Moraine Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Banff National Park, but in the past few years it’s also been one of the most difficult lakes to visit. Starting in 2023, the Moraine Lake Road is now closed to private vehicles. While this move by Parks Canada has made it easier to see Moraine Lake, it’s also created some confusion for visitors. In this post, I’ll share the best ways to see Moraine Lake at sunrise in 2023.
With a little preplanning, you can ensure an easy and pleasant visit to Moraine Lake. That’s what you should have during your vacation to Banff National Park, even if you choose to not visit to see the sunrise at Moraine Lake (it’s EARLY in the summer months).
Sunrise at Moraine Lake – Table of Contents
This post contains compensated links.
Is Moraine Lake Really Easier to Get to With the Road Closure?
If you plan ahead, then I believe it is easier to get to Moraine Lake now. In the past few years, social media has caused an explosion of interest in seeing Moraine Lake. For us locals who have been around for a while, we recall a time when it was a hidden gem and we could easily drive up to Moraine Lake at any time.
In recent years, the competition to get to Moraine Lake and find Moraine Lake parking increased to the point where visitors were arriving at the Moraine Lake parking lot at 2am. It also caused Parks Canada to control the traffic which meant no driving up the road unless there were spots available.
The area really doesn’t have anywhere where you can park to wait for a spot or even drive around waiting for the road to open when a few spots become available. This made it very difficult for anyone wanting to see Moraine Lake and didn’t want to arrive at 2 or 3am.
Parks Canada has been running a Moraine Lake shuttle for several years, but many visitors weren’t aware of it or weren’t planning to use it. All this was causing frustration for everyone involved.
Fast forward to 2023… the road is now closed to private vehicles (unless you have a blue accessible parking placard). So now everyone needs to book a shuttle bus, taxi or even bike to Moraine Lake. In response to that, there are several new ways to get to Moraine Lake including some sunrise shuttle options for Moraine Lake.
Don’t miss our post on the best ways to get to Moraine Lake in 2023! If sunrise isn’t for you, you can find a ton of other great options, including Moraine Lake shuttles that allow dogs.
How to Visit Moraine Lake at Sunrise
Now that you know a little bit about Moraine Lake and why some of the changes were made, let’s get right into how to visit Moraine Lake for sunrise.
I recommend reading to the end of this post as I’ll share more on the area, what to bring for sunrise at Moraine Lake and what else you can do after sunrise at Moraine Lake.
Here are the best ways to get to Moraine Lake for sunrise:
1. Moraine Lake Bus Company
We’ve taken the Moraine Lake Bus Company to experience sunrise at Moraine Lake and have nothing but good things to say! Moraine Lake Bus Company is a new operation in Banff National Park, operated by a local Banff couple who saw a need to offer a sunrise option to Moraine Lake.
Not only do they offer a sunrise shuttle to Moraine Lake, but they also offer shuttle service throughout the day with select time slots stopping at Lake Louise.
- Departs from: Lake Louise Village for sunrise shuttles only (Lake Louise Park and Ride for all other departures)
- Driving Time: 35 minutes to Moraine Lake / 20 minutes return
- Cost: $99 for sunrise shuttles (other shuttles times start at $35 for adults / $25 for children)
- Accessible: No
- Pets allowed: Small dogs in carrier on lap.
- Time at Moraine Lake: Select your return time when booking.
- Includes other stops: Not at sunrise. Select shuttle times later in the day include a 1 hr stop at Lake Louise.
- Other: Inflatable paddle boards and climbing equipment can be accommodated.
- First shuttle / Last return shuttle: 4:00 am / 6:20 pm
2. Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle
The Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle is a “sunrise only” option for Moraine Lake. This shuttle will get you to Moraine Lake 45 minutes before sunrise, so the departure times vary. This is one of the best ways to get from Banff or Canmore to Moraine Lake for sunrise.
You’ll get to stay at Moraine Lake for 2 hours before being brought back to your pickup point or to Lake Louise if you’ve chosen that as an add-on.
- Departs from: Canmore, Banff or Lake Louise
- Driving Time: Times vary based on pickup location. Expect to be on the shuttle for at least an hour (add extra time for Canmore)
- Cost: $75 per person
- Accessible: No
- Pets allowed: No, with the exception of certified service dogs.
- Time at Moraine Lake: 2 hours
- Includes other stops: Yes! You can add on a 5 hour stop at lake Louise.
- Other notes: If you have a large group, you can book a private shuttle. There is room on the shuttle for inflatable kayaks and paddle boards.
- First shuttle / Last return shuttle: n/a
3. Fairview Limousine
Fairview Limousine is a Lake Louise based company that provides shuttles to both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. Fairview Limousine has added a sunrise option for Moraine Lake.
They offer a 4 am sunrise shuttle to Moraine Lake, but if you’d rather not be there so early, you can also book an early bird shuttle bus at 5:15 or 6:30 am.
- Departs from: Lake Louise Inn (parking is roadside or in the back parking lot)
- Driving Time: 30 minutes to Moraine Lake
- Cost: $49 for adults and $29 for children to Moraine Lake (these are sunrise prices only)
- Accessible: No
- Pets allowed: Yes, you will need to reserve for large dogs who need a seat.
- Time at Moraine Lake: Choose return time when booking.
- Includes other stops: No
- First shuttle / Last return shuttle: 4 am / 10:15 pm for Moraine Lake.
4. Radventures Early Bird Explorer Tour
Radventures Early Bird Explorer offers a multi-hour sunrise tour of Moraine Lake that includes an early morning visit to Lake Louise. You get to visit both iconic Banff lakes in one tour.
This tour includes pickup from select Banff or Lake Louise village locations, a guide that helps you find the perfect sunrise locations, time for a hot breakfast (purchasing breakfast is an optional add-on), and a stop at Lake Louise.
You’ll get to spend 1.5 to 2 hours at each of these incredible Banff lakes before the crowds arrive. This tour costs $250 per person.
- Departs from: Various pickup locations.
- Driving Time: Depends on pickup location.
- Cost: $250 for adults
- Accessible: No
- Pets allowed: Yes, you will need to reserve for large dogs who need a seat.
- Time at Moraine Lake: 1.5 – 2 hours
- Includes other stops: Yes, includes a stop in the Lake Louise Village for breakfast followed by 1.5 – 2 hours at Lake Louise
5. Stay at Moraine Lake Lodge
While definitely the priciest option, it’s the one that will get you the most sleep! Staying at the Moraine Lake Lodge means you can drive up the Moraine Lake Road to the lodge.
You won’t have to worry about making a separate booking to get a ride up to Moraine Lake for sunrise! In addition, you can go back to your room for a nap, then head out on one of the many amazing hikes around Moraine Lake.
Can you use Parks Canada Shuttles to see Moraine Lake at Sunrise?
No, Parks Canada does not operate a shuttle bus early enough to arrive at Moraine Lake for sunrise in the peak summer months. The Parks Canada Moraine lake shuttle leaves from the Lake Louise ski resort, which requires driving through the Whitehorn wildlife corridor. The road to the Lake Louise Ski Resort has a nightly closure from 8pm to 6:00am.
Visiting Banff in September? With the first shuttle bus leaving the Lake Louise Ski Resort at 6:30 and the drive to Moraine Lake being approximately 25 minutes, you might arrive in time for a Moraine Lake sunrise near the end of September or early October.
As of June 2023, the early morning shuttle bus reservations to Moraine Lake are sold out except for the last minute tickets. Parks Canada releases last minute tickets at 8 am MDT on a 48 hour rolling window.
Our Experience Visiting Moraine Lake at Sunrise
Sunrise in the summer months is early! For our visit in early June at Moraine Lake, sunrise was around 5:30 am. We booked our shuttle with Moraine Lake Bus Company at 4 am. We were to arrive 10 minutes early to check-in and board the shuttle.
Since we live in Canmore, we opted to stay in Lake Louise for the night to avoid getting up before 3am. As it was, we still needed to set our alarm at 3:20 am to get the kids out of bed, get to the car and drive the few minutes down to Lake Louise Village. We felt having that extra hour of sleep was well worth it!
We arrived at the Lake Louise Village and parked at Samson Mall. Two Moraine Lake Bus Company shuttles were already there and waiting for us when we arrived at 3:40 am. We planned to arrive extra early since we brought our inflatable paddle boards and wanted enough time to get them on the shuttles.
One of the shuttles had a large back section that easily fit our two paddle boards. With everyone on board, we left at exactly 4am!
We arrived at Moraine Lake well before sunrise at around 4:30 am. The shuttle bus drivers set up a small table with coffee and pastries for the guests. This was a nice surprise, since we hadn’t left time to eat and had packed just a few snacks.
Most people made their way up the Rockpile trail to get set up for the sunrise. Since we had booked a return shuttle at 7:15am, we knew our time would be limited after the sunrise to get our paddle boards on Moraine Lake. We took advantage of the early arrival time and pumped up our paddle boards. This also gave our two kids a chance to eat while watching us.
Around 5:00 am, we made our way up the steps to the top of the Rockpile (an easy, short hike at Moraine Lake where you get that iconic Moraine Lake sunrise picture) to scope out our spot to watch the sunrise. Moraine Lake or the Rockpile definitely didn’t feel busy, but we had obviously missed out on the “best” spots. It was a trade-off we were willing to make.
I found a spot I was happy with and set up the tripod. The kids set up their own spot to watch the sunrise. They chose to watch the sun rise looking east, while I was focused on watching a stunning Moraine Lake sunrise that lit up those mountain peaks.
We spent about an hour at the top of the Rock Pile watching the sunrise, then were amongst the first ones to make our way down. With our paddle boards already set up and our self-certification filled out, we were ready to get out on the water.
We had about an hour for paddle boarding on Moraine Lake, but we cut it short to 40 minutes to make sure we had enough time to repack our paddle boards. It was our first time this year having our paddle boards out, so we gave ourselves extra time to pack it away, especially since we had to pack them properly to fit back on the shuttle (as opposed to just throwing them in the back of our car).
The experience paddling on Moraine Lake was incredible and the perfect thing to do as part of a 2 day Lake Louise itinerary. We were the only ones out on Moraine Lake and still had that incredible glow on the peaks. Our entire family agreed that this was the highlight of our Moraine Lake sunrise experience!
Once packed up, we carried our boards back to the parking lot and the Moraine Lake Bus Company shuttles were there shortly after to leave back for Lake Louise Village (exactly on time again!).
The overall experience was incredible and didn’t feel like it was inconvenient (over taking our own car). We had worked out exactly how much time we wanted at the lake, so we didn’t spend any time sitting around waiting. In fact, this was much more convenient and enjoyable because we never had to stress about whether we’d get Moraine Lake parking!
Where to Watch Sunrise at Moraine Lake
Thankfully, you don’t have to go far from the parking lot at Moraine Lake to get incredible views! There are really three best places to see the Moraine Lake sunrise:
1. The Rockpile
The Rockpile trail is an easy Moraine Lake hike with views down over the lake. This is the most popular spot for Moraine Lake sunrise pictures. The very top and far end of the Rockpile has the most unobstructed views. The Rockpile trail is a short 0.8 km where you’ll climb stairs all the way to the top. It leaves directly from the Moraine Lake parking lot (near the toilets) and is worth the climb for the views!
While the sun hitting the peaks surrounding Moraine Lake is definitely the star of the show, don’t forget to look back behind you for to watch the sun come up!
2. Moraine Lake Lakeshore
You can find a spot along the lakeshore trail, though the first opening in the fence is the spot with the largest area where you can sit on a log or rock to take in the sunrise. There’s another spot that’s just before the Moraine Lake canoe rentals. The entire Moraine Lake lakeshore trail is 1.4 km (2.9 km return), but the best views are along the first section of the lake.
3. On Moraine Lake
Our favorite spot to see sunrise at Moraine Lake was out on the water. After experiencing the Moraine Lake sunrise at the rock pile and on the water, we all agree this was the best spot!
Unfortunately, you can not rent a canoe at Moraine Lake for sunrise. The Moraine Lake canoe rentals do not open this early (they are open 9:30am to 5pm). You’ll need to bring your own paddle board to get on the water at Moraine Lake for sunrise.
Banff National Park requires you to fill out a self-certification permit before entering any body of water in Banff National Park. If you are coming from BC, Alberta or one of the territories, your watercraft must be dry for a minimum of 48 hours before entering a new body of water. If you are coming from anywhere else, your watercraft must be dry for a minimum of 30 days. This is to help reduce the spread of invasive species.
What Time is Sunrise at Moraine Lake?
Depending on when you visit Banff National Park, you might not need to get up quite so early to reach Moraine Lake. We recommend doing some research on the Moraine Lake sunrise time for the time of year you’ll be visiting Moraine Lake.
Here are some approximate Moraine Lake sunrise times in the months that you can access Moraine Lake.
- June: 5:30 am
- July: 5:32 am to 6:07 am
- August: 6:08 am to 6:55 am
- September: 6:57 am to 7:43 am
- October: 7:45 am to 8:03 am (the Moraine Lake Road closes around mid-October, typically right after Canadian Thanksgiving)
You might be wondering why the shuttles leave so early? They leave early to get visitors to Moraine Lake with plenty of time to get positioned before sunrise.
When Does The Road To Moraine Lake Open And Close?
The Moraine Lake Road typically opens June 1 until mid-October, though these dates can vary each year depending on the conditions. The shuttles will be allowed to run from June 1 until October 9th in 2023.
If you are visiting Banff outside of June through mid-October, then visiting Moraine Lake may be unfeasible.
Can you Visit Moraine Lake During the Winter?
The road to Moraine Lake travels through avalanche paths, so you shouldn’t visit Moraine Lake in the winter unless you are are knowledgeable about avalanches and have the proper gear. Visiting Moraine Lake in the winter is not recommended.
Why Visit Moraine Lake for Sunrise?
You might be wondering if visiting Moraine Lake at sunrise is worth it? I’d say that now that the pressure is off to get parking, it’s an experience that’s worthwhile for anyone that wants to get that iconic Moraine Lake image with the glowing peaks.
Other benefits are that the mornings are often calm and you’ll get that still water with a reflection of the ten peaks. You aren’t as likely to get that mid-afternoon, though the water color will still be stunning!
Once you’ve enjoyed the sunrise at Lake Moraine, you can take in one of the incredible Moraine Lake hikes in the area.
Moraine Lake Sunrise or Sunset?
What about Moraine Lake sunset? While the light will be great for Moraine Lake sunset pictures, you need to keep in mind that the sun doesn’t set until 9 or 10 pm (depending on which summer month you visit). Aside from Fairview Limousine, there aren’t any options to stay that late and still get a return shuttle.
Best Things to do at Moraine Lake after Sunrise
Now that you’ve checked off sunrise at Moraine Lake from your Banff bucket list, you might be wondering what else you can do in the area?
Hike at Moraine Lake
If you have the energy, we highly recommend doing one of the Moraine Lake hikes. You can hike to Larch Valley then continue hiking to Sentinel Pass for some stunning views. This is one of the best larch hikes in the area for anyone visiting in larch season (around the third week of September).
If you are looking for an easier hike, the Consolation Lakes trail is one we love doing with our kids.
Canoe or SUP on Moraine Lake
If you want to get out on the water, we recommend renting a canoe at Moraine Lake or bringing your own paddle board!
Canoe rentals at Moraine Lake are $140.00 per canoe for a one-hour rental. The canoes can hold 2-3 people and life jackets are provided. Canoe rentals are only available mid-June to mid-September due to water levels.
Can you bring a private canoe, kayak, or SUP to Moraine Lake?
Many of the shuttles that serve Moraine Lake can accommodate an inflatable kayak or SUP, so you can plan to bring your own. Unfortunately, if it’s not inflatable, you won’t be able to bring it.
Be aware that taking your own inflatable SUP or kayak on Moraine Lake requires you to meet the Banff National Park Clean Drain Dry regulations listed on the self-certification form before using your watercraft. You can find the self-certification permit right along Moraine Lake lakeshore.
If you don’t meet the requirements, you can visit a Parks Canada inspection station to try to get an AIS Prevention Inspection Permit.
Visit Lake Louise
If you decide you don’t need to see Moraine Lake at sunrise, you can visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake using Parks Canada shuttles, Moraine Lake Bus Company and several other options mentioned in our getting to Moraine Lake post (listed above).
Best Places to Stay in Lake Louise for Visiting Moraine Lake
With a guiding philosophy about getting away from it all, you won’t find any televisions or phones at the Moraine Lake Lodge (although they have started to offer complimentary Wi-Fi to all guests). In addition to Wi-Fi, other complimentary amenities at the Moraine Lake Lodge include free breakfast, concierge service, free canoeing on Moraine Lake and free parking.
Non-guests need to pay $140/hour to rent a canoe on Moraine Lake, but the most valuable included amenity at the Moraine Lake Lodge is the free parking.
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!
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 Hotel Option
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.
What to Bring for Moraine Lake Sunrise
We were very fortunate with an almost perfect forecast for our sunrise at Moraine Lake. We know all too well that you can’t always depend on the forecast and because we went with kids, we made sure we were well prepared for the temperatures before and after sunrise.
Here’s what we brought for our Moraine Lake sunrise experience:
- Fleece jackets
- Down jackets
- Toques & small gloves for the kids
- Blanket (for the kids to sit on)
- Water bottles
- Bear spray
- Headlamps (which we didn’t use)
- Stand up paddle boards
- Life jackets
- Sandals – the water is cold and rocky (we wore socks in our sandals to keep our feet warm while watching the sunrise then took them off for paddling)
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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.