AAA Editor Notes
Lake Louise is 4 km (2.4 mi.) w. of Hwy. 1/93 behind The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel. Incredibly aqua in summer and glistening with snow and ice in winter, the lake has been the subject of countless photographs. Viewed from the hotel side of the lake, the milky blue water creates a striking foreground framed by steep, densely forested mountains on either side and at the far end, the rocky bulk of Mount Victoria blanketed by a sparkling layer of glacial ice. It's the grinding of this ice against the mountain that creates the fine rock particles that wash down into the lake, giving it the unusual hue.
Benches along the shore near the hotel offer a place to relax and take in the magnificent view, but if you're here in summer, especially in the late morning or early afternoon, you'll have plenty of competition for those seats. It's at this time when RVs and cars cruise the parking lots endlessly, searching for a coveted spot, while one tour bus after another disgorges throngs of tourists. Mid-May through mid-October, overflow parking is available at the Lake Louise Park and Ride, with daily shuttles to and from the lakeshore; fare is $4; $2 (ages 7-17 and 65+) and paid by debit/credit card only.
It's an amazingly beautiful place, but during the high season, not a very peaceful one. To escape the crowds, choose one of the several trails that begin near the hotel and make your escape. The easy Lakeshore Trail follows the northern edge of Lake Louise for about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi.) one way. If you continue another 3.3 kilometres (2 mi.), the trail becomes much more challenging, but eventually you'll reach the Plain of Six Glaciers, a rocky area created by advancing and retreating glaciers. A quaint teahouse sells light lunches and refreshments here (cash only), and the view extends all the way to the other side of the valley. Another way to explore the lake is by canoe, which you can rent at the boathouse on the lake's west shore.
The Lake Louise Visitor Information Centre in nearby Samson Mall has maps and information. Nearby Moraine Lake is another spectacular location worth visiting in Banff National Park.