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29 of the best lakes in Banff National Park

There are so many beautiful lakes in Banff National Park and they’re often at the top of people’s lists when it comes to what to see in Banff.

It’s easy to understand why when you start doing your research on the best Banff lakes.

Banff National Park and the Canadian Rockies as a whole are home to some of the world’s most beautiful lakes. There are crystal-clear alpine lakes, picturesque glacial lakes, emerald green lakes, and ones shaped like wolves/foxes and some Banff lakes are even great for swimming!

I’ve taken several trips to Banff and seen many of the lakes in Banff. Below, I’ve included my pick of the best lakes in Banff National Park for nature lovers, photographers, hikers, paddleboarders and those seeking a peaceful escape.

Best Lakes by Banff Canada map

If you click the image of the map below you’ll open up an interactive Banff lakes map of the best lakes in Banff to help with your planning.

best lakes in banff map
Click to view interactive map

1. Lake Minnewanka

lake minnewanka banff

Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake near to Banff town and is very popular with visitors to Banff. You can take a boat ride on Lake Minnewanka (the only lake in Banff where this is allowed) go paddle boarding, canoeing or kayaking, or paddling or you just hang out lakeside with a picnic or a good outdoor adventure book!

The lake itself is 21 km long and provides some of the electricity (through hydropower) to Banff’s residents and businesses.

The name is derived from Minn-waki (Lake of the Spirits), the name was first given to it by the Stoney Nakoda indigenous people.

During our first visit to Banff when it was super smokey due to nearby wildfires, we spent a few hours sitting by Lake Minnewanka. This was one of my favourite afternoons during that trip!

If you’re looking for something more active, you can go walking along the lakeside trail by Lake Minnewanka while enjoying the views of the Rockies.

If you don’t have a boat or want. to rent one, you can take a boat tour of Lake Minnewanka too.

This man-made lake is 21 km long, and 142 meters deep and helps power Banff with hydroelectric power. You can also hop on the popular boat cruises that will take you to the lake’s start called the Devil’s Gap.

If you’re visiting Lake Minnewanka in winter, pack some snowshoes. If it’s been cold but hasn’t snowed properly yet, walk out onto the lake (when safe to do so) and see if you can spot the frozen methane ice bubbles! It’s a super cool site to see (though Abraham Lake below is even better!).

How to get to Lake Minnewanka

  • By car: drive the lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive past Two Jack Lake. 13km (approx. 15 minutes from Banff town)
  • By bus: using Roam transit in Banff, take route 6.

2. Peyto Lake

peyto lake jasper banff

Peyto Lake is one of the most famous lakes in Banff (and there’s some stiff competition for that!). While not everyone knows its name, numerous people have seen the iconic shape of this turquoise lake in Banff National Park.

Peyto Lake looks a little like a fox, dog or wolf and it’s the most stunning blue colour.

Peyto Lake is accessed just off the Icefields Parkway (the super scenic route connecting Lake Louise and Jasper. There’s a short trail from the parking lot that leads you out to a magnificent viewpoint over Peyto Lake.

It’s a busy spot, but you’ll see why!

The viewpoint area has recently had some work done to it and now Peyto Lake is open again for visitors. You can view it in both winter and summer, but you’ll only see the blue colour in summer since it’s under snow and ice in winter!

The viewpoint for Peyto Lake is also accessible for those with mobility impairments.

How to get to Peyto Lake

  • By car: 100 km, 1 hr 7 mins from Baff and 33 km, 30 mins from Lake Louise.

3. Two Jack Lake Banff

two jack lake banff alberta

Two Jack Lake is near Lake Minnewanka and is next to one of the most popular campsites in Banff National Park.

There is a 3.2 km hike which takes you around Two Jack Lake and a picnic area near the parking lot. The lake is, again, beautiful and I enjoyed some swimming (with a wet suit) and kayaking up and down the lake.

From Two Jack Lake, you get an impressive view of Mount Rundle and it’s one of the best spots to watch the sunrise or sunset in Banff.

In the winter, it’s a popular place for ice skating in Banff.

How to get to Two Jack Lake

  • By car: 10 km from Banff town on Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive. Main parking lot is just past the turnoff for the campgrounds. There is also a pullover for photos where the lake joins up with Lake Minnewanka.
  • By bus: Roam Transit route 6.

4. Lake Louise

visit lake louise in winter

Lake Louise is the lake that international visitors have heard of. This Banff Lake is super popular to visit and famous for good reason.

The super blue link is flanked by beautiful mountain peaks, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the Lake Agnes Tea House, Devil’s Thumb, Big Beehive and Plain of the 6 Glaciers hiking trails in Banff.

Every time we’ve driven through Banff or visited Banff itself I’ve stopped off at Lake Louise to take in the views.

Lake Louise has been welcoming visitors since the 20th Century when the Canadian Pacific Railway first built the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel.

At the lake, you’ll find places to rent a canoe or kayak, or you can take out your own kayak or paddleboard if you have one. I highly recommend hiking up to the Lake Agnes Tea House and getting tea or just enjoying the views of Lake Agnes (below).

In winter in Lake Louise, there’s snowshoeing, ice skating, ice sculptures and more.

5. How to get to Lake Louise

  • By car: Lake Louise is popular and that means it can be difficult to get to. While you can still drive to Lake Louise and park there. Parking at Lake Louise costs $11.90 per vehicle. Parking often fills up so plan to get there super early or get there later in the day.
  • Shuttle bus to Lake Louise: It’s far easier and less stressful to get the Lake Louise shuttle. This runs from May 14th to October 11th. This costs $8 for adults, $4 for seniors and under 18s ar free in 2023 and you must reserve your seat(s) in advance. There are also shuttles from Banff to Lake Louise if you’re coming from Banff without a car.

AllTrails is my go-to hiking app for finding, planning, and navigating while I’m out on the trails. With offline maps on AllTrails+ you can be confident you’re still on the right track, even without mobile signal.

6. Lake Agnes

lake agnes lakes in banff and teahouse

Lake Agnes is a small lake that sits up in the hills above Lake Louise. It’s mostly visited by those doing the hike to the Lake Agnes teahouse and it’s the perfect turn-around spot or halfway break from a longer hike such as that up to the Beehive or Devil’s Thumb.

Along the way, you’ll also pass by Mirror Lake in Banff. It’s a super tiny lake but can have some great reflections and is a nice stop on the way to the teahouse.

The teahouse isn’t cheap, but it’s a great experience they only do tea and scones so don’t expect an extensive coffee and breakfast menu.

It’s also very busy so expect to wait. It’s best to pack some snacks to stop you from getting too hangry!

The teahouse is stocked up by helicopter at the start of the season, but during the season the teahouse workers take shifts and stay up here and hike down all the trash with them at the end of their shift.

The Lake Agnes Teahouse goes all the way back to 1901 and comes from Canada’s First Lady, Lady Agnes MacDonald.

The hike up here involves quite a lot of switchbacks, but the trail is wide and there are places to take a break along the way.

How to get to Lake Agnes

  • By car: Drive to Lake Louise as above
  • By shuttle bus: starts from Lake Louise as above
  • Hike: hike the 7.4 km return trip from the shores of Lake Louise. Trail map here.

7. Johnson Lake Banff

johnson lake in banff

Not to be confused with Johnson Lake near Kamloops, is Johnson Lake near Banff.

Johnson Lake is less visited than nearby Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka, though it’s still popular and equally deserving of being one of Banff’s best lakes.

There’s a popular walk around Johnson Lake or 3.1 km and you get great views of Mount Inglismaldie. Keep your eyes open for a fork in the trail and check out the old cabin from 1910 that was built by Billy Carver; the hermit of Inglismalide.

There are also a couple of rope swings usually by the lake which are fun to track down.

There’s a very minimal elevation on this hike so it’s a great hike with kids in Banff.

Unlike most of the lakes around Banff, Johnson Lake has a beach. The lake isn’t glacial fed so it’s actually a bit warmer than many of the lakes in Banff. However, don’t expect it to be ‘nice’ and warm; it’s still far from that. Though it is refreshing on a hot summer day.

How to get to Johnson Lake

  • By car: Located off Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive about halfway to Two Jack Lake.
  • By bus: Take Roam Transit, route number 6.

8. Bow Lake

bow lake banff alberta

Bow Lake is another beautiful lake in Banff National Park and it’s super easy to visit since it’s just off the highway!

Bow Lake is a large Banff Lake that has that beautiful blue water again with a stunning mountain backdrop. You can do a hike up to the Bow Glacier Falls trail, or just enjoy sitting by the lake.

One of the largest lakes in Banff, Bow Lake is great for canoeing on too.

How to get to Bow Lake, Banff

  • By Car: 1 hr from Banff town, has an official parking area

9. Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

moraine lake lakeshore hike trail
Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park is an incredible lake in Banff that you simply have to visit!

The backdrop to Moraine Lake is incredible. It’s surrounded by the Ten Peaks that tower in the background of the lake. There’s also a beautiful log-cabin-style hotel right on the lake shore, and plenty of stunning hikes and it’s perfect for visiting at sunrise and sunset.

As one of the most beautiful places in Canada to visit, this is one of the things on everyone’s list when they plan to visit Banff.

This stunning Banff lake is so beautiful that it even landed on the Canadian $20 note from 1969 to 1979.

It’s one of the best lakes in Canada and it’s just so pretty! Nothing can compare to the view looking across the lake from the huge rockpile at the parking lot end of the lake and over to the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

This lake gets incredibly busy and now the only way to get to Moraine Lake is by shuttle bus. You must book these tickets in advance (and as early as possible) in order to see Moraine Lake with your own eyes!

As one of the best things to do in Banff National Park, it’s definitely worth the additional faff of having to book the shuttle bus! Alternatively, you could also cycle the road but be prepared for some hill climbs along the way!

You also cannot really visit Moraine Lake in winter. While it is technically possible on cross-country or touring skis you need avalanche and backcountry training and equipment so is not recommended for most people.

The road from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake is only open from June to mid-October every year (varies depending on the weather).

As of 2023, you can no longer drive to Moraine Lake. The only way to get to Moraine Lake for sunrise is to either take an expensive taxi, cycle the 25km round trip OR ride with the Moraine Lake Bus Company.

The Moraine Lake Bus Company is the only company offering sunrise shuttles to Moraine Lake. Prices start at $35 per adult and $25 per child and the shuttles run from 4 am (arriving at Moraine Lake at 4.35 am) to 6.20 pm.

If you want to see Moraine Lake at sunrise, this is definitely the most affordable way!

Book your tickets to Moraine Lake here.

Parks Canada also offer shuttle buses to Moraine Lake, but these don’t start until 6.30 am and so miss the sunrise.

Another option would be to stay at Moraine Lake Lodge. It’s one of the best cabins in Banff National Park when it comes to views, but at about CAD$1,400 a night, it’s the furthest thing for a cheap option!

How to get to Moraine Lake in 2023

  • By shuttle bus: The Parks Canada shuttle bus to Moraine Lake runs from June to mid-October and goes every 20 minutes from 6.30 am to 6 pm with the last bus leaving Moraine Lake at 7.30 pm. You will need to reserve the shuttle bus. More information and reservations are here.
  • With Moraine Lake Bus Company: The only sunrise shuttle bus company for Moraine Lake, buses run from 4.35 am to 6.20 pm. Book tickets here.
  • By bike: 25 km round trip at least. Parking at Lake Louise fills up by 7 am so if that’s where you’re planning to park you’ll need to start early. It would be better to start from Lake Louise itself but this adds to the distance.
  • By taxi: Commercial vehicles including taxis are still allowed to drive the road. As this is the first year this has been in operation, I do not yet know the prices of a taxi to Moraine Lake. However, I would expect it to be expensive.

10. Rockbound Lake

rockbound lake in banff

Rockbound Lake in Banff National Park offers one of the more peaceful lake experiences, especially if you climb up past the last a little and look back down onto it.

You’ll have to hike to get to Rockbound Lake and a lot of the way you’re in the forest, going uphill via switchbacks.

Once you arrive at Tower Lake you finally get to enjoy some of the views!

Then, it’s back to some more switchbacks before arriving at Rockbound Lake.

If you want to hike further, you can go on towards the summit of Castle Mountain or Helena Peak. This would make for a very long hike of about 27 km and over 1,500 m of elevation gain! There’s also some scrambling on the last section.

How to get to Rockbound Lake

11. Hector Lake

hector lake in banff np

Close to Lake Louise but not quite as popular is Hector Lake.

Hector Lake is the largest natural lake in Banff and it’s great for hiking, fishing or just relaxing.

When the wind drops you can get some great reflections of the nearby mountains on the waters of Hector Lake!

You can view Hector Lake from a pullout along the Icefields Parkway or you can take a short 2 km hike and get to the banks of the lake which I highly recommend doing! The pullout is partially obstructed, though you will be able to see some of the water.

How to get to Hector Lake

  • By car: The Hector Lake viewpoint is 78 km from Banff (55 mins) and 22 km (15 mins) from Lake Louise. There’s a small pullover on the left-hand side of the highway as you’re going north and it’s very easy to miss! On Google Maps, search for ‘Hector Lake Viewpoint
  • On foot: Trailhead is about 1 km before the viewpoint. It’s roughly 2km each way and pretty easy.

12. Vermilion Lakes

vermilion lakes banff alberta

The Vermilion Lakes are just outside of Banff town and a great place to just take in the scenery, chill on a floaty or paddleboard on the lake or catch glimpses of wildlife (especially around dawn and dusk!)

They’re super easy to get to and are just off the Trans-Canada highway that connects Banff and Lake Louise.

Though the lakes aren’t as brilliant blue as some of the other beautiful lakes in Banff, I still think they’re worth seeing. Not only are they easy to get to, but the more marsh-like landscape of them is cool to see. Chances are you’ll spot a few bird species as well as other mammals.

This is one of the best lakes to go paddle boarding on since the shallow water and location mean the waters are often pretty still here.

How to get to Vermilion Lakes

  • By car: From downtown Banff, take Lynx Street and follow it until you get to Mt Norquay Road. Then, turn off onto Vermilion Lakes Road just before the highway. They’re signposted.
  • By foot: The lakes are about a 30-minute walk from Banff town centre, or 2.5 km away
  • By bike: It’s an easy bike ride to Vermilion Lakes from Banff and a great stop-off as part of a longer bike ride.

13. Helen Lake

helen lake in banff

The beautiful Helen Lake is another of the lakes in Banff that can be found along the Icefields Parkway.

You’ll need to do a moderately challenging 6 km hike to Helen Lake and in summer you can see the wildflowers along the way.

The hike can get busy ad there’s limited parking so make sure you start earlier in the day and pack your 10 essentials for a great day on the trails in Banff!

The lake itself isn’t necessarily the main draw here. While it’s still pretty, its the scenery you’ll see on the hike that’s most impressive.

How to get to Helen Lake

  • By foot: The trailhead is located across the highway from Bow Lake. It takes around 2 hr one way if you don’t take any break. See a Helen Lake trail map.

14. Minnestimma Lake

Minnestimma lake in banff

This small Banff Lake is in the Moraine Lake area and accessed via the Larch Valley Trail which is super popular in the fall when the larch trees turn a stunning yellow/gold colour.

Minnestimma Lake sits at the end of the Larch Valley Trail. However, experienced hikers with scrambling skills and helmets can continue on towards Sentiment Pass and Mount Temple.

The hike to Minnestimma Lake starts with a series of steep switchbacks but then levels out a bit and is very enjoyable.

How to get to Minnestimma Lake

  • On foot: the trailhead starts from Moraine Lake so you’ll need to book the Moraine Lake shuttle bus and plan your hike around that. You may need to book a taxi or commercial transport to start the hike early or return later once the shuttle bus has stopped running. Minnestimma Lake trai maps.

15. Boom Lake

boom lake in banff alberta

Boom Lake is one of the best lakes in Banff and involves a great hike through the forest before arriving at the lake.

The Boom Lake hike makes a great day trip from Calgary and this is one of the few lakes in Banff that feels like an undiscovered gem though it has been getting more popular in recent years.

The lake sits at the foot of Boom Mountain and is very close to the BC-Alberta border.

At the far end of Boom Lake there’s a hanging glacier and, of course, incredible mountain views!

How to get to Boom Lake

  • By car: The trailhead is off Highway 93, about 37 km away from Banff on the Banff-Windermere Parkway.
  • On foot: Hike the 10.3 km trail to Boom Lake from the trailhead. See a trail map here.

16. Waterfowl Lakes

waterfowl lakes near banff

Waterfowl Lakes are another of those Lakes in Banff National Park, AB that is just off the road when you’re driving along the Icefields Parkway.

There’s a small parking area next to the Lower Waterfowl Lake and the lake is turquoise which is super cool!

As glacier lakes, Waterfowl Lakes are cool in more ways than one but they’re some of my favourite lakes in Banff National Park.

There’s also a big campground between Upper and Lower Waterfowl Lakes, imagine waking up so close to this beautiful lake!

From the lakes, you can also hike up to Chephren Lake which is well worth doing if you enjoy hiking.

How to get to Waterfowl Lakes

  • By car: The campground between the two lakes is 116 km (1 hr 25 mins) from Banff town and 61 k (48 mins) from Lake Louise. There are small pullouts just off the highway at both the upper and lower Waterfowl Lake.

17. Chephren Lake

chephren lake in banff national park (1 of 1)

Near Waterfowl Lakes is Chephren Lake which is a 2-hour return hike further on from Waterfowl Lake.

Chephren Lake is at the foot of White Pyramid, Aiguille Peak and Howse Peak and it’s an easy hike but there are lots of tree roots which can get slippery after rain.

How to get to Chephren Lake

  • By car: Drive to Waterfowl Lakes as above and use the parking lot within the Waterfowl Lakes campground.
  • By foot: Having arrived at the parking lot, follow this trail map to Chephren Lakes. It’s an 8 km round trip.

18. Borgeau Lake

borgeau lake

Bourgeau Lake is backed by the magnificent Mt. Bourgeau. At this lake, the main wildlife you could get to see are marmots which frequent the meadow and the fauna around the lake.

To get to Bourgeau Lake, you’ll have to take a 13.8 km round-trip hike to Bourgeau Lake which is pretty easy and one of the best options for a hike in Banff. It’s a pretty gradual uphill hike without any sections that are too steep.

Once you get past Harvey Pass you’ll get to see some incredible views, alpine meadows and even views of Mt Assiniboine; the Matterhorn of the Rockies!

How to get to Borgeau Lake

  • On foot: The trailhead for Borgeau Lake is about 20 km (18 mins) outside of downtown Banff. The hike is almost a 14 km round trip and you can see a trail map here.

19. Herbert Lake

herbert lake in banff national park

Herbert Lake is one of the first lakes you’ll come to as you drive the Icefields Parkway from Banff. It’s just 10 mins past Lake Louise.

At Herbert Lake, you can often see stunning reflections of the mountains on the lake such as Mount Temple.

There is a primitive trail that takes you around the lake but it’s not the prettiest. However, if you want to stretch your legs and are looking for an easy walk, then it’s a good place to stop.

Herbert Lake is great for picnic lunches on the way to Jasper, paddle boarding, kayaking or even taking a quick dip! There’s actually a small diving board on the far side of the lake from where you’ve parked which is a fun way to embrace the cold waters!

How to get to Herbert Lake

  • By car: The lake is 3 km up the Icefields Parkway from the start near Lake Louise. There’s a small parking lot on the left as you head north. It’s about a 45 min drive from Banff town.

20. Vista Lake

vista lake in banff

Another of the top lakes in Banff that should be on your list of things to see during your trip to Banff is Vista Lake.

It’s super easy to see Vista Lake since it’s very close to the road. There’s also a short 1 km from the parking lot that will take you down to the lakeshore. However, viewing the lake from above is arguably even more impressive.

Vista Lake is right on the BC-Alberta border and very close to Kootenay National Park.

How to get to Vista Lake

  • By car: Vista Lake uses the same parking lot as the Arnica Lake trail (below). It’s about 35 minutes outside of Banff.
  • On foot: The trail is short and easy down towards the lake.

21. Arnica Lake

arnica lake trail banff

If you’ve hiked down to Vista Lake and are looking to continue hiking, then head down to Arnica Lake one of the most beautiful lakes in Banff, especially during larch season (September to early October, but varies slightly each year).

Not many people will have heard of or will suggest Arnica Lake but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting.

This hike to Arnica Lake has steep ups and downs but most of the elevation gain is on switchbacks which is more manageable than going straight up.

Arnica Lake is located at the foot of Storm Mountain and has clear turquoise waters which are super beautiful!

How to get to Arnica Lake

  • By car: Arnica Lake uses the same parking lot as the Vista Lake trail. It’s about 35 minutes outside of Banff.
  • On foot: The trail is about 10 km return.

22. Consolation Lakes

consolation lakes in banff

Consolation Lakes are accessed from the Moraine Lake area which is a great hike to see even more beautiful places in Banff.

It’s more difficult than just walking the Rockpile trail at Moraine Lake or the Moraine Lake lakeshore trail as there’s more elevation and a boulder field to cross.

During the hike to Consolation Lakes, you’ll be able to see the Tower of Babel and Mt Fay with beautiful glaciers. You’ll hike through an old-growth forest, an alpine meadow and then some wetlands with Consolation Lakes at the end.

How to get to Consolation Lakes

  • By foot: the trail to Consolation Lakes begins at Moraine Lake near the Rock Pile. It’s about a 7.5 km return trip hike. See the Consolation Lakes trail map.
  • By shuttle bus: Since this start from Moraine Lake, you’ll need to book the Moraine Lake shuttle bus.

23. Taylor Lake

taylor lake in banff national park ab
taylor lake banff national park alberta

Taylor Lake is a great place for those looking for a great lake to hike to in Banff National Park.

Mt Bell peers down over Taylor Lake and it’s great all year round for snowshoeing and ski touring in winter and hiking in the summer.

There are also lots of larches around the lake so it’s a great option for a larch hike in Banff come the fall.

Once you’ve reached Taylor Lake, you can continue along the trail to Panorama Meadows and enjoy impressive views of the valley below you.

Since you’re in the forest for most of the hike, you don’t get views the whole way. Personally, I think that makes arriving at Taylor Lake that bit much more breathtaking!

How to get to Taylor Lake

  • By car: The trailhead for Taylor Lake is about 18 km outside of Banff (13 mins), along the Trans-Canada trail.
  • On foot: Taylor Lake is a 13.2 km long return hike with about 912 m elevation gain. You can see a trail map here.

24. Skoki Lakes

skoki lakes alberta

Skoki Lakes in Banff are absolutely beautiful. They’ve been gaining in popularity recently and so aren’t quite the Banff hidden gem they once were, but they’re still much quieter than the likes of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

The fact that it takes a lot of effort to get to Skoki Lakes, puts most people off, but if you have the time and the willpower you can head out to the beautiful Skoki Lakes, Zigadenus Lake and Myosotis Lake.

Though Skoki Lakes can be done as a day hike, most people do this as an overnight hike to break up the journey and take more time to enjoy the views. It’s a truly beautiful Banff backpacking hike!

All the lakes are an incredible blue and the trail takes you first to Ptarmigan Lake, up through Deception Pass and then towards Skoki Lake.

How to get to Skoki Lakes

  • By car: The trailhead is 68 km (50 mins) from Banff just outside of Lake Louise.
  • On foot: This is a 30km + hike depending on exactly where you go to. You can camp in the Skoki Valley or stay in the Skoki Lodge, both of which need reservations.

Best Lakes by Banff

The following lakes aren’t in Banff National Park but they are very close by and well worth visiting if you’re in the area. You won’t want to miss these beautiful lakes near Banff!

25. Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park BC

emerald lake yoho national park british columbia

Emerald Lake is in Yoho National Park in British Columbia. It’s super close to Lake Louise (about 30 minutes away) and in my view, it’s one of the best lakes near Banff.

The lake gets its name from the colour of the water which really is an emerald green colour. It’s stunning and has a super cute hotel out on the water which you can stay at too. It looks as though it’s on an island but it’s not quite!

Paddleboarding, canoeing and kayaking are all great things to do at Emerald Lake. You can also walk the lakeshore trail which goes in and out of the forests or just picnic by the lake.

How to get to Emerald Lake

  • By car: The drive from Emerald Lake to Banff is about 1 hour. If you’re coming from Lake Louise it’s around 30 minutes. Just follow the Trans Canada Highway, go past Field and look for signs to Emerald Lake off to your right.

26. Lake O’Hara

lake ohara bc

Lake O’Hara is another beautiful lake near Banff that’s found in Yoho National Park.

It’s a super popular lake which has a very strict reservation system to camp there or to get the bus up the 11 km long logging road from the highway.

However, you can visit Lake O’Hara without a bus or camping reservation like I did.

At Lake O’Hara, the best view is seen from the Obapin Plateau, but there are plenty of other hiking trails in the area, all with incredible views.

How to get to Lake O’Hara

  • By car: Lake O’Hara is accessed via an 11km logging road which is not open to the public. There is a bus which drives up the logging road and must be reserved. Getting a reservation for the bus as a day tripper or for camping is extremely difficult. I tried 4 years in a row and never had any luck. Alternatively, you can walk up the logging road to Lake O’Hara without a reservation but you must be prepared for a day hike of at least 22km (and longer if you’re going up to Obapin Plateau), and for wildlife encounters, so it’s not recommended to everyone.

27. Abraham Lake

abraham lake near banff

Abraham Lake is also just outside of Banff National Park on the David Thompson Highway in the Nordegg Region of Alberta near Jasper National Park.

The lake is actually a reservoir formed with water from the dammed North Saskatchewan River. This doesn’t make it any less beautiful!

Surprisingly perhaps, the best time to visit Abraham Lake is actually in early winter. If you manage to visit in the narrow window of time where it’s been cold enough for lakes to freeze but the snow hasn’t fallen yet, you can walk out onto the lake and view the super cool methane bubbles trapped under the ice!

There are lots of great hikes around Abraham Lake and I’d recommend extending your journey to Jasper National Park which has loads of great hikes and there are great places to stay in Jasper.

How to get to Abraham Lake

  • By car: From Banff, go north on the Icefields Parkway. At Saskatchewan River Crossing, take the exit onto Highway 11 and drive for about 20 km. You’ll see Abraham Lake on your right-hand side. It stretches for over 30 km and there are lots of pullouts to park at.

Canmore Lakes to visit

Canmore is a super cute town near Banff. I actually prefer it to Banff and recommend staying in Canmore during your Canadian Rockies trip.

Canmore is surrounded by so much beauty and there are several lakes near downtown Canmore that I think are worthy of being on this list of Banff lakes. This small town is home to some of the clearest lakes in Canada and so worth visiting.

  • Canmore Reservoir: The Canmore Reservoir is a great place for stand-up paddle boarding as the water is usually calm and well-protected so you won’t have to contend with waves! The views of the Little Sister and Ha Ling Peak from the reservoir are seriously impressive too.
  • Quarry Lake: Quarry Lake in Canmore is a favourite amongst locals. From the lake, you get views of Ha Ling Peak and there is plenty of space to just chill out and enjoy the views.

FAQ about Lakes in Banff National Park

Have a question about lakes in Banff National Park? Hopefully, you’ll find the answer here.

Can you swim in Banff lakes?

While you can legally swim in most lakes in Banff, many of them are glacier fed and so are extremely cold.

On a hot day in summer, they offer a nice place to cool off (especially after a hike!), but the chances are you won’t want to stay in there too long!

Which are the best lakes in Banff to swim in?

One of the best lakes in Banff for swimming is Johnson Lake since it’s not glacier fed and so is a bit warmer. I’ve swum in Two Jack Lake (with a wetsuit) and have enjoyed a dip in Minnewanka Lake in the height of summer too.

Cascade Ponds near the Minnewanka Scenic Drive in Banff are a popular spot too, and Herbert Lake even has a diving board for you to jump off but the water will be very cold!

Quarry Lake near Canmore is lovely for swimming too.

Which lakes can you ice skate on in Banff?

The best ice skating in Banff is at Lake Louise. The ice here is maintained and smoothed out so you get fewer ridges while you’re skating which is much more pleasant than most wild skating lakes. You’ll also have incredible views and there are hot drinks served right by the lake.

You can also skate on Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka early in the season, but only once the ice is thick enough, and before the snow has fallen, usually late November to early December.

Never ice skate without researching and testing ice thickness first.

Is fishing allowed in Banff lakes?

Fishing is allowed in some lakes in Banff National Park. There is a national park-specific fishing permit that is required (different from the provincial one). There are also regulations you must follow.

The only lake in Banff for motorised boats is Lake Minnewanka.

Why are the lakes in Banff National Park so blue?

The lakes in Banff get their colour from glacial silt known as rock flour.

The silt comes from the erosion of the rocks under the glacier. In the spring melt, the runoff from the glaciers carries the silt with them and brings them down in the lakes.

This silt can stay suspended in the water for a long time and they reflect the sunlight giving the lakes the amazing colours you’ll see.

The lakes are most vibrant in July and August when the spring melt has done its thing and the silt is at its highest concentration. In September, the lakes lose some of their colour, but they’re still very beautiful! colour tends to be the most vibrant in July and August because this is when the silt’s concentration is at its highest.

Last Updated on April 18, 2023 by Hannah

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