Canada Road Trip – 5 Awesome Glacial Lakes to Visit in Alberta and BC

People often ask me what I miss most about Canada while I’m driving around Canada and the USA on my long-term road trip.

Besides family, I miss the mountains the most.

Mountains and the turquoise glacial fed lakes that you will find in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia. The colors of these lakes will take your breath away. Instant tranquility.

In the following photos you will find some of the most beautiful lakes in Canada. I guarantee it! There is nothing that compares to the colors of glacial fed lakes. These are just a few of the best lakes in Alberta and BC – there are more! For now let’s take a look at some of the beautiful colors of these Canadian Rockies lakes.

 

 

Canada road trip from BC to Alberta

Driving from Vancouver to Calgary in late spring I decided to spend a few days in Lake Louise and Banff. I stopped in Armstrong BC (near Vernon) to visit my nephew and his kids. Vernon is a good stopping point because it’s about the halfway point from Vancouver to Lake Louise.

The drive from Vancouver BC to Lake Louise AB takes about 9 hours. Driving from Lake Louise to Calgary takes about 2 hours, and from Banff to Calgary only takes about 1.5 hours.

Total mileage from Vancouver to Calgary is about 600 miles (970 km) without side trips to Banff and Yoho National Parks. Traveling to all 5 lakes will add approximately 150 miles (240 km) to the road trip.

If you are traveling to Canada on your own I think you will find the road trip from Vancouver to Calgary to be an easy drive to do alone. Breaking up the road trip with a stop in the Rocky Mountains makes for a perfect solo vacation.

Check out my drive across Canada from Calgary to Nova Scotia if you’re considering a much longer road trip in Canada. It’s definitely not for everyone but what an epic adventure!

 

Moraine Lake and Lake Louise in Banff National Park Alberta Canada

 

Growing up in Calgary AB, I took the mountains for granted. It wasn’t until I left Calgary to travel around Southeast Asia that I realized how much I missed the rugged Rockies of Alberta.

Hiking the waterfall trail at Johnston Canyon is something I first experienced as a child so it always brings back fond memories.

 

Canoeing on the turquoise color Moraine Lake, surrounded by mountains in Banff National Park, Alberta Canada

Canoeing on the turquoise color Moraine Lake, surrounded by mountains in Banff National Park, Alberta Canada

 

While living in Calgary I visited Banff National Park often. Seems every long weekend from May to September we would pack up the car with camping gear and head for the mountains.

Take a look at what I have been missing since I left Canada. I’m excited to get back to Alberta this summer so I can visit these 5 gorgeous glacial lakes again. On my drive back to Calgary from Lafayette I’ll be stopping in Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park. There are lots of beautiful mountains in my future!

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Moraine Lake – Banff National Park

The first time I set eyes on Moraine Lake it felt like a dream. Mineral deposits provide glacial lakes with luscious hues of turquoise and aquamarine. The colors are stunningly beautiful and it’s hard to believe the colors are really this intense but they are brilliant blue and turquoise!

Moraine Lake is located about 7 miles (12 km) from Lake Louise, on Moraine Lake Road in Banff National Park – Alberta.

Get there early in the morning or towards sundown to avoid the biggest crowds. In peak season from June through August there will be crowds of tourists from tour buses starting around 9 am through to the early evening. Remember that summer days are long up north. Visit Moraine Lake around 7 or 8 pm when most folks are eating dinner.

Closest hotel is the Moraine Lake Lodge a 3-star hotel with a 5-star location and outstanding view!

Click here to book Moraine Lake Lodge now if you want to secure one of the best views in the Rockies – free WiFi, free breakfast, and free parking included.

 

Solo road trip to turquoise color Moraine Lake surrounded by mountains in Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Moraine Lake is a spectacular sight and a short drive from Lake Louise Alberta

 

Lake Louise – Banff National Park

My favorite place in the world….if I could have it all to myself. I love people. Just not so many people as you will find at Lake Louise in peak season June through August.

Get to Lake Louise either early or late in the day to avoid the biggest crowds during high season. Visiting during shoulder season is an option but you will need to be prepared for any type of weather. Even seasoned travelers may be shocked by how quickly the weather changes in the Rocky Mountains. It can snow ANY month of the year!

 

Red canoes at Lake Louise in spring time. Snow covered mountains and partially thawed lake waters - great Canadian road trip adventure

 

I loved skiing the back bowls of Lake Louise on fresh powder, back in my skiing days.

You can enjoy excellent hiking in spring, summer, and fall in Lake Louise.

 

Lake Louise is a turquoise color glacial fed lake in Banff National Park in Alberta Canada

Lake Louise is a turquoise color glacial fed lake in Banff National Park in Alberta Canada

 

Lake Agnes Tea House is a great hike if you want more than a walk around the lake. Be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes and maybe bring some hiking poles too.

 

Lake Agnes at the top of the Tea House Hike - Lake Louise Alberta

Lake Agnes Tea House – hike to Lake Agnes from Lake Louise

 

Prices at the Lake Agnes Tea House are as high as the Rockies so bring lots of cash or a credit card, or your own picnic lunch. One reason the prices are so expensive is that the staff need to hike most of the supplies up the mountain to the tea room.

 

 

Snow at Lake Louise Alberta Canada - most beautiful places to stop on a road trip in Alberta

Snow at Lake Louise on June 15 2016

 

If you are incredibly lucky you will get a room at the 4-star Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Every time I try to book a weekend at the Chateau they are sold out! I stayed at The Paradise Lodge and Bungalows for a girlfriend weekend and it was excellent. It’s a short drive from Lake Louise but it’s not in town so you get to enjoy a quiet place away from the crowds.

Plan well in advance to get a reservation at the Chateau Lake Louise or Paradise Bungalows. Good luck to you! If you must have a 4-star hotel and the Chateau is sold out, try the next best 4-star hotel in Lake Louise, The Post Hotel

 

Bow Lake – Banff National Park

Driving along Icefields Parkway (AB Hwy 93) there are several lakes you can visit. Bow Lake is the second lake along the route north from Lake Louise, and only 24 miles (39 km) away.

Closest hotel to Bow Lake is the Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge located right at Bow Lake. Want to unplug for a weekend? There are no phones or TVs in the rooms.

If you’re looking for a great hike along the Icefields Parkway try Parker Ridge Trail for panoramic views of Saskatchewan Glacier.

 

Bow Lake is glacier fed. Take a road trip on Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park Alberta Canada to see this stunning aquamarine color lake

Bow Lake is glacier fed. Take a road trip on Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park Alberta Canada

 

Peyto Lake – Banff National Park

Another stunning turquoise color glacial fed lake along the Icefields Parkway (Alberta Hwy 93) is Peyto Lake. During my first visit, sun shining brightly turned to overcast skies then a sprinkling of snow, all within about an hour.

On my second hike to Peyto Lake I hiked with my sister to the overlook for epic views of the mountains and Peyto Lake. Walk past the tourists along the paved trail until you get to the dirt trail and follow it to the viewing point.

Here’s a real short video of Peyto Lake overlook to give you an idea, but really you need to go and see for yourself! Notice how the color of the lake changes dramatically depending on the sun and cloud cover.

 

 

You always have to be prepared for wacky weather variations in the mountains. For this reason I always dress in layers and bring the 10 essentials for hiking. Every trip.

Closest hotel to Peyto Lake is the Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge located at Bow Lake (see above). Honestly, I prefer to stay in Lake Louise, it is my favorite location in the Canadian Rockies.

 

Glacier fed Peyto Lake in Banff National Park Alberta Canada - one of the best road trips in Canada

Glacier fed Peyto Lake in Banff National Park Alberta Canada – a top road trip pick

 

Emerald Lake – Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake is an easy drive from Banff or Lake Louise, or you can stay right on the lake at the Emerald Lake Lodge. The lodge may be old and rustic but the plus side of staying here is waking up next to the emerald beauty and kissing her good night each evening.

Emerald Lake is located in Yoho National Park near the town of Field BC. It is the largest of the lakes in Yoho National Park and one of the most popular tourist sights in the area.

Closest hotel is the Emerald Lake Lodge located right along the lake. If the lodge is all booked up try the Canadian Rockies Inn. Located in Field BC, it’s an adults only hotel and highly rated by reviewers for location, cleanliness, comfort, facilities, and staff.

You can hike all around the lake. Bring your own canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddle board to enjoy stunning 360 views from the middle of the lake. Canoe rentals are also available at Emerald Lake.

After seeing Emerald Lake while road tripping from Vancouver to Calgary I knew I had to stay there at least once in my lifetime! I loved waking around the lake early in the morning and in the evenings.

 

Emerald Lake Lodge and jewel-like Emerald Lake at Yoho National Park in BC Canada

Emerald Lake Lodge and jewel-like Emerald Lake at Yoho National Park in BC Canada

 

Tips for visiting glacial lakes of Banff and Yoho National Parks

  • Bring your own canoe, kayak, stand-up paddle board, or be prepared to splurge big bucks for the canoe rentals at Lake Louse, Moraine Lake, and Emerald Lake.
  • Reserve your hotel or camping spot well in advance of your trip to Banff and Lake Louise. Book several months in advance. Book a year in advance if you are planning a special occasion in the area and need several rooms. Check Parks Canada website to reserve camping spots
  • Some hotels can be booked without paying a deposit, so check now and book your trip, for the latest deals and hotel prices in Banff and hotel deals in Lake Louise
  • Closest major city to fly to is Calgary Alberta – check hotel prices here
  • Be prepared for all types of weather in the mountains. The temperatures get much cooler at night and there could be snow any month of the year.
  • Bring sunscreen – UV exposure increases by about 4% per 1000 ft (305 meters) gain in elevation.
  • Always bring essential hiking supplies for every day trip. Remember to bring water and snacks. If you happen to get lost you want to be prepared in the wilderness.
  • Many hotels will have extra cans of bear spray, ask when you check-in. You cannot bring bear spray on an airplane so don’t bother packing it if you are flying.

 

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Moraine Lake and Lake Louise in Banff National Park Alberta Canada

 

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

4 Comments

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  1. Pam says:

    Wow. The mountains and the turquoise lakes are spectacular! I had been seeing pictures of Moraine Lake and Lake Louise recently, and thought it might be fun to visit, but after reading your description, and realizing it’s possible to hike between Lake Louise and Lake Agnes, it feels more real to me. I definitely want to add this area to my road trip bucket list!

    • Hi Pam, yes Wow! The scenery is spectacular, glad you have put this on your road trip bucket list. The hiking is incredible, but be prepared for the weather, even in spring there can be lots of snow. I hiked from Lake Louise village to Lake Louise last year and it was tough going through all the snow in late May – but totally worth it. The hike from Lake Louise to Lake Agnes is one of my favorite hikes in the Rockies. Enjoy your travels! Happy roadtripping!

  2. Joanne says:

    What an amazing place, I wish I could see and experience the beautiful and great aroma of this wonderful site at Alberta.

    • Now is the perfect time to plan your road trip to Alberta and BC! Enjoy your travels and hope you get to visit all of these beautiful glacier lakes soon :)

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