Lake Louise: Fall at Banff’s world-famous glacial lake

lake louise meagan looking away from binoculars

Pro tip, right off the bat: when you’re visiting Lake Louise, you do NOT want to get a late start.

You know what we did? We got a late start.

Driving down the Trans-Canada Highway, I was irritable and Luke was rolling his eyes so hard I’m shocked he stayed on the road. And then we saw it: the lighted, roadside sign blinking and telling us that the Lake Louise parking lots were full, and all traffic should divert to the overflow lot.

Boyfriend Perspective: Seriously, I’m surprised my eyes didn’t roll out of my head at this point.

Dun dun DUNNNNN. This isn’t terrible – except for the fact that the overflow lot is miles from the lake, and that you take a yellow school bus shuttle to get to your final destination. So, we parked in the gravel lot, climbed aboard, and then waited for departure time in a bus that smelled vaguely of feet.

Don’t get a late start.


Experiencing Lake Louise in the Fall

When you finally arrive at the lakefront, the first thing you think is, “Wow, Instagram was right. This is stunning!”

This is quickly followed by “Wow, how did Instagram NOT show all of these people?!”

It’s true – the waterfront is packed. Selfie sticks, iPads, and voracious groups of photographers are busily getting their Insta gratification on the lake’s boardwalk and surrounding walkways. If you’re looking to get that iconic shot, your best bet is to be extremely patient, or to attempt a stack. And this is considered an off-season!

Boyfriend Perspective: Don’t be surprised if you see people taking their wedding pictures at the edge of the water…..maybe more than a few people did this while we were there.

On the upside, you literally can’t ask for a lovelier view. Fun fact, the stunning color of the water comes from super fine rock flakes, ground out of the mountains by the glacier, which are light enough to stay suspended in the water and act as prisms when the light hits it, reflecting the blue/green parts of the spectrum.

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Also, the facilities around the lake are clean and well-maintained. Even better, the weather in the fall is nothing short of ideal in this area. Wear an insulation layer with your jeans and hiking boots, and you’re set.

Boyfriend Perspective: You’ll also want to bring cash if you plan to hike to the teahouse, some snacks, and water, ’cause we absolutely didn’t forget those things before a 6 hour hike. Heh. Heh heh.


Other things to note:

  • Tourist season apparently means very little. Even in what’s supposed to be a tourist off-season, the paths around Lake Louise were jam-packed. Getting pictures that weren’t crammed and jammed with other visitors was a huge challenge. We blame Instagram for making this such a photo destination 😛
  • The crowds don’t hike much. Once you get away from the lakefront area and start heading up the trail to Lake Agnes, the crowds die down.
  • Wear your comfy shoes! Luke did really well in his Pumas, but my boots ended up killing my ankles. You don’t need super technical shoes, but comfy and sturdy one will serve you very well.

Boyfriend Perspective: Don’t mock my Pumas!!! They’ve been with me through Icelandic snowy waterfalls, French summer pavement, and now Canadian mountain hiking in Fall. So many memories……of me bitching and moaning mostly, but still.

  • Water color varies by day and weather. We’ve all seen how beautiful Banff’s turquoise water is – but the cool (and potentially inconvenient) thing is the weather definitely impacts the color. Blue skies? Bright water. Cloudy skies? Ehhhhh, but still beautiful.
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Beyond the waterfront

If you’ve had enough of the touristy vibe, Lake Louise is also home to several hiking trails, ranging widely in difficulty and distance.

We hiked:

  • to Lake Agnes and the Lake Agnes Teahouse
  • up Big Beehive (somewhat accidentally) for a killer view of Lake Louise down below


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fall at banffs most famous glacial lake lake louise

39 Replies to “Lake Louise: Fall at Banff’s world-famous glacial lake”

  1. Fantastic post guys and loving your photos. I love Lake Louise (and also nearby Lake Moraine) and for me, just staring out at the mountains and chilling out was my favourite thing. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! Being out in the middle of those gorgeous landscapes was definitely one of the best parts – you’re totally right 🙂

  2. I have to love the ‘boyfriend perspective’ – he’s just saying what everyone, probably including you is thinking! Lake Louise looks gorgeous – you’ve somehow managed to cut out the selfie sticks etc. definitely good advice to try for an early start though and avoid the smelly foot bus!

    1. He definitely has a way of speaking the truth 😉 And, as with photography at any landmark, it just takes an obscene amount of patience hahaha

  3. This is such a fun post. Not only is it really informative – I like how you’ve written it from two perspective. A very original approach.

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback!! We really appreciate it – and I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed! 😀

  4. Your captions have me rolling! 🙂 Your explanation of the physics behind the water color is the best I’ve ever seen. “Minerals” just never cut it for me… you’re my hero!

    1. Oh my gosh, thank you for your kind words!! 😀

  5. Haha I love the humour in this post! Lake Louise is on my bucket list so your perspective on the crowds (in apparently any season) is refreshing to hear and good to know to prepare for. It’s also nice to hear that most of the people snapping shots for their Instagram don’t like to hike, I’d imagine there would be some incredible views from the hiking trails! Saving this for later 🙂

    1. Yes! Some of our favorite views came from vantage points higher up than the waterfront – we hiked Big Beehive and, even though it was a tough hike, the views were completely worth it. There’s almost no way you can go wrong 🙂

  6. The views look incredibly stunning, I have to say from my time of walking through Glaciers and staring at them from afar in New Zealand I can’t help but fall in love with the views they bring. I sympathize and know what you mean about ‘tourist season meaning very little’. A few spots I’ve been to I’ve tried to go when there should be less tourists but they’re everywhere

    1. Well, I’m jealous of your time in New Zealand! That’s 100% on our bucket list, tourists or not 😉

  7. I’ve been reading about Banff for the last few days, so I’m glad I found your article! I’ve never been to Banff but am deciding whether or not it would be good for a summer visit. Great pictures!

    1. From what I hear, it’s just as stunning in summer – though you do miss the changing colors we were lucky enough to see in the fall. Regardless of the season, I hope you get to make it up there! 🙂

  8. I visited Lake Louise too long ago and the crowds were light. We saw a huge Grizzly bear bolt from the forest near the road then run back in! It’s such a stunning place. I hope the selfie sticks, et al, haven’t ruined the experience completely.

  9. I have heard alot about this lake on trans canadian highway. You have motivated me to be there some day. Would love to be there when sun rays fall on it in the morning. Reflection of golden snow-capped peaks would be awesome to capture. For this, i have to start too early in the morning for sure.

    1. Hah, well the early mornings are 100% worth it!

  10. I love Lake Louise, and that Lake Agnes Teahouse trail hike! You’re totally right, the crowds do die down from the lake side area, but in summer that trail is still quite busy. Good tips on the early start – it’s always a winner, eye-rolls notwithstanding. 😉

    1. Man, we’d love to go back in the summer, but even though I know we were technically there in a shoulder season, I legitimately can’t imagine Lake Louise being any busier than it was. Ack! But, to your point, the hike was gorgeous, even if we were both struggling with the altitude just a little 😉 and it really is an amazing place to explore!

  11. Lake Louise looks stunning! I really can’t believe the hiking paths were packed when you managed to take so many gorgeous shots.

    1. The good part was that the crowds didn’t venture too far up the paths when we were there – people just mill and crowd around the waterfront area to the point where it can start to give you anxiety (if you’re anything like me hahah). I’m glad you enjoyed the photos!

  12. What an incredible place, you are really lucky in North America to be blessed with such grand landscapes! It’s a pity that it’s so crowded, but well, it’s logical at the same time! I think the hikes is what I would have enjoyed the most – and I wanna say congrats for your pictures, beautiful colors and show the place pretty well!

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the photos 🙂 And, while North America definitely has some stunning vistas, I have to say I’ve seen plenty of pictures from other corners of the world that have me pretty jealous, myself 😉

  13. Absolutely stunning. And wow, the colour of the lake!!

    1. It’s every bit as lovely in person! 🙂

  14. I loved my visit here and doing the hikes nearby. It is a truly stunning lake (I also love Lake Moraine down the road). Glad you guys had fun and loving your photos.

    1. We wanted to spend time at Lake Moraine (kept passing signs for it, and saw gorgeous pictures of it) but just ran out of hours in the day! That, and hiking more are on the list for trip #2 😀

  15. We’re planning a trip over there for 2018 and this article was very useful, I’m saving this for later use, thank you!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed! And I hope you LOVE Banff as much as we did 😀

  16. I live in BC and am ashamed to say I have yet to visit Lake Louise. We are hoping to do some road trips this coming summer, so hopefully we will finally make it to this beautiful place!

    1. Well, I grew up in Florida and have never been to Disney, sooooooo… 😉 sometimes it’s the attractions – especially the touristy ones! – in our own backyards that are the hardest to get to. Hopefully you love it when you go!!

  17. Such a gorgeous place and one that must surely be on everyone’s list. I personally have been wanting to get here for a while and am hoping that next year might be the year. The boyfriend perspective was an interesting take. All of this info will be highly useful for when I get there!

    1. I’m so glad to hear you found it helpful! And fingers crossed that 2018 is the magic year 🙂

  18. We live a few hours away, and love Lake Louise. It is definitely a tourist stop, but well worth seeing at least once. It is spectacular all year round, even the winter. I am glad you enjoyed the trails out behind, so stunning.

    1. There are definitely some touristy places that are just worth seeing anyway 🙂 I think we’d definitely go back, if only to try a few other trails and go back to the tea house.

  19. Ugh, I’m so mad at myself for not getting out to Banff this year! I got that free Canadian parks pass and everything, but could never find flights that were in my budget. Maybe next year though! I have to see that amazing blue lake in my lifetime!!

    1. If all else fails, look for airports within driving distance (unless you’re just trying to do a long weekend). Calgary has been out of our flight budget for a while now, but we got CRAZY cheap fares to Seattle and made a road trip out of it. We got to see a whole bunch of places along the way, and actually had a ton of fun 🙂 (and, spoiler alert, there are TONS of amazing, amazing lakes up there! Louise is so crowded, but you can find lots of others that are every bit as beautiful! 😀 )

  20. Fantastically beautiful place! Thank you for opening it for me! I hope to be there!

    1. Hope you can make it sometime! It’s a wonderful trip 🙂

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