In all likelihood, about 95% of people who stumble upon this site have previously seen Moraine Lake. Between the millions of travel photos on Instagram and the Windows 7 default desktop background, Moraine Lake is surely the most recognizable mountain lake in Canada.
Moraine Lake is set in the Valley of the Ten Peaks amidst mountains, rock piles, and Rocky Mountain forests. The vivid blue lake comes as the result of light bouncing off “rock flour”, which are small particles of rock floating in the water.
Like every mountain range in the Rockies, there are numerous hiking paths to discover in and around Moraine. The Rockpile Trail runs along the back of Moraine and is home to the “Twenty Dollar View”, which was artistically featured on the back of the Canadian $20 bill between 1969 and 1979.
Despite the incredibly popular and instantly-recognizable mountain range, Moraine Lake is surprisingly difficult to visit. From Banff, you head up the Trans-Canada Highway to Lake Louise. As you venture through the town of Lake Louise toward the lake itself, you have to take a quick left off the regular road to visit Moraine Lake. After that, it’s about a 10 to 15 minute drive up the side of the mountain to the tiny parking lot housing all Moraine Lake visitors.
This doesn’t sound bad, if not for the fact you have to make this trek at 5:00AM in order to secure a parking space. Moraine Lake’s parking lot fills infamously quick — even during our stay in mid-September, the parking lot was filled by about 6:00AM. Should you be lucky enough to secure a parking spot, the magical sunrise over the lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks is one of the most ethereal images to see on this planet.
The Moraine Lake/Lake Louise dynamic duo are the absolute highlight spectacles of a visit to Banff National Park. There are many, many mountain ranges and wonderfully blue glacial lakes to visit — Peyto, among the ones which I wish we had visited — but Moraine is the most mind-bending visage imaginable.
You can view the entire Banff National Park gallery right here.