17 Top-Rated Things to Do at Lake Louise, AB
Authors Michael and Lana Law lived in Alberta for many years and return regularly to enjoy camping and hiking.
Lake Louise is one of the most popular places to visit in Alberta, and with good reason. The sparkling blue-green waters of the lake set against majestic peaks and glaciers in the background rarely fail to impress.
Apart from viewing the lake, you can find many things to do in Lake Louise and the surrounding area, although activities vary by season. You can choose to be as active or as sloth-like as you wish, but no matter what activities you choose, you won't be disappointed.
Lake Louise isn't just a summer playground. When the snow flies and the lake freezes, other activities are available, from downhill skiing to snowshoeing, romantic sleigh rides, and ice skating.
Decide what time of year you want to visit and then have a look through our list of things to do at Lake Louise.
1. Admire Lake Louise & Walk the Lakeshore Trail
Perhaps the easiest thing to do at Lake Louise is to park your car, stroll down the hill to the lake, and join the throngs of tourists on the shoreline. If you do nothing else, you will have seen one of the key highlights of Banff National Park.
Take a few minutes more and stroll along the lakeshore to the right (Lakeshore Trail), past the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. From this vantage point, you'll have even better views out over the lake and across to the steep mountains on the far side. You'll also be able to snap some photos of the red canoes set against the mountainous backdrop.
You may find that you are enjoying your stroll as you leave the crowds behind. At this point, snag one of the many benches along the way to rest and soak it all in.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Alberta
Read More: Best Hikes at Lake Louise
2. Visit Moraine Lake
Many tourists come to Lake Louise and never visit Moraine Lake. This is a true tragedy as the beauty of Moraine Lake rivals, and in some people's opinion, exceeds that of Lake Louise.
The lake is similar to Lake Louise in that it has the same turquoise hues, however, the setting of Moraine Lake is what truly sets it apart. Dammed at one end by a massive rockpile, the lake is boxed in by the mountain range called the Ten Peaks. In fact, this iconic view was immortalized on the back of Canada's 20-dollar bill from 1970 to 1993.
The shoreline trail here is a must-do, along with the walk up the Rockpile to a fabulous viewing area. For those more intrepid hikers, consider taking the Larch Valley or Sentinel hiking trail.
Read More: Best Lakes in Alberta
3. Ski or Board at Lake Louise Ski Resort
The Lake Louise ski area is one of the top skiing destinations in Canada. Spread over two mountains, this resort has ski runs for every ability, including long groomers on the front side, steep bumps off the back, and a mix of everything on Larch Mountain in behind.
Lake Louise frequently hosts the FIS World Cup downhill and Super G ski races early each season, so if you are looking to get in some early season turns, try and time your visit to coincide with the races.
This resort gets 4.5 meters (15 feet) of snow on average each year. The vertical drop is just shy of 1,000 meters (3,251 feet) and this is serviced by 11 lifts. The resort has recently opened brand new terrain in the West Bowl which has quickly become the new favorite haunt of intermediate and advanced skiers.
Most skiers coming to Banff National Park for a ski holiday choose to ski at both Lake Louise Ski Resort and Sunshine Village. A third option in the area is Mt. Norquay.
4. Canoe Lake Louise
There's nothing quite like the view from the Lake Louise shoreline, except perhaps from the water. Canoeing on Lake Louise is a shockingly popular thing to do during the summer. Detach yourself from the crowds on the shoreline and paddle out across turquoise waters to find your own special solitude in the Canadian Rockies.
Depending on how energetic you are, you can paddle around the lake area in front of the Chateau or make your way to the headwaters at the far end of the lake. The farther up the lake you go, the better the views of Victoria Glacier.
You can rent canoes from the boathouse on the edge of the lake on an hourly basis. If you want a guided canoe trip, this can also be arranged for up to six passengers. Canoes are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
5. Hike to Lake Agnes & the Lake Agnes Tea House
One of the most popular hikes at Lake Louise is the hike up to the Lake Agnes Tea House. This well-traveled trail ascends through the forest and eventually emerges at beautiful Lake Agnes. Set in a stunning valley with soaring mountains on two sides and a unique rock formation called the Big Beehive on the third, this alpine lake just cries out to be photographed.
The Tea House serves light meals, including soup and sandwiches, along with refreshments, including tea, of course!
The hike is relatively easy, although if you are not accustomed to hiking in the mountains, the 400 meters (1,312 feet) in elevation gain can be a bit challenging. The hike is 7.2 kilometers round trip.
6. Hike to the Big Beehive
If you've reached the Lake Agnes Teahouse and are craving additional views, consider continuing onwards and upwards to the Big Beehive. This is the large rounded hill immediately to your left as you stand on the patio at the tea house. You can do this hike on its own, but it is essentially an extension of the Lake Agnes hike.
The benefits of continuing onwards are twofold: Firstly you'll get the wonderful view back down Lake Agnes to the tea house. Secondly, when you eventually get to the top, the views over Lake Louise and the Bow Valley are amazing.
You'll always have the option to back out. If you get around to the far side of Lake Agnes and decide the switchback trail to the saddle of the Big Beehive looks too difficult, you can turn back. Grab a rock to sit on and just soak up the view from here.
If you decide to continue to the top, be aware the trail does get quite steep and narrow in sections and may be a problem for those with a fear of heights.
Combined with the Lake Agnes Tea House hike, this is a 10.5-kilometer (6.5-mile) round-trip hike.
7. Hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers
The Lake Louise Shoreline trail, which starts in front of the Chateau Lake Louise, eventually merges with the Plain of Six Glaciers trail, ultimately ending up at a historical tea house set beneath the Victoria Glacier.
This is a 10.6-kilometer (6.6-mile) round-trip hike. The elevation gain is 365 meters (1,197 feet), and the trail is well-maintained and easy to follow. This is one of the top hikes in Banff National Park. The scenery is truly spectacular, with views up to the glacier and down the lake to the Chateau.
The great thing about this trail is you can go as far as you want and turn around at any point. The views are wonderful whether you make it to the end, the tea house, or just a point where you feel you've had enough. The farther you go, the more the crowds thin out.
8. Spend the Weekend at the Chateau Lake Louise
Perhaps the best way to fully experience Lake Louise is to stay in a waterfront room at the Chateau Lake Louise. This Fairmont property is perched right at the water's edge, giving you the best of what Lake Louise has to offer.
In addition to the fantastic location, the resort also offers the best in dining and pampering. Five restaurants, including two with patios fronting the lake and one devoted to afternoon tea service, offer regional and international fare.
After a full day of sightseeing and exploration, soothe your aching muscles with a treatment at The Spa. Twenty different treatments are on offer, ranging from foot and body massages right through to facials, manicures, and pedicures.
The Chateau can also make arrangements for whatever adventures you'd like to undertake, including guided hikes, canoe rentals, and horseback riding. If the weather is not cooperating, complimentary fitness and wellness classes are available in the hotel itself.
Accommodation: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
9. Hike Larch Valley or Sentinel Pass
More adventurous hikers will want to lace up their boots and head up the trail beginning from Moraine Lake to Larch Valley and possibly onwards to Sentinel Pass. Also one of the top hikes in Banff National Park, this trail combines two trails into one.
Larch Valley is the precursor to Sentinel Pass; you'll need to pass through this area on your way to Sentinel Pass. Often, hikers start out intending to hike to Larch Valley but once this goal is achieved, they see Sentinel Pass in the distance and they tend to continue onwards.
Larch Valley is an open area across from the Wenchama Mountain range. Each September these pine trees turn a brilliant yellow before losing their needles, and set against a backdrop of snowcapped peaks, the scenery is simply stunning.
Sentinel Pass allows you to see all of Larch Valley and, on the other side of the pass, Paradise Valley. In addition, fascinating rock pinnacles, called Sentinels, jut from the mountainside.
10. Take a Gondola Ride
If hiking or walking is not your thing, and you want maximum vertical with minimum effort, the Lake Louise Gondola is for you. The gondola is not actually located at Lake Louise, it is at the Lake Louise ski area across the valley.
The gondola ride (you can also ride in an open chair) is 14 minutes long and takes you to an elevation of 2,088 meters (6,850 feet). Along the way, you'll have a good chance of seeing wildlife.
The views out from the top are spectacular, and you'll be able to see Lake Louise in its entirety.
11. Dine at Lake Louise
For such a small place, Lake Louise is home to some very fine restaurants. The best restaurant in town is the dining room at the luxurious Post Hotel & Spa. Here, you'll find authentic Canadian food, with many of the ingredients sourced locally, and prepared by an acclaimed international chef and his team.
For something completely different, consider a fondue dinner at Fondue Stübli, also located at the Post Hotel.
For the view and location, the patios at either the Fairview or Lakeview restaurants at the Chateau Lake Louise can't be beat. Sitting on these patios on a warm summer day with the lake sparkling in front and the glaciers calving in the distance should be on everyone's bucket list.
For those on a budget, swing by Hosteling International's Lake Louise Alpine Center located a short stroll from Samson Mall. The on-site restaurant, Bill Peyto's café serves reasonably priced meals either indoors or outside on an extensive patio.
12. Take a Drive to Takakkaw Falls
Just a short but spectacular drive away in Yoho National Park is Takakkaw Falls. This memorable waterfall is created by the meltwater runoff from the massive Daly Glacier as it tumbles 384 meters (1,250 feet) off a ledge.
A short and mostly level walk from the parking lot provides non-stop views of the waterfall. For the more adventurous set, or slightly crazy folks, you can clamber out onto the rocks and go right to the base of the falls.
The closer you get, the wetter you'll get, and you may want to take into consideration that the water is just above freezing, even in the height of the summer.
An interesting place to visit along the way between Lake Louise and Takakkaw Falls is the spiral tunnels. These engineering marvels solved the issue of runaway trains resulting from the big hill.
Read More: Top-Rated Waterfalls in Canada
13. Go Horseback Riding
One of the more traditional ways to see the sights of Lake Louise is on horseback. Banff National Park has excellent horseback trails that visit many of the most popular attractions in and around Lake Louise. The best part is that you'll avoid the exertion required on a hike. Let the horse do the work for you!
Various excursions are offered and include rides to the Lake Agnes Tea House, the Plain of Six Glaciers, the High Line Trail, a trip to the headwaters of Lake Louise, and a full-day expedition that takes you into Paradise Valley and past the Giant Steps Waterfall.
The two main outfitters in the area are Brewster Adventures and Timberline Tours.
If you are at Lake Louise in the winter, take a sleigh ride to the end of the lake in a 15-passenger sled or in a smaller two-passenger "cutter."
14. Shop at Samson Mall
The cute, small town of Lake Louise has a small shopping district called Samson Mall. You'll find an assortment of retail stores along with the Parks Canada Visitor Center.
Some of the retailers include Wilsons, a ski and snowboard shop with the latest gear for sale and rent. Just a few steps away is Samson Native Gallery showcasing various forms of artwork including paintings, jewelry, and sculptures. For those with a sweet tooth, stop in and get your sugar high from the Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe.
If you are camping and need supplies, a small grocery store is located here, and across the road is a gas station with a restaurant in behind.
15. Stop in at the Lake Louise Visitor Center
While you are shopping at Samson Mall, be sure to swing by the Lake Louise Visitor Center. Housed in an architecturally stunning building, the center has all the information on the surrounding national parks including Yoho, Kootenay, and the Ice Fields Parkway route.
Park staff is on hand to answer your questions on the area and provide helpful advice on hiking and biking trails, along with the top things to do and see. It's a worthwhile stop for families — the interactive displays both teach and entertain all ages.
Out behind the building flows a beautiful river, and it's here where you'll find short walking trails and picnic tables.
Address: 201 Village Road, Lake Louise, Alberta
Read More: Best Parks in Alberta
16. Set up Camp at the Lake Louise Campground
For many people, camping in Banff National Park at the Lake Louise Campground is a highlight of their visit. Two campgrounds are available, one for tents/soft-sided trailers; another for hard-side RVs.
Of the two, the tent campground is the more beautiful, with towering pine trees, walking trails along the river, and excellent facilities. It's a peaceful place, especially in the evening when the only sounds you'll hear are the soft murmur of voices and the crackle of a campfire.
Camping gives you the best access to the main attractions at Lake Louise. You'll have free access to the Parks Connector shuttle service allowing you to get to all the highlights before the crowds arrive.
Worried about grizzly bears? Don't be, the park is protected by an electric fence. The campground is popular — be sure to make your reservations online, well in advance.
Read More: Best Campgrounds at Lake Louise
17. Go White Water Rafting
Just a short distance further west from Lake Louise flows the appropriately named Kicking Horse River. It's on this wild and wonderful run of white water that several operators offer rafting trips. Suitable for all ages, the trips race through the frothy and foamy rapids leaving everyone with a stupidly huge grin on their faces.
Most people take the trips in the summer and think that the river water will have warmed somewhat, but this is definitely not the case. It's bone-chillingly cold, but fortunately, your outfitter will have a wetsuit for you to keep you nice and toasty. Full- and half-day rafting trips are available. If you want to take it up a notch, consider a full- or half-day raft trip that includes a helicopter ride.