Moraine Lake: The Lake with the 20-Dollar View

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Moraine Lake is a glacially-fed lake located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, in Banff National Park. It is nicknamed the lake with the twenty dollar view, since it was featured on the backside of the 1969 and 1979 issues of the Canadian Twenty Dollar bill.

Moraine Lake Stats

Lake NameMoraine Lake
Surface area0.390
Maximum depth14.0
Average depth9.3
Lake typeNatural freshwater lake
Catchment area28.40
InflowsFay Glacier, Larch Creek
OutflowsMoraine Creek
Shore length3.45
Residence time95.7
Average discharge0.436
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Geography and Surroundings

The lake is located nearly 15 kilometers southwest of Lake Louise and offers stunning views of the Wenkchemna Peaks, Mount Fay, Mount Bowlen, Mount Allen and Mount Babel, as well as several other glaciers. It lies at an altitude of 1884 meters in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Because it is glacially fed, the lake only starts to thaw in June. When Moraine is full, it gets an amazing shade of turquoise, because of the refraction of light off the rock flour gathering in the lake continuously.

Leisure and Recreation

You can easily get to Moraine Lake from Lake Louise Village, which is located just off the Trans-Canada Highway. All you need to do is drive uphill until you reach the access area of the lake, then follow the winding road an additional 11 kilometers more. The lake is closed from early autumn to late spring each year, because of heavy snowfall and avalanche risks. The only activity allowed during this time is cross country skiing along the Moraina Lake road to the lake.

During the summer months the lake gets extremely crowded, since the lake is home to one of the most photographed locations in Canada. The most famous place is the view from atop a rock-pile, which can be found on the right side of the lake.

Once there, you’ll find that the only accommodation located directly on the lake is the Moraine Lake Lodge, open between June and October, offering gift shops, a snack bar, and a cozy place to stay. The nearest campground can be found at Lake Louise. The dock can be found close to the cabin, and it is open every day in season between 10 am and 6 pm, offering canoe rentals for 50$ an hour. You can even bring your own kayak or canoe if you have one, and give yourself at least 1.5 hours to enjoy Lake Moraine.

Helicopter tours are also available, so you can admire the fascinating waters of the lake from above. A cheaper alternative is the Lake Louise gondola ride, for merely 30$. Fishing is permitted at Moraine Lake, but only with a national park license, which can be purchased at the park’s information center. One can fish for Lake Whitefish, mountain whitefish and trout. Lake Louise and the town of Banff are close-by, offering fun activities such as horseback riding, golfing, and whitewater rafting. The rafting boats are launched outside of Yoho National Park into the Kicking Horse River, 75 minutes from Moraine Lake Lodge.

Guided hiking tours can also be booked in advance for those eager to learn about the local landscape, animals, plants and formations. Several hiking trails ranging from casual walks to harder hikes are available around Moraine Lake, but because of the grizzly bear activity, some have seasonal restrictions. One can encounter many animals during even a short hike, such as pikas, marmots, squirrels and chipmunks.

The Rockpile Trail along the moraine is a 300 meter-long, short and easy trail with an elevation change of merely 24 meters, offering some of the most photographed views in the world. Along the same trailhead you can get to the starting point of the Consolation Lakes Trail, which is a 3 kilometer long route with an elevation change of 90 meters. Upon reaching these lakes, adventurists may continue to the upper lake, which offers similarly amazing views, although the trail is not marked. From the canoe docks next to the lake you can set off on two additional trails, of which one actually branches out into 4 different routes. So in total there are five trails starting from here: the Moraine Lake Lakeshore Trail, Eiffel Lake, Wenkchemna Pass, the Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass.

A mountaineering route also exists in the area. The Neil Colgan Hut can be reached in an 8-12 hours climb on the Perren Route from Moraine Lake.

Moraine Lake Map