Despite being located in Banff National Park, we felt that Lake Louise and the neighbouring Moraine Lake deserved their own blog post, as their location is very much distinct from that of the town of Banff.
Lake Louise is supposedly that stereotypical Canadian Rockies view – a blue lake hemmed in by snow capped mountains and forests of pine, and is therefore a very popular tourist destination.
I think it’s fair to say that Lake Louise did not quite live up to our expectations. That’s not to say that it wasn’t pretty though, but it wasn’t quite as good as we had hoped or as it had been hyped up to be. I think the fact that the sun seemed determined to hide behind some clouds, and therefore we didn’t get quite as much of a vivid blue lake as we had hoped, was partly to blame!
Lake Louise was quite busy with tourists near to the car park (e.g. all those who turn up are in their car or tour bus and are too lazy to walk on anywhere else!), although it is probably even more of a problem in the summer and winter peaks. The touristic nature of the place is summed up by an eyesore of a hotel built at its eastern end.
We went on a walk along the northern shore to the far end of the lake, hoping that the sun would properly come out if its hiding place (which it never really did). The walk is along a well maintained and out-in-the-open path, which whilst good for those of all abilities, perhaps doesn’t give you quite the same sense of wilderness as you would hope.
However, this walk is not to be dismissed too quickly, because it was here that we caught our first glimpse of a pika, a relative of the rabbit, which has no tail and lives on rocky mountain sides. Even David Attenborough has been on the trail of the pika!
We left Lake Louise and headed for the neighbouring Moraine Lake, which is far less touristy. Now we knew that we really were on the edge of wilderness, with signs warning us that we could not go on some of the trails (unless we were in a group of 4 minimum) due to the risk of grizzly bear encounters!
Arguably Moraine Lake is even more scenic than Lake Louise given that it once featured on the back of Canadian $20 notes (thanks Rough Guides for that fact!). We certainly found this to be the case, with the water a more vivid turquoise and more scenic mountains (the ‘Ten Peaks’ – we did count, and there are ten) surrounding the lake.
The water in the lakes is turquoise because tiny rock particles, ground up by glaciers, known as glacier silt or rock flour, are washed into the lake. The rock particles absorb all colours of the light spectrum, except the green-blue ones, hence the colour.
We clambered up the path to the top of glacial moraine dam for views over the lake, before going on a short, but beautiful, walk along its western shores.
We returned to Banff having spent some time at Moraine Lake taking in the views, and we were definitely more impressed by it than Lake Louise. We were relieved that we hadn’t come across a grizzly bear, but will definitely have to come back here with at least 2 other people so we can explore a bit more on the ‘group access only’ trails!
Stewart and Emma