Complete Guide to Canoeing Lake Louise

Author: Celine Brewer

Last Updated:

Lake Louise is world-renowned for it’s turquoise-blue water and stunning mountain backdrop. While the views are striking from the shores of Lake Louise, getting out on the water in a canoe is a truly Canadian experience. Canoeing Lake Louise is one of the best things to do at Lake Louise, for both novice and experienced paddlers.

If you’ve spent any time on our site, you’ll know that we love to hike around Banff National Park and we especially love the incredible Lake Louise hikes. We felt it was time to try something a little different during our 2 day Lake Louise itinerary. After an incredible morning watching the sunrise at Moraine Lake, we returned to Lake Louise to spend more time on the water.

Canoeing in Lake Louise - Banff National Park.

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Our Experience Canoeing Lake Louise

As you would expect, Lake Louise is busy in the summer months and especially on weekends. We arrived at Lake Louise on a Saturday afternoon on a warmer than usual June afternoon. To be honest, I was originally put off by all the canoes on the lake and wasn’t sure that canoeing on Lake Louise was worth it.

With the long line at the Lake Louise Boathouse, we skipped the canoe on Lake Louise that afternoon and opted to hike Fairview Lookout. Those views never disappoint!

View from Fairview Lookout Hike.

The next morning we had planned to visit Moraine Lake at sunrise. During our sunrise at Moraine Lake, we had also taken our inflatable paddle boards to view sunrise from on the water. Due to the regulations regarding water activity in Banff National Park, we couldn’t take our paddle boards on to another body of water in Banff National Park without waiting 48 hours or visiting a Parks Canada inspection station and trying to obtain permit.

Which meant we were left with paying for Lake Louise canoe rentals if we wanted to enjoy the turquoise waters by canoeing in Lake Louise.

Local Tip

Note that Banff National Park requires a Self-Certification Permit for any non-motorized watercraft, fishing equipment and aquatic recreational equipment.

Canoeing at Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

Upon returning to Lake Louise and enjoying breakfast at the Chateau Lake Louise, we decided to head over to the Lake Louise Boathouse to see if the line was reasonable. Being guest of the Chateau, we were able to walk right up in the guest priority line. This was around 9am on a Sunday morning.

By the time we got our waiver filled out, got our life jackets and our instructions, there were only about 4 canoes left at the boathouse. The line up for day visitors was getting increasingly longer!

Lake Louise Boathouse - Canoe Rentals.
Lake Louise Boathouse from our canoe.

Thankfully, once we were out on the water, it didn’t feel crowded. It didn’t have that same magical experience of paddling on Moraine Lake at sunrise and being the ONLY ONES on the water, but we really enjoyed the experience nonetheless.

Canoeing on Lake Louise in Banff with Kids.
All smiles while canoeing on Lake Louise!

We loved hearing the pikas in the rocks along the shore, seeing the platform at Fairview Lookout where we had hiked the day before, and of course, seeing the imposing Victoria Glacier and surrounding mountains!

We did a leisurely paddle out to the end of the lake, taking all the time we wanted for pictures and videos. We had plenty of time to make it back within the hour.

Based on our Lake Louise canoe experience, read on to get all our tips for canoeing on Lake Louise.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise seen from Canoe Rental.
View of Chateau Lake Louise from our canoe.

Canoeing on Lake Louise For Day Visitors

You don’t have to be staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to be able to rent a canoe at Lake Louise. Non hotel guests do pay a higher price and there are two lines at the Lake Louise boathouse, one for a guest priority line and a second line for day visitors.

There’s also an option for sunrise canoe experience that is only for guest of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

If you aren’t comfortable paddling your own canoe, there is also a Voyageur Canoe Experience where you’ll go in a group canoe with a guide. This costs $75 for adults and $40 for children ($60 for adults and $30 for children if you are hotel guests).

Lake Louise Canoeing.

Cost of Lake Louise Canoe Rental for Day Visitors

Canoe rentals at Lake Louise are $165 for 1 hour and $155 for 30 minutes for day visitors.

*all prices are in Canadian dollars and will be +GST

Canoeing on Lake Louise For Guests of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

While it’s not cheap to stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, if your budget allows staying there has some definite perks. The most obvious benefit is being able to beat the crowds by being amongst the first at Lake Louise for both hiking and canoeing. You also don’t need to worry about the availability of parking spots or taking a shuttle to Lake Louise.

When it comes to your Lake Louise canoe experience, guest of the Fairmont hotel have their own guest priority line and can even sign up for a sunrise canoe experience.

Two lines at Lake Louise Canoe Rentals.
We were glad to get in the Registered Hotel Guest Priority Line!

Cost of Lake Louise Canoe Rental for Fairmont Hotel Guests

In addition to the other benefits of being a hotel guest, the cost of your Lake Louise canoe rental is only $105 compared to $165 for one hour ($95 compared to $155 for 30 minutes).

Cost of sunrise experience (exclusive to Fairmont hotel guests) is $175 per canoe (max 3 people) which also includes a $20 voucher per person for the Guides Pantry.

For the Voyageur experience, guests pay $60 for adults and $30 for children.

Voyageur canoe experience at Lake Louise.
Voyageur canoes at Lake Louise that hold larger groups.

*all prices are in Canadian dollars and will be +GST

Best time to Canoe on Lake Louise

Early mornings are the best time to canoe on Lake Louise. Not only will you find the water to be calmer (typically you’ll find it calmer in the early morning or evening compared to mid-afternoon), but there will be far fewer people on the lake.

Lake Louise Canoeing with kids.
Morning canoe on Lake Louise with kids.

If you are a guest of the Chateau, then the sunrise canoe experience is worth considering to see the sunlight glowing on the Victoria Glacier.

Keep in mind that canoeing on Lake Louise is only from mid-May or early-June until Canadian Thanksgiving in October. In 2022, visitors to Banff National Park had to wait until the second week of June before canoeing on Lake Louise. In 2023, due to the warm temperatures, Lake Louise canoeing started in the last week of May (two-weeks earlier). The opening and closing days will vary each year.

Visiting Banff in September? September is also a great time for canoeing on Lake Louise, as the higher crowds from the peak summer months start to disappear but the weather can still be quite warm.

Looking for the PERFECT Lake Louise Souvenir?

Rooftop Illustrations - Lake Louise in Summer

If you love Lake Louise as much as we do, you’ll want to bring a piece of it home with you. This Lake Louise in Summer illustration by Diana Boyle at Rooftop Illustrations is the PERFECT souvenir!

See more Banff Souvenirs by local artists here.

Lake Louise Canoe Rental Hours

The Boathouse, which is found along the western shore of Lake Louise, is where you’ll find the canoe rentals. The hours for Lake Louise canoe rentals will vary, especially in the early season, so you should always double check the hours.

Daily hours from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm are pretty typical in the early season, but they do change throughout. By end of June, they should be open from 8:30 am to 9:00 pm (last boat out at 8:00 pm) daily.

Canoe rentals at Lake Louise.
Canoe rentals at Lake Louise.

Rent a Canoe on Lake Louise or Bring Your Own

You don’t need to rent a canoe at Lake Louise if you have your own canoe, kayak or stand up paddle board. However, before planning to bring your own, there are some things you need consider:

  1. Parking at Lake Louise is difficult to get and you’ll need to arrive very early.
  2. It cost $21 per day to park at Lake Louise.
  3. If you take a shuttle to Lake Louise, most can accommodate inflatable kayaks or paddle boards, but not large rigid canoes or kayaks.
  4. You CAN NOT use the Lake Louise Boathouse to launch your watercraft.
  5. You can launch your watercraft from anywhere on the shore, however it gets very busy so you’ll need to make your way around the people.
  6. You’ll need to carry your canoe, kayak or paddle board from the parking lot which is a good 400 m away.
  7. MOST IMPORTANT: You’ll need to complete the self-certification permit before putting any watercraft or equipment into any body of water in Banff National Park. If you have previously paddled on any other body of water in BC, Alberta or the territories of Canada, you’ll need to ensure you follow the rules for clean, drain, dry and have it dried for 48 hours before putting your watercraft in a new body of water. For outside of these provinces in Canada or the United States, you’ll need to have your watercraft dried for a minimum of 30 days. Your only other option is to visit a inspection station in Banff to have it inspected. Read more here
  8. The Self-Certification kiosk is along the path to the Boathouse.
  9. There are a lot of rocks around the shores of Lake Louise, so be prepared to balance your way up to the water.
  10. You’ll need to return your watercraft to your car if you plan on doing other Lake Louise activities, as there is nowhere to store it while you hike.
Self Certification at Lake Louise.
Self-certification Kiosk at Lake Louise found on the way to the Lake Louise Boathouse.

Other Things to Know About Canoeing Lake Louise

When you arrive at the Lake Louise Boathouse to rent a canoe, they’ll give you a safety briefing and tell you everything you need to know. Here are the top things to know about canoeing on Lake Louise

Lake Louise Boathouse.
Lake Louise Boathouse and canoe rentals.
  • No reservations – You can’t make reservations. It’s a first come first serve for all the canoes.
  • Line ups are long – The line up can get quite long! You can avoid much of this line by being a guest at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
  • Canoes fit 3 people – If you have more than 3 adults or 2 adults + 2 kids (both under 55lbs) you’ll need more than one canoe.
  • Canoeing with kids – It’s entirely possible to canoe on Lake Louise with kids. Our kids sat together in the middle of the canoe. They had kid-sized life jackets for them.
  • Canoe rentals are for 30 minutes or 1 hour – You have the choice of canoeing for 30 minutes or one hour. One hour will give enough time to get to the back of the lake and back.
  • Life jackets must be worn – You must keep your life jacket on at all times.
  • Don’t stand – You don’t want to end up in the cold waters of Lake Louise, so remain seated in the center of the canoe at all times.
  • Stay in your boat – You are not allowed to get out of your boat on the shore. If you are tired, just stop paddling and float around for a while rather than taking a break on the shore.
  • Stay away from the shore – There are rocks and logs in the water along the shores that could get you in trouble.
  • Stay away from the river outlet – There is a small river leaving from the end of Lake Louise that you need to stay away from. They will show you where it is at the Boathouse.
  • Rescue boat – There is a motorized rescue boat in case anyone runs into trouble. Know that if you remove your life jacket or get out of your boat, the rescue boat will be there within minutes to check on you. We saw this happen when someone in another boat removed their life jacket.
  • Weather Dependent – Canoeing on Lake Louise is weather dependent.
Rescue boat on Lake Louise.
Rescue boat checking on people who had removed their life jackets.

Our Tips for the Best Lake Louise Canoe Experience

  • Go early – Avoid lines and enjoy calm waters in the early morning.
  • Do the full hour – Even if you don’t want to paddle for the full hour, thirty minutes would just feel too short. You’ll want to have enough time for all the photos you’ll take!
  • Enjoy the scenery – It’s not just the Victoria Glacier you see, you get a great view of the surrounding mountains and where most of the hikes go in the area. You can even see the Fairview Lookout platform from the water. The views of the Chateau coming back to the Boathouse are great too.
  • Be a guest of Fairmont hotel – If your budget allows, being a guest allows you a priority line, cheaper canoe rentals and the option of a sunrise canoe! Plus you don’t need to worry about parking!
  • Dress in layers – Layers are key in the mountains as the weather changes quickly. Try to be dressed warm enough but not too hot prior to getting your life jacket on, since you can’t take it off while out on the water.
  • Sunglasses and hats are a must – You’ll want to be well protected from the sun and the reflection off the lake can be quite strong even on a cloudy day. We recommend a hat and sunglasses.
Victoria Glacier seen from Canoe on Lake Louise.
Stunning Victoria Glacier seen from our Lake Louise canoe rental.

Which is Better: Canoe on Lake Louise or Moraine Lake?

Canoeing on either of these two iconic lakes in Banff National Park is a fun and worthwhile experience. Which is better between canoeing on Lake Louise or Moraine Lake is a personal preference.

While we didn’t canoe on Moraine Lake, we did take out our own paddle boards. We enjoyed the experience of paddle boarding on Moraine Lake at sunrise and having it all to ourselves more than canoeing on Lake Louise. While we were guests at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and enjoyed many of the benefits, we didn’t have the time to try the sunrise experience at Lake Louise, this would have been more comparable.

Woman with son Paddle Boarding on Moraine Lake at Sunrise.
Paddle boarding on Moraine Lake in June.

Other Things to do Around Lake Louise

Canoeing in Lake Louise is only going to take an hour of your day (plus any time you wait in line). Based on this, you should have plenty of time to enjoy other things to do in the area.

There are several amazing hikes at Lake Louise, including visiting one of the teahouses (Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse or Lake Agnes teahouse). You can also hike to Lake Agnes then continue on to either the Big Beehive hike or the Little Beehive hike. If you are feeling extra ambitious, you can make a circuit of all these Lake Louise hikes.

The viewpoint built by the CPR on the Beehive Circuit near Lake Louise
Viewpoint at Big Beehive Hike at Lake Louise.

If you have a way to get to Moraine Lake, there are several Moraine Lake hikes that are well worth the effort! Guests of the Fairmont can book a shuttle to Moraine Lake with the hotel.

Ten Peaks and Minnestimma Lakes from Sentinel Pass Trail
View from Sentinel Pass hike that leaves from Moraine Lake.

The Lake Louise Summer Gondola is a nearby Lake Louise activity that gives visitors a chance to spot some wildlife and offers views of Lake Louise from across the valley.

Lake Louise Gondola ride in Banff National Park
Lake Louise Summer Gondola views.

Drive the scenic Bow Valley Parkway. The Bow Valley Parkway starts off Whitehorn Road and has hikes, picnic areas, incredible viewpoints plus the popular Johnston Canyon hike.

A car drives on the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park with Castle Mountain in the background
Bow Valley Parkway is a scenic drive in Banff.

Interested in doing more canoeing in Banff National Park? Other lakes to canoe on with rentals are Moraine Lake and nearby Emerald Lake.

Where to Stay in Lake Louise

Luxury Hotel In Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel as seen from a canoe on the lake.

The only hotel which can rival the Moraine Lake Lodge for scenery is the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel. Surrounded on all side by towering Rocky Mountains, the Chateau Lake Louise is the the only hotel on Lake Louise.

This envious lakeside location offers guests magnificent views of the massive Victoria Glacier and the emerald waters of Lake Louise itself.

Read our full review of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise!

Hotel Close to Lake Louise

Paradise Lodge and Bungalows

the Paradise Lodge are among the best accommodations in lake louise

If you are looking for the best non-luxury hotel in Lake Louise, take a good look at the Paradise Lodge and Bungalows. A family run business for over a half-century, the Paradise Lodge offers guests a choice between cozy, spacious hotel suites and newly renovated, luxurious cabins.

With its log construction and natural building materials, the Paradise Lodge blends in perfectly with its beautiful flower garden and evergreen forest surroundings.

Budget Hotel in Lake Louise

HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre

best cheap hotels in Lake Louise

Located next door to the posh Post Hotel, the HI Lake Louise hostel has a wide variety of room offerings. As you’d expect with a Lake Louise hostel, the standard offering here is shared accommodation with 4-6 beds per room. But, this Lake Louise hostel also offers private rooms ranging from a basic double bed, rooms with a private washroom.

Guests looking for affordable, comfort food will enjoy having Bill Peyto’s cafe onsite. If you are looking to self-cater during your visit to Lake Louise (a great way to travel to Lake Louise on a budget), you are free to use one of the two onsite guest kitchens.

Family Friendly Lake Louise Hotel

Lake Louise Inn

inexpensive lake louise canada hotels

The Lake Louise Inn is a large, kid-friendly Lake Louise hotel with a heated indoor pool and hot tubs. There are a wide variety of room options available at the Lake Louise Inn. As a family, we appreciated the ability to rent a 1-bedroom apartment, as the extra space helps everyone get a better nights sleep. When we stayed at the Lake Louise Inn with our two children, our room was recently renovated and was nicely appointed.

Read more about the Best Lake Louise Hotels here.

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Canoeing on Lake Louise should be on your bucket list for visiting Banff National Park. This incredible glacier fed lake with the Victoria Glacier as the backdrop and surrounding mountain peaks provides some of the best scenery. This post will tell you everything you need to know about canoeing at Lake Louise this summer in Banff National Park.
Celine Brewer - Travel Banff Canada

Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.

As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.