Authored by Maya Steiningerova
The Canadian Rockies are well-known for their abundant wildlife, bustling waterfalls, towering mountain peaks and breathtaking turquoise lakes.
Whether you love hiking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding or wildlife watching, visiting alpine lakes gives you all these experiences.
I’ve been living near the Canadian Rockies for eight years and seen only a fraction of the lakes in the Canadian Rockies, despite being in the mountains every weekend. There are just so many of them.
This post compiles the most beautiful lakes you can visit in the Canadian Rockies, which are easily accessible by car.
The Most Beautiful Lakes in the Canadian Rockies
A Note on Swimming
Before we jump into the most beautiful lakes (not literally!), I’ll answer one of the most common questions I get about lakes in the Canadian Rockies.
Most of the lakes you’re going to see are glacier-fed, which means they’re incredibly cold year-round (around 5 degrees Celsius).
Swimming is not forbidden, but it’s not recommended. I’ve tried swimming in Lake Louise, and let me tell you; it’s not pleasant. A quick dip on a hot summer day is ok though, and I would highly recommend it!
Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park
Only a 15-minute drive from Banff lies Two Jack Lake, a neighbour of the more famous Lake Minnewanka. I prefer Two Jack Lake over Lake Minnewanka simply because of the safety.
Lake Minnewanka is huge, and the frequent strong wind can take you quickly away from the shore. Two Jack Lake, on the other hand, is usually very calm with a stunning backdrop of Rundle Mountain.
It’s the local favourite lake for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking. And the best part is that you can stay right on the shore at the Two Jack Lakeside Campground.
If you like camping, make sure to read our comprehensive guide to camping in Banff National Park with lots of insider tips.
Moraine Lake in Banff National Park
Moraine Lake sits at 1,885 meters above sea level, and it’s the most beautiful lake in the Canadian Rockies. A stunning turquoise lake with ten mountain peaks in the background is breathtaking from any angle.
It’s the most photographed lake in Canada you can visit from mid-May till mid-October. The surrounding glaciers start to thaw in May, and the lake fills up by June.
Moraine Lake Road, the only access road, starts just above Lake Louise village. It’s often photographed at sunrise, and the parking lot is full by 5 am.
Because the parking lot at Moraine Lake is limited, Parks Canada only allows access to the lake when there’s parking available. That leaves visitors either trying their luck driving around to see if Parks Canada allows cars or book a shuttle bus in advance.
Once you’re there, be prepared to be stunned! The options to enjoy Moraine Lake are almost endless.
You can rent a canoe right onshore to experience the beauty from a different perspective, hike up the pile of rocks to see Moraine Lake from above, bring your kayak or stand up paddleboard to wander around the lake or hike in the area.
My recommendations are Larch Valley & Sentinel Pass and Paradise Valley.
Lake Louise in Banff National Park
The neighbour of Moraine Lake is Lake Louise, one of the most famous lakes in Canada. Lake Louise sits in a valley overlooked by Victoria Glacier and several mountain peaks from every side.
The luxury Fairmont Chateau is right onshore and provides accommodation and dining for visitors year-round. You can rent a canoe on shore or bring your own kayak or stand up paddleboard to enjoy the lake in summer.
While most visitors admire Lake Louise from the shore, I highly recommend hiking to see it from above. The most popular hikes in the area are Little Beehive or Big Beehive; however, if you’d like to leave the crowds behind, try hiking up Mount St Piran.
Lake Louise also offers rare teahouse hikes. It doesn’t happen very often in the Canadian Rockies that you can hike in the mountains and buy a tea or soup on the way. Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse and Lake Agnes Teahouse are rightfully popular.
Banff National Park has so many attractions it can feel overwhelming. If you’re short on time, check out our 3 day Banff itinerary with details about what to see and the best time to visit each place.
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is often missed when visiting the Canadian Rockies. Most visitors choose to spend their time in Banff and Jasper National Parks, and I’m here to tell you that you won’t regret the short detour to Yoho.
Not only can you visit Takakkaw Falls, the second tallest waterfall in Canada, but also Emerald Lake, a true gem surrounded by forest and snow-capped mountain peaks.
Emerald Lake offers the most budget-friendly canoe rental in the Rockies (60CAD/hour for 3 person canoe) and an easy hiking trail all around the lake. Emerald Lake Loop is 4.5 km long and offers wildlife watching opportunities and seeing different shades of the lake depending on how the sun’s rays shine.
You can stay at Emerald Lake Lodge year-round and snowshoe or cross country ski in winter. The snow-covered lake doesn’t take away from the beauty of the landscape, and you get to enjoy the winter wonderland with fewer people.
Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park
Maligne Lake is the 2nd largest glacial-fed lake in the world. With a length of 23 km, it’s also the longest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies.
Once you leave Jasper heading towards Maligne Lake, I recommend two stops. The first one is at Maligne Canyon, which takes you through several bridges through a gorgeous canyon and several waterfalls.
The second stop is at Medicine Lake. Watch for a small parking space mid-way along the lake where you can spot bald eagles and even bears (usually at sunset).
At Maligne Lake, take a cruise across the lake to Spirit Island, one of the most photographed places in the Canadian Rockies. You can have lunch in the café, rent a canoe or hike to the surrounding small lakes. My favourite hike is Bald Hills, where you can see Maligne Lake from above.
I’m sure by now I’ve given you plenty of reasons to visit the Canadian Rockies. I genuinely hope you get a chance to see these incredible lakes and all other natural wonders.