Our Road To Alaska is well on the way as we head to Lake Louise, Aberta. After hanging in Banff for a few days and gawking at the truly unbelivable scenery, we beelined to Lake Louise. Lake Louise, is not quite a town, really, according to Wikipedia it is a hamlet … smaller than a village. And while this would ordinarily be quaint and cute, Lake Louise is even more crwded than Banff. And that, my friends, is difficult to fathom.
However, if you are an avid hiker (or a photographer) Lake Louise is a really great place to visit for a day or two. If only for it’s sheer beauty. While we were told Lake Louise would be less crowded than say Jasper and Banff, we actually found the opposite. The entire area is jam packed with people. From what we could tell there was no way around the masses. We tried hiking in the early am, and the late pm. We even attempted a middle of the day hike. The crowds really seemed to be the same. We thought that perhaps if we did the more difficult of the popular trails, we wouldn’t see as many people. Wrong again.
The temptation might be to say, “To Hell With It”, but wait. I highly recommend that you spend a day or two to simply experience the beauty of the Lake Louise area. And, also, to check the Tea Hikes off your bucket list. It’s kind of a novelty, but sitting on rocks on the shores of Lake Agnes, sipping fresh brewed hot tea … that’s something you don’t get to do everyday.
So, take a moment and read on for our Insider’s Guide to Lake Louise We offer a bunch of tips as well as a Secret Boondocking locale to make your stay in Lake Louise both meborable, inexpensive and fun.
Camping and Accomodations
Obviously, with as popular as Lake Louise is, there are campgrounds. A simple Google search produces every campground in the vicinity. From what we hear, they fill up FAST, so you probably want to make reservations early.
And, due to the sheer numbers of high rollers landing in Lake Louise, there are many hotels and other accomodations as well. In fact, the Fairmont Chateau is located right on the shores of Lake Louise … though I can’t imagine what a room there would cost. But, of course, I Googled the Fairmont Chateau and it’s a whopping $1000+/night. WOW.
But, that’s not how we roll and, hence, we ran into parking issues in Banff and in Yoho National Park. However, we are masters at getting out of most trouble, so nothing much came of it. However, our expectations were that overnight parking in Lake Louise would be as disastrous as in Banff, and possibly worse, but to our surprise, we found a quiet place to hunker down two nights in a row with zero problems!
Free Boondocking Lake Louise (Shhhhh, It’s Secret)
As with everything regarding travel in North America, we don’t ask for permisssion, simply offer apologies when we seemingly overstep. This is exemplified no more than when we are boondocking. Now, one would think Boondocking in Lake Louise would absolutely not work. In fact, everywhere you look on the web, the idea is shut down, fast. Like, You crazy dog!
BUT. We did it. We managed to do it. And, I’m going to share with y’all where, because, well because you all are awesome and you deserve to know …
Park behind the Husky on Village Ave! You will not be bothered, because as far as we could tell, this is private property and the owners don’w mind you shopping at their store and crashing for a night in their lot. Just go in late, like after dark, and peel out at sunrise, which you will need to do in order to find parking at any of the lakes, anyway. More on that below.
Parking at Lake Louise & Moraine Lake
No lie, get up before the sun has risen and secure a spot at the Lake of your choosing. They fill up fast, and stay full all day. We were shocked by this. We thought we would visit Lake Louise, take the iconic photo (more below) and then go to Moraine Lake, around 9. By the time we left Lake Louise around 8:30 am, to both lots were completely full. So, get up early and choose.
We knew the one thing we wanted to do in Lake Louise was to take a sunrise photo on Lake Louise. It’s an iconic shot, sure, but I was absolutely floored by the number of tourists that descended on the lake for this very same reason. Silly, naive me, I thought we would be the only ones, or at the very least, amongst a handful of photographers. Honest to God, there were at least 100 tourists all waiting on the shores of Lake Louise ready to take the same shots of the sun rising above.
It was gorgeous, for sure, but the crowds minimized the majesty of it and we grabbed a couple shots and went back to the RV to make breakfast and choose our hikes for the day.
Lake Louise Hikes
Lake Louise is a hamlet (see what I did here) of great hiking opportunities. From easy to difficult trails, there is absolutely something for everyone. As someone who will willingly hike to something cool, but does not like to hike simply for the sake of hiking, we chose the Lake Agnes Tea Hike. The Lake Agnes Tea Hike is, arguably, the most popular hike in all of the world. Be sure to hydrate by carrying a water bottle, or better yet, a hydration pack like this Geiger Rig.
Lake Agnes Hike
This hike is a very well maintained hike that takes about 2 hrs round trip. At the top, there is a really quaint European-style tea house (seasonal) that serves fresh brewed tea to be enjoyed on the shores of the beautiful Lake Agnes. Pretty cool, if you don’t mind waiting 1 hr in a line that runs a mile long. We minded, and were annoyed, but we came to get tea to sip apres hike and, damnit, that’s what we were gonna do.
Plain of Six Glaciers
This hike is slightly longer than the Lake Agnes Hike. It probably took us about 3.5 hours round trip. Plain of Six Glaciers was a completely different type of hike. Though just as crowded as Lake Agnes, at the top instead of a beautiful prisine lake (there is a lake, though), we were treated to dramatic peaks and glaciers. It was a great prep for what was to come as we made our way toward Alaska and the great glaciers of that state!
Again, there is a tea house, Swiss built, but we passed on the tea due to the long lines and our weariness over crowds.
The road from Banff to Lake Louise, The Bow Valley Parkway, aka the scenic route, takes you to Johnston Canyon and the falls. WE were warned, by friends that aided in our planning, that the Johnston Canyon Hike was absolutely not worth it, due to the shockingly high number of tourists. We skipped it, on account of their confident announcement that it was the most touristy hike we’d find on our #RoadToAlaska.
We arrived bright and early the following day to see the ever beautiful Moraine Lake. As the running theme would suggest, it was crowded, even at 6:30 in the bloody morning. The parking lot was almost filled up and there were tons of people there already. We were relieved we found a parking spot, because the only other option is a $15/person shuttle! Despite the crowds, which we’d come to expect, the atmosphere was still very serene. I mean, being surrounded by such spectacular natural beauty, that was the focal point for sure.
Early in the morning, the mountain air is crisp and cool and is perfect for hiking and exploring. Still the stunning scenery at this gorgeous glacier mountain lake took my breath away and as the kids ran around, I stood still! Moraine Lake, is stunning, worth the crowds to see the absolutely gorgeous tourquise blue water. It is everything the soul craves.
After marvelling at Moraine Lake, we decided to check out the trailhead to Consolation Lakes Trail.
Consolation Lakes Trail
Consolation Lakes Trail is a super easy 3.6 mile round trip hike, that takes maybe 1 hr to complete. We were intrigued by Consolation Lakes primarily because there was a 4 person hiking group LIMIT. Meaning, we had to have at least 4 people to hike it due to active Grizzly Bears in the area. We grabbed our bear spray and hit the trail … this one was made for us as we were 13 deep! Our mission was to see a bear, but alas, we saw none.
Read about the seasonal Bear Restrictions Here.
The trail was wooded and flat and very picturesque … highly recommend as we left the masses to marvel at Moraine Lake and there were very few people on the Consolation Lakes Trail!
There was little that piqued our interest in terms of food and drink. Lake Louise was so small, it felt uninviting, like we were intruding. I’m sure the Fairmont had good fare, but far outside our budgetary requirements. We grabbed a few coffees and treats from Husky’s and tried like heck to find a place with WIFI so we could upload a video and Dan could work.
The Visitors Center, our typical goto for WIFI wasn’t worth a dime, don’t even bother. We, didn’t really try to hard, we simply ended up using our JetPack and eating what we had on hand. Long days, that start before the sun is up, hiking and being outside are incredible, but they drain ya. We hit our beds pretty early every evening, so outside of the few things we picked up on and the outdoor activities, our info is limited.
The area is gorgeous, if not entirely too crowded and touristy feeling for us. The likelihood that we would return is null, unless it was in the winter, to get the feel and vibe for Lake Louise as a ski hamlet. That actually could be a better season for us to be in Lake Louise.
Otherwise, it is a visit once and check it off the bucket list locale. Feels harsh, writing this about such a pristinely beautiful, natural, awe-inspiring location, but there were just too many people. On the majority of the hikes you had to dodge dogs, people, strollers, etc. It just didn’t measure up to our plethora of outdoor experiences.