5 Spots in Alberta That Will Blow Your Mind

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If there's one thing I've learned from Instagram and social media lately, it's that the people of the interwebz freaking LOVE photos of mountains. And lakes. And, more specifically, lakes in close proximity to mountains.

And I definitely get it – there's something about a snow-dusted line of mountaintops that sets my imagination into overdrive gets my adventurous juices flowing, too.

Peyto Lake in Alberta, Canada

So, when it came time to try and summarize my recent trip to the Canadian Rockies, the only thing I could think to do was put together a series of my best photos – most of which feature (can you guess?) lakes and mountains.

RELATED: The Epic Beauty of the Canadian Rockies

More specifically, lakes and mountains in Alberta.

You may have never really considered visiting Alberta before. But I guarantee that you'll add at least one more place to your bucket list by the time you get to the end of this post.

Here we go!

1. Moraine Lake

I first saw a photo of Moraine Lake about 10 years ago. And I remember thinking that someday, somehow, I HAD to see this amazing place for myself. I tried last year when my friend Stephanie and I did a mini road trip through the Canadian Rockies. But, unfortunately we went too early in the season and the road to Moraine Lake was still closed due to avalanche risk.

So, when I figured out I would have a second chance this year – and in September, when no roads should be closed – I put it at the top of my list.

And WOW. It did not disappoint in the slightest.

Moraine Lake in Alberta, Canada

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park

Canoe on Moraine Lake

I didn't quite make it for sunrise (when the rising sun will occasionally paint the tops of the mountains red), but I did go early enough to beat the crowds and catch some great reflections of the mountains on the lake.

Moraine Lake in Alberta, Canada

Moraine Lake sits within the Valley of the Ten Peaks within Banff National Park in Alberta. It's a glacially-fed lake, meaning that it's always an unusual shade of blue-green. This is common of glacial lakes because of the rock flour (rock pulverized by ancient glaciers) that floats in the water.

From the Rock Pile viewpoint (where you'll get the “Twenty Dollar View” – the view of lake and peaks that was featured on the Canadian $20 bill), Moraine Lake was a shade of deep turquoise.

Moraine Lake in Alberta, Canada

But, as the sun rose and began to hit the water, it exploded into the most brilliant shade of neon turquoise. A walk around part of the lakeshore was definitely in order – I never wanted to leave.

Lakeside path at Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake under the sunshine

2. Lake Louise

Not far from Moraine Lake is Lake Louise – both the village and the lake of the same name. The lake itself is usually a shade of blue-green, and there's a glacier clinging to a mountain ridge on the far side of the lake.

Lake Louise in Banff National Park

I attempted to catch sunrise here from the incredible Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (one of the fanciest hotels I've ever stayed in!), but unfortunately there were no brilliant pinks on that morning to paint the sky (or glacier) pink.

But watching the dimness recede and the clear green water come into focus as the morning light grew was still pretty cool.

Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada

You can walk all around Lake Louise (unlike Moraine Lake), rent canoes, or even hike or horseback ride to tea houses set up in the nearby mountains.

It's a beautiful lake and definitely well worth a visit.

3. Icefields Parkway

Let's take a break from lakes (just for a second, don't worry) and talk about another awesome feature of Alberta – the Icefields Parkway. Officially known as Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway is a scenic offshoot from the Trans-Canada Highway that connects Lake Louise and Jasper.

The road isn't free – a Canadian national parks permit is required to drive the 144 miles – but I think the price is MORE than worth it.

Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada

Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada

If you love mountains, then this road is for YOU. I was so impressed by the Icefields Parkway. Mountains tower above the road, and if you go in autumn like I did, you'll see mountainsides blanketed in neon yellow larch and aspen trees.

Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada

Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada

The highway is named because you can see a lot of glaciers (icefields) from the road – keep an eye out for viewpoints and places to stop.

Many people name this road as one of the most scenic drives in the world, and I'm inclined to agree!

Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada

4. Peyto Lake

Okay, back to the lakes! Along the Icefields Parkway, you'll see a number of lakes, and signs for even more lakes. All of them are beautiful, but I think my favorite was Peyto Lake – a lake in a valley of the Waputik Range that is always a ridiculous shade of blue-green in the summer months.

Peyto Lake in Alberta, Canada

Just like Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, Peyto Lake is fed by glacial runoff, and the suspended rock flour in the water (combined with the sunlight and cloud cover) gives the lake an unreal hue. In fact, when I posted photos of this lake online, people insisted it was Photoshopped! (I promise, it's not.)

Peyto Lake in Alberta, Canada

Peyto Lake was named after Bill Peyto, an early trail guide and trapper in the Banff area. The area around the lake is thick with forest, which you'll have to walk through to get to the best viewpoint at Bow Summit.

Peyto Lake in Alberta, Canada

This year, Banff had an early snow in mid-September, meaning there were patches of snow already on the ground. Be sure to bundle up for this one, as the Bow Summit lookout is up above 6,000 feet.

5. Bow Lake

The last lake I stopped at can be seen from the roadway – another turquoise beauty with mountains and glaciers rising up behind it in the distance. Bow Lake makes another worthy stop, both for the views and the Num Ti Jah Lodge that sits on the shore.

Bow Lake in Alberta, Canada

Num Ti Jah Lodge at Bow Lake

I didn't stay at the rustic lodge, but I did pop into the gift shop and cafe for a hot drink. On a nice day, this makes a perfect lunch stop – grab some hot soup and a sandwich, and park yourself on a picnic table overlooking Bow Lake.

Bow Lake in Alberta, Canada

Bonus: Columbia Icefield

Another stop worth mentioning is the Columbia Icefield, which is located about halfway between Lake Louise and Jasper on the Icefields Parkway.

Athabasca Glacier in Alberta, Canada

If you have a lot of time, you can book an excursion out onto one of the large glaciers.

If you don't have quite so much time, be sure to at least walk to the “toe” of the Athabasca Glacier, which sits right across the street from the Icefields welcome center. According to Parks Canada, the Athabasca Glacier is “the most-visited glacier on the North American continent.”

Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefield

You can't walk up ONto the glacier here (seriously, don't do it – it's really dangerous!), but you can get pretty close to the face and see some nearby ice caves.

Athabasca Glacier ice caves

 

I know this definitely is not an exhaustive list. For example, I haven't listed places like Maligne Lake or Jasper National Park or Waterton Lakes National Park – mostly because I haven't been to those places yet! (One day…) But I think this list is definitely a good start, and hopefully has sparked your wanderlust for Alberta.

WHERE TO STAY

I stayed at the amazing Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which is the only hotel that sits directly on Lake Louise. From here, it's easy to reach all of the spots in this post by car. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book here)

However, the Fairmont is a luxury property. If you're traveling on a budget, I would recommend the Paradise Lodge and Bungalows. It's located in Lake Louise town, and offers adorable little cabins for a much more affordable price. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book here)

WHAT TO BRING

Start out with a guidebook to Canada's national parks.

Then make sure to pack some layers. Even in the summer months, it can be really chilly up at higher elevations in the mountains. I wore my North Face Agave fleece on my most recent trip.

And, even though it’s not a tangible item, I also always recommend packing a good travel insurance policy! That way everything from lost luggage to a bad accident is covered – because you just never know! I recommend World Nomads for basic (and really affordable) travel insurance.

Which of these spots would YOU most like to see? And what else would you add to the list?

 

5 Spots in Alberta That Will Blow Your Mind

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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73 Comments on “5 Spots in Alberta That Will Blow Your Mind

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  1. Ok. That water is absolutely INSANE! Not to mention the mountains, and the trees, and the innate Canadian-ness of it all… Clearly I have to get myself to Canada sooner rather than later!

      YES. The Canadian Rockies especially are just amazing. (In fact, I think I like them even better than the US Rockies!)

    I’d have to agree with each and every one of them!

      Such a stunning part of the world, isn’t it?!

    I am so happy to say that I’ve been to every one of these spots! If you ever go back to Alberta, try the badlands, like Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park. Spectacular!

      Yes, both of those places are definitely on my list!

    I totally know what you mean about instagram and mountains and other bodies of water.

    Those are some truly fantastic photos. I only wish my photograph skills could be so good.

    It looks absolutely magical!

      It felt quite magical!

      (And yeah, any of these photos that I’m sharing on Instagram are just blowing up! It’s crazy.)

    Ahh, every time I read a post about Canada I realize how much I still have left to see of my own country! Looks like you were there at just the right time; the colours along the Icefields Parkway look lovely. 🙂

      YES, the fall colors were soooo pretty! Definitely hit it at the right time of year. And I was so lucky to get lots of sun, too!

    Alberta looks so amazing and I’m hoping to go this summer. So funny, all the places you post amazing photos of, I end up a few months later: New Zealand? Check. Iceland? Check. South Africa? Check.

    Proof that travel blogs WORK.

      That’s awesome! You definitely need to put Alberta on your list next!

    Ahem, not South Africa — Northern Ireland. One of those directionally named countries.

      South Africa is top of my list for 2016! 😉

    Amazing pics, I think I need a better camera before I go here!!

    I THINK I visited Peyto Lake many years ago but never knew what it was called. If not, then definitely somewhere similar where the water was that colour! That whole area is stunning. Moraine Lake is top of my must-visit list for Canada.

      Moraine Lake was top of my list, too, but all the other lakes were gorgeous, as well. I got a new camera right before this trip, and even I’m drooling over some of these photos! (Though, most of these spots are so pretty that it doesn’t really matter what you use to take photos!)

    Wow! Incredible photos…I definitely want to go to all of these places now! Thanks so much for sharing.

      Thanks, Natalie! I knew this post would stoke some wanderlust!

    Love all of them! So many awesome places there to visit. Thank you for sharing them! We definitely are trying to figure out a way to get up there to see all the beautiful sites!

      It’s well worth it if you can manage it! (Though I definitely recommend renting a car so you can stop to see all the gorgeous lakes and scenery!)

    Beautiful pics. Waterton is my favorite spot in Alberta, the mountains are older looking and create a different experience than the Banff/Jasper area. Plus there are less tourists so it’s often a more pleasant visit.

      Definitely on my list for a future trip to Alberta! All the photos I’ve seen of Waterton look amazing!

    I so plan on doing a trip to Alberta in the summer. Smaller trips and one big one this year, methinks.

      DO IT! Banff and Jasper national parks are both incredible – you’ll love it!

    My friend just came back from a trip to Canada and LOVED IT. Your photos are all gorgeous, by the way. Now I just want to take a trip up north!
    -Claire
    tallgirlbigworld.com

      Much like the US, Canada is so incredibly diverse! You can go from rainy forests to arid desert to mountains to prairies in just a day or two!

    The Canadian Rockies are spectacular! I could kick myself for not visiting Moraine Lake when we were at Lake Louise. My aunt and I did a 4 day horseback/camping trip out of Banff some years ago…such amazing scenery and cool little glacial lakes not accessible by car, which is always my favorite 🙂

      Oooo a horseback riding trip there sounds incredible!

    Best blog post I’ve seen in a long time!! Stunning images, and definitely using this to plan my trip. You rock.

      Aww thanks so much, Suzette! Which place is going to the top of your list?

    SO much to see in the Canadian Rockies! I would definitely add Yoho National park to the list – especially the tiny mountain town of Field, the mighty Takkakaw Falls and beautiful Emerald Lake. It borders Banff National Park but people don’t seem to know about it. I lived there for 6 weeks this summer and it is possibly the most beautiful small village in the world – seriously, google image it

      I’ve been to Yoho and Emerald Lake and agree that they’re both incredible! (And Field is also really cute.) But they’re technically in BC, which didn’t fit into this Alberta post! 😉

    Spark?! My wanderlust for Alberta is burning!!!

    Ooooo! I love mountains, valleys and snow and I’m guessing outside of Europe, Canada is the best place to get that delighful snowy air and fresh mountain goodness. Yes, please!

      It’s certainly a great place for snow and fresh mountain air!

    The Athabasca Glacier is definitely at its gnarliest in September … if you go there in May or June, there’s more snow on it!

      Definitely still looked pretty cool in September, though!

    So gorgeous Amanda 🙂
    I think we’re all booking trips to Alberta after this post!

      Thanks, Linda! I certainly am ready to book a trip back!

    This brought back wonderful memories of a trip my husband and I did back in the summer of 1989. We took the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver back when it was part of VIA Rail and eventually ended up in Calgary for the Stampede. Peyto Lake hasn’t changed at all! Glad to see it’s all still stunning!

    These pictures seem unreal! I’m helping my parents planning their trip to Canada, Alberta is definitely on the list!

      Alberta (and especially the Rockies) definitely deserves to be on the list!

    Those photos are STUNNING! And now my travel wishlist just got a little longer…

      That’s the point of travel wish lists in my experience. 😉

    Awesome!!! I have only been to Lake Louise and obviously have missed out! I want to do another (and much slower) road trip and these spots will definitely be on my list.

      Lake Louise is great, but there’s so much more to see in that part of Alberta. I managed to do this all in one day, but having a few days to truly explore would be ideal!

    What a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing! I am heading to Banff in a few weeks. Any tips on what part of the day is best to visit these sites? Do they get pretty busy and do many people interfere with the ability to take good photos? Thanks!

      Banff will be beautiful! But late summer is definitely the most popular time to go to a lot of these spots. For most of them, early morning is best! Moraine Lake, for example, can get super busy. I would go as early as you can to that particular spot!

    Mercy me- love this – thanks for sharing.
    We are currently planning a trip for March. I’m concerned because of winter ❄️ some places may not accessible. Your thoughts?

      You’re right – some of these spots sadly won’t be accessible. 🙁 The road to Moraine Lake, for example, closes in mid-October and doesn’t re-open until at least mid-June. You can still drive the Icefields Parkway and get to Lake Louise, though it will be frozen!

    Hi Amanda,

    This is a great post! We are planning on visiting Alberta next year (end of August/early Sept). How long did it take you to complete your trip and did you drive it all?

    Thanks 🙂

      That will be a great time to go and see all of the lakes! You can technically see everything mentioned in this post in one day since it’s all relatively close, but I would allow at least 2 or 3 days if you want to do any hikes/walks, or maybe rent a canoe or something. And yes, I drove to all the spots – you really do need to have a car to get to all the lakes!

    How are these places in the winter? Like say, beginning of January. Is it just complete snow or can you still see the beautiful colours etc?

      Complete snow and ice, I’m afraid – winters in Canada are no joke! You can’t even get to Moraine Lake in the winter because the road leading to it closes every year around October, and usually doesn’t open again until May or June.

    Everything about this post is fantastic! I loved all of your recommendations and stunning pictures. I can’t wait for our trip to the Canadian Rockies this summer! I’m definitely pinning your post for future reference. Thanks you for the inspiration and sparking wanderlust for Alberta 🙂 Happy travels!!

      Get excited – the Canadian Rockies are incredible! I’m glad my post inspired some wanderlust for you. 🙂

    Such great photos! I have been to 3 of those 5 and hope to knock another one off my list this summer. Entry to all of Canada’s parks in 2017 is free which makes it even more affordable!

      Yes that free park entry is so great!

    Stunning photos! I need to make it back up there to appreciate them a bit more with my camera and hiking gear. They actually used to let you walk up on the Athabasca Glacier. I went as a teenager 10+ years ago and remember being terrified as I was dragged a good way up that toe by my aunts and uncles all while they recanted a horrible story of a kid falling into a crevace less than a year prior. You could go pretty far and they just had cones set out to mark a “safe” path. haha it was pretty unreal.

      Crazy! You used to be able to walk right up on a lot of glaciers, but now they’re all receding so quickly that it’s not safe anymore in most places. 🙁

    Alberta has so many amazing options to visit and explore the beauty of nature.

    I have been to all 5 spots and the others you mentioned but have not been. There are so many other places and parks to see and visit. Jasper is one of my favourites but so is Waterton. We climbed Bear Hump in Waterton. It is a kilometre up to the top and is so worth the climb. The gondola and further walk to the top of Whistler in Jasper is another bucket list that you must do. My husband and I have fallen in love and are planning on moving to Okotoks next year. I can’t hardly wait to wake up to a mountain view every day.

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