Lake Louise, which is also named Lake of the Little Fishes by the Stoney Nakota First Nations people, is a vibrant turquoise glacial-fed lake in Banff National Park and is one of the most visited destinations in all of Canada. In the summer, you’ll find people canoeing across the lake or hiking up one of the mountains whereas in the winter it becomes a frozen skating rink and home to the incredible Ice Magic Festival.
Living in Calgary, we drive to Banff and Lake Louise a lot. After all, it’s one of the most scenic destinations in the world and it’s only two hours away! There are so many things to do in Banff National Park and in Lake Louise, so whether you’re wanting to just admire the lake from the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise or go for a hike into the thick pine forest, visiting Lake Louise is an absolute MUST-DO when exploring the Canadian Rockies.
In this article, we’re going to share with you all the different ways you can get from Calgary to Lake Louise, Alberta.
Where is Lake Louise?
Lake Louise is located approximately 185-km west of Calgary, Alberta. The drive will take around two hours via the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1). The drive is generally fast but if you’re driving in the summer and/or the weekends, it can also be busy with both tourists and locals heading out for a weekend getaway. If you’re driving in the winter, the highway can also be dangerous due to snow and ice. Please check local conditions and make sure you’re prepared.
We’ve written a detailed guide for driving from Calgary to Banff and this article is essentially the same but with the additional 45-minute drive to Lake Louise.
Banff Park Pass
As is the case with all national parks in Canada, you will need a pass in order to enter. Daily passes expire at 4 pm the following day. However, depending on the amount of time you have, a yearly pass is a much better value.
You’ll find the park gates as you pass through Canmore on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Calgary. If you’d rather purchase in advance, you can also purchase them online at the Parks Canada website.
The current daily fees are:
Youth (up to 17 yo): FREE
Family/group (up to 7 people): $19.60
Commercial group (per person): $8.30
The daily passes expire at 4 pm the following day.
If you’re spending one-week or more exploring national parks anywhere in the country, you are better off purchasing a one-year Discovery Pass. These are an incredible value. For one small fee, you can enjoy all national parks and historic sites across Canada for an entire year.
The prices for the Discovery Pass are:
How to Get from Calgary to Lake Louise
There are a variety of ways you get to Lake Louise, including renting your own car, renting an RV, finding private transportation, or taking a bus. There is no train service between Calgary and Lake Louise.
Calgary to Lake Louise by Car
The best way to travel to Lake Louise is by renting a car. There are so many places to explore and having the flexibility of a vehicle will make your experience much better.
However, if you’re visiting in the winter, the conditions can be dangerous for those with no experience. Generally speaking, the highways are well-maintained, but due to freezing temperatures and snow, the highways can be very slippery. Accidents do happen and the highway can even be shut down from time to time. You’ll definitely want to check current road reports before you leave.
From Calgary’s airport, Lake Louise is very easy to reach. You’d simply join up with the Trans-Canada Highway and head west. From there, you can’t miss it. I’d recommend downloading Google Maps or another mapping system and using that during your trip.
There’s plenty of options for renting a car at the airport, as well as in Calgary. We typically book rental cars via Expedia or another booking engine such as Booking.com. From what we’ve experienced, all the rental car companies are more-or-less the same, so I’d just select the type of vehicle you want and go for the one that costs the least. Just make sure it has unlimited kilometres, which they usually do.
Poparide Rideshare: Before we get into the more expensive options, you may want to consider rideshare with Poparide.com. Prices vary but for roughly $25, you can jump in with a local and get dropped off in Lake Louise. Plus, there are options for going everywhere, so you’re not limited to just Lake Louise.
Calgary to Lake Louise by RV
Basically, this is the same as doing it by car except with an RV or campervan. Many, many people rent RV’s in Canada and drive them to Banff National Park or other parts of Canada. There are many RV rental companies in Calgary but there is also other options such as renting a campervan (much smaller and easier to handle), as well as renting someone else’s RV (Like Airbnb for RV’s). Here are some options below:
- CanaDream: This is a big RV rental company. They have everything from the little guys to the big guys.
- RVezy: This is the Airbnb of RV’s. You rent someone else’s RV.
- Wheel Estate: This is also the Airbnb of RV’s. Many options for renting someone else’s RV.
- Karma Campervans: If you’re looking for a more convenient option, this might be for you. Typically, it’s a regular size van with two front seats and a back area that has been converted into a living area with a bed and possibly even a kitchen.
Calgary to Lake Louise by Bus
If you’d rather sit back and relax and not worry about driving you’re own car, perhaps you’d like to consider a bus. This way, you can enjoy the scenery without having to worry about driving conditions, insurance, and where to park. There are a variety of ways to get to Lake Louise from Calgary via bus;
- Rider Express: Departing from Westbrook Mall, the Rider Express takes you from Calgary to Lake Louise for approximately $58 one-way.
- Brewster Express: The Brewster Express connects you from Calgary to Lake Louise, Canmore, Kananaskis, Banff, and even Jasper. For $99 one-way ($169 round-trip), you can book a bus trip from Calgary to Lake Louise, which includes free WiFi. Another option during the winter is with Sundog Tours.
- Banff Airporter: Starting as early as 3 am, you can take the Banff Airporter from Calgary Airport to Banff.*
- On-It Transit Service: This bus service is an easy and affordable way to get from Calgary to Banff by bus on weekends for as low as $10! It departs from several transit spots and in downtown Calgary but only goes to Banff.*
*Once in Banff, there are a variety of shuttles that can take you to Lake Louise.
Things to Do on the Way
Before you embark on your journey to Lake Louise, why not spend some time in Calgary? Known as one of the most liveable cities in the world, there are loads of things to do in Calgary. If you have time, we highly recommend spending a couple of days and exploring this young, vibrant city. However, there are also many things you can do on your way to Lake Louise, depending on how much time you have and what you’re interested in.
Here are some of our top choices:
- Downtown Calgary: If you’re short on time, exploring downtown Calgary is a great way to get a feel for the cleanest city on Earth. Some sights you don’t want to miss are Calgary’s Peace Bridge, the Wonderland sculpture at the Bow, Calgary’s Public Library, Studio Bell National Music Centre, Stephen Avenue, and the Calgary Tower.
- Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary: Located on the way to Banff off of Highway 1A, this is a great place to go for wildlife lovers. They offer a number of tours, including a walking tour, an intro tour, or also an interactive tour.
- Canmore, Alberta: Located just before the national park and only about 15-20 minutes from Banff is the popular city of Canmore. Canmore has more of a local feel compared to the touristy feel of Banff but has equally incredible scenery. There are also loads of things to do in Canmore and it can also be a great base for exploring both Banff National Park and the surrounding area. If you’re up for a hike to the top of a mountain, we recommend Hiking Ha Ling Peak.
- Banff, Alberta: It’s safe to say that if you’re going to Lake Louise, you’re probably visiting Banff as well. After all, this is the most visited place in Canada. It’s a beautiful mountain town and is the main tourist hub of the entire Canadian Rockies. As you can imagine, there are loads of things to do in Banff as well.
- Johnston Canyon: As you make your way from Banff to Lake Louise, you’ll pass by the turn-off for Johnston Canyon, which is located on the Bow Valley Parkway. Winter or summer, this is a wonderful place to spend 3-4 hours. In the summer, you’ll find a beautiful canyon with a lovely river and multiple waterfalls and in the winter, you’ll find the same thing but it will all be frozen, creating a winter wonderland that makes Johnston Canyon in the winter one of the top things to do.
- Lake Louise Ski Resort: Before you turn off to drive up the mountain to the world-famous lake, you might want to visit Lake Louise Ski Resort. This is the biggest ski resort in the province and is ranked as one of the most scenic ski resorts in the world. In the summer, you can also take a gondola ride up the mountain with a fairly high chance of seeing bears.
- Moraine Lake: Located not too far from Lake Louise is the equally impressive Moraine Lake. Although the driving distance is not very long, this lake gets very busy in the summer, meaning you’ll likely need to take a shuttle to get there. If you make it, you’ll be blown away. In fact, we think it’s far prettier than Lake Louise.
Things To Do in Lake Louise
Once you’ve made it to Lake Louise, you’ll be blown away by the scenery. From the turquoise-coloured lake to the surrounding mountains and glaciers, everyone loves Lake Louise. For the ultimate list of what to do in Lake Louise including where to eat and where to stay, check out our Things To Do in Banff travel guide.
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