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If you’ve heard of Moraine Lake, then most likely, you have heard of Lake Louise. Both of these lakes have the same turquoise blue color from the glacial waters and it is absolutely gorgeous surrounded by the Canadian Rockies.
Lake Louise Parking
Lake Louise is within Banff National Park, 10 miles away from Moraine Lake. Although they’re close in proximity, we decided to visit these lakes on two separate days so that we could secure a parking spot early in the morning. Lake Louise has more parking spaces with an overflow parking lot as well, but there could be lines with long wait times, so we wanted to avoid all that.
If you’re staying in downtown Banff, it will be an easy 40-minute drive to Lake Louise on the Trans-Canada Highway. We arrived at the main parking lot around 6:30am and there were already about 20-30 cars parked in the lot. We were about to make our way to the lake but it started raining and then snowing for a bit. Candy stepped out of the car to use the restroom, while we waited for the snow to stop, and it was freezing outside! We waited for about 30 minutes in the car until the weather calmed down and everything cleared. Mountain weather is very unpredictable and also can change drastically within minutes.
Luckily, the snow stopped just in time for us to walk to the lake and capture the sunrise. It was a short 3-minute walk to the lake and on the way, we passed by a historical cottage and it looked like some people were staying there as there were several cars parked out front. There was a sign in front of it that explained that this cottage was built in the 1920s as a home for Swiss guides hired to lead hotel guests safely up the mountains.
Once we arrived at the lake, we were in awe of its beauty. It was so beautiful that we forgot how cold it was for a split second. We just couldn’t get over how blue and clear the water was. Then when the sun began to rise, it looked like the mountains in the distance were on fire. It was such an incredible site to see in person.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel
We walked around the lake for about an hour and took a ton of photos along the way. The famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel is located here and we decided to take a peek inside. We wanted to see the historic hotel (and to warm up for a bit), since we heard it was quite expensive to stay here and that the decor was impressive. It was certainly grand and although it would have been nice to have brunch here, we decided to take the Lake Louise Gondola to higher elevations to enjoy brunch with views of the Canadian Rockies.
If you love hiking, there are many hiking trails in the area. The most popular one is the trail up to the Lake Agnes Tea House that will take about 1.5-2 hours.
Lake Louise Summer Gondola
It's been a long time since we both took a ride on a gondola and were a bit hesitant at first since we are both afraid of heights. The gondolas are usually used more during the ski season but during the summer, Banff advertises it for bear sightings, exhibits, great views and dining at their restaurants. We mainly came here to take in some views, maybe spot a bear and have lunch at Whitehorn Bistro. We were here in the beginning of September, so it was pretty much end of the summer season and we practically had the place to ourselves.
Lake Louise Summer Gondola Parking
Parking at Lake Louise Summer Gondola was plentiful. We were actually surprised at how easy it was to park since parking in other areas of the park were extremely challenging. The staff told us later that they are much busier during the ski season, which makes sense.
The ride for the Gondola ticket was CAD $37.75 (US ~$29.00). There were several package options if you wanted to add more to the ticket. For example, they had a "Ride + Dine" or a "Ride + Dine + Guided Hikes" package, which could save you money depending on how much you were planning to eat. Since we were there for lunch, we decided to purchase just the Gondola ticket. We took a look at their menus and most of the items we wanted were under $25, so it wasn't worth the package deal.
We're going to be honest, the views were a little underwhelming. There wasn't a grand view like we had envisioned on the way up. Then when we got off the gondola at the summit, we noticed a lot of construction going on which didn't look so pretty. We imagine this place looks spectacular in the winter when everything is blanketed in white snow during the ski season.
Lunch at Whitehorn Bistro
It was a short walking distance from the gondola to the bistro and along the way, you get a view of the Canadian Rockies in the distance. There was plenty of seating when we arrived for lunch and we decided to sit indoors. The balcony had a wonderful view of the mountain ranges, but it was pretty chilly. Our hostess informed us that most people who sit outside eventually ask to be seated back indoors. She suggested we can go outside and enjoy the view after our meal.
The menu was small and we both ordered the Grilled Avocado Caesar Salad. The presentation was quite unique and we both loved the fried, crispy prosciutto on top of our salad. That salty crunch was delicious! We were dining with our friends and they ordered the Signature Whitehorn Burger and the Slow Cooked on the Bone Chicken Breast.
And for desert we all shared the Chocolate Trio. The chocolate was rich and we loved the candied popcorn that complimented it. Overall, we loved our meals here. They all tasted great and had a unique way of using the ingredients. We just wished there was more of a selection on the menu and that we could have sat outside.
After our meal, we went outside to the terrace and the views were gorgeous. Although it was a bit cloudy, we were still able to see the mountain peaks and Lake Louise in the distance. We tried to take photos, but the photos weren't able to capture what we were seeing. We spent some time learning about the names of the different mountains we were seeing.
Lake Louise was simply breathtaking. Do not pass up on visiting this lake. If you want to get there before the mass crowds, definitely get there before sunrise. By the time we left the area around 9am, it was packed with people. As for the gondola ride, we weren't disappointed but we also weren't blown away by the experience. We had a much better time on the Banff Gondola and think that one is an overall better experience.