Pros & Cons of Visiting Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
Lake Louise is probably the most common photograph you see when you search for anything about Alberta, Canada. The water is so crystal blue and beautiful, obviously people are going to want to capture images of it just because it’s so unique. But besides the amazing, literally breathtaking beauty that Lake Louise provides there are some cons to visiting the place too. Okay let’s be honest, the cons aren’t actually that bad…you’re in one of the most beautiful places on the planet so everything is pretty good. But just to make you more aware of what awaits you at Lake Louise I am writing this article. The sole purpose of this article is meant to identify the primary pros and cons of taking a visit to Lake Louise and to give you some helpful tips to make your visit to Lake Louise more enjoyable.
Pro & Con #1 – Access
Pro: Getting to Lake Louise from the main highway is literally a 5 minute drive – it’s fast, easy and visitor parking is free and plentiful.
Con: Starting in late May the crowds come pouring in and by the first of June you won’t have any private time at the shoreline of Lake Louise.
Why? Because Lake Louise is a major tourist attraction, the government has made the road there very convenient and simple to navigate. It’s a straight shot from the main highway. And, the crystal blue waters don’t begin appearing until right around the first of June when the weather clears and it starts warming up so once all of that takes place, the crowds come runnin’.
Tip: Get there early in the day before the crowds and you’ll have some amazing time alone with the lake. Hike the trails and you’ll see it in all its beauty before anyone puts a canoe on the water. But…watch out for bears.
Pro & Con #2 – Lodging
Pro: The lodging at Lake Louise is pretty much all within a minute or two of the shoreline. Every lodge or hotel around Lake Louise is very close to the lake and all of them offer decent accommodations. Some are first class, others are not as high end, but all are good.
Con: There is the pricey but beautiful Fairmont Chateau right on the lakefront and there are some less expensive options like the Deer Lodge where I stayed for a night. The priciest option is first class all around and the other options are considered historical buildings so the updates to them are less than spectacular so be prepared for a rustic stay. There really is no middle ground here. I personally wanted to experience the Canadian wilderness in an authentic, old fashioned way so my lodging choice reflected that. If you’re looking for a first class stay though, the Fairmont will certainly fulfill your needs.
Why? I’m not sure actually. All I could find out was that a newer building was able to have repairs that kept up with the times and the older buildings had to be maintained as close to their original state as possible. I really think that’s the only reason for the drastic difference between the offerings. There is no middle of the road priced, option at Lake Louise that is also modern.
Tip: The Fairmont Chateau is the only place near Lake Louise to exchange money. Their service is beyond amazing and they are eager to assist so just go to the desk and they’ll take care of you.
Pro & Con #3 – Activities
Pro: Hiking, biking, photography, canoeing galore!
Con: That’s about it. There isn’t much else one could do in this area so you are pretty limited to those activities. Drinking alcohol at your hotel is also an option!
Why? Because Canada has gone out of its way to protect its natural treasures. You’re not going to get on a pontoon boat and party it up on Lake Louise, it’s just not that kind of place. Respect of the property is the utmost concern of those responsible for its upkeep and they do a great job of keeping everything orderly.
Tip: Canoes are rented at the lake and bikes are rented in “the village” which you drive through before arriving at Lake Louise. The bike rental shop’s hours are 8am-8pm so rent a bike and check out the area while burning some calories.
Pro & Con #4 – Socializing
Pro: Everyone is stuck there so you can mix and mingle all you want with the people staying in the hotels and lodges.
Con: Unless you’re very outgoing and hang around looking for an opportunity to engage people it’ll be a chore. Most people are there in groups that aren’t looking for more people to bring into the mix.
Why? Lake Louise is a place that people go on purpose and it’s not near any major towns or cities so if people are there, they have come with a reason in mind. If they’re with a group, it’s probably a group of close friends, a family, etc. If they’re alone, they are probably going to have a tough time socializing with others at Lake Louise. As you know, I love traveling alone and I had a great time chatting it up with the bartenders and customers as they came and went at the lodge where I stayed for a night.
Tip: Offer to take photos of people you see taking selfies. I met so many interesting people this way. They’ll appreciate you for allowing them the chance to get a photo in such a beautiful setting and you could end up making some friends.
Pro & Con #5 – Lake Louise vs. Lake Moraine
Pro: Lake Louise is accessible pretty much year round because the road goes right up to the property. Lake Moraine is a bit more of a drive, just about 6 miles from Lake Louise and the road opens to traffic in late May and stays open until October when the lodge there closes. If I had to pick, I’d pick Lake Louise because the trail around the south end of the lake is awesome and the trail on the north end takes you to beautiful Lake Agnes and the Lake Agnes Tea House that you would never even know was there if I hadn’t told you (and gave you a map because I’m awesome and I love you)!
Con: Lake Louise is the tourist trap and is the better known of the two lakes. Lake Moraine is often considered more picturesque (if that is even possible) but the road to it closes from October – May so you have to walk or ride a bike to see the lake and it is an uphill trek all the way there. I know because I did it. Also, once the road closes, getting those classic photos of Lake Moraine just isn’t going to happen because the clouds are covering the mountains.
Why? Lake Louise is the safe bet and the easiest bet if you are on a road trip rushing through the Alberta, Canada Icefields Parkway. Lake Moraine is an incredibly beautiful natural wonder that is best seen during the summertime when the sun is out and the weather is nice. Both of these places are beyond gorgeous at all times of the year but those crystal blue waters are going to come out in June and last until October.
Tip: Only walk or bike to Lake Moraine if some vigorous exercise is what you are looking for. It is not an easy bike ride and most people have to get off and walk the bike a number of times before making it to the lake. The ride back is much easier.
Pro & Con #6 – Should You Visit Lake Louise or Not?
Pro: Go! Go there! See Lake Louise, walk around, hike, canoe, experience it. Grab some food in the cafe at the hotel on the shoreline and enjoy at least a few hours checking out the beauty of the place.
Con: Don’t go from late October to early June. The weather is unpredictable, the waters are dark blue, it rains a lot, it snows even more and you’re just not going to love your experience as much. Brave the crowds, everyone there is friendly and nice, and enjoy the lake(s) while the weather is nice.
Why? Because timing means so much in this case. You’re going to Lake Louise to see it, to get wrapped up in the wilds of the Canadian wilderness and, I would assume, to do so without freezing to death or getting drenched by torrential rains. Go when the weather is suitable.
Tip: Hike with something more than athletic shoes if possible. Athletic shoes will work, but the trails get steep and the rocks break loose under foot and the moss is slippery. I saw so many people falling and slipping and cutting their legs on the trails because athletic shoes just don’t have the grip that a well made hiking shoe will have. You do not need boots at Lake Louise, but a nice trail shoe is very helpful.
At this point in history I use these two shoes when I trail hike in Canada:
Whatever you decide, visit Lake Louise at some point in your lifetime. The Canadian government has done amazing work to maintain the pristine nature of the area and other than some short roads branching off of the main highway, the entire area is untouched, pristine wilderness. Lake Louise allows you the comfort of modern conveniences while still having the opportunity to touch the wilds of Canada within minutes of the highway.
Safe travels my friends!