2023 is the first year in history Moraine Lake road is closed to personal vehicles. So, how the heck do you get to Moraine Lake in 2023 with these new restrictions?
The answer is – it’s complicated. Especially if you don’t have a car. Rest assured, there ARE ways you can get to Moraine Lake despite the closure and in this post I’ll outline all the options for you plus give you some insight as to why these new Moraine Lake road restrictions are in place.
- Where is Moraine Lake
- Why is the Moraine Lake road closed?
- Things to do at Moraine Lake
- Where to stay at Moraine Lake & Lake Louise
- How to get to Lake Louise
- 6 Ways to get to Moraine Lake
- FAQ getting to Moraine Lake
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Where are Moraine Lake & Lake Louise?
Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are located just outside the town of Lake Louise which is a 45 minute drive from the town of Banff.
Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are 2.5hrs from Calgary, 1.5hrs from Golden and they’re both reachable by bus if you’re coming from the town of Banff or Lake Louise Village.
Skip ahead: How to get to Moraine Lake
Why is the Moraine Lake Road Closed?
Moraine Lake is the “poster-child” of Canadian nature and beautiful mountain scenery. If you’ve seen anything online about Canada prior to visiting, it’s either been photos of Moraine Lake and/or Lake Louise.
Moraine Lake is the bluest body of water I’ve ever seen + the way it’s positioned makes for the most unreal sunrise. The alpenglow from the rising sun completely lights up the Valley of the Ten Peaks which are the beautiful mountains backing the lake. These factors plus the beautiful hiking trails and Larch trees in the fall make Moraine Lake #1 on anyone’s Canada bucket list.
With this being said, Moraine Lake was becoming a bit chaotic. If you wanted a parking spot you’d have to arrive no later than 4:00am and even that was becoming “too late.” The vast number of people visiting the lake was putting the fragile ecosystem there at risk & the environment around the lake was becoming much too touristy in terms of noise pollution, garbage, etc.
The Moraine Lake road closure was put in place to protect the vegetation, landscape, and wildlife in the area. Even though it’s much more difficult to get to Moraine Lake come 2023, I’m so grateful the road has been closed for preservation purposes.
Skip ahead – how to get to Moraine Lake.
Things to do at Moraine Lake & Lake Louise
Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are paradise for outdoor adventurers. The hiking trails, mountain tops, and blue bodies of water in the area make for an ethereal landscape. Here are a few things you can do at Moraine Lake and Lake Louise:
- Go hiking – my favourite trails in the area are Tower of Babel, Larch Valley + Sentinel Pass, Consolation Lakes, and Mount St Piran.
- Watch sunrise – Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are two of the most beautiful sunrise locations in Canada. As of 2023 the only way to see Moraine at sunrise is to take a private bus, which you can do here.
- Canoe – canoes can be rented from the docks at the lakes. Last I checked rentals were upwards of $150/hour but the experience is definitely worth the price tag.
- Stay at the Moraine Lake Lodge – this is a pricey endeavour, but the lodge gives you unlimited access to the lake, hiking trails, and canoe rentals. Your food and parking are included (you can drive a personal vehicle if you stay at the lodge), but make sure you book far in advance as rooms here fill up instantaneously when bookings go live.
- Stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – get a front row seat to one of the most beautiful lakes in Canada. Discounted canoe rentals are included in your stay, on-site dining is available, and you won’t have to fight the crowds to find parking.
Where to Stay at Moraine Lake and Lake Louise
There are plenty of places to stay in the lake Louise area. You can find a list of all Lake Louise accommodations here, but the following are my favourite:
The only place to stay at Moraine Lake is the Moraine Lake Lodge. If you want to stay on the lake, be sure to make a reservation far in advance as bookings fill up instantly. Staying at the lodge grants you unlimited access to the lake, canoe rentals, a parking spot (lodgers can drive their personal vehicles to Moraine Lake), and food.
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – this is a bucket list stay in the Canadian Rockies! The Fairmont is located on the edge of Lake Louise. The view from the hotel widows are amazing and guests at the Fairmont are the only people eligible to use the complimentary canoe rentals at sunrise.
- Paradise Lodge and Bungalows is only 500m away from the lake and it’s a more budget-friendly option than the Fairmont.
- HI Lake Louise Hostel – for the backpacker looking to save a few $ and meet people along the way. Book in advance (Jan/Feb) as the hostel fills up early in the year.
- Local Campgrounds – run and maintained by Parks Canada. These campgrounds are the ultimate budget option in Lake Louise, but you must book months in advance if you want a spot during high season.
- Lake Louise Inn – best value stay in town.
How to get to Lake Louise
Out of the two, Lake Louise is much easier to access than Moraine Lake. Here are the options for getting to Lake Louise:
Unlike Moraine Lake, you CAN drive to Lake Louise. The Lake Louise parking fee is $21/day (flat-rate). You must arrive early to get a parking spot – around 5am. Earlier on weekends, holidays, or high season just to be sure.
If parking at the lake is full, you can park your car at the Lake Louise ski resort and take the free connector shuttle to the lake.
If you’d like to access Moraine Lake in this fashion, you’ll need to purchase an online SUPERPASS via Roam transit and catch the Parks Canada connector shuttle.
Special note for public shuttles – the Lake Louise shuttles run year-round. Make reservations in advance when possible. Seats on these buses are booked far in advance and spots are limited. If there are no reservable spots online, arrive at the bus stop at least 1hr before the bus departure to try to get a walk-on spot. Have exact cash or pay using the Token Transit app.
Return reservations can also be made, but typically there’s lots of space on the return shuttles and you can walk on whenever. I used the bus service 5-6 times during summer 2023 and I waited max 10 minutes for a bus back to Banff with no reservation.
- Route 8X – this bus line departs the high school transit hub (across IGA) in the town of Banff and goes directly to the lake. It’s best to get a day pass (round-trip fare) which is $20 for adults, $10 for youth + senior, and free for children 12 and under.
- Route 8S – this route also departs from the transit hub in Banff, but takes the scenic highway 1A to Lake Louise rather than the Trans Canada. The cost is the same as the 8X and there are various stops along the 1A. This is a great option for car-less hikers who are looking to explore different trails along the 1A.
This pass is the holy grail of bus passes in Banff. It’s a one-day pass which grants you unlimited access to the 8X and 8S as well as the Moraine Lake connector, Canmore/Banff regional, Johnston Canyon Route and more.
It costs $25/adults, $12.50 for youth + seniors, and free for children 12 and under. Reserve your Superpass here.
How to Pay for the Roam Bus
As previously mentioned, the Roam bus is the local bus in Banff. It’s the easiest method of accessing Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.
No cards are accepted for payment on the bus, so you must have exact change or pay via the Token Transit app. The app is my preferred way of paying.
6 Ways to get to Moraine Lake
The Moraine Lake bus is only operational during the summer months as the road is not maintained once the snow hits. The road is typically open from June 1-Oct 10, but this is weather dependent.
1. Public Transit to Moraine Lake
Using public transit to get to Moraine Lake is complicated – I’ll try to break things down as simply as possible here:
- If you have a car
- Drive to the Lake Louise ski resort for the Park and Ride program. The Parks Canada shuttle will take you directly to Moraine Lake. On the return you will be dropped off at Lake Louise Lakeshore where you’ll catch the free shuttle back to the Ski Resort.
- Use the Parks Canada Reservation Service to book your round-trip connector bus to Moraine Lake.
- Instructions: filter the menu to “day use” -> choose the Moraine Lake & Lake Louise option -> “Banff – Lake Louise” as the location -> filter your dates -> click the “shuttle” icon on the map & choose a time.
- The shuttle will bring you back to the ski resort upon return.
- If you don’t have a car – book a Superpass. This will provide you with transportation from the town of Banff to Lake Louise AND Moraine Lake.
- From Banff go to Lake Louise Lakeshore. Catch the Parks Canada shuttle to Moraine Lake, then catch the same connector back to lake Louise where you’ll hop back on the Roam bus to get to Banff
- Note – the Parks Canada shuttles to and from Moraine Lake are plentiful and run constantly. Don’t worry about timing.
- With the superpass you’ll also have 24hr access to all Roam transit services; Canmore, Johnston Canyon, Sulphur Mountain, Lake Minnewanka, etc
**Reservations online or by phone (1-877-737-3782 OR 1-519-826-5391 for outside North America) must be made FAR in advance. Otherwise, you can try a last-minute reservation. This is an excerpt from the Parks Canada website about last minute reservations:
“Limited spaces will be held for last-minute reservations, and will be released daily at 8:00 a.m. MDT, two days before the scheduled departures. – Tickets are for a one-hour window; you may show up anytime during that hour. Once at the lakes you may stay as long as you choose and connect between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake on a first come first serve basis, via the Lake Connector shuttle. Your ticket includes return shuttle service from either lake back to the Park and Ride.”
2. Private Sunrise Shuttle to Moraine Lake
This is the easiest option to get to Moraine Lake and the ONLY way to see sunrise!
This private shuttle is run by two Banff locals who are the only people/company in Banff that pay their employees a fair Alberta living wage! The shuttle is very well organized, comfortable, and customizable if you want to play around with arrival/departure times for hiking.
3. “Hike” to Moraine Lake
You can hike – more like “excruciatingly walk” – to Moraine Lake from the parking lot at the end of the road, but it’s a 26km+ roundtrip journey. I would not recommend this option at all, but I must mention it because it’s one of the few options available.
4. Bike to Moraine Lake
You can also bike up to the lake from the Lake Louise Village. The distance is 30kms+ with 400m+ of elevation gain (around 1.5hrs+ one-way). You’ll pass through grizzly territory on the way to the lake, so this option isn’t great if you’re planning to bike in the early hours of the day or evening hours for safety reasons.
A better option is to rent E-bikes from one of the adventure hubs in the town of Banff or Lake Louise. This will save you lots of time and energy.
5. Stay at Moraine Lake Lodge
Moraine Lake Lodge is situated on the edge Moraine Lake, giving you unlimited access to the lake, local hiking trails, food, and canoe rentals. This is a pricey option, but it’s the best way to authentically experience Moraine Lake!
Make sure to book your stay in advance as spots fill up quickly.
6. Book a Guided Tour to Moraine Lake
Guided tours are not my favourite – or even preferred – way of travelling because of the amount of people on-board + the rush, BUT if you’re desperately searching for how to get to Moraine Lake, this could be a great option. Guided tours save the hassle of DIY booking and they’ve always got space available.
Moraine Lake Autumn Shuttle Service
The Moraine Lake fall service typically begins around mid September and goes until the end of the season – aka when the Moraine Lake road closes in October. The closure typically happens around October 10th, but it’s weather dependent. The fall service is route 10. It departs the High School Transit Hub across from the IGA and drops you off directly at Moraine Lake.
The Moraine Lake fall service is designed to help make the Larch trees (fall colours) more accessible. Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass is one of the most popular Larch hikes in the Rockies and its accessed via Moraine Lake. When October hits you’re actually able to see sunrise at Moraine Lake sans-private shuttle. Just hop on the 7am bus.
Reservations are required to use this bus, but walk-ons are accepted if there’s room. Take exact cash ($25) and get to the stop early.
FAQ Getting to Moraine Lake
- When is the Moraine Lake road open?
Typically the Moraine Lake road is open from June 1-October 10, but this is weather dependent as the road is not maintained throughout the winter.
- How can I see sunrise at Moraine Lake?
- Can I bring dogs on the Moraine Lake bus?
Dogs and other animals are not permitted on the Roam bus OR Parks Canada shuttles unless they’re small enough to fit in a lap carrier (Roam) OR crate (Parks Canada).
Private limos and some tour operators offer pet-friendly transportation. You can find more about those options here.
- Can kids ride the bus to Moraine Lake for free?
Children 12 and under can ride the Roam bus and Parks Canada shuttles for free.
- Are there are any discounts available for the Moraine Lake bus?
No “discounts” are available, however youth (13-17) and seniors (65+) can ride the Roam bus & Parks Canada shuttles for half the cost of an adult.
- How far in advance do I need to book the Moraine Lake and Lake Louise shuttle?
As far in advance as possible. Most visitors make their reservations months in advance. Spots are very limited as this is one of Canada’s most popular tourist attractions.
- Is there any way to drive my own car to the lake?
The only way to drive your own car to Moraine Lake is if you stay a night at the Moraine Lake Lodge OR if you have a handicap placard.
- How do I get to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise without a reservations?
You can access Lake Louise without a reservation via driving a personal vehicle to the lake. Be sure to get there early for parking purposes.
If you do not have a personal vehicle, try to get a walk-on spot on the bus to Lake Louise or Moraine Lake. Be at the bus stop early and have exact change to pay for the bus. In high season I arrived 1 hour early before the first bus and I never had issues getting on.
- How do I pay for the Roam bus?
You can pay online when you make a reservation or have exact change; no cards are accepted for payment. Alternatively, you can pay via the Token Transit app. The app is typically my preferred way of paying.
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About The Author
HI, I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.
After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.
I now spend my days travelling the world, climbing mountains, and spending nights under the stars in the Canadian Rockies backcountry.
I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.