Highlights: Crystal clear blue lake, spectacular mountain scenery, six glaciers, Chateau Lake Louise.
Activities: Sightseeing, photography, walking, hiking, canoeing.
Location: Two hours west of Calgary, fifty minutes west of Banff.
Time: Minimum of one half-hour at the lake.
In the summer of 1882, a Stoney native called Gold Seeker led the first white man to the shores of the “Lake of Little Fishes”. Awestruck by the colour of the lake’s waters and the beauty of the mountains surrounding it, Tom Wilson named the jewel Emerald Lake.
Over one hundred years later, the name has changed, but the allure of this mountain gem remains. Encased beneath towering peaks and glaciers on all sides but one, the magical emerald colours and grandiose setting of Lake Louise draw millions of visitors to its shores each year, making it Canada’s most famous lake.
The village of Lake Louise is just off of the Trans-Canada Highway fifty-seven kilometres (thirty-five miles) west of Banff, and the lake itself is another five kilometres (three miles) from the village at the end of Lake Louise Drive.
From the public parking lots, paved pathways lead you to the shores of the lake and the magnificent Chateau Lake Louise hotel. Looking out across the lake, Mount Fairview is on your left and the towering snow-capped peak straight ahead is Mount Victoria. Nestled in the cradle of Mount Victoria is the Victoria Glacier, one of six glaciers located at the end of the lake.
Bring along your camera, and use your binoculars to scan the cliffs of Mount Fairview for mountain goats. The Chateau behind you provides a full range of services, including meals, and there is a boat dock to rent canoes from on the left shore of the lake.
A wide flat trail leads around the right edge of the lake past the flower gardens and the trailhead for the Beehives and Lake Agnes, and makes for a beautiful stroll towards the end of the lake even in winter. Hikers can continue on beyond the lake on a trail that climbs glacial moraine to the Plain of Six Glaciers, a five-hour return trip that is considered by many to be one the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
“The Hiking Capital of Canada” also offers a variety of hiking options on the left side of the lake, including the Saddleback trail that leads you into Paradise Valley and beyond to Moraine Lake.