Finding your favorite time to visit these pristine mountains may require some experimentation.
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Moraine Lake is a popular destination for Banff visitors—it’s easy to see why.
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The lodge at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Canada
Moraine Lake Lodge
Nestled at the base of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, Moraine Lake boasts turquoise waters that change color throughout the day as sunlight refracts off the minuscule particles of glacier-ground rock suspended within. Though it has a B-list rating compared to Lake Louise’s A-list status, this spot is arguably the more spectacular of the two. It’s located a little less than nine miles from the hamlet of Lake Louise. When you arrive, you can hike up to the Rockpile (clearly visible at the front of the lake) for the best vantage point, or spend a day exploring one of the neighboring valleys.
Be forewarned: The parking lot often fills up by 10 a.m., so go early.
Off the Beaten Path on Moraine Lake
Amongst the many glacier-fed lakes in Banff National Park is Moraine Lake. Formed when Fay Glacier receded, this bright blue lake is perfect for an afternoon of outdoor adventure. Rent a canoe by the hour from the Moraine Lake Lodge and paddle through the lake’s crystal clear water. The water is a distinctive blue color, which comes from light bouncing off the rock flour that is continually being deposited into the lake as part of the natural glacial erosion process. Out of the water, there are several hiking trails that leave from the Moraine Lake Lodge parking lot. Climb up the Rockpile Trail for an amazing panoramic view. The Moraine Lake Lakeshore Trail is an easy three-quarters of a mile (one way) route, which follows the path around the south side of the lake. For more experienced hikers, the Consolation Lakes Trail takes you on a 2-mile walk (one way) past two other lakes. Regardless of what activity you choose, surrounded by towering cliffs and snow capped mountains, you’ll feel tiny next to so many natural wonders. [Travel courtesy of Travel Alberta]
Threshold Between Worlds
Moraine Lake was part of my trek down through Jasper and Banff National Parks of the Canadian Rockies back in July of this year. This lake might be one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s almost a surreal jade color due to light reflecting off of the rock flour (powderized rock from the glaciers grinding the mountains over the ages). The viewpoint I’m sitting on is actually situated on top of a huge mysterious pile of granite boulders that are quite high. It almost look like some kind of demo zone and although theories abound as to how they could have gotten there, no one definitively knows for sure. This is a must-see destination for all wanderers.
Moraine Lake...Beautiful Blues
Moraine Lake is stunning. It is a beautiful blue lake surrounded by mountains and forest. If you go, go early, be there before 8 AM to beat the buses and the masses. Parking can be terrible later in the day as it is limited.
Hiking the Larch Valley
Standing at the corner of Moraine Lake and staring across its blue-green surface into the Valley of the Ten Peaks is a stunning Canadian Rockies experience. But it’s easy to take it a step further, too, by taking the 2-4 hour hike up the Larch Valley that will bring you even closer to those stunning peaks. Depending on the season, hikers are treated to different sights. Throughout the spring and summer, the Larch Valley is rife with alpine wildflowers that add plenty of color to these meadows. In the autumn, the Larch trees turn from green to gold. This phenomenon is so popular that this hike can get crowded in September, but the gold color lasts well into October. The 8.6 km hike begins with a steep climb, but the grade quickly slackens as the hike enters an alpine valley. Those interested in a longer day in the mountains can venture to Sentinel Pass, which adds 4 steep kilometers to the round trip. The trail is open from May to October.