Day 2 of our mountain getaway we drove to Moraine Lake, a glacier-fed lake situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, not far from the village of Lake Louise. The azure blue colour of the lake is due to the refraction of light off the rock flour deposited in the lake from the surrounding glaciers, notably the Mount Fay glacier. Moraine Lake is so popular that the parking lot is full by 6:30 am and the road closed to traffic, forcing latecomers to take a shuttle bus. In a normal year, the shuttle buses would be sold out early in the day transporting thousands of tourists from the town of Lake Louise to this stunning lake. This year the shuttle buses are silent due to COVID-19 so once the parking lot is full you have to wait for someone to leave before being allowed to drive the 11 km to the lake. We were extremely lucky when we arrived at the Moraine Lake Road intersection just after 9:30 am, 8 cars were allowed past the barriers to drive up to the lake. Upon reaching the lake it took a couple of trips around the parking lot before we found a spot that someone was vacating…we were now set for the day. It has been many years since we have been here and until you see it in person, it is hard to imagine the brilliant colour of this lake.
There are a variety of hiking trails in the area surrounding the lake from short, flat walks to 8-hour climbs. Our first walk was the flat 2.9 km out and back trail beginning at the canoe docks, working its way along the shoreline of the lake to a boardwalk where water flows in from Wenkchemna Pass. Being a short, easy trail it was quite busy but that did not detract from the breathtaking scenery surrounding us.
Returning to the parking lot we made our way to the Consolation Lakes trail, a 5.8 km out and back trail with not much elevation gain. This area is a well-known grizzly bear corridor so the beginning of the trail has a warning sign about hiking in a group. Today the sign was only “recommending” hiking in a group of 4 so we carried on, just the 2 of us! Interestingly we did see some lone hikers, but they had a dog which I suppose is their early warning signal if a bear is nearby. If a bear hears you coming, they will head away from you so the key to hiking in the mountains is to make some noise. You do not want to run into one of these guys!!
The Consolation Lakes trail begins below the Tower of Babel, over a rock slide then on through a lovely old-growth forest before emerging at a boulder field, blocking the way to the lake. We scrambled over the large rocks to reach the lakeshore, admiring Quadra Mountain and the Quadra Glacier straight ahead of us. We are so close to the border here that Quadra Mountain is in British Columbia. There were no other humans around, and no bears…that we saw!! It was a perfect place for lunch, overlooking the lake, watching the marmots and chipmunks jumping amongst the rocks. After lunch, we scrambled our way back over the rocks to the trailhead and hiked back to Moraine Lake. If you did not venture over the boulder field when you arrived, you would not have a good view of the lake and pretty much only see large rocks. We met one gentleman on the trail who did not climb over the rockfall and he felt the hike was not worth it. As you can see from the below photographs, it is definitely worth the hike to this stunning lake.
On our way back and just before the Consolation Lakes trail reaches Moraine Lake, is a short hike up to the top of the “Rockpile”. From here we enjoyed one of the most photographed views in all of Canada. The view of the mountains behind the lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks was featured on the 1969 and 1979 issues of the Canadian twenty-dollar bill. There are not enough words to describe the scenery here, it truly does leave a person speechless and in awe of these magnificent mountains.
Descending from the Rockpile, it was still early so we splurged and rented a canoe, at a cost of CDN $84 (USD $63) for one hour, and paddled our way to the end of the lake and back. The views from the lake of the surrounding peaks and hanging glaciers are even more spectacular. If you really wanted to blow the budget and stay a couple of nights, there are amazing packages available for summer 2021 at the Moraine Lake Lodge. Due to COVID the Lodge is closed for the summer of 2020. For a completely different view, a winter visit would be extraordinary. The 11 km road to the lake is closed to vehicles all winter and the only way to get to the lake is on cross-country skis. In my opinion, Moraine Lake and the Valley of The Ten Peaks is one of the most beautiful places in the world you can visit, any time of the year.
It is going to be hard to beat today’s scenery but we will try, tomorrow’s destination is Lake Louise…