How to See the Lake Louise Sunrise (2024)

Seeing the Lake Louise sunrise in Banff National Park is one of the coolest things we have ever experienced.  The turquoise water of the lake against the mountain backdrop is truly stunning.  If you’re wondering exactly the best way to see Lake Louise, especially as the sun rises in the morning, you’ve come to the right place.  

Because of its popularity, planning a visit to Lake Louise, especially during the peak summer months, can be a bit of a logistical nightmare.  The parking lot is often full by 5:00 am, and you definitely don’t want to show up to the lot thinking you’ll grab a spot only to get turned away and have to scramble to make backup plans for the day.

Kendall and I visited Lake Louise in July as part of a last-minute 2-day Banff Trip in July. Because we had planned everything with such short notice, we had to scramble a bit to see the things we wanted to, and we weren’t able to visit Lake Moraine (next time!). We learned a lot from this trip, and there are definitely a few things we would have done differently. 

In this article, we’ll go through exactly how to see the sunrise at Lake Louise.  We’ll talk about the best ways to get to the Lake, what time to go, and our recommendations for the best way to experience the lake itself.

Where is Lake Louise?

For those who aren’t familiar with this iconic spot, Lake Louise is part of Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.  This park is over 2,500 square miles and is one of our favorites, as it’s chock full of wildlife, great hiking trails, and incredible turquoise lakes like Lake Louise.

The lake itself is a 38-minute drive from the nearby town of Banff and is one of the most popular things to visit in the entire park. The water’s unique turquoise color comes from the ‘rock flour’ (powered rock sediment) that is deposited in the lake from glacier runoff.

tourist in an inflatable kayak on Lake Louise in Banff National Park
Lake Louise is one of the most popular spots in Banff National Park

How to Get to Lake Louise

There are four ways to get to Lake Louise in Banff National Park. You can drive a personal vehicle, ride the Parks Canada Shuttle, use the Roam Public Transit service, or hike/bike to the lake. Each option has pros and cons; we’ll go through each in detail. 

Personal Vehicle

You can drive a personal vehicle to the lake, but it’s not recommended.  This lake is so popular that the parking lot is often full by 5:00 or 5:30 am.  

Because Kendall and I had brought our inflatable kayaks with us, we wanted to drive our personal vehicle to avoid the hassle of bringing our kayaks onto the shuttle system.  

We arrived around 5:20, thinking we had plenty of time, and were just barely able to get the last parking spot. Right after we arrived, we saw the park rangers closing the entrance to the parking lot. If we were to do things again, we would have chosen to lug our kayak bags on the shuttle.  

The biggest downside of using our car was that we didn’t have access to the connector shuttle ticket to get from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake.  Every visitor who purchases a Parks Canada Shuttle Ticket or a Roam Super Pass has automatic access to this connector shuttle. And, the fee to park at the lake is expensive; we paid almost $40. 

Parks Canada Shuttle

The Parks Canada Shuttle is a fantastic service that picks visitors up from the Lake Louise Park and Ride at the Lake Louise Ski Resort and drops them off at the Lake. Kendall and I would do this if we visited the Lake again. 

You must reserve your ticket online in advance on the Parks Canada Reservations website. Half of the ticket sales will open at the same time, April 18th, at 8:00 am MDT, and the other half will open at 8:00 a.m. MDT, two days before departure time. When I checked the website in June, all of the advance tickets were sold out until mid-September, but there were still a decent number of last-minute tickets.

Honestly, this website feels a little clunky, and I had a hard time finding the shuttle ticket link.  You’ll need to go to the ‘Day Use’ tab, select the Parks Canada Shuttle, and then hit ‘search.’  This will pull up a Canada map with dots.  You’ll need to click on the ‘Western’ dot, then the ‘Banff-Lake Louise dot, then the ‘shuttle’ dot. 

Parks Canada Shuttle Map showing western and central Canada.
Click on the ‘Western’ dot
Parks Canada Shuttle reservation map showing different areas of Banff National Park.
Then the ‘Banff/Lake Louise’ dot
Parks Canada Shuttle reservation website showing different areas of Banff National Park.
Then ‘Shuttle’. Image credit: Parks Canada Reservations

There are three types of shuttle tickets: the regular Lake Louise ticket, the Moraine Lake shuttle ticket, and the Alpine Start shuttle. A pass on the Moraine Lake Connector Shuttle is included with any of the three ticket purchases. 

The table below discusses each shuttle line in more detail.  

Parks Canada Shuttle Routes and Frequency

Parks Canada Shuttle Routes and Frequency
Lake Louise ShuttleMoraine LakeAlpine Start ShuttleMoraine Lake Connector Shuttle
RouteFrom Lake Louise Park and ride to Lake Louise Parking LotFrom Lake Louise Park and Ride to Moraine LakeFrom Lake Louise Parking Lot to Lake MoraineFrom Lake Louise Parking Lot to Lake Moraine
Departure PointLake Louise Park and ride at Lake Louise Ski ResortLake Louise Park and RideLake Louise Parking Lot
Running DatesMay 17-Oct 14June 1-Oct 14June 1-Oct 14June 1-Oct 14
Departure Schedule TO Destination6:30 am-6:00 pm6:30 am to 6:00pm4 am and 5 am7 am-7 pm
Last Return Shuttle Departure Time7:30 PM7:30 PM7 pm via the lake connector7:00 PM
Departure Frequencyevery 30 minutesevery 30 minutesonly 2 daily departuresevery 30 minutes
Advance Reservation Required?YESYESYESNO (if purchased a Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, or Alpine Start Shuttle Ticket)
Need to Pay for Parking?NONOYESNO (if parked at the park and ride)

Things to Know About Riding the Parks Canada Shuttle

Here are the other most important things to know about riding the Parks Canada Shuttle:

  • The shuttle reservation cost is $3.00 per person.
  • Each shuttle ticket includes access to the connector shuttle to get to Lake Moraine; you can board this connector shuttle any time during the day on a first-come, first-serve basis. 
  • Unless you have the Alpine Start ticket, you’ll need to park at the Lake Louise Park and Ride at the Lake Louise Ski Resort.  If you try to park at Lake Louise, they won’t let you get on the connector shuttle to Lake Moraine. 
  • Your ticket from the park and ride to Lake Louise is valid for a one-hour window; you can show up any time during that hour.  
  • Your ticket includes return service back to the park and ride at any time during the day while the shuttle is running.
  • You must have a printed or downloaded copy of your reservation AND a matching photo ID.  Cell service is limited at the Park and Ride, so make sure to download before heading out for the day. 
  • Once reserved, no changes to the reservation are permitted.
  • You still need a valid Banff National Park pass.  Your shuttle reservation does NOT count as your park pass; you need both. 

Roam Public Transit

The other public transit option for getting to Lake Louise is the Roam Public Transit system. This is the best choice if you need transportation from the town of Banff or simply don’t want to drive to the Lake Louise Park and Ride.

There are two ticket options with Roam Transit: a one-way pass for $10 or a Super Pass for $25. A one-way pass only gives you a one-way ride, so we don’t see the advantage of this ticket because you’ll need return transportation once you’re done at the lake.  

The Super Pass gives you unlimited rides on Roam Transit during that same day and includes a ride on the connector shuttle between Lake Louise and Lake Moraine. We think the Super Pass is definitely the way to go if you decide to go with Roam. 

Here’s a map of the transit lines from the Roam Transit website.

Roam transit map to get to Lake Louise in Banff National Park.
Image Credit: Roam Transit

Hike or Bike to Lake Louise

The fourth option for getting to Lake Louise is walking or biking.  To walk, you’ll start at the Samson Mall, and it takes around 45 minutes one way on foot along the Tramline Trail. 

The biggest downside of walking or biking to Lake Louise is that you won’t have a way to get to Moraine Lake.  Moraine Lake is 14 km (8.6 miles) from Lake Louise, so walking there isn’t recommended.  Even if you’re an avid hiker, the road to Moraine Lake has no sidewalks or shoulders, and there is quite a bit of shuttle and commercial traffic (even though private vehicles aren’t allowed). 

How to Buy Your Banff Parks Pass

In addition to any shuttle reservation tickets, you’ll need a valid park pass to enter Banff. You can either purchase the day pass for $11 or the Discovery Pass for $75.25. The Discovery Pass is your best bet if you’ll be in the park for over a few days or want to explore other Canadian national parks. 

You can purchase your pass online, at the park gates, or at the visitor centers in Banff or Lake Louise. Kendall and I purchased our pass in Banff on the afternoon of our arrival.  

You must always have your pass printed and displayed on the dash of your vehicle while you’re in the park.  

Best Places to See the Lake Louise Sunrise

The best spots for seeing the Lake Louise Sunrise are either on the lake itself in a canoe or kayak or from a secluded spot along the shoreline (if you can find one). We think that getting out on the lake itself is the way to go if you can make it work. 

How to See the Sunrise Via Canoe/Kayak

If you’re able to get out on the lake itself, this is the absolute best way to see the sunrise, as you’ll be away from the crowds on the shoreline.  

Kendall and I lugged our own inflatable kayaks from the parking lot.  The only boat dock is at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Boathouse and is only available for use by those renting canoes from the boathouse, so if you bring your own canoe/kayak, you’ll have to awkwardly launch it from the rocks on the shore.  However, we didn’t think this was a big deal, and we absolutely loved being out on the lake for the sunrise. 

tourist with an inflatable kayak on the Lake Louise shoreline to see the Lake Louise sunrise
We launched our kayaks from this shallow, rocky area along the shoreline

If you can’t carry your own inflatable kayak, there is one rental option along the Lake. The Fairmont Chateau Boathouse, located on the west side of the lake, rents canoes, but they’re expensive. And rentals for non-guests don’t start until 8:30 a.m., so you won’t be able to see the sunrise. The only way to go out earlier with Chateau is to be a guest and use their sunrise experience.  

Regardless, if you do decide to rent a canoe later in the morning, here are the rental prices from the Chateau website:

  • In-house Guest: $105 for one hour
  • In-house Guest: $95 for 30 minutes
  • Day Visitor: $165 for one hour
  • Day Visitor: $155 for 30 minutes
canoes in the distance on Lake Louise in Banff National Park
We did see a small group of canoes, likely using the sunrise experience with Chateau.

Sunrise/Sunset Times for Lake Louise

Lake Louise is open year-round, although the shuttles only operate from May to October. Here’s a quick table of the sunrise and sunset times and day lengths throughout the year.   

Lake Louise, Banff National Park Sunrise/Sunset Times
Sunrise First of the MonthSunset First of the MonthDay Length First of the Month
January8:49 AM4:46 PM7 hr 56 min
February8:23 AM5:34 PM9 hr 10 min
March**7:28 AM6:26 PM10 hr 58 min
April7:18 AM8:19 PM13 hr
May6:15 AM9:08 PM14 hr 53 min
June5:33 AM9:52 PM16 hr 19 min
July5:32 AM10:04 PM16 hr 31 min
August6:09 AM9:31 PM15 hr 21 min
September6:58 AM8:29 PM13 hr 30 min
October7:46 AM7:20 PM11 hr 34 min
November**8:39 AM6:16 PM9 hr 37 min
December8:28 AM4:39 PM8 hr 10 min
***=hour changes during these months due to daylight savings

Lake Louise Sunrise FAQ

Where Can I Watch the Sunrise in Lake Louise?

The best places to see the sunrise at Lake Louise are from the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel or from one of the many spots around the shore.  If you are able to carry your own inflatable kayak, you can see the sunrise from the lake itself.  Or, if you are a guest at the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel, you can pay for their sunrise canoe experience to get out on the lake. 

Is Lake Louise Sunrise Worth It?

Seeing the sunrise from our kayaks on Lake Louise was one of the most unique things we have ever done. We had the lake almost all to ourselves, and the turquoise water was incredible. Experiencing the Lake Louise Sunrise is absolutely worth it, and we recommend it to everyone. 

How Early Should I Get to Moraine Lake for Sunrise?

You should plan on arriving 30-45 minutes before the sunrise.  This will give you enough time to get off the shuttle or park your car and find a good viewpoint along the lake shore.  If you are able to bring your own inflatable kayak, you’ll need to arrive 45 minutes to one hour early to have time to inflate your kayak and get out on the water.