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 and gets my adventurous juices flowing, too.

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.

More specifically, lakes and mountains in Alberta.

Peyto Lake in Alberta, Canada
Peyto Lake

5 Spots in Alberta That Will Blow Your Mind

You may have never really considered visiting the Canadian province of 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
The classic view of Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake in Banff National Park
Canoe on Moraine Lake
The red canoe looks like it's glowing!

I didn't quite make it to Moraine Lake for sunrise (when the rising sun will occasionally paint the tops of the mountains pink), 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 reflections

Moraine Lake sits in 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 in the morning.

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. Next time, I'd love to rent a canoe and head out on the water that way!

Lakeside path at Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake under the sunshine
Walking around Moraine Lake

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
Me loving life at Lake Louise

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 colors 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
Lake Louise reflections

You can walk all the way 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
Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada

If you love mountains, then this road is for YOU. I was so impressed by the mountains towering above the Icefields Parkway.

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 autumn
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
Yes, this is the actual color of Peyto Lake!

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.

The trail to the overlook isn't super difficult, but it IS about 2.7 kilometers round-trip, so be sure to factor in some time for the hike.

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 photogenic Num Ti Jah Lodge that sits on the shore.

Bow Lake in Alberta, Canada
Beautiful Bow Lake
Num Ti Jah Lodge at Bow Lake
Num Ti Jah Lodge at Bow Lake

I didn't stay at this 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 limited time like I did, 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
A glimpse of the Athabasca Glacier

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
Glacier cave forming

If you have more time here and DO want to get out on the glacier, you can book an excursion in a custom-built vehicle that will drive you out onto the glacier.

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.



You can visit many of these Alberta spots year-round, though I think the best times to visit are in the summer and early autumn, when the lakes are unfrozen and you can see all those beautiful blues. 

(Also, you cannot visit a few of these spots in the winter, most notably Moraine Lake since the road to it is closed from late October through late May.)


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)


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.

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

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  1. I wish I could spend a year just exploring Canada. *sigh*

      You still probably wouldn’t see it all!

    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!

      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!

    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!

    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!

    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! Did you go in early September or late September? How many days would you recommend spending there?

          I went in late September, and managed to catch some great fall colors (but of course that can vary year to year!). You can see all the highlights in Banff in a couple of days, but also could probably spend a week in this area and still not get to everything!

    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!

    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!)

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

      South Africa is top of my list for 2016! 😉

    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!

    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!

    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.)

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

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

    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!)

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