Last updated: August 8, 2020
Known as one of Canada’s most famous and most photographed lakes, Lake Louise is one of Alberta’s biggest tourism draws. From its bright turquoise colour to the surrounding mountain peaks and glaciers, it’s easy to see why Lake Louise has become a Canadian bucket list destination.
Although the biggest draw in Lake Louise is probably the lake itself, there’s actually a lot of things to do. From the stunning mountains vistas to one of the world’s top ski resorts, Lake Louise is an incredible year-round destination.
We’re based in Calgary and so we’ve driven from Calgary to Lake Louise many times, taking every moment we can to explore the Canadian Rockies. From hitting the slopes of Alberta’s largest ski resort to hiking up to the top of the mountains, Lake Louise is an outdoor lover’s paradise.
In this travel guide, we’re going to fill you in on all the popular things to do in Lake Louise.
How to get to Lake Louise
Lake Louise is located in Banff National Park. The lake itself is approximately 187-km from Calgary, Alberta. There’s no airport in Lake Louise or in Banff, so if you’re flying in, you’ll need to fly into Calgary International Airport and go from there. The other option would be flying into an airport in British Columbia, such as Kelowna, and driving from there.
Either way, here’s some practical advice on how to get to Lake Louise.
Getting to Lake Louise
Lake Louise is located approximately 180-km from Calgary, Alberta. There is no airport, but you can get there by car, bus, or train, depending on where you start from. For a detailed guide on how to get to Lake Louise, check out our Calgary to Lake Louise article.
Calgary to Lake Louise: Calgary is the main base for exploring the Canadian Rockies. It takes approximately two hours to drive from downtown Calgary.
Vancouver to Lake Louise: This is one of the most beautiful drives you can do along the Trans-Canada Highway and takes approximately 9 hours to do the near 800-km road trip. However, you could easily spend weeks doing this road trip if you stop off and explore the many beautiful regions along the way.
From the USA to Lake Louise: There are a number of US borders in both British Columbia and in Alberta. From either of them, the road trip is approximately 3-4 hours.
Getting Around Lake Louise
Due to its location, there are not many ways for getting around the area of Lake Louise itself. There are many ways of getting to Lake Louise from Banff, Calgary and elsewhere, but once you’re in Lake Louise, your main options will be walking, biking, or possibly jumping on a shuttle.
- Shuttle Buses: Due to the number of people visiting Lake Louise in the summer months, Parks Canada has created a shuttle system to mitigate the number of vehicles by the lake. Shuttle buses tend to run between the Lake Louise Ski Resort, Lake Louise Village, and Lake Louise itself. There’s also shuttles to nearby Moraine Lake. Learn more about your shuttle bus options here.
- Taxi: Taxis are few and far between, but the only company operating them in the area is Mountain Park Transportation.
- Uber: It is unlikely to find an Uber in Lake Louise unless they’ve been hired to drive here from somewhere else. You can try but do not count on it.
Weather in Lake Louise (Best Time to Visit)
Lake Louise is a year-round destination, but the most popular time to visit is between June and October. These are the warmer months and are much more comfortable for most people. However, Lake Louise is absolutely stunning in the wintertime, so as long as you’re prepared with the right clothing, it’s an incredible place to visit from November to May. Lake Louise is also home to the Lake Louise Ski Resort, which has some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world.
Lake Louise Winter: The days are very short as the sun sets before 5 PM. It can very cold, with lows around – 40 Celcius. However, there are fewer people here in the wintertime and the amount of snow makes it very beautiful.
Lake Louise Summer: The days can be warm, with highs reaching +25 Celcius. You’re still high in the mountains, so don’t expect to be sunbathing. However, this is a very busy time to visit the area, so you can expect large bus tours, shuttle buses, high prices for hotels, and a generally busy atmosphere.
What To Do in Lake Louise
While Lake Louise is famous because of the lake itself, there’s actually a lot of things you can do in the area, including hiking, cross-country skiing, canoeing, snowboarding, and more. It’s located only 45-minutes from Banff, which makes it a very convenient place to explore during a Canadian Rockies vacation.
Admire Lake Louise
This is it. This is the lake you’ve come to see. Incredibly beautiful, this turquoise-coloured glacial-fed lake is surrounded by lush pine forest, tall mountains, and a massive glacier. There’s a reason why this destination more visitors than almost anywhere else in Canada. It’s what you’ve seen in postcards. Once you’ve managed to peel yourself away from the dazzling views, there’s a number of ways to enjoy the lake, including renting a canoe (unless you have your own), hiking around the lake, admiring it from the Fairmont Chateau, or taking a hike to one of the nearby mountain peaks. In the winter, the lake freezes over, turning it into a winter wonderland. During the winter months, you can go skating on the rink, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride, go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, or if you time it right, enjoy the Ice Magic Festival.
Visit the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Another incredible landmark of Lake Louise is the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which sits right on the shores of the glacial-fed lake. It’s one of Canada’s historic railway hotels with a lot of history and a luxurious place to spend the night. Even if you don’t spend the night, however, it’s certainly worth a visit. There’s also a couple of restaurants and a bar if you’d like to take a break and enjoy the lavish interior.
Go Hiking in Lake Louise
One of the most popular Lake Louise activities is hiking. There are a number of places to hike in the area, ranging from easy one-hour hikes to all-day summit climbs.
The Tea House: Quite possibly the most popular hike is to the Lake Agnes Tea House. Built by the Canadian Pacific Railway back in 1901, this tea house is located on the shores of Lake Agnes and right next to a beautiful waterfall. The trail to get there is very easy, although it’s a moderate incline the entire way, and is used by both people and horses. It only takes an hour or so and is fairly easy for anyone in moderate shape. However, it’s also extremely busy. We went on a Tuesday during COVID-19 and it was packed. I mean PACKED! We didn’t even bother getting tea as the lineup was dozens of people long. However, it’s worth doing, especially if you continue on.
Little Beehive: From the tea house, you can continue hiking to Little Beehive, Big Beehive, and Devil’s Thumb. We did all of this in one day and combined with taking video and photos, it took us 7 hours. It’s a very long day if you do all of them, but if you bring snacks, it’s certainly doable. If you don’t want to hike all of them, we certainly recommend Little Beehive. Personally, I wouldn’t even hike to the tea house without the addition of Little Beehive. The views from here are gorgeous and it’s only another 20-minutes or so from the tea house, all uphill.
Big Beehive: If you’re okay with hiking another 45 minutes or so past the tea house, you can also go to Big Beehive, which is in a different direction than Little Beehive. Basically, you just continue the path walking around Lake Agnes straight past the tea house, and follow it up to the top of the hill. This is also popular, so I doubt you’ll be alone. The views from here are also outstanding.
Devil’s Thumb: For those seeking adventure, you’ll want to continue past Big Beehive and follow the route to Devil’s Thumb. For some reason, this trail is unmarked. At the intersection that goes to Big Beehive and Plain of Six Glaciers, you’ll take the unmarked path towards the mountain peaks closest to you. If you ask others, I’m sure they’ll know as well. Keep in mind that this route is fairly steep and a little sketchy due to loose gravel. This will take a good hour to reach the peak and perhaps almost as long coming down. However, the trail to get to the summit goes along a cliff with views of the glaciers along the way. It is truly impressive. Then, once at the peak, you’ll see both Lake Louise and Lake Agnes, which is also quite remarkable.
Plain of Six Glaciers: Another option, but one we have not done yet, is the Plain of Six Glaciers hike. This will take you closer to the same glaciers you’ll see as you hike to Devil’s Thumb. I would not add this to the same day as Devil’s Thumb though. There is also a tea house on this hike, so it could make for another wonderful day around Lake Louise.
Fairview Mountain: Another hike for those wanting to climb to a mountain summit is Fairview Mountain. This was actually the first hike I had ever done and I remember being impressed by the 360-degree views. It takes about 3-hours to get to the top and another 2-hours to get down. The trail is mostly simple but the last section of getting to the mountain peak can be a bit sketchy with loose rocks and gravel. For this reason, I would mark this trail as moderate-to-difficult. For this one, you’ll start from the opposite side of Lake Louise, as you walk towards the canoe rental building.
Whatever hike you choose, the views are world-class and you won’t be disappointed. You can also join a popular guided hike if you don’t know what to route to pick.
Go Paddling on Lake Louise
While Lake Louise is easy to admire from the shoreline, it’s also a great place to go paddling. While there is no boat launch, you can bring your own canoe, kayak, or paddle-board. You can also rent canoes from the Fairmont, but they are very expensive at about $100 per hour. What we did was buy our own inflatable paddle-board, which makes it easy to transport. Paddle-boarding is such a great way to get out on the water. You can also rent one in Banff or in Calgary. However, make sure you wear a life-jacket, as not only is it mandatory, but the water is VERY COLD should you fall in.
Is it possible that there’s a lake more beautiful than Lake Louise? We think so. Moraine Lake is our favourite lake in the area. The mountains are even closer and they tower over this deep blue glacial lake. It’s a little further out of the way, but if you can make it there, you won’t be disappointed. The only inconvenience is that this lake has become VERY popular. It also has a small parking lot, which is now full by sunrise. This means that if you’re not there very early, you’ll likely need to take a shuttle bus. In the winter, the lake is closed due to avalanches.
Tip: Another option for being able to enjoy the splendour of Moraine Lake is to stay at the on-site hotel – the Moraine Lake Lodge.
Lake Louise Village
Right when you make the turn off from the Trans-Canada Highway, you’ll see Lake Louise village. It’s a very small village but it’s home to gas stations, a couple of restaurants, a cafe, a few shops, and the Samson Mall. If you need anything before making it to the lake itself, this is where you want to stop. Once at the lake, the only thing you’ll find is the Fairmont Chateau and the Deer Lodge.
Lake Louise in the Winter
Although the summer is the most popular time to visit, Lake Louise is actually just as beautiful in the winter, albeit on a whole different level. From world-class skiing to snowshoeing and more, this is one of the best winter destinations in the country.
Lake Louise Ski Resort
While not located right on the lake, Lake Louise Ski Resort is known as one of the top ski resorts in the world. With roughly 200 runs, it’s the biggest in Alberta and has often been ranked as having some of the best scenery of any ski resort on the planet. In the winter, it’s obviously very popular with skiers and snowboarders, but in the summer, it’s also a great place to visit. They have a gondola that brings you up the mountain or some incredible hiking and a high chance of seeing grizzly bears.
Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival
If you happen to be in Lake Louise around February, you might just catch the fabulous Ice Magic Festival, which brings in ice carvers from all over the world. Competing against each other for the championship, they each create their own masterpiece out of ice. It’s incredible to see over the three-day competition, but even if you arrive after, you’ll get to enjoy the cold artwork while marvelling at the surrounding scenery.
Lake Louise Accommodation
Looking for where to stay in Lake Louise? Although most people visiting the Canadian Rockies make Banff their main base, there’s actually a number of options for spending some nights in Lake Louise and the surrounding area. Lake Louise is certainly a quieter area than Banff, and if you’re looking to do a variety of activities in the area, as well as skip the 45-minute drive from Banff each morning, then it’s a wonderful place to stay.
We’ve only stayed in one hotel and it was the Deer Lodge, which is only a 5-minute walk from Lake Louise and the Fairmont hotel. It’s also a historic hotel, but much less expensive than it’s neighbour. We found it to be clean and comfortable and only wish we could have used their hot tub with a view (it was closed due to COVID). It also has a very popular restaurant that’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We ate here every day and especially loved Beef Striploin and the Caeser’s Broccolini, as well as their delicious cocktails such as the Big Boss Sangria and Peaches Sidecar.
Aside from Deer Lodge, there are not many options, but here they are below:
Luxury: Without a doubt, the most luxurious Lake Louise Hotel is the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. This massive hotel overlooks Lake Louise and is the only hotel that is directly on the lake. As mentioned though, Deer Lodge is right next door. Other upscale options, however, include the Paradise Lodge & Bungalows, the Post Hotel and Spa and Baker Creek Mountain Resort.
Budget: It depends on the season, but we’ve seen the Deer Lodge offering rooms for as low as $100 – $150. For its quality and location, this is a great budget-friendly hotel. For those on a lower budget, another option is the HI Hostel Alpine Centre.
Fun Things To Do in Banff National Park
These are some of the great things to do around Lake Louise. However, if you’re visiting Lake Louise, we hope you’re spending significant time in Banff National Park.
For places to visit near Lake Louise, we recommend reading these articles below:
- Best Things To Do in Banff
- Driving from Calgary to Banff
- Best Things To Do in Canmore
- Driving from Banff to Jasper
- Things To Do in Alberta
- Things To Do in Saskatchewan
- Things to Do in British Columbia
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