Reasons You Want to Visit Lake Louise
The name “ Lake Louise ” evokes immediate recognition and allure world-wide. It’s no wonder it has that effect for those who have visited this magical place, but even many of those who haven’t feel an attraction to come see it for themselves. The result is that this small lake, high in the Canadian Rockies attracts as many 15,000 visitors a day from all over the world during the summer.
What is it that makes up the charm of this lake and its surroundings?
The first is, obviously, the scenic beauty of its setting. Nestled under the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains, and below the spectacular Victoria Glacier, the majestic setting makes it one of the most photographed sites in all of Canada. The manicured gardens, lawns and flower beds at the leading edge of the Lake enhance this natural gem, making it the perfect location for individual and group photos. Many a wedding party has chosen this breath-taking landscape for their lifetime memories.
Lake Louise was created when a natural dam of glacial debris caused the water to back up about 2.4 km behind it. The turquoise colour of the water comes from silt-like rock flour, tiny particles carried by melt-water from the surrounding glaciers that become suspended in the water, refracting blue and green wavelengths of light. Besides the aforementioned Victoria Glacier, five others contribute their discharge to the tarn [small mountain lake], ensuring the water’s brilliance and its magical backdrop. To the right, the knife-edge of the Rocky Mountains, North America’s great divide, pierces the sky.
Lake Louise’s popularity is ultimately attributable to the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the national dream that tied Canada together as a nation. Searching for a route through the Rockies, Surveyor Tom Wilson, set eyes on the lake in 1882 and declared, “As God is my judge, I never in all my explorations saw such a matchless scene.” Eight years later the first chalet was constructed on the edge of the lake, “a hotel for outdoor adventure and alpinist.” The original Chalet Lake Louise saw alpinists and workers from different stations along the railway line as well as day visitors from the Banff Springs Hotel.
The native name of the Lake was Ho-run-num-nay, the “lake of the little fishes.” Eventually, the emerald colored lake was renamed Lake Louise in honor of Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, whose husband, the 9th Duke of Argyll, was Canada’s Governor General from 1878 to 1883.
The Lake’s early popularity was due to its proximity—6 km—from the railway line that brought the visitors. After 1962, that was boosted by the Trans-Canada Highway that also skirts the village. It is a two-hour drive from Calgary International Airport.
But that’s only a small part of the story. The three iconic Rocky Mountain lake photo stops — Moraine and Peyto Lakes joining Lake Louise on the podium—are all within a few kilometers of the village. Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks is a short 14 km drive and is so popular that the connecting road may be closed due to maximum traffic numbers as early as 8 am on busy summer days. The must-see Peyto Lake viewpoint is at Km 43 on the Icefields Parkway that begins at Lake Louise.
Besides those three, it’s only a short drive to other strong podium contenders: Lake O’Hara, the base of some of Planet West’s best hiking; aptly named Emerald Lake amid spectacular mountain peaks; the Natural Bridge; Takakkaw Falls, Canada’s second highest; the Burgess Shale, a World Heritage designated fossil site where, it is alleged, origins for 95% of all the world’s animals can be found; and The Icefields Parkway, itself named by National Geographic as “one of the world’s most spectacular driving tours.”
Numerous hikes emanate from the lakeshore itself, hikes to the Plain of Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes teahouses, up Little or Big Beehive or up Fairview Mountain. Moraine Lake is the base of the popular but challenging Sentinel and Wenkchemna Pass trails.
But, just a few kilometers down the road, the Lake O’Hara area, considered a crowning jewel in the region, boasts days of spectacular trails, scenic lookouts and invigorating challenges in the back country away from the highway and the tourist crowds.
Lake Louise Ski Area
By the 1930s, three ski areas in the Banff-Lake Louise area were in operation, and the Lake Louise Resort eventually became the dominant one. With over 28 sq. km. (11 sq. mi.) of terrain on four mountain faces, Lake Louise is (arguably) Canada’s second largest ski area and one of the larger in North America. It also has one of the longest consistent ski seasons in Canada, from early November to late May.
The ski resort hosts an annual November stop on the World Cup Ski circuit.
The Lake Louise Lodge
The modest chalet that opened on the shore of Lake Louise in 1890 has grown into the grand Chateau Lake Louise, a luxury hotel with over 550 guest rooms on eight floors. The grounds are immaculate as well, and many find pleasure in simply strolling the lavish hotel and its grounds. It hosts numerous conferences, weddings and other special occasions, as well as the aforementioned World Cup Ski competitions.
Both West Adventure’s BC & Rocky Mountain Spectacular as well as the Grand Rocky Circuit take you to Lake Louise to experience the splendor of the lake and surrounding area. We would be happy to welcome you and show you all the highlights.
Keep watch for our photo journey of the Rockies which will include some stunning images of many lakes mentioned in this article.