Lake Louise Area
A visit to Lake Louise is a necessary part of any visit to the Banff area. Depending on your expectations, you might find this a pleasure or a minor hassle. The first thing that struck us was that, other than the lake and Chateau, there was not much in Lake Louise. The village is separate from the lake and contains a couple of motels, restaurants, and gas stations.
Lake Louise itself is beautiful. It is located up the mountain at the base of a glacier. The glacier-tinted water and the mountainous background make for a picturesque setting. The grand old hotel, the Chateau Lake Louise, sits at the near end of the lake and makes a great picture itself. During our visit (June 2003) construction of a new wing on the hotel spoiled some of the views. Try, if you can, to avoid the crowds. Check out the hotel interior while you are there. The hordes of people come by the busload and swarm over the near end of the lake. Take the path on the right of the lake for a walk that will get you away from some of the crowd and give some nice views back at the Château. For a better view and to really get away from the crowd, take the hike up to Fairview. The hike requires some climbing on a well-maintained hiking trail. From the viewpoint you can retrace your steps (the easier way) or continue down a steep section of trail to a rugged path along the lake and back to the start point. We felt that this chance to get away from the crowds and to get a different viewpoint made the visit to Lake Louise enjoyable.
About 12 km from Lake Louise is Moraine Lake. This lake, even further up the mountains, is also very pretty, with numerous mountain peaks rising in the background. Although hardly deserted, this lake is less crowded than Lake Louise. The best viewpoint is atop the rockpile, which forms a natural dam at the bottom of the lake. The path up the rockpile is well constructed and most people, including children, should have no trouble making the short hike.
Also in the Lake Louise area is the "gondola" at Lake Louise Ski Area. The ski area is across the valley from the village and lake and offers some nice views. At the ski area you will go to the bottom of one of the ski lifts where you will have a choice of riding a chairlift or an old gondola car that they put on for the summer tourists. Take the chair, unless it is cold or you are traveling with young children. At the top you will need to walk to a nice viewpoint and then further down to an interpretative center. Call in advance for the schedule, if you want to take a guided hike. These trips leave at only a few times and some last two hours.