Moraine Lake in Banff National Park is Canada’s most beautiful lake, and we’ve been lucky to see it many times. While due to its increased popularity, it’s getting harder to visit by car or shuttle, biking to Moraine Lake is still easy and our favourite.
With the melting snow and increased temperatures in delayed Canadian spring, it’s no wonder people are excited about outdoor adventures. Choosing between hiking, biking, stand-up paddleboarding, and many other activities is hard.
Biking, especially on roads, is usually possible as a first spring activity before the lakes thaw for stand-up paddleboarding and trails dry for hiking.
Biking to Moraine Lake is, without a doubt, one of the prettiest rides in Alberta. I cannot think of a ride with a better finish than seeing Moraine Lake without the crowds!
After many bike rides to Moraine Lake, it was about time I wrote about it and shared my experience and tips.
Let’s get right into it.
This blog post is about my experience biking to Moraine Lake, with tips for your ride and more biking options at the end.
Biking to Moraine Lake
If you’d like to visit Moraine Lake during the season, you can bike or book a shuttle, as personal vehicles are not allowed on Moraine Lake Road in 2023. For more info and all shuttle options, read our Moraine Lake guide.
Stats for Moraine Lake bike ride
- Distance: 24 km round-trip
- Elevation gain: 330 m
- Maximum elevation: 1,915 m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time: 1h20min to Moraine Lake (with stops for our son), 45 minutes back to the parking lot
Biking to Moraine Lake in all seasons
I rode the Moraine Lake Road in spring before the road opens, during summer with traffic, and in autumn when the road closes.
Every season offers different conditions, but the fantastic reward remains unchanged.
I remember biking to Moraine Lake in autumn years ago. While the weather in October is cool, the chances of seeing the famous blue of Moraine Lake are higher than in spring. And the dusting of snow on Ten Peaks makes it even more special.
Now that Moraine Lake Road is closed for personal vehicles in the summer of 2023, there are only buses and shuttles on the road. From my experience, they obey the 50km/h speed limit and drive carefully. But in this case, you will share Moraine Lake view with hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
I rode to Moraine Lake in spring before the road opened a few years ago and in May 2023. But conditions change every year. A few years ago, when we went for a ride at the end of May, there was lots of snow and slush on the road.
When we reached the avalanche part of the road, about 3 km before the lake, the snow was more than knee deep, and a snow plow was clearing the road so Parks Canada could open it after the May long weekend.
Biking to Moraine Lake – my experience
We drove from Calgary the day before the ride and stayed at Mountaineer Lodge at Lake Louise Village. After fuelling up at breakfast, we drove to the start of Moraine Lake Road, where there’s a small parking lot with about ten parking spots.
Several people were preparing for the ride, and everyone was excited. The weather couldn’t have been any better, and we were all looking forward to being one of the first people to welcome Moraine Lake from its winter hibernation.
After walking around the barricades and new ramps, we started the ride. It starts slow; the first 2 km are slightly uphill, just enough to warm up before the first real uphill. While the road sign at the beginning of Moraine Lake Road reads “steep, narrow mountain road”, I failed to see any steep parts. The road is uphill, but it’s far from being steep on any section.
While the road goes through a thick forest, occasional clearings and views exist. The first and best view along the road is across the valley at Lake Louise ski resort. And then there are a couple of creeks providing an option to fill up a water bottle (only if using a filter).
But the Moraine Lake Road is only 12 km long, so the ride wasn’t long. The flat sections alternate with uphill sections in a very steady manner.
In 2023, the road is scheduled to open on June 1st, and we biked to Moraine Lake 10 days prior. The road was completely dry, with no snow in sight.
We met several bikers on road bikes flying past and families with chariots taking their kids along for the ride. It was sad to see so many young people using e-bikes. While e-bikes make the ride easier, you should work a bit to deserve the view. I always thought e-bikes were for older people or people with physical limitations, not for fit people. Anyway…
Once we saw the giant Mount Temple in front of us, I knew we were almost at the avalanche section (in winter, the tracks are set for cross-country skiing up to this point).
And then the view of Ten Peaks opened up. The view I was so excited to see again. It was about 3 km downhill from the avalanche section to Moraine Lake.
I had no idea how Moraine Lake would look so soon in the season. The last spring I visited, it was far from blue, with huge ice chunks floating around.
This time, we were truly awarded the most beautiful view of Moraine Lake. The teal colour was stunning from the shore and even better from the Rockpile viewpoint. The slushy ice floating on the lake didn’t bother a few people who went for a dip.
After riding back to the parking lot, our son napped in the chariot, so we decided to extend the ride and go to Lake Louise. The traffic was heavy, and it was all uphill. The 2.5km ride to Lake Louise was a bit tiring. At Lake Louise lakeshore, it was a whole other story. It was swarming with people, selfie sticks and barely any space for a photo or room on a bench.
After a few minutes, we turned around and went to the Deer Lodge’s patio for dinner. Their bison burger was just what I needed, and I highly recommend it.
Not only did we fill our cups with this fantastic bike ride, but my cup was overflowing with excitement days after.
We will bike to Moraine Lake again, and one day, our son will join us on his bike as well.
FAQ about biking to Moraine Lake
Where to park your car when biking to Moraine Lake?
When visiting before or after the road opens, barricades indicate the closure of Moraine Lake Road. Don’t be alarmed. You can drive around them and see a small parking lot at the beginning of Moraine Lake Road. It only has about ten spots, but it wasn’t even half full when we visited during May long weekend at 10 am.
If this parking lot is full, there’s another option. Keep driving up Lake Louise Drive, and shortly after the Moraine Lake Road turnoff, you see a picnic area Fairview with lots of parking spots.
There was another option up the road at Great Divide Trailhead, but it’s now closed.
Parking at Lake Louise Village is not recommended. Not only it’s limited to 2 hours, but the road leading up to Moraine Lake Road turnoff would also be the highest incline of your day.
When is the best time for biking to Moraine Lake?
The glacial fed glacial-fed Moraine Lake sits at an elevation of 1,885 m and thaws late, usually end of May.
If you bike the road to Moraine Lake shortly before the road opens and arrive at the lake, there might be lots of ice blocks floating around. The water level is low, and the lake won’t have the famous blue colour yet. The lake fills up in June when the gorgeous colour starts to appear.
Biking the road in May before it opens for vehicles might only be possible until the Ten Peaks viewpoint. We’ve biked this stretch and had a great time. It was so hot we could bike in shorts and t-shirts while the road was semi-dry with huge snowbanks around. We could ride to the Ten Peaks viewpoint, where we met the plow making its way further and preparing the road for opening.
You can bike when the road is open during summer, but nothing beats the silence and freedom of having the road to yourself.
Biking the Moraine Lake Road in October after it closes for vehicle traffic might be a better idea. You should check weather conditions beforehand, and if it hasn’t snowed heavily, you can bike all the way to Moraine Lake and have it all to yourself. What a treat!
I recommend biking to Moraine Lake whenever you have time; no matter the season, you won’t regret it!
Another option for biking to Moraine Lake
Another option is biking the Moraine Lake Highline Trail, a single-track through the forest. There are several bridge crossings and beautiful vistas along the way. This would be a great option in summer when it’s hot and the road is busy with buses.
If you bike the Moraine Lake Highline Trail before the road opens to vehicle traffic, you might be able to park before the gate to the road, but there are only a few spots for parking.
When there are no spots left or if Moraine Lake Road is open for traffic, you can park at the paid Lake Louise parking lot (and then downhill to Moraine Lake Road) or at the free but limited parking at Samson Mall in Lake Louise village (and then need to bike uphill).
You start on Moraine Lake Road for about 2 km before turning right at the Moraine Lake Highline Trail/Paradise Valley Trail sign. From there, it’s 8.4 km to Moraine Lake. However, the last 3 km of the Moraine Lake Highline Trail is closed every year from mid to late summer to protect bear habitat. I suggest checking in at the Lake Louise visitor centre before the ride to see if it’s open.
Bike rentals for Moraine Lake
If you don’t have your bike, you can rent one at Wilson Mountain Sports in Lake Louise Village. But make sure to book online in advance. When I checked their website before the long weekend, they had no bikes available.
Can you swim in Moraine Lake?
Yes, you can swim in Moraine Lake. But I think a more comfortable would be a dip, not a swim. Your muscles would be grateful, and your recovery would be faster.
Just bear in mind that the year-round temperature of Moraine Lake hovers around 5C, so it’s a matter of seconds until you get hypothermia.
The same goes for Lake Louise. However, after stand-up paddleboarding on a very hot day, I enjoyed my dip in Lake Louise. It was a dip with a few swim strokes, which felt too long. A quick dip in and out would be more enjoyable.
Staying overnight near Moraine Lake
The only option for staying directly at Moraine Lake is at Moraine Lake Lodge. It’s a luxurious stay in a room or cabin with a hefty price tag.
For an early start to visit Moraine Lake, you can stay in several other lodges in the Lake Louise area. I highly recommend staying overnight as close as possible to Moraine Lake so you can get there early.
Hotel options near Moraine Lake:
- Deer Lodge – check the reviews and their rates here
- Lake Louise Inn – check the reviews and their rates here
- Paradise Lodge and Bungalows – check the reviews and their rates here
Hostel & camping near Moraine Lake:
- HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre hostel in Lake Louise Village – check their rates here
- Lake Louise Campground – available for vehicles and tents starting at 29,25 CAD per night
- Lake Louise Overflow – conveniently located along Trans-Canada Highway (more info in our camping guide linked below), it’s only available for vehicle camping (no tents) for a fee of 11,50 CAD per night. We’ve stayed here several times before visiting Moraine Lake or Lake Louise and found it to be the best option on how to beat the crowds. Rent a Smile Campervan from us, and you can do the same.
For more camping options in Banff, read our comprehensive guide.
Our essentials for the Moraine Lake bike ride
If you use a filter, you can fill up water while biking/hiking the Moraine Lake Highline Trail or right from Moraine Lake. We always carry LifeStraw bottles for all of our trips.
One of the best-rated sunscreens from EWG, which I use and highly recommend, is Thinksport and Attitude mineral sunscreen. Alternatively, you can pack a sunscreen stick to re-apply during the day without getting your hands messy.
We always carry a tube repair kit and a spare bike tire, especially when a long walk is the only option to get back with a flat tire.
- Bear spray
Bear Spray Repellent is an essential item in the Canadian Rockies. If you’re flying in, you cannot take it on an airplane, but it can be purchased in most outdoor stores or rented at your hotel. Make sure you know how to use it, and keep it close.
Despite popular belief, Parks Canada stated that bear bells are ineffective in deterring bears, and you should make noise while hiking to let bears know you’re there.
When Moraine Lake Road is closed to traffic, Moraine Lake Lodge is also closed, so there’s no option to buy food or drinks.
- Park Pass
When you enter any national park in Canada, you must pay an entrance fee. You have a choice of either a daily pass or a yearly pass.
- 50 CAD per person for a daily pass, 21 CAD for a group/family
- 25 CAD per person for a yearly pass, 145.25 CAD for a group/family
The yearly Discovery Pass is valid for all National parks in Canada. You can purchase it at the gate when you enter the national park, in the Visitor’s Centre or online here.
More great bike rides in the Rockies
For day trips from Calgary, there are several great biking routes to choose from:
- Sheep River Road to Sheep River Falls – road closed till mid-May
- Highwood Pass, the highest paved pass in Canada – road closed till mid-June
- Bow Valley Parkway from Banff to Johnston Canyon – road closed from May 1 to June 25
- Legacy Trail from Canmore to Banff – bike path
- Hike & bike trip to Aylmer Lookout in Banff National Park
- 14 Awesome bike trails around Banff (for all levels)
- Mountain Biking & Fat Biking in Canmore
- Snake Indian Falls in Jasper National Park if you’d like to get off the beaten path