The Canadian Rockies have just one drawback: Once you lay eyes on the landscapes, climbed the mountains and interacted (from a safe distance) with the wildlife, nothing else will be ever be able to amaze you in the same way.
The National Parks throughout the Rockies don’t just take your breath away, they refuse to give it back. Never will you forget the feeling of standing on the shore of picturesque lakes surrounded by mountains, lined with pine trees and sheltering bears, moose, coyotes and more.
There are countless lakes worth an arduous (or more relaxed) hike to discover, but here are ten of the best.
10 Lake O’Hara
One of the most memorable places in all of Canada, Lake O’Hara graces the landscape with some of the most wondrous scenery imaginable. A 7.3km round trip with a mild 240 metres of elevation, this hike can be undertaken by most hikers with an adventurous spirit and hardy pair of walking shoes.
Along your journey several smaller alpine lakes will gently reveal themselves, mountain peaks will watch your progress with interest and a waterfall boasting a remarkable view will give way to wildflower filled meadows unlike anything you have seen before. Should you wish to extend this hike, additional trails are available.
9 Annette Lake
One of the easier hikes in the Lake Louise area, the Paradise Valley trail to Annette Lake is 11.4km and rated as easy to moderate. A completely natural trail follows alongside a steadily flowing creek until it reaches the beautiful lake at the base of a towering Mount Temple.
From here you can climb a little further to drink in a panoramic view of Paradise Valley featuring additional mountains that will make you question how something so perfect is possible. On the way back you will cross over three gorgeous bridges that provide perfect opportunities to get the camera out and preserve the moment.
8 Caldron Lake
If something more strenuous is what you are after, the hike to Caldron Lake will reward your efforts with stunning views and a unique hiking experience. Beginning at the highly trafficked Payto Lake Viewpoint, the trail is not officially maintained by Parks Canada, making it a less used trail than the average. This means it is not strongly signposted and does require some route-finding skills.
Measured at 15.6km and climbing over 900 metres, this is a hike that will have most travellers feeling a burn in their legs when they return. One of the true joys of this hike is the surprise reveal that the glorious Caldron Lake makes, appearing almost unexpectedly at the conclusion of the journey. The only frustration this hike will provide is the inability to capture it’s full beauty on film.
7 Jacques Lake
The 12km jaunt to Jacques Lake has the added benefit of passing by a total of four lakes once completed. As well as the natural wonder that is the titular lake, hikers will have the pleasure of enjoying Beaver Lake, 1st Summit Lake and 2nd Summit Lake, each with its own unique brand of delight.
The tranquility you will feel moving along this trail is second to none thanks to the huge array of bird life, wildflower filled corridors and huge mountains flanking your every step. For those feeling like tackling a path on two wheels, this trail is also accessible by bike.
6 Lake McArthur
A 7km trail containing an elevation gain of 305 metres, the Lake McArthur trail is a wonderful hike that can be completed by hikers of most fitness levels. The largest lake in the region, it is accessible by a trail that has such incredibly diverse scenery you will have eaten up the distance before you even realise.
Upon arrival, be sure to take several moments to enjoy the impossibly blue surface and unforgettable view because you are unlikely to ever see anything else quite like it. Be aware that Parks Canada limits the number of visitors per day to this area so be sure to contact them before arrival.
5 Sherbrooke Lake
There are several options of varying lengths when it comes to the Sherbrooke Lake and Niles Meadows trails, but those wanting to experience the inspiring calm of Sherbrooke Lake need only walk a total of 9km. The turquoise glimmer atop the water will have even the most skeptical visitor totally entranced and thankful they came.
A sanctuary for anyone seeking some solitude, nature can be enjoyed at it’s best here while simply sitting beside the water and reflecting, just as the surface reflects the imposing mountains that surround the scene.
4 Taylor Lake
A less travelled trail than many others in the Moraine Lake area, the Taylor Lake hike allows for the enjoyment of views that you will be sure are paintings designed to trick your mind. The glorious views and ancient ridges of Mount Bell raise questions about just what is possible in nature such is their beauty.
Check the trail guides in advance due to regular closures as a result of grizzly bear activity in the area, but if you do manage to get out on the path, you could always add a few more kilometres with the addition of the O’Brien Lake loop as well.
3 Bourgeau Lake
15km’s and 710 metres of exertion will see you rewarded with absolutely fabulous views the like of which seem only possible in fairytales. The most arduous portion of the hike, Bourgeau Lake to Mount Bourgeau, is thankfully the most visually gorgeous, helping to take your mind off the climb.
The majestic amphitheatre at the lake provide sensational views and the wildlife collecting around the rocks and trees will have you grinning from ear to ear. There are also bridge crossings over Wolverine Creek that seem straight out of an adventure novel and alone make the effort required for this trail more than worth it.
2 Lake Minnewanka
If a relaxed yet lengthy hike is what you are after, Lake Minnewanka provides the perfect opportunity to get out into resplendent nature without breaking an all-encompassing sweat. Covering 15km but only climbing a total of 40 metres, arrival at the lake will have you feeling as though you have earned the incredible view without being concerned about the journey back.
One of the deepest lakes in the Canadian Rockies, the intense dark blue color will leave you astounded. The trail allows you to experience a large portion of the shoreline and hopefully allow you to catch a glimpse of the varied and plentiful creatures that call the water their home.
1 Eiffel Lake
Requiring a climb of 380 meters, this 11.2km hike may just grace you with the greatest view you have ever had the good fortune to witness. Embarking on this hike in late June often feels as though you have begun in summer and finished in winter. Beginning amongst babbling brooks and perfect pines, within an hour your boots will be crunching through fresh snow as you continue upward towards the freshly filled Eiffel Lake.
At approximately the halfway point, do not miss the view as you gaze upon the Ten Peaks taking centre stage while Morraine Lake rests quietly at the base. Inspiration will flow like glacial water as you attempt to take in the entire, overwhelming panorama.