Canoe Lake Louise and Banff National Park, Alberta

Written By: The Planet D

When visiting Banff National Park in the summer, one of the quintessential Canadian bucket list items is to canoe Lake Louise. The emerald waters of Lake Louise reflect the imposing Victoria Glacier as the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise stands proud at its has for 100 years.

We were excited to get on the glacier lake in Alberta, albeit we were a little nervous to canoe on Lake Louise. It’s nearly impossible to capsize in a canoe, but these waters are freezing hovering around zero degrees.

Lake Louise Canoe Adventure

canoe lake louise | deb paddling

It is the most beautiful setting in Canada. It’s no wonder that Canada’s national park system was born here in Banff National Park. Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and we were excited to canoe on Lake Louise for the very first time. Read more: Best Canada National Parks – That We’ve Seen

Banff National Park is an hour’s drive from the Calgary airport and Lake Louise is another 40 minutes further west. With our rental car packed, we were excited to explore one of the first tourist attractions in Canada.

Lake Louise was first discovered in 1882 when surveyors followed First Nations guides to the glacier. Knowing how special this location was, they soon built a chalet on the site in 1890 and it has been one of Canada’s most famous sites ever since.

When to Visit Lake Louise

louise louise alberta morning

Lake Louise can be visited any time of year. We’ve been in both summer, winter, spring, and fall. In the winter the water freezes over and it turns into the world’s most beautiful skating rink! Read all about that at Pond Hockey on Lake Louise – Skating the Most Beautiful Rink in the World.

Crowds are far less in the winter and in shoulder season. But it starts picking up in April and goes all the way to late September. Summertime is peak season in Banff National Park and all around Alberta. Unfortunately, it is also the best time to go canoeing on Lake Louise.

Go Early in the Morning to Lake Louise

early spring on lake louise

If you want to have the lake to yourself, arrive early in the morning. They do offer sunrise paddles so you can check at the Fairmont for more information. Read more: The Best Things to do in Banff, Alberta

The parking lots fill up fast, so if you arrive at sunrise, you’ll have no problem getting a parking spot. While you wait for the boat rentals to open up, you can go for a hike around the lake on the Lake Louise Loop (4km) or you can enjoy a coffee in the Fairmont Hotel. Check out Where to Stay in Banff – The Best Banff Hotels

National Park Pass

Be sure to purchase your national park pass in advance. They do ticket the parking lots and there are no exceptions. Lake Louise is in the center of Banff National Park and you must have a parks receipt on your windshield. You can purchase it at the kiosks on Highway 1 as you enter the park, or order it in advance online.

Canoe Lake Louise – An Authentic Canadian Moment

canoe lake louise

The prices to canoe Lake Louise are steep. It is $125 Canadian Dollars (about $100 USD depending on exchange rates) for an hour and another $115 for every half hour after that.

The price includes up to 3 people, so if you split it, it’s not so bad. It is a lot, but if you want to do something truly Canadian, canoeing is the thing! It’s a rite of passage. Even in high school, we had a canoe trip every year to learn about life in the Canadian wilderness.

Canoeing in Canada is second to hockey!

We suggest spending two hours paddling Lake Louise to take in the beauty of the surrounding mountains and an up-close and personal view of Victoria Glacier. But you really only need an hour on the lake for a good taste of canoeing Lake Louise.

The budget can ramp up quickly in Banff, so an hour will do, plus you’ll have bragging rights for the rest of your life to say “I canoed in Canada!”

Crowds of Lake Louise

Lake Louise morning view | free of canoes
Lake Louise and Victoria Glacier just after sunrise

If you want that spectacular photo opportunity of the Victoria Glacier reflecting in Lake Louise, go early in the morning. Lake Louise is one of Canada’s most popular tourist attractions, and when visiting in summer it can be overwhelming. Tours and busses flock to its shore. You may also like: Driving the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper Alberta

Visiting in shoulder season is recommended, but the weather is cooler and you’ll feel the chill of the water.

After our first visit to Banff, we knew to visit early in the morning, but when we went canoeing for the first time it was mid-day and it was non-stop people on the boardwalk cluttered with tourists.

The evening is not the best time to visit Lake Louise for photographs, but late afternoon is the best time for canoeing since the tour busses have moved on by then. So I suggest going early in the day for optimal picture-taking opportunities.

If you are in Lake Louise in early spring, be prepared for the lake to still be frozen and snow-covered, you are in the Rocky Mountains of Canada after all.

Canoeing Experience on Lake Louise

canoe lake louise | shade of the mountain
the sun is low in the evening

The lake is quite large so once you are in the canoe and paddling around, you can get away from the crowds quite easily. Once we were out on the water we situate ourselves under the shade of a mountain.

Dave managed to take some great shots of the Glacier from a different angle. People stuck on the boardwalk could not have gotten this view.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise from Canoe

fairmont lake louise from canoe
View of the Fairmont from our Canoe

Looking back towards the Fairmont Lake Louise hotel was quite beautiful. It is one of Canada’s most imposing views and if you can stay there for a night or two, it’s highly recommended.

  • Staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a splurge, but if you only visit Lake Louise once, it’s worth it.
  • Deer Lodge located right next door is also a spectacular place to stay.
  • For our full recommendations of where to stay in Banff – Read here.

A Canadian Moment – Canoe Lake Louise

canoe lake louise alberta

While paddling Dave commented on what an “Authentic Canadian Moment” we were having – Canoeing in the Rockyies on the majestic Lake Louise. It was calm and pleasant and the water was like glass.

We also could not get over how cold the water was in Lake Louise. It is a glacier-fed lake after all and once we dipped our hands into the water we realized why they were so strict with their rules before we started paddling.

If anyone fell in the water in the middle of the lake, they would be in serious trouble. The water never gets warmer than 4 degrees Celcius.

Renting a Canoe on Lake Louise – The Details

Canoeing in Ontario
Canoeing in Ontario.

There is only one canoe rental on Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise runs it. You can view more details here. The season starts when the snow and ice melt.

  • Rental Rate Cost: $125 per hour for up to 3 people. $85 per hour for hotel guests. There are different packages like sunrise and sunset canoe trips and voyageur canoe experiences.
  • You need a parks pass to visit Banff National Park and Lake Louise. You can purchase upon entry to the park on Highway 1 or order it online.
  • Dress in layers. Bring a sweater and wear non-slip shoes. You will feel the chill of the water through the canoe.
  • Pack sunglasses and a hat. The reflections of the water can be quite harsh.
  • Unless you are staying at Chateau Lake Louise, you cannot make reservations. Otherwise, just walk down to the canoe docks and stand in line.
  • You can bring your own canoes and kayaks to paddle on Lake Louise.

If you can canoe Lake Louise, it is a magical experience. I would suggest two hours over one, but you can see plenty in an hour. However, the joy of canoeing is being able to explore nooks and crannies that others can’t. So make a morning out of it and take your time to explore Lake Louise by canoe.

Where Else to Canoe in Banff National Park

where to canoe in banff national park
Lake Minnewanka canoe rentals

You can canoe in many places around Banff National Park. The Banff Canoe Club can rent canoes, Kayaks, and rowboats on many lakes and rivers.

Nearby Moraine Lake is one of the most picturesque places in Banff to paddle, so once you’ve paddled Lake Louise one day, head over to Moraine the next.

Other popular local spots are the Bow River, Lake Minnewanka, Vermillion Lake, and Two Jack Lake. All are located in Banff National Park.

Road Trip in Alberta

bow lake banff national park

Our Lake Louise canoe experience was part of a larger Rocky Mountain road trip and although we have stayed in Lake Louise and Banff several times, this trip, we moved on to Bow Lake to stay that the Num Ti Ja hotel. Read: Driving the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper Alberta

If you get the chance, this is the coolest hotel in Banff. Located up the Icefields Parkway, Num Ti Ja stands directly on Bow Lake, the most picturesque lake in the area.

The Icefields Parkway is one of Canada’s most famous road trips, so we highly recommend working your way up to Jasper to stay awhile. Read more: Amazing Things to do in Jasper, Alberta You’ll never forget it!

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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15 thoughts on “Canoe Lake Louise and Banff National Park, Alberta”

  1. Was that a mean-looking badger hanging on the wall? ๐Ÿ™‚
    .-= jen laceda´s last blog ..Le Comptoir de la Folie: Merging Fashion and Interior =-.

  2. Wow!! Stunning pictures. Ok. This adventure I can probably do but at $50 per hour.. Yike!

    So how did the Elk taste like? ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Amy, Ah yes, I should have described the elk in the post. They described it as gamey, but I didn’t think it was. It just tasted like a cheap cut of meat. Not overly tender and maybe even a bit gritty. But it is always an adventure to try. I thought really, what is the difference between the steak or the elk, they are both animals that have feelings too. So let’s just go for it. $50 is way too much money I think, but it didn’t seem to prevent people from going. I guess when You are on vacation you will pay anything. I wouldn’t recommend it as an activity. You can hike around the lake for free instead.

  3. That was our first time there as well. The canoe on Lake Louise wasn’t really that great, couldn’t really go anywhere and to rent a canoe for an hour it was $50. I think that you have to rent to be able to paddle it. But there are other rivers everywhere and yes, it would definitely be a great place for a canoe trip!

  4. If I didn’t read the article, I would have thought you were paddling on a Pacific island! Stunning water shots. Chateau Lake Louise looks like it belongs somewhere on a river in Europe!