Adventures, Hikes, Roadtrips

How to: the Unbelievable Moraine Lake with Dogs

December 15, 2022

Moraine Lake

One of the most famous and busy lakes in the world, Moraine lake is iconic and was featured on our older $20 bill. I’ve taken my Vizsla Whiskey loads of times for day trips and hikes and when I got Bourbon, my new Vizsla puppy, I took her on the 11 hour drive as soon as I got her.

10 week old Bourbon could hike up the 350m to the Rockpile for photos

Banff National Park

Moraine Lake with dogs? Yes! Dogs are allowed in Banff National Park! Unlike the American National Parks, dogs are allowed on most trails and in the backcountry however there are expectations including times of the year for specific areas and trails.

We love all seasons at Moraine Lake!

Dogs must be on leash for many reasons including your safety, their own safety, and wildlife safety. There are loads of Grizzlies, Black Bears, Moose, Elk, and Porcupine to name a few. I’ve seen all of these animals within the park and I’m not a local! It goes without saying, please pick up after your pet, and keep your dog on a tight leash, under control around other dogs and all the chipmunks that beg for treats everywhere (I’ve never seen fatter chipmunks around).

Elk, Moose, Bear, and Porcupine can all be dangerous

There are lots of garbage cans and toilets at the parking and the National Park is pristine so please help keep it dog friendly for all of us!

Getting there

Moraine Lake is located in Banff National Park right on the edge between Alberta and British Columbia (on the Alberta side). You can see mountains in British Columbia right at the lake. The road to Moraine Lake branches off the road to Lake Louise, the closest gas station and town.

A long drive with the dogs but worth it!

It’s about 2 hours 20 minutes from Calgary and 9 hours 30 mins from Vancouver (I’m 10 hours 30 mins away in Squamish, BC). Banff National Park and Moraine Lake is one of the most accessible locations for Canadian beauty. So many of the most famous lake are less than 400m walking distance from parking lots and the roads around the area top the most scenic of the world.

Moraine Lake Road and Parking

Getting to Moraine Lake with a dog is most of the battle. The easiest way to guarantee getting there without a dog, is using the shuttle or booking a tour. However, the buses don’t allow dogs so the only way to get to Moraine lake with a dog is driving or hiking. Assuming you aren’t hiking in (13km or so, one way, from Lake Louise), you’re going to want to drive in.

Coming towards the end of the season is less busy

Moraine Lake Road opens seasonally so first see if the roads are open for the year. You can ski or bike up the road off-season but it may be too long to go with your dog back and forth.

Dogs must be on leash

When it is open, Moraine Lake parking lot tends to fill up in the mornings around 530am on weekdays and 5am on weekends although people do leave and the attendants will slowly let people in throughout the day. The parking lot is very small for the demand so if you’re set on making it, get there early! During high season such a Canadian long weekends or larch season, the parking can fill before 430 am! Please also note that you must enter Moraine Lake Rd from Lake Louise (no left turn from Lake Louise Drive).

We usually only stay an hour for photos if we are not hiking here

Normally you cannot “line up” with your car on the road to get in, so it’s luck while you drive by the road entrance if they’re allowing cars in or not. Somehow we’ve always had luck getting in with some persistence. If the road is closed, you can loop back through the village and through Lake Louise Lake but the loop can take up to 30mins and the road may still be closed so be prepared or just come early. You cannot sleep overnight in the parking lot, and you do need a Parks Pass in order to park. I’ve also had luck coming at the end of the day around sunset after the hikers and families have left.

Bourbon and Thierry at the beach

Photo Ops at Moraine Lake Rockpile Trail

Most of the photos you’ll see of Moraine Lake are all taken from the Rockpile Trail. It’s about 300m from parking and one of the best views you’ll see with so little effort. Even so, the trail is not wheelchair friendly and has stone and log steps. There are lots of chipmunks and pikas teasing the dogs and begging for crumbs so watch your dogs on leash!

Lots of places to take photos at the Rockpile
Tourists lining up to take photos with Whiskey (2018)

We took Bourbon here at 10 weeks old and she found someone’s leftover chicken wing in the bushes. The scream she let out when we took it away frightened a couple tourists! Whiskey normally has a line up of Asian tourists waiting to take photos with her here. I usually place her on the wall and we’ll get at least 10 people taking photos with her. She absolutely loves the attention while Bourbon’s trying to track chipmunks.

Bourbon’s first adventure

Paddling Moraine Lake with Dogs

The Canoe Rentals at Moraine Lake are run by the Moraine Lake Lodge. The lodge and the canoes are not dog friendly so you must bring your own boat to paddle with. For reference the canoes are only rented from around mid-June to mid-September and are around $130 Cad an hour (!!).

Finally a calm day for a paddle!

The lake is actually quite windy I’ve found and we’ve had to come repeatedly in order to find a day to paddle with low winds. We launched some Oru Kayaks from the beach and paddled down the lake at sunrise with both girls on my lap. It was one of the best and most peaceful memories I’ve had at the Rockies. This was in October when no one else was out on the water.

Sunrise with two pups on an Oru kayak

There’s also been another trip in October where we bundled up and launched a packraft when I just had Whiskey. It’s more stable with winds but also a bit colder to sit in. I really suggest coming out with a paddleboard or kayak if you have the chance!

Alpacka Rafts are amazing and pack down light

Day hikes

Moraine Lake is known for the Larch Season in September when the larches turn golden and crowds from all over come to see the autumn colors. Larch Valley on the way to Sentinel Pass is one of the easiest Larch hikes, around 535 m gain and 4.3 kms one way on a non-technical trail.

Larch Valley in the autumn
Sentinel Pass

There are also several other hikes that I haven’t yet had time to try. I’m pretty sure my girls would be able to do the Tower of Babel scramble, as well as Panorama Ridge passing by Consolation Lakes. I’m not sure if Eiffel Peak or Mount Temple or Wastach Mountain is dog-doable but one day we might see!

Lake Annette from Paradise Valley

Another hike that starts on the Moraine Lake Road, but not the lake is Lake Annette and the Giant Steps. If you hike far enough into Paradise Valley, you come out the other side of Sentinel pass and end up in Moraine Lake but I think most people take that as a multi-day trip. You would need to hike down the road or catch a lift with someone if you wanted to do that road-trip but it might be worth it! We’ve done up to Giant Steps but because of a heat-wave and Covid, did not want to chance the road mid-day.

Where to stay

Since the Moraine Lake Lodge is not dog-friendly you’ll have to stay off the lake for your visit! The nearby famous Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise is dog-friendly but extremely luxurious and expensive. I tend to camp at the Lake Louise campgrounds or stay at a hotel in nearby Canmore. The campgrounds are utilitarian but a great location, clean, and dog-friendly.

Lake Louise campground

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