When heading out to the Canadian Rockies you quickly find that there are so many lakes in Alberta that it can feel a little overwhelming to know which ones you should take the time out to visit. There are however plenty of easy choices that can be made and none more so than to visit Lake Louise, renowned for being one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Having now visited I find it incredibly difficult to disagree with that status even slightly; it really is beautiful.
How to get to Lake Louise?
Lake Louise is located just before the Icefields Parkway and if like us you are planning to head here from Banff a good thing to note is that the distance from Banff to Lake Louise is only around 60 km so it should take you less than 1 hour. Once at the town of Lake Louise, the lake itself is located around 2.5 miles up Lake Louise Drive just off of the Bow Valley Parkway so the only way to get there is by car or by foot.
With the lake being in such high demand from tourists this makes getting close enough to park incredibly challenging as we quickly discovered, with traffic management in place at the junction to Lake Louise Drive controlling the volume of cars heading up the road.
If you can make it through the barriers you then have the option of parking in a medium sized car park half way up the hill or failing that a small car park at the top of the hill by the lake – we discovered that all efforts to park in either of these options were completely futile!
With Lake Louise being so incredibly popular the good news is that they have plenty of plans in place to cope with this. The guys controlling the traffic pointed us in the direction of the Lake Louise shuttle bus service which was a couple of miles away. This was completely free to use and has a security guard. Notably there’s also a caravan/camper-van site here so if you’ve hired yourself an RV it’s ideal. For us the shuttle was absolutely perfect, goodbye parking rage!
As it turned out the shuttle busses were bright yellow Canadian school busses so if you’re looking for a little bit of an extra experience on your visit I would recommend to just head straight here. But be warned, they’re school busses so leg room is a little restricted for adult sized legs – remember to leave your knees at home!
Once boarded, the bus took us back up the hill and straight to the car park next to Lake Louise. You couldn’t really get dropped off any closer without falling in so it was in the end the perfect way to visit.
What to expect at Lake Louise
At the lake the first thing that strikes you is just how colourful and still the water is! Having experienced a lot of lakes in Canada now the general rule of thumb is that the higher up above the lake you are the bluer it looks and the lower you are the greener it looks.
If you have browsed around our site you’ll notice that in a lot of our photos from both Jasper National Park and Banff National Park there’s a huge amount of cloudiness through them. Unfortunately during our visit there were forest fires in America with the smoke being blown north into Alberta – frustrating! Because of that the smoke was so thick that unfortunately we couldn’t see the glacier that sits between the mountain tops here.
Despite not being able to see the glacier it really didn’t spoil the experience however. There’s still plenty to enjoy and a big enough landscape here to try and take in!
On a non-smoke filled day you should expect to see something more like this…
At Lake Louise there is also the opportunity to hire canoes and take to the water. As we had already been canoeing on the Bow River in Banff we decided to give this a miss however many others were certainly keen on it. Just try not to drop your phone whilst taking a selfie in your canoe…
Whilst at the lake you can wander around and read the information boards, sit on the pebble stones on the water edge or take a few more photos. We opted for all 3!
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
The lake does of course face straight onto the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. This is a beautiful hotel that you can go into and grab yourself a coffee, cake/sandwich and explore the shops. We’ve stayed in Fairmont hotels over the years and this one certainly looked right up there as a premium offering.
Hiking to the Lake Agnes Tea House
Whilst at Lake Louise many people choose to undertake one of the many hiking routes around the lake. These vary in length and difficulty so make your choice wisely! You don’t want to undertake a hike beyond your capability and then end up having to try navigate your way back in the dark through the forest.
The hike that we opted for was the Lake Agnes Tea House trail which has an elevation of 400m (1312 feet) over 3.6km (2.2 miles). It’s classed as moderate in difficulty and takes approximately 1-2 hours to complete. Don’t get me wrong I’m certainly not unfit but this got pretty challenging towards the upper end of the trail where it’s a non-stop increasingly steep incline!
At the top you can take a break and get some much needed and well deserved rest! Here you can enjoy the view of Lake Agnes and have a cup of tea and a small bite to eat at the family run Lake Agnes Tea House.
With the Lake Agnes trail complete we made our way back down to Lake Louise which offered further great views of the lake as dusk started to set in.
And that was it! Back at Lake Louise we enjoyed some final views, headed to the bus stop and got back on our school bus to the car park. On the way back we were also lucky to catch a passing glimpse of some wildlife in the river.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, Lake Louise is world renowned location due to its sheer beauty and there is no mistaking this fact. Even with the smokey backdrop this didn’t take anything away from our experience, instead offering an alternative natural experience for our visit. We loved every minute here and have no doubt that you will too. Add Lake Louise to your must see locations in Alberta and absolutely add it to your bucket list. This is one that is not to be missed!
Are you heading to Lake Louise this year? Have you already been? Let us know in the comments!