We might be a little biased when we say Canada is by far one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It may also be quite a large statement to say that Banff National Park is also arguably one of the most beautiful Parks in the world. But in our honest opinion Banff is MIND BLOWING. If you’ve ever googled ‘Canada’ one of the first photos is actually a lake on our list of 5 Must See Lakes in Banff National Park, which says a lot for how popular Banff actually is.
When you think of Banff National Park you’re probably more likely to think about the Canadian Rockies than you are the lakes. But without the spectacularly coloured blue lakes that saturate the Rockies those photos would almost be fairly ordinary. Are we even allowed to say that?!?! Seems crazy to even say, how could mountains be fairly ordinary? None the less, lakes make up a huge portion of the beauty of the Rockies so why not highlight them a little.
Why don’t we tell you a little about Banff National Park before we dive into what you should see.
Banff is Canada’s most popular National Park and receives over 4 million visitors per year from around the world. FOUR MILLION. Which means a lot of these sites are going to be packed full of tourists, so be prepared. Also make sure you are respecting the nature and the signage in the park. We can’t stress enough how important it is stay on trails and not feed the animals. If one tourist drifts off of a path hundreds of others follow which damages the natural flora and ultimately ruins the sites over time.
Feeding the animals is also a BIG no-no. If they become accustomed to human food they will come into towns searching for it and could potentially become a danger to humans. There have been incidents of bears ripping open peoples tent trailers in the middle of the night searching for food. These animals then become a danger and rangers are then forced to kill them. We get it, you want to get close to the animals but your entertainment is not worth their life, so just don’t do it. Not to mention feeding wildlife in any National Park in Canada can come with a $25,000 fine. Sounds like a much more expensive holiday than you expected.
With all that negativity behind us lets focus on the good stuff, the 5 Must See Lakes in Banff National Park. All of these lakes are easily accessible and 100% worth every effort it takes to get there. With incredible mountains views (and hopefully reflections if it’s a calm day), and uniquely blue lakes you won’t want to forget your camera, or you will regret it!
Don’t forget to bring a picnic basket, hiking shoes and maybe even a canoe when you visit Lake Minnewanka! Don’t worry if you don’t own a canoe the floating rental cabin has you covered. Just keep in mind most rental prices are around $50 per hour. With picturesque mountains towering above the lake you won’t be disappointed. If you bring hiking shoes there are tons of great easy trails all around the lake that don’t require a bunch of equipment. No matter what hikes we do I wear Salomon Women’s Mid 2 GTX and Andy wears Hanwag Boots. We are both absolutely in love with our boots and completely swear by them! Easy trails or not hiking boots are always a good idea. They give you traction and protect you from rolling and injuring your ankles. Hiking is serious business!
Obviously if you’re travelling around Banff National Park you’re going to be snapping photos left right and center. Vermillion Lakes is a must see for the avid photographer or videographer looking for a time-lapse. Sunrise and sunset are the most popular times at the lake because of the epic colours that dance along the mountain peaks. But don’t panic if you can’t make it at those times your photos will still be incredible.
A small dirt road just outside of the Banff townsite will get you to this iconic photography location. If you’re lucky you’ll get a perfect reflection of Mount Rundle in the water. Maybe pack a picnic and watch as the colors in the sky change and transform the landscape. If you visit in the winter bring a pair of skates and enjoy some leisure time out on the ice. In the spring bring a canoe to paddle through and explore the lake!
This glacier fed lake is one of the most popular sites in Banff National Park and we can guarantee you’ve probably seen a photo or two of it before. The lakes unique blue colour is due to the rock flour that flows into it during the summer months (like many lakes in the Rockies). If you plan on visiting this wolf shaped lake you can easily access it via the Icefields Parkway. Yes we said wolf shaped. Take a look at the photo below and you’ll see exactly what we mean!
The Icefields Parkway is known as one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Have your camera ready and maybe set up your GoPro on your hood to get some epic time-lapses! From there you turn off towards the Peyto Lake parking lot and it’s just a short 30 minute hike to the viewpoint. The path is paved but it is basically all uphill so be prepared for more than just a casual walk. Get those hiking boots back out!
Lake Louise is probably one of the more commonly known places in Banff National park. The colour of the lake is seemingly famous. There are LOADS of hiking trails around the area and plenty of activities all year round. There is certainly no shortage of adventure when visiting Lake Louise!
If you visit during the summer bring or rent a canoe and see all angles of the lake. WARNING the canoe’s at Lake Louise can be almost $95 an hour to rent! Or maybe grab those hiking boots again and hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House and get spectacular views of the glaciers and mountains that surround Lake Louise while sipping on a cup of tea.
Visiting in the winter? Bring a pair of skates or cross country skis and take advantage of the frozen waters. You can also visit during the ice festival and see some of the best ice sculptors in the world compete.
Google Banff National Park and we’d say a good 90% of the photos are from Moraine Lake. It’s seriously mind blowing though, it’s one of those sights that screams Canada. The lake is situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks at the base of the peaks and can barely be explained in words, merely pictures. It’s a short drive from Lake Louise and is very well signed.
Again be warned this is a HUGE tourist hot spot so if you want photos or anything without people in them try to go early in the morning or later in the evening. If you visit in the fall hike up Larch Valley and see the needles of the Larch trees change to orange with the leaves. The hike is a lot of switch backs and has a high elevation gain so get ready for a decent workout.
Keep an eye out for signs though due to grizzly bears in the area. Grizzly bears are very common in the Lake Louise area and they feed in the fall to prepare for hibernation. If you see the signs you will be required to hike the area with four or more people for your own safety. You can check online too for trail updates. If you don’t it does come with a pretty nasty fine…so find hiking buddies!
Note: The road to reach the lake is closed in the winter as it becomes too dangerous. But if you’re feeling super adventurous you can walk or cross country ski the 14km road. If you do it’s best to check snow conditions and avalanche warnings. BE PREPARED. The mountains are not a forgiving place, if you don’t know basic survival then don’t attempt to do this. Weather systems change in an instant in Banff National Park and it’s extremely important you are knowledgeable and prepared.
Johnston Canyon & Ink Pots
So while this may not be a lake we think it’s a pretty good honourable mention! Plus it’s water so at least it fits into the category…right?!?!
Be warned…this hike is a popular one. Tourist buses make several trips a day here so expect a lot of walking traffic and not much parking. It’s worth it though. The boardwalks that stick out of the side of the canyon walk you through plenty of waterfalls and transports you to another world. The whole hike is around 45 minutes, but if you’re feeling adventurous then you can head up to the Ink Pots .
Past the Upper falls you hike another 3km (or so) to reach the Ink Pots. These unique coloured pools are worth the extra little bit of effort. There is also a hidden cave along the trail towards the falls, you will have to do a bit of searching to find this secret though. We won’t tell you exactly where it is because it’s a bit of a local secret. Let’s say you go see the falls in the winter, well they are COMPLETELY frozen. So frozen you might find ice climbers making their way to the top!
Banff National Park is an exceptionally beautiful place and that is in part due to its lakes. Pair that along with a few waterfalls and you’ve got an area of pure paradise. It’s hard to find arguments as to why you shouldn’t visit Banff, but these 5 Must See Lakes in Banff National Park make justifying that trip just that much easier.
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