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Help with trip order - Moraine Lake and Banff

chicago
Level Contributor
48 posts
25 reviews
Help with trip order - Moraine Lake and Banff

Hi,

I'm feeling a little rushed since everything is booking up. I want to head to the area in June.

I'm willing to splurge on 2 night at Moraine Lake Lodge given it looks like the prettiest place in the world, and I managed to do just about everything else with miles. We aren't early risers, so the idea of waking up and being there without fighting or parking sounds perfect.

We will likely spend the rest of the (4 nights?) in Banff. The itinerary is still very in the works - something like this:

1. One full day dedicated to wondering up to the ice trails and back

2. Lake Louise and/or Lake Emerald

3. Hiking/Waterfalls/Hot Springs - maybe in Yoho

4. Anything to see some animals, bears.

If I'm spending the money to stay at Moraine Lake, I'm guessing I'll really want to stick about there for those two days. But also don't want to zig zag back and forth Yoho, Banff, etc. because I didn't plan the days right. Kind of seems like Moraine Lake Lodge is in the middle of everything, so this might just be unavoidable.

Any thoughts on what to do when? Or is there a good place to see which hikes/sites are good to bundle together in the same day?

Also flexible as to whether I go to Banff first or Moraine Lake Lodge first.

Thank you!

6 replies to this topic
Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
8,191 posts
4 reviews
1. Re: Help with trip order - Moraine Lake and Banff

Welcome!

Moraine Lake is beautiful, but there are some factors to consider with regards to staying at the lodge, especially in June.

First is timing - when is your trip? The road to to Moraine Lake (and thus the lodge) doesn't re-open until late May. The trails in the area can be snowbound well into June, and the lake usually doesn't thaw until early June. So if your trip is in early to mid June, the hiking in the area may be limited to fairly short lakeside trail and canoeing won't be an option until the lake is thawed. The higher elevation hiking trails in the area are generally not in good hiking shape until later in June.

Also, while being right at the lake can be great for beating the crowds, you still have to deal with parking at Lake Louise (unless there's a shuttle from the lodge). If there's no parking at the lake, you will have to drive down to the gondola or the oveflow parking to catch a shuttle (shuttles stop in the village, but there is no long term parking in the village area). And since the lakeside trail pretty goes right by all the lodge cabins, you will likely have hikers going by as soon as the sun rises (before 5:30-6am in June).

Looking at your list of interests, I wonder if you'd not be better off staying for longer at Lake Louise. Most of those activities are in the Lake Louise/Yoho area, not at Moraine Lake. Given the drive up to and down from Moraine Lake, you'd not be saving much time as opposed to simply starting from Banff. Or do your two splurge nights at Emerald Lake Lodge. Especially early in the season, there's a lot more in terms of hiking there, plus it generally thaws earlier.

The key is that Moraine Lake Lodge is not in the middle of everything per se. It's about 20+ minutes up a road that branches off the road up to Lake Louise. So to get anywhere else, you are driving back down that road - then either up to Lake Louise or down to the highway to go to Banff/Yoho etc. Stunning, but it is not central.

1. Not clear what you mean by ice trails? Do you mean glaciers?? The easiest place to see glaciers is up on the Icefields Parkway. With 6 nights, I would opt to spend 2 nights in Jasper so you can drive the full length of the parkway. One of the most scenic drives in the world - not worth missing.

Otherwise you can see glaciers from the Plain of Six Glaciers trail at Lake Louise or on a fairly longish hike in Yoho NP (or from a distance from Emerald Lake). For both of those, you'd probably be better off in Lake Louise (or Banff) where you don't have to start the day with a long drive back down to the highway or down and back up to Lake Louise.

There are no hot springs in Yoho NP - the ones in the area are in Banff. Otherwise you are headed all the way down to Radium or out to Miette (east of Jasper townsite). Plenty of waterfalls in Yoho NP, though if you are interested in waterfalls, you want to get to Jasper to see Maligne, Sunwapta, Athabasca, Weeping Wall etc.

chicago
Level Contributor
48 posts
25 reviews
2. Re: Help with trip order - Moraine Lake and Banff

Hi,

Thanks - this is helpful and also a good reminder I need to do some more reading. From your comments, I wonder if we are better off staying in Jasper (especially financially) for a two nights and the rest in Banff, and just dealing with crowds at the lake. Thanks for mentioning there was overflow parking - I was imagining driving and being turned away for the day.

I am looking for shorter hikes (3-5 miles), and really just want to take in the beauty of the area. Thanks for your quick reply. And also that if I am paying loads of money to stay at Moraine Lake, I do not want to be woken up by hikers at 6am!

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
8,191 posts
4 reviews
3. Re: Help with trip order - Moraine Lake and Banff

I would certainly look into staying at Jasper for a couple of nights. I think you'd regret not having a chance to drive the full length of the Icefields Parkway. You've got the time to do it.

Don't want to completely discourage you from Moraine Lake Lodge, and would be interested to hear feedback from others. The location is amazing, and the lodge offers some nice perks in terms of guided hikes/canoe rentals. But it is not central, and there may be limitations in terms of activities right at Moraine Lake if your trip is early in June. I wouldn't get overly worried about early morning noise - the main crowds don't come until later and early hikers tend to be very respectful. It's more just a heads up, as people are most often used to settings where hotel grounds are private or at least set away from trails.

Banff, Canada
Destination Expert
for Banff, Banff National Park
Level Contributor
6,905 posts
123 reviews
4. Re: Help with trip order - Moraine Lake and Banff

Personally, if I could afford Moraine Lake, I would do it -- and plan to just hang out at/near Moraine Lake (doing short hikes, going canoeing) for a full day between your two nights, rather than trying to make it a base for other experiences. It is a spectacular location, and very few get to experience it outside the busy hours.

You could visit Lake Louise on the evening of the day you arrive at Moraine, perhaps as a pre-dinner or post-dinner stroll. It's lovely there in the evening, the evenings are long in June, and the crowds really disperse after about 5 pm.

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
8,191 posts
4 reviews
5. Re: Help with trip order - Moraine Lake and Banff

Completely agree. Just that if the trip is in early June, canoeing and most the hikes may not be an option.

chicago
Level Contributor
48 posts
25 reviews
6. Re: Help with trip order - Moraine Lake and Banff

Great. Your comments are changing my plans to include Jasper. I always have terrible luck with weather when I travel, so I'll have to cross my fingers for canoeing. Appreciate the comments.

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