Flying locally could be costly here in Canada. A round trip ticket from Toronto to Miami could be cheaper than from Toronto to Halifax. I know, I don’t get it either. Visiting the Canadian Rockies has always been on my bucket list. When my cousin found a cheap ticket from Hamilton, a nearby airport from Toronto, to Edmonton we booked it right away.
We visited the Rockies two summers ago, and we were lucky that it was the time when Canada celebrated its 150th anniversary. As a treat, all national parks in the country were free and we made the most out of it! We spent a week driving, hiking, drinking beer after hiking, eating at Tim Hortons almost everyday, waking up early, sleeping late, and enjoying the time of our lives. It was a trip of a lifetime!
We visited seven lakes in total on this trip. Most, if not all, were easy to access and just a few minutes away from the parking lot. So here are the best lakes you shouldn’t miss when you’re in the Rockies!
#1 Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park
First on the list is Emerald Lake. This lake isn’t even in Alberta but I highly recommend coming here when you’re visiting for the first time. Emerald Lake is located close to the city of Field, British Columbia (just a few minutes from Banff National Park) and is the largest lake in Yoho National Park.
This exceptionally beautiful lake has the most vivid shade of emerald green (yes, it lives up to its name!) and is surrounded by snow-capped rocky mountains.
Emerald Lake Lodge is the only accommodation at the lake which offers cabin style rooms. There is also a 5.2 km trail that surrounds the lake if you prefer to hike a bit.There are canoes you could rent too that costs about $70/hour, which is a tad bit cheaper than in Lake Louise.
#2 Spirit Island in Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park
Maligne Lake is the longest lake in the Canadian Rockies at 22.5 km, and the second largest glacier-fed lake in the world. It is where the famous Spirit Island is located, a picture perfect spot that is once featured in Grand Central Station in New York City.
In order to reach this out-of-this-world place, you could either take the Maligne Lake Boat Tour ($79/person) that operates from May to October, or you can rent a kayak or canoe and paddle for 14-km (about a day of paddling). Of course we chose the boat ride!
The 90-minute boat ride was awe-inspiring! I don’t know how many times our jaws dropped from the beauty of the surroundings.
Where to stay in Jasper: We stayed in Jasper Gates Resort in Yellowhead County for a night ($119/night with no tax) and in a Bed and Breakfast called Mountain Memories at the town of Jasper for two nights ($80/night with tax).
#3 Peyto Lake, Banff National Park
The wolf lake. This lake is located in Banff National Park and is easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway. This popular lake has one of the best views of the Canadian Rockies!
From the parking lot, follow the trail that takes you to the viewpoint of the lake. It was cloudy and really cold when we visited (in Alberta, winter starts in September – no joke!) but we were still able to appreciate the beauty of this lake.
#4 Moraine Lake, Banff National Park
Moraine Lake was the last lake we visited. It is close to the nearby Lake Louise in Banff National Park. The lake is surrounded by mountains they call Valley of the Ten Peaks and has the most vibrant shade of turquoise blue.
There are a lot of trails you could do around Moraine Lake. We, however, just did the Rockpile Trail which offers an elevated view of the lake.
If only this lake is located at the backcountry, it could’ve been the number one on my list. The lake itself didn’t disappoint though – it was the effort of getting here and the tourists. The best time to visit is during the early morning (waaaay before sunrise), because the parking lot could be full as early as 7 am. The road to Moraine Lake closes in early October and opens during the summer months.
#5 Lake Louise, Banff National Park
On our first day in Alberta, we drove from Calgary to Banff and this was our first stop. This lake is bigger than Moraine Lake and I believe the most popular amongst this list.
Lake Louise is an iconic lake on all seasons. You could canoe ($115/hr, that is crazy expensive!) during the summer and skate on it on winter. You could also stay on the nearby Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a luxury lakefront hotel, or on lodges and cabins around the lake.
View from the Fairview Lookout
We first hiked the Fairview Lookout trail, a short 2.4 km hike that offers an elevated view of the lake. We also hiked the Little Beehive via Lake Agnes Teahouse trail, a 13 km hike that features a bird’s-eye view of the lake.
Where to stay in Banff: We stayed in YWCA Banff Hotel for 3 nights ($40/night). Since this was a spontaneous trip, most of the hotels were fully-booked already. So we don’t have any other option but to stay in a hostel (my first!). It was the best decision though! We met amazing female travellers from different parts of the world and really enjoyed their travel stories. We all still follow each other on Instagram.
I had the best time in Alberta! This was my soul-searching trip and it did really put things into a perspective. It made me appreciate life more. And the mountains had their way of humbling you. So blessed to call this country my home!
The growing popularity of the Canadian Rockies on social media turned this mountain paradise into one of the top tourist destinations in the country. It’s best to come here from late June to August but it could be really crowded. I haven’t visited during the winter times as the weather could be unpredictable but the winter in the Rockies could be amazing too. Make sure to check the website of Parks Canada prior to coming here for the latest updates of the parks.
Have you been in the Canadian Rockies? Which lake is your favourite?
Ad: I usually book all of my accommodations through Booking.com and I am happy to share my discount code. Get $25 off your next stay anywhere around the globe when you use my code KHATZA25 or click this picture below to claim your discount.
Disclaimer: All opinions and views on this post are my own. Copyright all pictures by Kathleen of I Am Miss Adventures.