BUY TWO OR MORE GUIDES - UP TO 20% OFF

How Much Time Do You Need at Lake Louise? (What to See and Do)

Lake Louise with rainbow over

Lake Louise is known for its stunning scenery which makes it a bucket list for people around the world. In the summer up to 15,000 people a day visit the lake shore. When visiting this iconic site, how much time is required to experience it?  

Lake Louise can be visited in as little as 1 hour for a quick photo and walk around the lakeshore or as long as 3 hours if you want to include a hike or a lake activity such as canoeing. Exploring the surrounding area to include Moraine Lake and the village can easily expand your time in the area to a full day. 

As an area resident, I’ve spent many hours playing and exploring in the Lake Louise area and it never gets old. No matter how long or short the visit there’s always something new to experience.

Getting There

How you plan to get to Lake Louise will determine how much time you need. Parking at Lake Louise is at a premium from May to October and the lot fills up early. When I say early, I mean before 6:00 AM. Many people are looking for the sunrise shots of the lake and will arrive well before dawn.

If you choose to drive you can easily spend 30 or more minutes looking for a spot, and that’s if the traffic flow in the parking lot is light. If traffic gets too congested parking attendants will direct vehicles out of the parking lot. 

The quickest, most efficient way to get to Lake Louise is to use one of the many shuttles. Reservations are highly recommended. 

Once you have arrived at Lake Louise, here are some suggestions of what you can do in the time you have. 

People walking on frozen Lake Louise in winter
Visitors enjoy the frozen waters of Lake Louise

What Can You Do in One Hour at Lake Louise?

One hour at Lake Louise will give you plenty of time to soak in the scenery, enjoy the mountain air, and grab some photos. 

The most popular activity at Lake Louise is strolling along the paved lakeshore promenade that stretches across the lake shore in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. This is where the majority of visitors congregate.

If you’re not into outdoor activities or need to escape the weather, take a browse through the Chateau. It’s the only building at Lake Louise and is quite grand. Grab a cold or hot drink at the Guide’s Pantry and browse the shops or hang out in one of the many lounge areas and enjoy the lakeside vista.  

Canoes on Lake Louise with mountains in background
People in hallway of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Shops inside Fairmont Chateau Lake Lousie
Chateau Lake Louise shops
Front of Chateau Lake Louise
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

What Can You Do in 2-3 Hours at Lake Louise?

If you have 2 to 3 hours to spare you can walk the complete lake shore trail beyond the pavement. This is the most popular trail at Lake Louise. For a mountain hike, this is as easy, and flat as it gets. 

The 2.8-mile out-and-back trail takes you along the lakeshore (not around the entire lake) through the forest and to a waterfall at the end. The entire trip takes about an hour depending on how many photos you want to take and how busy the trail is. This is a great trail for all ages and abilities, and dogs too if they are on a leash. 

If the crowds on the lakeshore trail aren’t for you, the area around Lake Louise is full of trails so there are other areas to explore. The trails are not the best marked so I would suggest downloading a trail app like Trail Forks or All Trails

Another popular activity at Lake Louise is canoeing. Rentals are available at the boathouse through the Chateau Lake Louise on a first come basis or you can use your own. 

Boat house and canoes on dock of Lake Louise with mountains and trees in background
Lake Louise boat and cross-country ski house

What Can You Do in 4-5 Hours at Lake Louise?

With 4 to 5 hours at Lake Louise, you can hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House for a cup of tea, snack, and/or lunch. This is another popular Lake Louise attraction that shouldn’t be missed.

The hike is 4.5 miles return and will take 1.5 – 2 hours roundtrip. It starts from the paved promenade path along the lakeshore. While there’s nothing scary about this forest trail (flat packed dirt, well-marked) it can be a vigorous uphill effort depending on your fitness. But not to worry, there are several places to stop for a rest and enjoy the view. 

Sign showing distance of Lake Agnes Trail
Trail sign to Lake Agnes Tea House
View from Lake Agnes Tea House

The trail will bring you to Mirror Lake, Beehive Rock, switchbacks, a pretty waterfall, great views, and…stairs – just before you reach the tea house (about 50 of them). Once you arrive at the tea house, you’ll have a wide choice of tea to enjoy within the log cabin or the splendour of the outdoors. 

While the Agnes Tea House is a beautiful and cool experience be prepared for the reality of crowds, and line-ups. If you find yourself being disappointed that you weren’t able to enjoy the serenity of the area as you had planned, take a deep breath…look around. It’ll come to you. 

The Agnes Tea House is only open from June to mid-October. Credit cards are accepted, however, I recommend having some cash (CDN or USA) just in case as technology can be temperamental in the mountains. ~$15 will cover the cost of a tea and sandwich. Be prepared to carry your garbage down with you.

Additional Information

Parking and Shuttles

Parking at Lake Louise is ~$21 a day. 

The parking lot is quite big but it’s at a premium. If you want to drive, the best time to visit is early pre-dawn (that would be before 6:00 AM) or later in the day after 5:00 PM. The sun doesn’t set until around 9:00 PM so if you are planning a quick visit going later is a great option. 

There are plenty of shuttles that will take you to Lake Louise. Reservations are recommended. The Parks Canada shuttle is the cheapest.

Bus stop Lake Louise
Lake Louise bus shelter

If you’re interested in exploring more of the area than just Lake Louise, some shuttles will take you to Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and the Lake Louise gondola in one day. 

Other Ways To Get To Lake Louise

Lake Louise lakeshore is 4.5 km from the village with an elevation of 250 m. 

Biking

Biking is an option to get to Lake Louise if you want physical activity. If you are road cycling be aware there is high traffic volume on this road with modest shoulders. If you have a mountain bike, I suggest taking the Tramline Trail. It’s a scenic forested trail that is not very technical. It is all uphill but the gradient varies with the steepest being at the start. The Tramline trail begins in the west village past the Hostel.  

Hiking

If you’re interested in hiking to Lake Louise you can take Tramline Trail or the Louise Creek Trail which is shorter (2.8 km) but steeper. Hiking to Lake Louise is a good option if you only want to see the lake and take some photos. If you are planning to hike as your activity at the lake, I would opt to take the shuttle and save your energy and time hiking one of the more impressive hikes from the lake.  

What Is At Lake Louise?

The largest building at Lake Louise is the majestic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel (book here). The hotel operates as the pseudo-service centre for the area with restaurants, a spa, and shops. 

It also provides rentals for canoeing, skating, cross-country skiing, and sleigh rides. 

There’s a boathouse on the lake which provides canoe and cross-country ski rentals. 

On the far side of the main parking lot, there are public washrooms.

View of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Public restrooms at Lake Louise
Lake Louise public washrooms are located on the southwest side of the first parking lot.

Places To Eat At Lake Louise

The Chateau Lake Louise Hotel is the only place at the lake where you can purchase food. The options are upscale and quite pricey so if you’re on a budget packing a lunch will save you money.

The best option for a quick grab-and-go is the Guide’s Pantry, a deli-style outlet with sandwiches, salads, and pastries. It’s open 24 hours and offers online ordering which could be a time saver. Despite being the cheapest option, a sandwich and a drink will cost about $23.

The Chateau Lake Louise offers an Afternoon Tea with great views of the lake. The experience wasn’t worth the price for me (I’m more of an Agnes Lake Tea house hiker) however, it would appeal to and be enjoyable for those looking for an urban posh mountain experience. Reservations are required for hotel and day guests.

There are several other fine dining options available for breakfast, lunch, and supper, all of which require reservations, and are only available to hotel guests

Other Things Nearby

Moraine Lake

You can easily do Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in one visit as the two lakes are only 20-minutes apart. Private vehicles are not allowed at Moraine Lake so the easiest way to see both lakes is to take a shuttle. 

Parks Canada operates a Lake Connector shuttle between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake that leaves every 20 minutes. To see both lakes, with drive time, give yourself a minimum of 3 hours (this would be the speedy version).

Moraine Lake can be experienced the same way as Lake Louise. An hour will let you explore the lakeshore trail, capture some photos, and visit the gift shop. If you have a few hours rent a canoe, which is very popular at Moraine Lake (although you might not want to canoe twice in one day). 

View of Moraine Lake in Banff
Moraine Lake

Getting to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake is Complicated!
Download our FREE PDF

Guide includes shuttle, bus, and tour options as well as reservation windows

There’s no wrong choice in deciding whether to see Lake Louise or Moraine Lake first. It comes down to personal preference and logistics but I would recommend visiting the one you plan to do the most activities at first. 

My preference is to visit Lake Louise and then Moraine. I like to do more at Lake Louise, so I enjoy being in the area longer before the crowds arrive. I also find Lake Louise more spacious so it takes longer to feel crowded than Moraine Lake.

Lake Louise Summer Gondola

The Lake Louise ski hill gondola is another area attraction you can visit at the same time as Lake Louise. The Parks Canada shuttle to Lake Louise leaves from the ski hill parking so it’s easy to pair the two together. 

The gondola is the opportunity to explore the ski hill in the summer. One of the reasons this is my favourite ski hill is because of the fantastic views. How much time you want to spend here depends on how much you want to explore the area. The gondola is a 14 min ride each way so plan a minimum of 1.5 hours. 

Chateau Lake Louise across the lake with rainbow above

Can You See Everything in the Lake Louise Area in One Day?

It is possible to visit Lake Louise Lake Shore, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise Village, and Lake Louise Gondola in one day as all of the attractions are within an easy drive. If you choose to do so be prepared for a long day. 

If you don’t need to pack everything into one day, I recommend spreading your visit over two or more days. Doing everything in one day is like devouring a box of chocolates without allowing it to melt in your mouth. It tastes great but you miss the texture and taste to savour and extend the experience making it that much more enjoyable.

Whether you have 15 minutes or 5 hours, Lake Louise and the surrounding area is a beautiful experience not to be missed.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know?

Are you traveling to Banff and need a game plan so you don’t miss out on the best things to do? Check out our itinerary

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid the crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times!

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO
BANFF

BANFF TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Banff National Park, check out our Banff Homepage

THINGS TO DO: Don’t miss all that Banff has to offer including Lake Louise, Banff Hot Springs, the Cave and Basin Historical Site, and shopping downtown

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Find out how to get to Banff and what reservations
you may need

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Banff National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Banff YouTube Playlist

LEGAL INFORMATION

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. We are compensated for referring traffic and business to Amazon and other companies linked to on this site.