Banff National Park: Moraine Lake

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It would be easy to spend the day hiking, canoeing, or just relaxing at crowded Lake Louise, and pass up a visit to another lake that’s just a few kilometers away.  But skipping Moraine Lake would be a shame.  Just like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake has a stunning color, some great hikes, and impressive peaks towering overhead.  It’s also less crowded than its neighbor.

Moraine Lake is only 15 kilometers from Lake Louise Village and Trans Canada 1.  The road itself is a treat: long before you reach the lake, the impressive mountains that tower over the Valley of the Ten Peaks appear ahead of you, giving you a different view around every curve.  It was somewhat gloomy on the day I visited, but even so, I still thought this was one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever seen.

There’s a small parking area at the northern end of the lake, next to a log jam.  Carefully walk across the logs, and you can tackle the short Rockpile Trail — although there isn’t an actual trail, just a scramble up the rocks.  At the top…

… there’s a great view of the lake.  It’s such an iconic view, that it was used on the Canadian 20 dollar bill, in the 1970’s — and is now referred to as the “Twenty Dollar View”.

Looking south across the lake, you can see about half of the ten mountains that form the Valley of the Ten Peaks.  Mount Fay is the first (on the left, at 3,234 meters or 10,610 feet) — that’s about 1,400 meters above the lake’s surface, or almost a mile straight up.

I’m not certain if this is Mount Babel, or just another smaller peak near the parking lot.  Either way, it really stood out.

In addition to the Rockpile Trail, there are several more hikes the begin at the edge of Moraine Lake.  You can head east around the Tower of Babel and along Babel Creek to Consolation Lakes.  The trail is about 3 kilometers (2 miles) one way, and doesn’t require a big elevation change.  Head the other direction, and you can walk along the western edge of Moraine Lake, or hike out to Larch Valley (2.8 kilometers or 1.7 miles, one way).  Longer trails continue from Larch Valley to Sentinel Pass or Eiffel Lake — but be aware that at times, hikers are required to travel in groups on these trails, due to bear activity.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive to Lake Louise, then to Moraine Lake, then back to Highway 1:

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