The Canadian Rockies are home to some of the world’s most beautiful lakes. With their vibrant colours and stunning surroundings, each lake offers something unique.
If you’re thinking of exploring the lakes as part of a rail journey with Rocky Mountaineer and are wondering about the best time to visit the Canadian Rockies, we operate in spring, summer and fall. Each season offers a different but equally magical experience. In spring, the lakes are just beginning to thaw, creating a beautiful winter wonderland. You’ll see semi-frozen lakes set against the majestic snowy mountain peaks. In summer, the lakes take on the intense turquoise blue and green colours that they are famous for. In fall, the larch trees turn golden, lighting up the landscapes and lakes they surround.
Whichever season you choose, you can be sure that you’ll discover scenes so spectacular that you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a fairy-tale. From the world-famous Lake Louise in Banff National Park to the picturesque Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, we’ve rounded up 10 of the prettiest lakes in the Canadian Rockies.
1. Lake Louise
With its brilliant turquoise water and soaring mountain backdrop, there’s no doubt that Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Canadian Rockies. Located within Banff National Park at an elevation of 1,750 meters, Lake Louise usually thaws in early June. As the glaciers start to melt, rock flour flows into the lake giving it the famous turquoise colour that attracts visitors from all over the world.
Walk around the shoreline to get a lovely view of the fairytale Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on the eastern shore, or if you have time, take the trail to Lake Agnes Teahouse. For those wishing to soak in the spectacular scenery, canoe rentals are available at the boathouse.
2. Moraine Lake
Only 20 minutes from Lake Louise lies another of Western Canada’s most beautiful lakes: Moraine Lake. Surrounded by the Valley of the Ten Peaks, it’s easy to see why this iconic lake was once immortalized on Canadian twenty-dollar bills. Its vivid turquoise waters and rugged mountain peaks create a scene that’s almost too beautiful to be believed.
Stroll along the shoreline or take a short walk up the rock pile to get a more elevated view of the lake. Moraine Lake Lodge offers canoe rentals from mid-June to mid-September which allows visitors to paddle around the lake.
3. Vermillion Lakes
Less than 3km from the town of Banff, the Vermillion Lakes are a network of marshlands and vast lakes in the Bow Valley. They offer spectacular views of Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain, and are a great spot to go for sunrise or sunset. Explore the leisurely trails near the lakes, relax along the shores, and look out for wildlife such as elk and moose which are often grazing nearby.
Guests travelling on our First Passage to the West rail route can explore Banff’s beautiful lakes before or after their rail journey; however, you can also see Vermillion Lakes from the comfort of the train. We travel through these emerald-hued lakes on the way to and from Banff which offers guests a unique perspective.
4. Lake Minnewanka
Named ‘Water of the Spirits’ by the Stoney Nakoda First Nations people, Lake Minnewanka is a large glacial lake fed by the Cascade River. At 21 km long, Lake Minnewanka is a beautiful spot for biking, hiking, canoeing and picnicking. Boat, kayak and canoe rentals are available at the Lake Minnewanka docks or you can book a cruise around the lake. In the winter months, it is a popular place for snowshoeing. Lake Minnewanka is located less than 5km from the town of Banff and is easily accessible by car, bike or by public transit.
5. Two Jack Lake
Located just down the road from Lake Minnewanka is the picturesque Two Jack Lake. This lake may not be as well-known as its neighbour, but it’s still one of the most beautiful lakes in Banff National Park. Two Jack Lake offers an incredible view of the iconic Mount Rundle, and on a calm day you can gaze at a perfect reflection of the mountain in the glass-like water.
6. Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake is one of the most colourful glacial lakes in the Canadian Rockies. Located along the Icefields Parkway, Peyto Lake is renowned for its brilliant aqua colour which is created by the meltwater from the Wapta Glacier. The lake was named after the early Banff National Park warden, Bill Peyto, and is surrounded by a forest of conifers. Visitors can get some beautiful photos of the lake with a short, easy walk from the parking lot to the viewing platform. For even better views, you can take a short trail up to Bow Summit for an elevated, less crowded view.
7. Emerald Lake
Discovered in 1882 during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Emerald Lake is the largest of the 61 lakes in Yoho National Park. Named after its beautiful jewel-coloured water, the lake is set against the stunning backdrop of Mount Burgess and Wapta Mountain. Visitors can enjoy an easy walking loop around the lake’s shoreline which offers some stunning views.
8. Maligne Lake
Stretching nearly 23km, Maligne Lake is the longest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies and the second largest glacier-fed lake in the world. It’s also home to one of the most photographed spots in Jasper National Park: Spirit Island. This small, picturesque island is a spiritual place for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation and is only accessible by boat. Cruises are available between May and October.
9. Pyramid Lake
Pyramid Lake is a tranquil lake in Jasper National Park just 5km from the town of Jasper. Nestled at the base of Pyramid Mountain, the lake is one of several small lakes left behind by retreating glaciers. Pyramid Lake is a popular spot for fishing and paddling and is also a great place for stargazing as the park itself is a designated Dark Sky Preserve. On a cold, clear night, you may be lucky enough to see the aurora borealis.
10. Lac Beauvert
Lac Beauvert, or Beauvert Lake, is a small lake in Jasper National Park which sits along side the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. On a calm, sunny day, visitors can admire clear reflections of the mountains in the lake’s emerald coloured water. Take a gentle stroll along the scenic hiking trail which wraps around the lake, or rent a canoe from the Boathouse and enjoy the views from the water.
Seeing these beautiful lakes with your own eyes really is a magical experience. We travel between Vancouver and Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper, allowing guests to relax onboard and explore when they reach their destination. Our First Passage to the West route begins or ends in Banff or Lake Louise, making it easy to add on a self-drive option to explore Moraine Lake, Lake Minnewanka and Peyto Lake. Similarly, our Rainforest to Gold Rush or Journey through the Clouds routes to or from Jasper provide a wonderful opportunity to explore some of the nearby lakes, such as Pyramid Lake and Maligne Lake. Learn more about our three distinct rail routes and find the perfect journey for you.