Moraine Lake is without doubt one of the most beautiful places in the world. The famous turquoise water and the snow capped peaks combine perfectly to create the ultimate mountain back drop.
When I first visited, I had no idea what I was about to see. I hadn’t googled it and it was in the pre-instagram days, so to say I was stunned by that first glimpse is an understatement.
My eyes almost melted out of my head. I truly had no idea that water could be so blue.
I instantly fell in love with Moraine Lake, and it’s remained a special place for me ever since. Any time a friend visits from abroad, it’s the first place I drag them to see. To see their eyes light up reminds me of my first time, and it’s something I love to share with those special to me.
It’s also an incredible place to go hiking, and some of our favourite hikes start out at Moraine Lake. Check out our post on 5 hikes from Moraine Lake!
Unfortunately though, the entire world seems to be on the same page as us, and Moraine only seems to be growing in popularity.
Cars are banned in 2023
With Parks Canada banning personal vehicles up Moraine Lake Road from 2023 completely, my guess is that bike travel up the road is going to explode! This blog post will tell you everything you need to know about cycling the Moraine Lake Road this summer. If you’re looking for general info on Moraine Lake access this year, please read our full post on how to plan your Moraine Lake trip here!
The growing popularity of Moraine Lake
Ever since Banff blew up on Instagram a few years ago, the number of visitors to Moraine has gone through the roof. What used to be a peaceful and almost spiritual experience is now punctuated by hordes of screaming kids and car horns. Sadly, Moraine has been overrun by tourists.
From May Long weekend, to the end of the summer, Moraine Lake is a zoo; hundreds of people scurrying all over the rock pile, looking for that one shot of Canada’s most iconic scenery.
As I just mentioned, what has changed this year, is that now it’s bus, taxi or bike access only. The hope is that things will be a little less crazy from now on, but for anyone that wants to visit for sunrise, or hike late, cycling might be your best option!
Cycling the Moraine Lake Road
I was just about to give up on ever seeing Moraine Lake without the crowds again, when a couple of my friends came up with the perfect solution.
Cycle up the road before it opens! (This is now relevant for the entire summer, rather than only the beginning of the season)
The problem with that idea is that for most of the year the road is covered in snow. The road becomes a cross country skiing course that stops a couple of km short of the lake. If you make it past that, you have to cross some dodgy avalanche terrain, only to reach a drained and snowy Moraine Lake…
But just before the May Long weekend, Parks Canada ploughs the road in anticipation of the summer opening. And, as we discovered, it gives you the perfect window to cycle up before the cars gain access.
The downside? …To get there, it’s 11km uphill.
- Elevation gain: 160m
- Distance: approx 11km each way
- Time: approx 1 hour up, 30 minutes down
- Difficulty: Moderate with some steep sections
The bike ride
Here’s the good news; the road might be uphill, but it’s never super, super steep. The road gently winds uphill, and so long as you’ve got a good range of gears on your bike and time on your hands, it’s totally manageable. None of our group was particularly fit, and we all made it eventually. In total, the ride uphill took roughly one hour (66 minutes to be precise).
As for the actual ride itself, it was pure bliss. Not a car in sight and the freedom to weave across both lanes in the gorgeous evening light. The perfect silence apart from the gentle hum of our pedals allowed us to chat and laugh the whole way, and drink in the incredible scenery at a leisurely pace.
As you get closer to Moraine Lake, the trees start to open out, and you’ll get incredible views of Temple Mountain and the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Something you watch for only seconds by car suddenly looms slowly, giving you plenty of time to appreciate it fully.
The best part about the entire ride being uphill (aside from the last 1 or 2 km)? Virtually the entire ride back is downhill. It only took us 30 minutes to get down again.
Don’t feel like you have to save anything for the way back!
Solitude at Moraine Lake
Finally, our group of 5 made it to Moraine Lake, and we finally had a chance to enjoy the peace and quiet we’d all been craving for so many years. All of our pain was suddenly a distant memory as we hurried around the rockpile for a view of the lake.
It seriously didn’t disappoint. The ice was just starting to melt, and the last of the evening sun was beating down on us. It was so warm in fact that a couple of us decided to swim (against our better judgement). There were even a couple of icebergs floating around for us to board…. yeah it was definitely not warm..
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed Moraine so much, and having the place to ourselves was something I was certain I would never experience.
If you love Moraine Lake but hate the crowds, this is something you have to do – seriously.
After our dip, we hung around for a few more photos and ate our terrible packed lunches (I basically brought a bag of smokies under the pretence that I was trying out a keto diet, but honestly making a sandwich just felt like too much hard work!).
We caught the last of the golden light on the mountain peaks and headed back down to the car park at the start of the road.
The ride back to Lake Louise
The ride back was seriously up there as one of the best parts of the day. Once you’ve crested the initial hill out of the parking lot (about 2km), it’s virtually entirely downhill for the rest of the ride.
With the certainty that there were no cars coming from the other direction, we were able to fully let loose and found ourselves hitting an eye watering 60kph at one point. There’s something great about blasting round a bend at full speed when you know it’s guaranteed to be clear of oncoming traffic.
I don’t cycle all that often, but it seriously reignited my passion for it. I would quite happily take a bike up the Moraine Lake Road every year, and might even consider doing it again this summer.
Biking instead of queueing
Back to the subject of crowds; if it’s more the queueing than the crowds that bother you, then perhaps cycling the road is the perfect solution for you. Even after the road has opened, it’s still a great option, although a lot more hazardous with traffic.
As long as your group has a good sense of humour, then tackling the road by bike is the best way to avoid taking the shuttle bus. No lines and no waiting. To be honest, with the size of the lines I saw last year, you’d probably reach the lake faster on the bike than you would with the bus.
With Parks Canada closing the road to cars now, there’s also far less risk of being knocked by a car. It’s far safer than it used to be and I seriously couldn’t recommend doing it more, whenever you do it.
Where does the Moraine Lake Road Start?
Moraine Lake Road begins between Lake Louise Village and Lake Louise, on the left hand side. It should easily appear when you type it into google maps. Once you enter Moraine Lake Road, the parking area is immediately on your left hand side.
As we always get a lot of questions about our gear, I thought it might be a good idea to mention some of the gear we bring along on our adventures. Here are some of the items we brought along this time!
In the photo above, I’m wearing about 3 layers. It’s kind of warm this time of year, but I’d just been for a dip in a frozen lake, so I was doing everything possible to layer up.
Underneath, I was wearing a Saucony quick dry shirt (see below), an Arcteryx Hoodie (which, as a tall slim person is probably one of the best fitting hoodies I own), and a limited edition North Face x 3 Fish Studio Men’s “Fanorak” on top (this design is sold out). It’s not a waterproof layer, but it was perfect for the light breeze.
I’m also wearing Nike Free Run shoes which were a good general runner for cycling. I wouldn’t recommend them for hardcore scrambling or hiking because the sole isn’t too thick, but for our mountain shenanigans it was perfect.
Erik also loves his outdoor gear, and was probably dressed a bit better than I was for the conditions. He’s got the Arcteryx Alpha AR Jacket and some Columbia Men’s hiking pants. He’s also got the new Columbia waterproof runners (made from recycled plastic), which is going to be awesome for summer hiking season.
For the bike ride, I wanted to wear something a little lighter, so I just wore the Saucony Men’s Freedom t-shirt which is incredibly comfortable and feels lighter than air, and some Arcteryx hiking shorts (they also made for great swimming shorts! – quick drying). They’re probably not as forgiving as your typical cycling short, but they’re a good compromise, seeing as we were going to be walking around and clambering on rocks afterwards. I didn’t want to wear lightweight lycra shorts that might rip.
Again, wearing the Nike Free Run joggers as a lightweight shoe for exercise.
If you have any questions about our gear or planning the trip, get in touch and we’re always happy to answer questions! Some of these links are affiliate links, which help me keep this blog up and running!
Other important things to pack for your bike ride up Moraine Lake Road
I would recommend bringing one or more of the following items for your bike ride:
- Plenty of water/electrolytes. I generally prefer to bring a camelbak that I can drink from on the move.
- A headlamp for the bike up/down if you’re planning to do it in the dark
- A helmet is an absolute must. High speeds and lots of buses make this extremely important.
- Some money to buy snacks/refreshments from the Moraine Lake Cafe (if you don’t want to bring food)
- Plenty of snacks
- A small backpack to carry extra layers
- Extra layers in case of bad weather/cold
- A microfibre towel incase you go swimming!
- Sunglasses and sunscreen.
Where to rent bikes to cycle the Moraine Lake Road
Bike rentals are likely to be very busy this year, as there are only a few places to rent in Lake Louise:
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise rents bikes to its guests. This is a great option if you are staying at this iconic hotel! They also have e-bikes which will make this far more enjoyable.
- Wilson Sports in Lake Louise Village also rents bikes. I would highly recommend making an advanced reservation for this and booking for the night before if you plan to cycle up before the road opens. Or make a 2 day booking if you intend to cycle down the road after a long hike.
- If you have a car, renting from Snowtips-Bactrax in Banff is also a good way to rent something cheaply
E-bikes on Moraine Lake Road
Since I originally wrote this, e-bikes have absolutely blown up. I’ve cycled this with an e-bike now and it’s a million times easier than with a regular bike (as most of the trip one way is uphill).
If you’re not a strong cyclist, I would highly recommend looking into trying to rent an e-bike or bringing your own if possible. This will save your legs if you’re hoping to hike once you arrive at Moraine Lake.
Did you rent the bicycles? Could you please provide the renting information? Thanks
Hey Jenny, we live locally and have our own bikes, but there are several local companies you can use to rent from. I’ve updated the post with a couple of local shops that rent now. I hope that helps! If possible, I would also recommend looking into e-bikes, because some shops rent them now and they make the ride a lot easier!