Moraine Lake Paddle


Launching in Moraine Lake at dawn.

If there is a lake that rivals and even surpasses Lake Louise in Banff in terms of fame, popularity, and beauty, it would have to be Moraine Lake. Surrounded by beautiful peaks, valleys, and glaciers, Moraine Lake is frequently called “the most photographed lake in the world” (not sure who counted) and for good reason. Like Lake Louise and many other lakes in the Rockies, Moraine Lake is also glacier-fed, but the composition gives it an “azure blue” color (as per Wikipedia). The color is definitely bluer than Lake Louise, but it changes with the angle of sunlight like magic.

I woke up at around 5am and made my pilgrimage to this lake before dawn. The timing was too early for the gang. Tina briefly considered joining me but worried the two rascals would be too much for the grandparents to handle in the morning.

Dawn breaking around 6:30am.

I arrived just after 6am, and the parking lot was already filling up. Moraine Lake is insanely popular; by 6am there usually aren’t any regular spots left. Due to COVID-19 this year there are no tour busses, so cars are allowed to park in the bus parking spots (we checked with the traffic people), but the signs still say bus-only. Even these insider spots get filled up around 6:15am on a weekday. I couldn’t figure out just why it’s so crazy this year, since I don’t see any parking spots blocked off to control volume. My guess is that since there are way more locals here this year than tour groups, more of us hike, grab food, or otherwise linger longer than previous years. And once people caught wind that parking lots fill up really early, it became an arms-race to see who can get there earlier.

I was just glad that I did manage to get a “bus-only” spot, so I pumped up my paddleboard almost sheepishly. Soon other cars followed my lead and filled up the bus-only spots too.

I launched next to the canoe rental place around 6:30am, as the dawn started to break. I was surprised that I wasn’t the first on the water; another paddleboarder was on her return journey already, and she called out “so you also had the great idea!”

Sunlight arrived on the peaks at 6:50am.
By 7am the color has brightened from maroon to a yellowish orange.

As I paddled across the glassy surface, with the glaciers and mountains towering over me, I felt grateful for my family who allow me a couple hours of pure bliss in this surreal surrounding.

Looking back towards the starting point at 7:30.

The paddle itself was extremely calm and easy. The wind does pick up in the afternoon, but it’s as quiet as things get in the morning. The water was very cold, so I wished I had neoprene boots.

Approaching the end of the lake at around 8am.
On my return journey, the color of the lake lightened to turquoise.
Arriving back to the canoe rental place at 8:30. People lining up for rental to open.
The multi-colored canoes definitely made for interesting photos.
  • Difficulty – very easy
  • Boat traffic – no motor boats
  • View – frequently ranked as one of most beautiful lakes in the world
  • Facilities – pit toilets at parking lot, cafe nearby
  • Overall score – 13/10

Continue reading about our 2020 Rockies Road Trip!


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