged!! What an amazing surprise and in an amazing location! I had set up my camera in a quiet location to take interval shots of us with Moraine Lake in the background, and it caught the proposal. I’m so glad we have photos of the moment. It was so magical! I was on a high for the rest of the day (and the entire trip)!
After the proposal (!) (and when I could just about think straight again, haha), we walked along the waterfront. We’d considered renting canoes on Moraine lake, but I felt like it was too expensive ($130 an hour). We were were planning to go kayaking on Bow River later in the trip anyway.
Before we finished up at Moraine, I insisted on going to the gift shop because I needed some momentums to remember the day and how significant Moraine Lake is to us both now! They’ve got some really nice souvenirs and clothing, so it’s worth having a look.
Then, we jumped on the bus to Lake Louise. We weren’t waiting long for the bus to arrive as they run every 15 minutes or so. We got to Lake Louise just before noon – it was very busy but beautiful!
At Lake Louise, we planned to see Lake Louise (of course), grab some lunch to bring with us and then do the Lake Agnes Trail.
Lake Agnes Trail
The Lake Agnes trail is about five kilometres each way. The entire thing is at an incline, so should wear good hiking shoes.
The first stop on the trail is Mirror Lake, an excellent spot to stop for some water and top up your sun cream! At Mirror Lake, you’ll see the Big Beehive looking down, and then you can continue on to Lake Agnes.
Lake Agnes has a tea house, where you can get food and drinks, but the queues can be very long, that’s why we brought a packed lunch with us to have along Lake Agnes’ waterfront. We attempted to continue on and do the Big Beehive trail. I, unfortunately, have a crippling fear of heights and freaked out halfway up the switchbacks, which are so close to the top of the Beehive, but they were just too narrow and steep for me to handle, so we ended up turning around.
I’ve seen plenty of photos from other people who have done it and it does look amazing. So, if you’re not afraid of heights, I would recommend doing the Big Beehive trail!
We then made our back down to Lake Louise – I think we clocked about 10 kilometres – it took us about 3-3.5 hours in total at a decent pace. I had planned for 4-5 hours, which was recommended by a few different websites. As mentioned, we walked it at a good pace, but I like to overestimate, just in case.
We took the shuttle back to Lake Louise Ski Lodge to get our car and then drove to Morant’s Curve, which is literally an 8-10 minute drive from the ski lodge car park.
Morant’s Curve is on the Bow Valley Road and it has a viewpoint where you can (hopefully) see the train come through and around the curve (hence the name). It’s become an iconic photo spot for photographers, thanks to the stunning scenery.
I wanted to go there to see the train tracks and the view. In my mind, I was thinking, if the train comes through that would be amazing, but I wasn’t expecting that to happen. I’d read about some people waiting hours and hours for train, for it to not show up. So I was delighted when we were pulling into the car park that I could hear the horns of the train approaching! I have never ran so fast in my life! Unfortunately, I did miss the beginning of the train, but it didn’t matter. The fact that I got to see the train coming through the curve was amazing!
If you’re interested in visiting Morant’s Curve and seeing a train, we saw it on Friday, 22nd of July at 3:00 PM. I don’t know if that means anything or if it normally comes at 3:00 PM, but that that’s when we happened to see it.
Wrapping Up on Banff Day 2
After that, we drove back to the hotel, freshened up and had dinner and drinks at The Keg to celebrate our engagement! What a fun day!
Wow, what a day this was! Not only was Moraine Lake as spectacular as I’d imagined it would be, it’s now a sentimental place to us both. While I also enjoyed Lake Louise, it just doesn’t compare to Moraine Lake. If you’re visiting Banff during the period that the Moraine Lake road is open*, be sure to book the shuttle and don’t miss this beautiful location.
*According to Parks Canada, “Moraine Lake opens on June 1 and closes the Tuesday after Canadian Thanksgiving in mid-October. Exact dates may vary depending on snow conditions.”
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