Banff is the land of gorgeous Lakes. Scattered in an around Banff, the different hued lakes surrounded by mountain peaks are the perfect place to explore.
We visited Banff, Canada specifically to see some of the famous and magical-looking lakes. While most people know about the famous Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, there are many other gorgeous lakes in the area worth visiting. Many of these lakes get far fewer visitors and you can find a quieter experience.
We spent the first day of our time in Banff driving around, visiting, and swimming in some of these other lakes and the next day we spent at Lake Louise and Moraine. Below you can see our suggetions for the best lakes in Banff
General Overview of Banff
Banff National Park, nestled in the Canadian Rockies, is renowned for its stunning natural beauty and pristine landscapes. The town of Banff nestled in the heart of Banff National Park is full of restaurants and hotels. You will need to enter the National Park (and pay the fee) to get into Banff.
These lakes are spread over a large area and it takes about 40 minutes to drive from Banff to the Lake Louise area. The easiest way to get to most of the lakes is by car, although you will need to use a shuttle service if you plan to visit Moraine Lake (see more about how to visit Moraine Lake with the shuttle service).
Map of the Best Lakes in Banff
Below is a map of some of the most beautiful lakes in Banff.
Best Lakes in Banff
Below you can see some information about each of the best lakes in Banff.
Lake Louise is often referred to as the “Jewel of the Rockies” due to its mesmerizing emerald-blue waters surrounded by towering mountain peaks.
Highlights of this iconic lake include the stunning Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which overlooks the lake, and the famous Victoria Glacier. Visitors can enjoy hiking trails, canoeing in the summer, and ice skating in the winter. To reach Lake Louise, you can drive west from Banff along the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1), and it’s well-signposted, although the best way to spend the day at Lake Louise is to use the shuttle service.
There is a large hotel at the lake and this popular spot gets very crowded. We arrive around 7 am and were glad we got some time when the lake was quiet. By midday after we hiked the Beehive the lake was teeming with people.
Agnes Lake, located in the Lake Louise area, is a hidden gem accessible via a picturesque hiking trail. This is a small and pretty lake that can only be reached on a hiking trail.
Highlights include the charming Tea House on Lake Agnes, which serves refreshments to weary hikers. Hiking is the primary activity here, with a trail leading from Lake Louise that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. To reach Agnes Lake, start at the Lake Louise shoreline and follow the well-marked Lake Agnes Trail.
Moraine Lake is renowned for its stunning turquoise waters, nestled in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. This is really an amazing lake that lives up to expectations.
Highlights include the incredible panoramic viewpoint at the top of the Rockpile Trail and canoeing in the glacial waters. To get to Moraine Lake, take the Moraine Lake Road, which is a short drive from the village of Lake Louise, however the road is closed for most of the year and can only be reached by shuttle.
Plan to spend a few hours at Moraine Lake walking to the top of the Rockpile and then hiking along the shoreline of the lake. See out guide to visiting the lake and hiking the trail along the lake.
Peyto Lake is famous for its unique shape, resembling the head of a wolf when viewed from above. The Bow Summit viewpoint offers incredible vistas. Visitors can hike to the viewpoint or take in the beauty from the overlook. To reach Peyto Lake, take the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) from Banff and follow signs to the Peyto Lake viewpoint, which is easily accessible from a parking area.
Two Jack Lake
Two Jack Lake is a serene spot perfect for picnicking, kayaking, or fishing. Highlights include its peaceful atmosphere and beautiful views of Mount Rundle. It’s easily accessible from Banff town by driving along Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive.
Since this lake is so close to town, you can easily visit for just a few minutes. Combine this lake with a stop at Lake Minnewanka.
Bow Lake is a glacier-fed lake known for its brilliant blue color. Highlights include the historic Num-Ti-Jah Lodge and the Bow Glacier Falls. Visitors can enjoy hiking, picnicking, and photography opportunities. To reach Bow Lake, drive along the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) from Banff, and it’s well-signposted.
Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park and offers boat tours, hiking trails, and excellent fishing opportunities. Highlights include the submerged village of Minnewanka Landing, which can be explored through diving or glass-bottom boat tours. To reach Lake Minnewanka, drive northeast from Banff along Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive.
It’s easy to reach Lake Minnewanka from the town of Banff. You can easily drive in a few minutes and there is parking right at the lake to take a stroll, get in a boat or have a picnic. We spent some time right near sunset at the lake and enjoyed skipping rocks.
Located in Yoho National Park, just across the border from Banff, Emerald Lake is known for its vibrant green waters surrounded by towering peaks. Visitors can rent canoes, hike the Emerald Lake Loop trail, or simply take in the stunning scenery. To reach Emerald Lake, drive from Lake Louise or Banff. Its unique feature is the striking emerald color of its waters and the peaceful ambiance of its remote location within Yoho National Park.
Tips for Visiting Lakes in Banff
While visiting the gorgeous lakes is one of the best things to do in Banff, there are a few things you can do to help make your visit go smoothly.
Plan Ahead: Research the lakes you want to visit, their accessibility, and any specific activities or hikes you’d like to do. Many of the lakes can only be visited by hiking or on a shuttle.
Arrive Early: One of the negatives of visiting the beautiful lakes is that many other people will be visiting with you. Try to start you day early, especially if you plan to visit Lake Louise or Moraine Lake.
Respect Nature: Banff is a protected wilderness area. Please follow Leave No Trace principles by packing out all your trash, staying on designated trails, and respecting wildlife from a safe distance.
Dress Appropriately: The weather in the Rockies can be unpredictable, even in summer. Dress in layers, bring rain gear, and wear comfortable shoes for hiking. We found the morning very cold, but by midday we were in shorts and t-shirts.
Decide how to enjoy the Lakes: there are many ways to enjoy these lakes from visiting the viewpoints to hiking or even getting out of the water on a canoe, kayak or boat tour.
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