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Canada is home to some of the most beautiful lakes in the world. And in this guide I will take you through all of my personal favorites that I visited during our epic road trip through the Canadian Rockies.
From the iconic lakes in Banff National Park to the hidden gems that can be found in Kananaskis Country. They are all beautiful lakes that you should definitely add to your Canada travel itinerary!
A lot of the lakes in Canada are glacial lakes, which means that they are often way too cold to swim in. You can of course always jump in but the water temperature rarely gets above 4°C, meaning you only have about 15 minutes or so until you start to become hypothermic.
Also important to know is that while I do like to edit my photos in Lightroom, I never enhanced the blue color of these lakes in Canada. There’s simply no need to! These beautiful lakes in the Canadian Rockies simply are that gorgeous!
The 10 Most Beautiful Lakes In The Canadian Rockies
My guess is that you’ll also want to photograph these gorgeous lakes in the Canadian Rockies. That’s why I have also included some photography tips!
Get a Parks Canada Pass to visit the best lakes in the Canadian Rockies
To visit any National Park in Canada there is one very essential item that you’ll need and that’s a Parks Canada Pass.
Parks Canada pass prices are as follows and are only valid for 1 day
- Adult: $10.50
- Senior: $9.00
- Youth (up to 17): Free
- Family/group of 7 people: $21.00
- Day passes expire at 4 pm the following day.
I highly recommend getting your pass from before online on the Parks Canada website. You’ll receive it by mail and you don’t need to wait in line at the gate to enter the National Park. During peak summer months the waiting time can become pretty long.
Since we wanted to visit several National Parks over the timespan of 2 weeks we went with the Discovery Pass. This one is valid one year starting from the date you’ve placed your order.
A Parks Canada Discovery Pass which gets you entrance to all Parks Canada destinations for the year is only $145.25 for a family.
Discovery Pass fees are as follows:
- Adult: $72.25
- Senior: $61.75
- Family: $145.25
Since there was two of us driving in 1 single camper we went with the family pass.
All you need to do is attach it to your rear view mirror and you’re good to go!
When purchasing your Parks Canada Pass make sure to calculate in enough time for shipping. You don’t want it to only arrive in your mailbox after you’ve already left for Canada.
1. Moraine Lake – The most Instagrammable lake in the Canadian Rockies
Moraine Lake is one of the most popular lakes in the entire world and that’s also exactly why it’s at the top of this must see Canadian lakes list!
Even though the weather when we were there was pretty gloomy, it was still a magical place to visit.
Moraine Lake is located in Banff National park and is pretty easy to visit and photograph if you know when and where to go.
Watching the sunrise at Moraine Lake is these days pretty much the only way to visit if you don’t want to depend on a shuttle bus.
Why? Well the parking lot at Moraine Lake is on the smaller side and tends to fill up at sunrise or a little after. There’s only one road leading to Moraine Lake and once the parking lot is full this road gets closed off. It’s also not allowed to park on the side of the road and it usually doesn’t open again until late in the evening.
Moraine Lake Road closes between (approximately) October 10 until late May. The road gets covered in snow, and the avalanche risk is high.
❗️2023 UPDATE – As of 2023, Moraine Lake Road will be closed to privately owned vehicles. According to Parks Canada, access to the lake will be by Parks Canada Shuttle, Roam Transit, commercial buses and taxis from June to mid-October.
2. Lake Louise – The most famous lake in the Canadian Rockies
Chances are pretty high you’ve probably heard of Lake Louise right? Well, it truly deserves all of its world fame cause this lake in the Canadian Rockies is absolutely breathtaking!
Lake Louise is also the reason why I told you at the start of this article that I never enhanced the blue of any lake on these photos. The milky blue color of Lake Louise is stunning all on its own. And when the sunlight hits the water you won’t believe your eyes!
There are plenty of hikes around Lake Louise, which is also located in Banff National Park. If you’re looking for a different vantage point of this stunning lake you should definitely hike up to the Little Beehive! Here you’ll get an astounding oversight of the entire lake.
Another fab idea for when visiting Lake Louise is to rent a canoe. While the price is steep and the highest out of all the lakes in the Canadian Rockies, it is definitely worth it!
There’s only one canoe rental company at Lake Louise and it’s operated by the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. You are however allowed to bring your own canoe, kayak or SUP but there’s is no public launching dock.
Opening hours: 8.30am to 7pm
I highly recommend getting in line 30 minute before opening time cause there are two separate lines and the one that’s reserved for hotel guests always gets first choice. Otherwise you might end up waiting a very long time before it’s your turn.
Price – 145CAD for 1 hour/ 135CAD for 30 minutes (tax not included)
📸 This kind of beauty of course comes with big crowds. The trick is to go at either sunrise or sunset. With sunrise being the highest chance of getting that perfect reflection.
3. Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake is a beautiful lake in Yoho National Park and as it name already says it’s an emerald colored lake. It’s the perfect place for a late afternoon stroll and to capture the sunset glow on the surrounding mountains.
There’s a pretty big parking lot right next to the lake and there’s a 5.2km hiking trail that goes around it with little to no elevation. Emerald Lake Lodge has cozy cabins and guest rooms for those wishing to spend more than a day in the area.
📸 I would visit during either sunrise or sunset for fewer crowds and the best light on the mountain peaks.
4. Two Jack Lake
Two Jack Lake is located along the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Road in Banff National Park and is the perfect spot to watch the sunset!
It’s a 15 minute drive from the town Banff and offers fantastic views of Mount Rundle. There’s a parking lot in front of Two Jack Lake but it’s not allowed to camp here. There is however a perfect camp site nearby called Two Jack Lake Camping which also offers views over this beautiful lake in the Canadian Rockies.
Don’t be fooled by the photo below, the water is pretty much freezing cold!
📸 I really loved the sunset glow on Mount Rundle for taking photos.
5. Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka is another stunning lake in Banff National Park! You can find it at the end of the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive and it’s definitely a good idea to at least spend half a day here.
For instance you can hike the Lake Minnewanka shore trail which is an out & back hiking trail. You can follow it as long as you like and simply turn back when you’ve had enough of hiking.
Another fun idea is to go on a cruise on lake Minnewanka. We opted for the beer cruise at 5pm where you get to taste 4 different Canadian beers from the area of Alberta.
📸 Don’t miss the sunrise at this lake! But I did find it a lot less busy than the other lakes higher on this list. All of my photos were actually taken in the middle of the afternoon.
6. Spray Lake
Spray Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Kananaskis Country. This more undiscovered part of the Canadian Rockies is a magnificent place that should definitely be on your bucket list. The crowds are a lot smaller compared to the lakes in Banff National Park but the views are just as beautiful.
📸 You can get the best view over Spray Lakes from the several hikes starting off at the lake shore. We did the Windtower hike but you can also opt for the Tent Ridge hike for even more epic views.
7. Peyto Lake – The most special lake in the Canadian Rockies
Another beautiful lake in the Canadian Rockies is the spectacular Peyto, and just like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake it’s located in Banff National Park.
Thanks to its shape like that of a wolf/fox it’s one of the top sights to see in Banff National Park.
It’s parking lot is however a little tricky to find cause the sign on the road doesn’t say Peyto Lake but Bow Pass. There are two parking lots and the one for cars and RV’s is the first one on your right that you’ll see.
From there it’s a 10 minute hike up to the viewpoint. They’ve created a platform from where you can stand but if you go through the bushes just a little before that you’ll arrive at these rocks where you can take better photos.
📸 Definitely visit this place during sunrise for the best light. But yu do need to be lucky. I visited 3 times and almost every time the mountains in the back were completely covered in clouds.
8. Bow Lake
Bow Lake is a must stop when you’re driving the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper or vice versa. It was one of my favorite stops on this scenic drive and if you can time it make sure to arrive here for sunrise.
The reflections here are absolutely breathtaking and definitely worth the early wake up call!
📸 There’s a small pier close to the hotel at Bow lake from where you can take the best photos.
9. Pyramid Lake
The mist was rising up from the lake and the sun was hitting Pyamid mountain in the back.
There are several viewpoints around Pyramid Lake but my favorite was definitely from the wooden bridge going to Pyramid Island. There’s a small parking lot a few meters away but if you’re visiting for sunrise you won’t have any problem finding a spot.
📸 Make sure to also walk a little around the lake to find extra viewpoints for photographing the sunrise.
10. Maligne Lake – The most beautiful lake in the Canadian Rockies
One of the most magical moments of our Canada road trip was definitely photographing Spirit Island on Maligne Lake during sunrise. Maligne Lake is located in Jasper National Park and is famous for its azure-blue waters and at 13.7mi / 22km long it’s the second-largest glacier-fed lake in the world.
It was an incredible adventure where we left at 1am in our canoe and paddled 14km in the middle of the night while we heard the wolves howling along the shore. At around 4am we arrived at Spirit Island and we had the entire place to ourselves for the next 3 hours.
It’s honestly one of those experiences that was absolutely nerve wrecking when we first started but incredibly rewarding as well.
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
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