The most common questions that everybody asks when they see pictures of Peyto Lake is: Is the colour photoshopped? Is it real? How can I get there?

Peyto Lake is a popular Canadian hotspot thanks to easy accessibility by car, easy access to elevated view, countless Instagram pictures and overall popularity of Banff National Park.

Peyto Lake, Canada - photoshopped or real

You can learn all about Peyto Lake in this article where we answer every question you might have.

Why is Peyto Lake so blue?

Glacial fed lakes anywhere around the world have either grey or aquamarine colour similar to Peyto Lake thanks to the rock flour (also called glacial milk). The rock flour is created by a glacier sliding down the valley. Glacier grinds the surface of the bedrock underneath creating the dust that is carried away by melted water. Depending on the type of the rock, glacial milk can reflect sun rays in different hues of blue, green or grey. Swimming in these waters leaves a grey dusty film on your skin.

Peyto Lake, Canada - photoshopped or real

Many lakes in the world have similar and maybe even better hues of aquamarine colour, for example, Laguna 69 in Peru, plenty of Chilean or Patagonian lakes. Another example is McArthur Lake in Yoho National Park which has indigo colour but to get there you have to hike a couple of hours. The biggest amount of aquamarine water flow we’ve seen is Baker River in Chile.

About Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake lies at elevation 1,860 m and it is fed by glacial water from Peyto Glacier. Lakes at this elevation are frozen from November till the beginning of June. Water from the lake flows through Mistaya Canyon few kilometers downstream and later into Saskatchewan River.

Bill Peyto whose name carries this most photographed lake in the Canadian Rockies is the person with a pipe who welcomes you entering the town of Banff. The lake got its name to honour the person who was one of the first park wardens and outfitter who guided tourist on a hunt for true Canadian wilderness at the beginning of 20th century.

Peyto Lake, Canada - photoshopped or real

Where is Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake is located in Banff National Park on the scenic road Icefields Parkway, 100km north from Banff (or 40km north from Lake Louise). On an ideal day driving time from Banff is about one hour (from Lake Louise about half an hour). Once you pass a big open area with Bow Lake on the left-hand side with Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, it is your next stop on the left. As you reach the highest point of the pass this is your turn-off.

Peyto Lake, Canada - photoshopped or real

Peyto Lake parking lot

There are two parking lots at the Bow Summit (aka Peyto Lake lookout). The main parking lot for visitors is about 500m from the Icefields Parkway exit. Is also the first parking lot. Further up the road is parking for buses and disabled right next to the viewing platform. You can drive up here and use it to drop off your passengers. Parking is free and very busy during the summer.

Peyto Lake, Canada - photoshopped or real

Bow Summit Lookout

From the parking lot, it is only about 10 minutes walking up to the viewpoint. The trail is paved with a slow incline. As you reach connectors you are pretty much at the viewpoint. The trail will suddenly open up and at the end is wooden lookout point.

If you are coming to enjoy this place by yourself, you need to come very early.

After 8 am, the parking lot turns into a giant bus terminal when tour buses and crowds roll in. This is one of the most visited places in the Canadian Rockies. Either come early in the morning or be prepared to do some more exercise.

Peyto Lake, Canada - photoshopped or real

Peyto Lake hike

You can walk down to the shore of the lake to dip your feet in it. It takes only about 40 minutes down and one hour back. The trail starts at the lookout through well-worn exposed rocky area towards right hand of the platform. You can even bring your own kayak or fishing rod (but need to obtain a fishing license at Banff’s visitor center) but as you get down the lake looks less glamorous. There are better places in the Canadian Rockies to do these activities, such as Moraine Lake.

Peyto Lake, Canada - photoshopped or real

Bonus view

There is one more lookout that not many people know about. Many of the Peyto Lake pictures you see on the postcards were taken from here.

From the upper part of the parking lot for buses, follow the old fire road to get to the old Bow Summit. If you like the solitude that Canadian Rockies offer, you can find it here.

If you continue on the dirt road past the old Bow Summit lookout, you can see the view of the Bow Lake and Bow Valley.

One last tip: Morning sun is better for the picture because in the evening the sun is behind mountains.

Peyto Lake, Canada - photoshopped or real

The big question answered

Peyto Lake doesn’t need to be photoshopped. Most of the Peyto Lake pictures don’t use any editing. Or minimal as any other picture. The colour really is that insanely blue. Go see yourself!


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About Maya Steiningerova

Heyo, I’m Maya! An adventure athlete currently living near the Canadian Rockies with my partner in crime Michal. I love running in the mountains, jumping in the ice cold lakes, mountain biking and trying not so common activities, such as mountaineering. By showing that an ordinary person can live an extraordinary life, my hope is to inspire you to live an adventurous life and provide you with tips and tools for your own adventure.