The 7 Best Moraine Lake Hikes

Author: Dan Brewer

Last Updated:

For many, visiting Moraine Lake in Banff National Park is an experience they will never forget. To get the most out of your visit, we recommend you try one of these Moraine Lake hikes to earn better views of the incredible aquamarine-turquoise colored lake and the incredible Valley of the Ten Peaks.

While many visitors to Moraine Lake will simply enjoy a short walk to the Rockpile Trail to enjoy an elevated viewpoint of this iconic Banff lake, many more will want to venture further to explore the beauty of this area. Lucky for them, there are many amazing Moraine Lake hikes including several of our favorite hiking trails in Banff National Park.

The best hikes at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park
Moraine Lake from the Rockpile

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The 7 Best Moraine Lake Hiking Trails

With so many high quality choices, it’s a near impossible task to determine the order for the best Moraine Lake hikes. Each of the seven Moraine Lake hiking trails listed below is an amazing outing, but we did our best to help you pick the best of the best.

When we go hiking at Moraine Lake, we prefer the moderately challenging hikes to get better views, but if you are looking for an easy Moraine Lake hike, some of the choices towards the end of our list will be a great choice for you.

The Valley of the Ten Peaks and Minnestimma Lakes as seen from the Sentinel Pass Trail near Moraine Lake, Banff, Canada

While you are in the area, don’t miss the Best Hikes in Lake Louise!

1. Larch Valley Trail

Without question, the Larch Valley trail is the most popular hiking trail in Moraine Lake and one of the best Alberta larch hikes. While it’s true that locals and visitors alike go crazy over this hike in late September when the larch trees turn a beautiful golden color, Larch Valley is a must-do Moraine Lake hike no matter what time of year you visit. In fact, it’s a feature hike in our 7-day Banff hiking itinerary.

the needles of the larch trees along the Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake turn golden in fall

We won’t lie… the first 2.5 km of the Larch Valley trail are challenging, but if you are in reasonable shape, you’ll make it no problem to Larch Valley. In fact, you will be amazed and inspired by the number of people on this incredible Moraine Lake hike who persevere and make it to Larch Valley.

You may find this hard to believe, but the turquoise water color of Moraine Lake gets even more incredible the higher up you go. Don’t be afraid to take a break on the steeper sections of the trail and enjoy the elevated views of this natural wonder. Everyone enjoys this Moraine Lake hike at their own pace and eventually make it to the top.

The intense turquoise blue color of Moraine Lake as seen from a hiking trail

The trail flattens out significantly after 2.5 km as you enter an extensive forest of larch trees – one of the largest stands of larch trees in Banff National Park. The larch trees are beautiful no matter if you visit Moraine Lake in spring, summer or fall.

There’s much more to the Moraine Lake hiking trail than larch trees – the mountain scenery is truly incredible. The massive Mount Temple (3,544 m) looms high overhead through the trees, while the mountains of the Valley of the Ten Peaks become visible as your venture deeper along the Larch Valley Trail.

A hiker on the Larch Valley trail in Moraine Lake enjoys a view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks

Deltaform Mountain (3,424 m), Mount Tuzo (3,246 m), Mount Allen (3,310 m), Mount Perren (3,051 m), Mount Bowlen (3,072 m) and the Mount Fay glacier are just of few of the visible peaks you’ll see overtop the larch trees. This is one of the best views of the Canadian Rockies you’ll find anywhere in Banff National Park.

Many who enjoy this excellent Moraine Lake hike stop at the far end of the larch forest. There are benches here to stop and enjoy the outstanding vistas of the Valley of the Ten Peaks. If you feel like continuing, the hike to the Minnestimma Lakes is highly scenic and very rewarding. There’s a ton of boulders scattered around the Minnestimma Lakes, making it an ideal spot to stop and just soak it all in.

A family rests on a rock near the Minnestimma Lakes after hiking the Larch Valley hike in Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

No matter what the season, Larch Valley is one of the best hikes in Moraine Lake. But, if you have the option, hiking Larch Valley in the fall is truly spectacular – it’s widely considered to be one of the best larch hikes in Banff National Park.

In mid-September to early October, the Larch Valley hike is an unforgettable walk through an expansive forest of golden larch trees. This, coupled with the Valley of the Ten Peaks and the otherworldly color of Moraine Lake, makes it a Banff hike you’ll never forget.

Larch Valley Trail – Quick Details

Distance: 8.6 km out and back  Elevation Gain: 535 m

Learn more about this excellent Moraine Lake hiking trail in our full blog post about the Larch Valley Trail.

2. Sentinel Pass Trail (via the Larch Valley Trail)

The Larch Valley hike officially ends at the Minnestimma Lakes, but there is another Moraine Lake hiking trail which continues on past the lakes. It’s hard to improve on the scenery found in Larch Valley, but if you want to try, the Sentinel Pass trail just may accomplish this feat.

After crossing a stream flowing from the Minnestimma Lakes, the Sentinel Pass trail snakes its way up a steep mountain pass in-between Pinnacle Mountain (3,070 m) and Mount Temple. Standing at bottom of Sentinel Pass, the hiking trail looks like a bolt of lightning, with sharp zig zags up the side of these two majestic Moraine Lake area mountains. Due to the shape. our kids like to call it the ‘Harry Potter hike‘.

Minnestimma Lake with view of the Sentinel Pass Trail - one of the best Moraine Lake hikes

If you can make it to the end of the Larch Valley hike, chances are good you can also hike to Sentinel Pass. It’s not as bad as it looks and it’s a surprisingly quick to hike to the top of Sentinel Pass.

Once at the top of Sentinel Pass, you’ll have earned one of the most amazing views in all of Banff National Park. With Larch Valley at your back, you’ll enjoy an incredible view of Paradise Valley and the majestic peaks of Mount Aberdeen (3,152 m), Haddo Peak (3,070 m), Sheol Mountain (2,776 m), Mt. Lefroy (3,423 m) and The Mitre (2,886 m).

view of Paradise Valley from Sentinel Pass Hike near Moraine Lake

In addition to the vistas of Paradise Valley, you’ll get an amazing up-close view of the Grand Sentinel on Pinnacle Mountain, a massive, dramatic quartzite pinnacle thrusting straight up into the sky.

Turning back to where you came from, you’ll enjoy an incredible vista of the Larch Valley (incredible in fall!), Minnestimma Lakes and nearly all of the Valley of the Ten Peaks (I counted 8 peaks).

View of Larch Valley, the Valley of the Ten Peaks and Minnestimma Lakes from Sentinel Pass Trail in Banff, Canada

With 360-degree views of the Canadian Rockies, this Moraine Lake hiking trail really delivers some amazing scenery. For many, the Sentinel Pass trail via the Larch Valley trail is the best hike in Moraine Lake, and it’s hard to argue with them. Why not try it and see for yourself?

A family hiking the switchbacks along the Sentinel Pass trail - one of the best hikes in Moraine Lake

Larch Valley Trail to the Sentinel Pass Trail – Quick Details

Distance: 11.6 km out and back  Elevation Gain: 820 m

Learn more about this amazing combination of the two best Moraine Lake hiking trails on our full blog post about the Sentinel Pass Trail.

3. Eiffel Lake Trail

The most famous Moraine Lake hiking trail may be the Larch Valley trail, but the Eiffel Lake trail could quite possibly be the most beautiful. A moderately difficult Moraine Lake hike, the Eiffel Lake trail offers incredible, up-close views of the majestic mountains of the Valley of the Ten Peaks – likely the most photographed peaks in the Canadian Rockies.

The first 2.5 km of this Moraine Lake hiking trail is along the same difficult section of the Larch Valley Trail (there’s just no avoiding it! Ha-ha!). But, just as with the Larch Valley trail, once you reach the top of the steep section, it’s pretty easy and enjoyable hiking from then on.

Woman hiking to Eiffel Lake in Banff

The best part of the Eiffel Lake trail? 95% of the hikers continue onto the Larch Valley trail and Sentinel Pass, instead of taking the Eiffel Lake trail. We find that the magnificent Moraine Lake scenery you earn on the Eiffel Lake trail is so much better without the crowds found in Larch Valley.

Another great thing about the Eiffel Lake hike is the nearly non-stop views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks. As you progress along the hiking trail to Eiffel Lake, the view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks continues to evolve, providing you with a wide variety of Moraine Lake scenery.

larch trees and the Valley of the Ten Peaks as seen views from the Eiffel Lake Hike near Moraine Lake, Canada

At one point, you can even see nine of the Ten Peaks, with the missing just one, which is hiding around the corner. Around this point, you can catch occasional views of the electric blue waters of Moraine Lake through the trees below.

As you near Eiffel Lake, the evergreens give way to the larch trees. Some of the larches are found hugging the hiking trail, but the majority of them are in a large forest visible below the trail.

a golden larch tree in mid-September on Eiffel Lake hike near Moraine Lake

Soon enough, the forest surrounding the trail disappears as you are now walking through an extensive landslide, which must have wiped out the larches here long ago. Without trees, you’ll marvel at the unimpeded views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

Marmots and pikas (two of Banff’s cutest creatures) call this massive pile of rocks home. Please keep these special creatures alive and wild by not feeding them human food, no matter how cute they are.

a hoary marmot along the Eiffel Lake trail - one of the best Moraine Lake hikes

Eiffel Lake is a relatively small alpine lake, but the color of the water is indescribably beautiful – it’s a deep greenish-blue, almost like blend of turquoise & dark teal.

As with many other Moraine Lake hiking trails, fall is the best time to hike to Eiffel Lake. The magnificent views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks are present year-round, but the golden larch trees in September in Banff help make this Moraine Lake hike special.

Golden Larch trees on the hike to Eiffel Lake near Moraine Lake, Banff

Eiffel Lake Trail – Quick Details

Distance: 12.2 km out and back  Elevation Gain: 610 m

For more information about this less crowded, and very scenic Moraine Lake hike, see our full blog post on the Eiffel Lake Trail.

4. Wenkchemna Pass Trail

Just as the Larch Valley Trail has its Sentinel Pass extension, the Eiffel Lake trail has the Wenkchemna Pass extension. From the end of the Eiffel Lake trail, the Wenkchemna Pass trail is a very scenic hike rewarding hikers with panoramic views from the far end of the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

Beyond Eiffel Lake, the hiking trail continues through the remnants of an old rock slide, but now you’ll occasionally have to navigate through a few sets of larger boulders which block the trail.

man hiking through Larches along Wenkchemna Pass hiking trail in the Moraine Lake area of Banff National Park

If you look up, you’ll see the massive rock wall, which was once home to all the boulders now surrounding your feet. Due to the harsh conditions, there are very few trees left between Eiffel Lake and Wenkchemna Pass. A few hearty larch trees grow here, but they are pretty tiny.

Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the amazing views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks looking back towards Moraine Lake. You’ll notice a large, vertical glacier running the down one of the peaks. It made some incredible cracking noises on our last hike to Wenkchemna Pass.

As you near the bottom of Wenkchemna Pass, you’ll walk through an incredible meadow filled with boulders scattered around delicate alpine plants and flowers.  

Trail from Eiffel Lake to Wenkchemna Pass in Banff

The hiking trail suddenly becomes steeper as you begin your ascent up a series of switchbacks towards Wenkchemna Pass. The trail is mostly easy to follow, but if you feel you are off the trail, looks for one of the cairns which marks the way.

The final few hundred meters of the Wenkchemna Pass trail require a bit of scrambling through much larger rocks. Again, cairns lead the way to the top.

Once you reach the top of Wenkchemna Pass, the views are incredible. Looking behind you, you’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks from the very far end. Looking ahead, instead of a mountain vista, there’s a massive rock wall belonging to Curtis Peak (3,051 m).

The altitude marker sign for Wenkchemna Pass - one of the best Moraine Lake Hikes

Interestingly enough, if you follow the valley bottom northward, you’ll reach Lake Opabin in the Lake O’Hara area of Yoho National Park – another of the most coveted locations to visit in the Canadian Rockies.

Wenkchemna Pass Trail – Quick Details

Distance: 18.3 km out and back  Elevation Gain: 930 m

Read more about this excellent extension to the Eiffel Lake trail in our full blog post on the Wenkchemna Pass Trail.

5. Consolation Lakes Trail

As you have seen, many of the best Moraine Lake hikes are moderate-to-difficult trails, but if you are not up to that, don’t worry. There are a few easy Moraine Lake hiking trails too. In fact, the short Consolation Lakes trail is one of our favorite easy hikes in Banff National Park.

The Consolation Lakes trail has long been one of our favorite easy Moraine Lake hikes as it packs in a ton of scenery in a very short distance. Along the way to the Consolation Lakes, you’ll pass the Moraine Lake Rockpile (another of the best Moraine Lake hikes), walk through a rockslide fallen off the Tower of Babel (2,310 m), and enjoy a walk through a lush forest along the shores of Babel Creek.

The Consolation Lakes trailhead sign is the starting point for one of the best Moraine Lake hikes

As you near the Consolation Lakes, you’ll reach a beautiful, wide open meadow along the shores of Babel Creek. The beauty of the creek surrounded by towering Rocky Mountains is one of the highlights of the Consolation Lakes hike.

In fact, most people end their hike in this meadow, before reaching the shores of the Consolation Lakes. There’s an unfortunate field of massive boulders in front of the lakes, making them a little difficult to get to.

after hiking the easy Consolation Lakes trail with kids, a family has lunch on a boulder in Babel Creek near Moraine Lake

It’s not the end of the world though… after seeing the world-renowned beauty of Moraine Lake, Consolation Lakes just doesn’t compare. They are nice mountain lakes in their own right, but it’s not really a fair comparison.

Despite being a very scenic, easy Moraine Lake hike, the Consolation Lakes trail is often not very busy. If you are seeking respite from the hordes of visitors around Moraine Lake, the Consolation Lakes trail is an excellent choice.

The Consolation Lakes in Banff National Park - near Moraine Lake

Consolation Lakes Hike – Quick Details

Distance: 6 km out and back   Elevation Gain: 240 m

Learn more about this easy Moraine Lake hiking trail in our full blog post on the Consolation Lakes trail.

6. Moraine Lake Rockpile Trail

The vast majority of people visiting Moraine Lake make a beeline for the Rockpile Trail, and for good reason. The Rockpile Trail, otherwise known as the Moraine Lake Viewpoint Trail, is a very short hike to a series of elevated viewpoints. It’s from these viewpoints that the iconic images of Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks are captured.

Views of Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks from the Rockpile Trail

While the Rockpile Trail is quite short, there are a few sets of stairs to climb. Despite the stairs, almost everyone should be physically capable of this highly scenic, short Moraine lake trail.

Rockpile Trail – Quick Details

Distance: 0.8 km loop   Elevation Gain: 10 m

7. Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail

Banff National Park is blessed with an incredible amount of scenic locations, but Moraine Lake just might be the most scenic spot of them all. The easiest of the ‘true’ Moraine Lake hikes allows visitors to walk the shoreline of this world-famous Banff lake.

a family hikes the kid-friendly Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail in Banff, Canada

Along the Moraine Lake Shoreline trail, you’ll not only enjoy the beauty of the turquoise water of the lake, but you’ll marvel at the towering mountains of the Valley of the Ten Peaks looming directly overhead.

Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail – Quick Details

Distance: 4.4 km out and back  Elevation Gain: 180 m

Get more information on the Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail in our list of the Best Easy Hikes in Banff.

Things to Know About Visiting Moraine Lake

Parks Canada has closed the Moraine Lake Road to private vehicles. To visit Moraine Lake in 2024, plan ahead by booking a shuttle so you aren’t disappointed.

How to Get to Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake can no longer be reached by private vehicle, so there’s no longer concerns about Moraine Lake Parking.

There are several ways to get to Moraine Lake, but all involve booking a shuttle or a tour. We highly recommend you read our post on Getting to Moraine Lake, but if you are short on time this is a summary of the best options.

  • Best Budget Option – The Parks Canada Moraine Lake shuttles operate every 20 minutes throughout the day and cost only $8 for an adult.
  • Best Sunrise Option – The Moraine Lake Bus company offers shuttle rides that will get you to Moraine Lake 45 minutes before sunrise. The cost of this is only $35 per adult.
  • Best Lake Louise Option – While the Moraine Lake Bus company offers sunrise shuttles to Moraine Lake, they also offer the shuttle throughout the day and have some time slots that make a stop at Lake Louise. All their shuttles leave from either the Lake Louise Village (sunrise) or the Lake Louise Ski Resort Park and Ride.
  • Best Hotel Option – While expensive, staying at the Moraine Lake Lodge will give you all the time you want at this spectacular Banff lake.
  • Best Option to Get to Moraine Lake from Banff – With access to a car, the Parks Canada shuttle is still one of the best options. Without a car, the Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle and Explore Banff Tours & Transfers are the two best options. In September only, we recommend the Roam Bus Route 10 for visitors without a car as it goes direct from Banff to Moraine Lake.
  • Best Option to Get to Moraine Lake from Canmore – With access to a car, the Parks Canada shuttle is still one of the best options to see Moraine Lake. Without a car, getting to Moraine Lake from Canmore is easiest with the Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle or Explore Banff Tours & Transfers.
  • Best Tour to Moraine LakeRadventures offers a tour with stops at both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. Visits to Moraine Lake will be at sunrise and you’ll still see Lake Louise before the crowds. It’s a 7 hour tour that also includes time for breakfast.

New This Year

Parks Canada is offering an “Alpine Start Shuttle” with two departures at 4am and 5am. This sunrise shuttle to Moraine Lake is intended for climbers, scramblers and hikers who require more time before the last return shuttle.

This shuttle leaves from the Lake Louise lakeshore parking lot, which will require paid parking of $36.75 for the day in addition to the cost of the shuttle.

In addition, the Moraine Lake Road is only open between late May/early June until mid-October. The exact dates can vary but typically it’s around Victoria Day in May and after Canadian Thanksgiving in October.

A Roam bus leaves the Moraine Lake parking lot in Banff National Park
Moraine Lake Quiz

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Seasonal Closure of Moraine Lake Road

Since Moraine Lake Road closes each year in mid-October and remains closed until early June, the season to see Moraine Lake is very short.

During the winter closure, visitors can enjoy cross-country skiing on Moraine Lake Road which is trackset on a regular basis. Even though you may XC ski the road, the Moraine Lake area is closed due to avalanche risk.

The Moraine Lake Lodge

Another way to guarantee yourself the ability to visit Moraine Lake is to make a reservation at the Moraine Lake Lodge. Being the only hotel at Moraine Lake, and one of the best hotels around Lake Louise, competition to stay at the Moraine Lake Lodge is high, so book early.

The Moraine Lake Lodge is one of the best hotels near Lake Louise

Best Banff Hiking Collection

More Great Hikes Near Moraine Lake and Lake Louise

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There's more to Moraine Lake in Banff than just seeing it at sunrise. Enjoy one of these incredible Moraine Lake hikes while you are visiting! You won't be disappointed!
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Dan Brewer, a life-long Alberta resident, calls Canmore home along with his wife and two kids. He is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada, where he gets to share his passion for the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Dan, along with his family, love being outdoors doing one of the many activities they enjoy in the mountains: hiking, mountain biking, paddleboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

When he's not in Canmore enjoying one of his favourite local hikes, you can find him hoping on a plane to explore a new country with his family or working on one of their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.