Banff National Park: Lake Louise


Lake Louise probably looks like no lake you’ve ever seen before.  It’s not sparkling and clear, it’s milky and blue-green.  Thanks to “rock flour” — particles of glacial silt that are far smaller than sand — the water glows with a soothing color.  You’ll never get tired of staring at it.

I decided to start this page with a picture of Lake Louise from above, along the trail to Lake Agnes, which I’ll cover on the next page.  From this vantage point, you can see the two things that make this lake famous — the milky water, and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which dominates the eastern end of the lake.  When you arrive at Lake Louise…

… you’ll come upon this scene.  Looking west, Lake Louise stretches out towards Victoria Glacier (which provides its water) and Mount Victoria (along the Continental Divide).  In the winter, the lake freezes, and you can walk or skate out as far as you’d like.

Lake Louise’s only outlet drains to the Bow River, a few kilometers away.  After you walk across Louise Creek, you can choose to hike around the lake, or peek inside the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is one of the grand hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in the late 19th and early 20th century.  The oldest part of the hotel was built in 1913, the newest was finished in 2004.  The lobby is impressive..

…but the view from the dining room is spectacular.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise was originally built as a summer-only resort.  It was winterized in 1982, and is now open year-round.  You can stay here if you’re skiing at Lake Louise Ski Area, on the opposite side of Highway 1.

Several hikes begin at the Chateau.  The easiest one is the Lakeshore Trail, which stays flat as it hugs the northern edge of the lake for 2 kilometers.

Just a few hundred meters from the hotel, the trail splits.  If you follow the lakeshore trail, you’ll eventually end up on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail, and in 5.5 kilometers, you’ll reach a rustic teahouse.  Split off to the right, and you’ll start climbing uphill, towards another tea house at Lake Agnes (3.4 kilometers).

I only walked far enough along the lakeshore to get a nice picture of the lake, and the Chateau.

Oh, and you can also rent a canoe and paddle out onto Lake Louise.  The boat house is on the south shore, just opposite the Chateau.

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