Banff National Park is known around the world as one of the most photogenic places in Canada and Lake Louise as one of its crown jewels. The turquoise waters are real, the views are magnificent, and the journey is well worth it. If you have a chance to visit Canadian Rockies, make sure Lake Louise is on your list of planned stops.
I visited the lake on a cool and rainy day but it was no less impressive. If you can, get there before 10:30 am, as it gets really busy later in the day. There were plenty of parking spots available when we got there and a line-up of cars waiting for a spot when we finished our hike about an hour later. Skip the line-up and enjoy deserted trails early in the morning.
From the parking lot, there are a couple of trails you can hike. Take the one to the lookout point. It’s a bit of a climb but not overly onerous. You will feel it but it’s definitely doable. Take a breather at the top and get ready for the fun part. From the lookout, you can either go back the same way you came, OR (and I highly recommend the OR), you can continue in the direction you were heading in, past the danger sign warning you of possible avalanches. It’s a much steeper trail that winds back and forth and the views are well worth it.
When you are nearly down to the lake, you will see an opening on your left to a rocky hillside. If you go out onto the rocks and cross them (carefully, seeing how they shift underfoot!) as far as you can go, you get rewarded with a much better viewpoint than you get from the outlook. If you want some great pictures, this is where it’s at.
Once you’re done taking in the stellar views, cross back over the rocks and follow the rest of the trail back to the boardwalk and up to the parking lot. Depending on how long you stop to admire the remarkable scenery, you can do this loop in about an hour. Just be sure to wear sturdy shoes with good grip.
On the practical side, parking is free (yay!) but you do need to have a Banff National Park pass ($10 per day per person). You can buy one online to be able to use the drive-through lane on the highway (be sure to print out the pass and follow instructions to display it correctly) or purchase one on your way into the park. There are Parks Canada booths right on the highway, so you don’t need to detour.