Planning Your Trip: Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
The majestic and world-renowned Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, is a popular tourist destination for a reason. From stunning snow-capped mountains, to mint blue glacial waters, everywhere you glance in this unique spot in the Rockies has an awe-inspiring quality. I lived and worked in Lake Louise for the 2016 season, and I can assure you that the surroundings never fall short of taking your breath away.
The beauty of Lake Louise is not, by any means, a well kept secret and thousands of tourists flock to the village each year. Below is my guide for Planning your trip to Lake Louise so you get to capture it’s beauty even with the thousands competing for it’s attention. From when to come, to getting here, where to stay, and where you can eat, hopefully this will be a helpful guide to start off planning your adventure within the Canadian Rockies!
When To Come
Timing is everything when planning a trip to Lake Louise.
There are two peak times to visit depending on what you want to get out of your experience. From November- February, the Rockies are an amazing place to participate in winter sports and activities and has a unique ‘ski-bum’ culture that can only be experienced in this part of the world. The other peak time to visit is from July- August, which will give you warm Summer days and cool nights. This season will allow you to explore the country through activities such as hiking, canoeing, and camping. Depending on what kind of experience you’re looking to have, plan accordingly. Although the climate remains relatively stable, the weather is temperamental and can get snow until June and start up as early as September. So even if you’re coming for late August or early June, pack warm clothing as snow and cold weather can be very likely.
How many visitors Banff National Park gets varies from year to year. In 2015, the estimated amount of tourists in Banff National Park was 2 million. In 2016, those numbers increased rapidly, and the park estimated 5 million. The next two years looks like it may follow in this trend, as Parks Canada is honouring the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. Therefore, in 2017 those who bought park passes in 2016 will get free entry. Beginning in 2018, Parks Canada is ensuring that admission for children under 18 is free, and provide any adult who has become a Canadian citizen in the previous 12 month’s one year free admission. This means that the park may receive more traffic, and planning ahead will be crucial to maximize your time.
Lake Louise is a small village located within Banff National Park, and can be accessed by the Trans-Canada highway. If you’re flying, I would recommend flying into Calgary airport, which would give you the most accessibility to getting to the Rockies. If it is within your budget, rent a car and do the drive yourself, as there are many gorgeous road-side stops driving through the mountains that having your own car gives you the flexibility to stop. If not, many buses do pickups right from the airport and you can pick your destination as Lake Louise. Remember not to choose ‘Banff’ as your destination, as the Banff townsite is approximately 50km away from the Lake Louise village.
Since the Calgary airport is on the Eastern side of the city, I would recommend relying on GPS or Google maps to reach the highway, which is on the Western side of the city, as the Calgary city core can be a tricky to navigate. As soon as you’re on the Trans Canada Highway, follow the signs that lead to Banff. From there on, the drive is very straightforward. It will take you about 40 minutes to an hour to get into the mountains, passing by Kananaskis and Canmore, and then another 1-1.5 hours to get to the village of Lake Louise.
Lake Louise in high season (July and August), can fill up by 10am. After the village parking fills up, they begin to shut down the highway and operate shuttles that leave from the village about 2km away. My recommendation is to go as early as possible, as the traffic is congested and can be super frustrating to navigate. There were many times this past season where guests told us they were waiting in the traffic for hours before being able to park.
Where To Stay
Id you’re looking to stay in the Lake Louise Village, I recommend booking as early on as you can. Especially with the new traffic in 2017 and 2018, planning ahead will ensure you get a spot somewhere!
If you are looking for something cheaper…
HI- Alpine Hostel
- Has a sauna, games room and a cafe
- Fire pit and BBQ out back
- Parking, bike storage, free wifi and linens
- Both single and mixed dorm rooms are offered
Lake Louise Campground.
- 1 km from Lake Louise Village, 4km from Lake Louise lakeshore
- 6 person maximum people per campsite
- Maximum 1 RV per site, Maximum 2 vehicles
- Fire and no-fire loop campsite selections
- Designated loops with food lockers for walk-in campers
If you are looking for something luxury…
The Post Hotel
- Voted the #1 Resort in Canada in 2013
- Number of dining options in hotel, include The Outpost
- Simple rooms, suites, rustic-chic cabins and a private mountain lodge available
- 4.6 km from the Lake Louise lakeshore
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
- Built right on the shore of Lake Louise
- Mountain or lake view rooms available, including luxury suites and club-level rooms
- Number of dining options in the hotel, including tourist shops
- Amenities include spa, indoor pool, gym and outdoor activity packages are made available
If you are looking for something close to attractions…
- Walking distance from the Lake Louise lakeshore
- Sauna, hot tub
- Outdoor restaurant patio with glacier views
- 1.5 km from the Lake Louise lakeshore
- Country, log-cabin style accommodations
- Free parking
If you’re trying to plan in a short time and you’re having trouble finding accommodations in the village, Banff and Canmore, or Field and Golden BC, are good options that aren’t out of the way.
What To Eat
There is not much access to goods in the Lake Louise village as it is very quaint. There are dining options in both the Post Hotel and the Fairmont if you are looking to eat out for lunch or dinner. Samson Mall houses Laggan’s Deli and Trailhead Cafe (both are good for a reasonably priced breakfast or lunch), a liquor store, a Bar & Grill, and a marketplace. The marketplace is slightly overpriced to capitalize on the tourists, so my suggestion is to do some grocery shopping in Calgary, Canmore (there is a large grocery store right off the highway), or in Banff at the IGA off Banff Ave. You’ll find better deals on groceries and not be spending too much on food once you get here.
My favourite restaurants in Lake Louise for a nice dinner is the Outpost (located in the Post Hotel), the Station Restaurant (located down Sentinel Road), or the Glacier Saloon (located in the Fairmont).
After traveling across Canada and every province, Lake Louise is still my favourite place in the country. If you’re planning on heading to Canada, or if you’re already there, I highly suggest making Lake Louise a must-see attraction. Don’t hesitate to send a message my way to ask any questions, and visit back to get my Lake Louise Bucket List!