Exploring Moraine Lake and the Consolation Lakes trail

There was one proviso with my summer trip to the Banff National Park in Canada: go and see Moraine Lake. It was that simple - jump in the hire car, park up, and look at it. Yet the idea seemed distant and other-worldly, because Moraine Lake, with no exception, is the landscape of my dreams.

  • Published on 7th June 2020
  • Canada Category

I doubt I’m alone in this thinking either. Moraine Lake is probably, to many, quite simply ‘that nameless, super pretty place’ - it’s a very common search result when looking up generic nature and scenery images. In fact, I just searched for “mountains and lake” in Google Images, and Moraine Lake and its famous backdrop, the Valley of the Ten Peaks, crops up twice in the first row of results.

The idea of taking down the top boy of my travel bucket list before the age of 30 seemed oddly bizarre - when you’ve seen the best, where do you go next? Well, how about a mere two hour stroll from the top boy to one of its incredible neighbours, the Consolation Lakes? One thing was for sure - it was going to be an extraordinary day in Canada.

Morning travel to Moraine Lake

I arrived at Lake Louise Drive, off of Highway 93, at around 8am. The road takes you through the Lake Louise hamlet - a gathering and transportation hub for tourists and the gateway to the local scenery. Having eventually crossed over the Bow River, it offers an alternative route (from heading straight to Lake Louise) along the aptly named Moraine Lake Road, which - no prizes for guessing - diverts south to Moraine Lake.

Organised in the hamlet’s car park are various ‘unofficial’ shuttle bus services to-and-from both places. The shuttle to Moraine Lake charged $25 return with a choice of when you’d like to be picked up from the lake. Sounds like a lot of dollar bills for a bus ticket, but local officials only allow a few cars up to the lake at any given time, so taking the public express option is truly better.

They say never meet your heroes. Well...

The country’s most expensive bus journey (probably) took me to the packed car park for Moraine Lake. It was a bustling morning with a lot of people around, but I didn’t care - I was a bit distracted:

First glimpse of Moraine Lake, with the Valley of the Ten Peaks rearing their collective heads from behind a wall of alpine trees.

And there it was - Moraine Lake, just like that. A mesmerising turquoise beauty and the holy grail of pure natural scenery had morphed from its two-dimensional form on my computer screen and into something very real and very breathtaking. The glistening glacial lake neatly cut around a shore of alpine forest before washing up by the foot of the magnificent and unmistakable Valley of the Ten Peaks forming the dreamiest of backdrops.

The epitome of great natural scenery - Moraine Lake shines bright beneath the Canadian sun.

I was there and witnessing it for myself, clearly unaware that the pounding Canadian sun was swiftly turning me into a lobster. There is a short, 5-10 minute walk up some steps to get a better vantage point, which is where this shot was taken.

I did what you’d expect: sat there for an age, soaking it all in, before moving on with the day’s agenda. The most important checkbox had been ticked with such ease and so early into the day, I was eager to see what Canada had in store for the afternoon.

Au revoir Moraine Lake; salut Consolation Lakes

Before making the climb up the stairs to the vantage point, there is a sign pointing adventure seekers such as myself in the direction of the Consolation Lakes. Handy! So I bid farewell to my idol, in all its turquoise beauty, and set off into the forest, fully indulging in the true meaning of being a Canadian Rockies hiker and explorer.

Useful signage at Moraine Lake directing ramblers to the Consolation Lakes.

I didn’t know it yet, but this trail would become my absolute favourite hike to this day. Simple, forged, the distinct feeling of losing yourself in a wondrous pine forest, stunning views all round, with only a mild gradient, and of course - it was in Canada. The sound of a mighty stream following us and no sound of angry bears wondering why humans had invaded their home. Things were going well.

Time flies deep in the Canadian wilderness

An hour had passed and the path - still simple, forged and full of scenic gold, continued onward to the lakes. The trail was delightfully copy-and-paste with every step, which works for me. It enabled a peaceful stroll to fully appreciate where I was.

A clearing emerged along the trail as the destination edged closer.

The Consolation Lakes welcoming committee: a load of boulders

Eventually the path cleared and views of the Lower Consolation Lake could be seen. Toward the end of the trail, however, it appeared that my easy ride was about to get a little rocky. I came face-to-face with a field of enormous rocks and boulders - hundreds of them, standing between the blissfully simple dirt path and the shore of the lake. It was either go over them, or be happy with the less-than-ideal view from faraway.

My friend and I navigating the rocky shores of the Lower Consolation Lake to get that picture-perfect view point.

Not recommended for walkers prone to slipping, these boulders provided one final challenge (well, the only challenge really) to complete the day’s events. With a lot of stumbling and “whooaaa” sounds later, I reached a comfortable point by the water’s edge, and soaked in the reward:

Bident Mountain, Quadra Mountain, Mount Fey and others come together in the distance to help depict this scene of natural wonder at the Lower Consolation Lake.

The obligatory posing for pictures and trying to be artsy with my landscape photography ensued as the only thing that remained was to pull the curtain on what was a magical day in Canada.

Pointing at the second amazing backdrop of the day to complete a truly special hike.

Immersing in a true Canadian rambling adventure with striking, world-renowned mountain scenery

There are many attractions in the Banff National Park, and Moraine Lake can easily be overlooked with the poster boy for the area, Lake Louise, right next door. And if Moraine Lake doesn’t get a look-in then the Consolation Lakes must rarely see visitors (it wasn’t exactly a bustling scene at the boulders). Every inch of this incredible region is worth your attention, but this is a special shout out to the two performers on this unforgettable day. Moraine Lake is the real deal, and the trail to the Consolation Lakes, with the epic scenery on arrival, is the true embodiment of discovery in the Canadian Rockies.

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