There is nothing quite like the turquoise blue/green of the glacial lakes in the Rockies. The colour comes from the sediment that is embedded in the glaciers. As the ice melts, it runs down into the lakes in the summer months. Each lake is a different colour, and this is what makes viewing these lakes so wonderful. There are some of the most famous glacial lakes in the world right here in our backyard.
The Glacial Lakes of the Rockies
Lake Louise – Near Banff
No list of glacial lakes is complete without Lake Louise. It is one of the most photographed lakes in the world. It is nestled in the valley, with more than one glacier feeding the lake. It stretches right to the base of the mountains in the distance. This lake is defined by its light turquoise blue. Canoeing on the lake is a popular activity. The red canoes are iconic of Canada, and on a summer’s day, you will see many dotted around the lake. Another activity, only for the brave, the famed Polar Bear Swim. The name is as it suggests. All the glacial lakes are freezing. Take a dip in the lake and get your battle stripes! Lake Louise is also a fantastic location to visit in the wintertime. An ice castle built on the frozen-over lake and ice skating on Lake Louise is something you have to do. Overlooking Lake Louise is the stunning Fairmont Chateau. This gorgeous piece of architecture is part of what makes Lake Louise so iconic.
Moraine Lake – Near Banff
While we should never have a favourite lake, but mine is most definitely Moraine Lake. Moraine Lake is a deep turquoise colour. Often the best time to visit here is not at midday, but rather as the sun is lower in the sky, even heading towards sunset. This really brings out the colours of both the lake and the sky. Moraine Lake is framed by mountains on all sides, and it sits in somewhat of a bowl. There are a few ways to experience Moraine Lake. You can hike up to the viewpoint. It is about a 10-minute walk that isn’t too strenuous. Here you will be greeted by the beauty that is the lake. Much like Lake Louise, you can rent a canoe for a paddle around the lake. It is smaller than Lake Louise, so you will see some of the areas the viewpoint doesn’t offer. Again, the Polar Bear Swim is incredibly popular at Moraine Lake.
Peyto Lake – Near Banff
Peyto is another example of the impressive lakes of the Rockies. Peyto Lake is identifiable by two main features. The colour of the lake is a deep turquoise and somewhat entrancing. The other primary characteristic is that it looks like the head of a dog. The viewing of the lake is from high up as you look down on this beautiful lake. There are mountains surrounding it, albeit not as imposing as the lakes at Moraine Lake, and a beautiful forest encasing it. Peyto Lake has been closed for the past two years while they upgraded to the facilities, but it is open to the public again in 2021. Personally, I cannot wait to revisit Peyto Lake. It is so tranquil there and allows you to ponder the greater meaning of life. Unfortunately, a dip in the lake is not possible. Still, there are plenty of other lakes in the Rockies to satisfy your Polar Bear needs.
Maligne Lake – Near Jasper
Maligne Lake is a skinny but long lake nestled in Jasper National Park. I can highly recommend this as a stop on your journey. There are few activities that you can do at Maligne Lake. Two of the most popular are the cruise to Spirit Island, and there are multiple hiking trails in the area. The Spirit Island cruise is fantastic! You will have the opportunity on this 3-hour cruise to see the impressive mountains framing the lake. Jasper National Park is one of my favourites, with some of the highest peaks in the area. Hiking, of course, is a national pastime here in Canada. You have not truly experienced the Rockies until you have hiked through them. There are trails of varying difficulty, so don’t stress if you are not the fittest person. All you need is good sturdy pair of walking shoes, a hat and some sunscreen. This is the perfect way to experience Jasper National Park.
Emerald Lake – En route to Banff in Yoho National Park
While Emerald Lake is not strictly in the Rockies, it really is on the border. Emerald lake is, as the name suggests, a fantastic emerald green colour. Stopping here in the summer can be busy, but not as bad as some other glacial lakes. I recommend renting a canoe and explore some of the off-the-beaten-track sights. There is also an abundance of hiking trails that will take you around the lake. When you arrive, you will see a footbridge crossing a narrow point of the lake. Stop at the cafe and grab a coffee and take in the sights. This is a great lake to stop at, and I cannot recommend highly enough that you stop here on your way into the Rockies. It is the perfect introduction to the glacial lakes. It will whet your appetite for all the lakes to come. While we might have left it until last, it is definitely worth a visit.