If you know anything about Canada, chances are you have heard of or seen photos of Banff, Lake Louise. Lake Louise in the summer is all turquoise waters, towering Rocky Mountains, and the stunning Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel on the shoreline. It’s one of Canada’s best known destinations and a must-see on many traveller’s bucket lists.
Yet, despite the fact that this one lake receives thousands of visitors each day during the summer months, few stay for more than about thirty minutes; intent only on getting their Instagram worthy photos before moving onto the next stop. The more ambitious will wander along the shoreline; an effort to get those postcard perfect photos without all the crowds. Yet, amazingly for one of Canada’s biggest attractions, only a very tiny portion of the lake and surrounding area is actually used by the majority of visitors.
While getting photos is an absolute must on every visitor’s list, there is so much more to see and do in the area. So if you are looking to really experience Banff Lake Louise, to get away from the crowds, and experience the real Canadian outdoors; here are the best things to do in Lake Louise in the Summer.
The Best Things to do in Lake Louise in the Summer
Photograph the Lake
Whether you are an Instagram addict or not, you will want photos at Lake Louise. It is absolutely stunning and worth you taking the time for at least a couple of camera clicks. The best time to arrive, both in term of crowds and lighting, is in the morning. We arrived at 8am and although we definitely were not the only ones there, the lighting was perfect and there were no massive crowds in our way.
Hiking in Lake Louise
Banff is known as prime hiking territory in Canada and this activity is definitely one of the best things to do in Lake Louise. There are many trails around the area of varying difficulty, but for those looking for routes directly from Lake Louise, these three hikes are your best bets.
Shoreline Hike: This is the most popular and easiest hike in Lake Louise. Walk around the right side of the lake on a very flat trail along the shore of the lake. It will take about 1 hour or so there and back.
Fairview Lookout Trail: Another well-known hike, but significantly more difficult than the shoreline hike and therefore not as popular. While the hike itself isn’t long, about 2km roundtrip, it’s pretty steep and is a good incline the whole way up but offers beautiful views over the lake and the Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel Allow for about 45 minutes to an hour roundtrip.
Lake Agnes Tea House: Starting on the shores of Lake Louise, the Lake Agnes Tea House Hike is a moderate hike that runs for about 3.6km up switchbacks, past a waterfall, and past mirror lake. The goal is Lake Agnes Tea House, a historic and family run tea house built in 1901. This trail will take somewhere between 1-2 hours and can also be linked to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House Hike for those interested in completing the Tea House challenge (both Tea House hikes in one day).
Canoeing in Lake Louise
Canoeing is also considered to be one of the top things to do in Lake Louise (again, makes for awesome Instagram photos). But, if you plan on renting the red canoes from the Fairmont Lake Louise boathouse, well you better be ready to fork out a fair chunk of cash: Costs were $105 per hour per canoe when I visited.
However, there are alternatives around this. If you happen to be travelling with your own canoe, kayak, or paddleboard- bring them in; the Fairmont Lake Louise does not own the lake, it’s a Canada’s Parks property. However, the chances of travelling with your own canoe is slim so your best bet (money wise) would be to join one of the Voyageur Canoe experiences.
The Voyageur Canoe experience only runs at certain times of the day and needs to be booked in advance. It also holds 8-10 people (perfect if you are in a big group) but it runs for 90 minutes and costs $55 per person. The voyageur canoes are from Canada’s centennial in 1967 (don’t worry, they have since been restored). While this version may not be as private as renting your own Canoe, it’s a neat historic experience and comes with a knowledgeable guide who will happily fill you in on some facts, history, and will point out adorable pikas (tiny rabbit-type mammals) in the rocks.
Swimming in Lake Louise
Yes, you can swim in Lake Louise! There isn’t really a beach or designated swim area but if you want, you are more than welcome to go for a dip! Keep in mind this is a glacial lake so…the water is pretty chilly. That being said, it you’ve always wanted to swim in a beautiful blue lake in the mountains, it doesn’t get much better than swimming in Lake Louise!
Rock or Mountain Climbing in Lake Louise
The back of Lake Louise is the perfect spot for rock climbing in the summer. There are a few different routes of varying degrees of difficulty. Bolted routes are set in place on the quartzite and limestone cliffs. There are several other rock climbing routes and spots in the area, but the view from the cliffs of Lake Louise offer some incredible views.
When I say climb a mountain, I literally mean climb; not hike. If you are up for a big adventure that will take you far, far away from 99.99% of the other tourists visiting Lake Louise, this is the activity for you. Definitely not for the faint of heart but if you are a mountaineering enthusiast, this is a can’t miss experience. One of the most popular mountains to climb is Mount Victoria; the central mountain you see when looking across the lake form the shores at the Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel. This mountain is 3464 meters tall.
Visit Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is another famous lake in Banff. It’s about 17km from Lake Louise. Both can be combined in one day, however, because they both get so busy I suggested allocating a separate day for Moraine Lake if your schedule allows. Like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is best visited in the early morning before the crowds. If that’s no possible, then definitely combine them because Moraine Lake is a must-see!
How to Get to Lake Louise
Lake Louise is easiest to reach by car. Actually, if you are planning a trip to Banff then having a vehicle is the best way to explore. It’s not very public-transit friendly. That being said, there are some shuttles that will bring you from Banff town to Lake Louise as well as between Banff and Moraine Lake. * Please check shuttles in advance as some were stopped for 2020 due to the pandemic.
Where to Stay Near Lake Louise
Lake Louise isn’t really a hotel area. The closest hotel is, obviously, the Fairmont although if that’s not in your budget you can also consider Deer Lodge,orParadise Lodge and Bungalows. You could also look for somewhere in Lake Louise Town or, for the most options, Banff town.
Lake Louise in the summer is an absolute must for anyone visiting Banff National Park. But, to truly enjoy this incredibly piece of nature, it deserves more than just a quick photo stop because there are plenty of great things to do in Lake Louise.
* Thank you to Banff and Lake Louise Tourism who provided me with a media pass for my stay.