Iconic Scenery of Lake Moraine

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Written by Patrick J. Smith posted on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

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One thing about Moraine Lake - and the Canadian Rockies in general - no matter where you look, you'll find one spectacular view after another.

One thing about Moraine Lake - and the Canadian Rockies in general - no matter where you look, you'll find one spectacular view after another.

Justin in Vancouver writes: Mountain Man, I’ve heard some very nice things about Lake Moraine. Can you tell me a little more about it?

Ah, the other lake near Lake Louise … or so it’s known in the area. It’s a wonderful place to go if you’re looking to get away from larger crowds. For the most part, anyway. It does get its share of visitors, especially around midday in the summer. But if you’re looking for a beautiful lake and a bit less of a crowd than what’s usually found at Lake Louise, Lake Moraine is the place to go.

Justin, I can’t recommend the Rockpile Trail highly enough. Sure, it’s the best known feature of Lake Moraine, and therefore the most popular, but hey, that’s for a reason. When you get to the top of the trail, you’ll be treated to one of the most spectacular – and most photographed – views in all of Canada: the outlook over the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Locals call it the “Twenty-Dollar View.” It was featured on the back of 1969 and 1979 twenty-dollar bills.

The Rockpile is the easiest trail, but it’s not the only one. The Mountain Man likes to climb the Consolation Lakes trail, which starts on the same trailhead as the Rockpile. It’s a climb, no mistake, but it’s worth the effort. The lower lake is gorgeous, but if you’re willing to scramble up over some rocks, you can get to the upper lake, someplace not a lot of people go.

That’s a lot of climbing – and there are several other trails by the lake, if you’re feeling adventurous – and after a day of hoofin’ it, I like to have a nice place to relax. I know I’ve written about the joys of camping out, and I meant every word, but sometimes four walls and a roof are just what the doctor ordered. One of my favorite little retreats is the stunning Moraine Lake Lodge.

For one thing, it’s not too big. In fact, it’s just the right size. And it fits in beautifully with the countryside. It’s a very cozy place, actually. The rooms are comfortable, the lodge features a number of fireplaces and a library, and oh yes, the restaurant on site is delicious.

There’s another thing I should mention about the lake. You might notice the color of the water. It changes as the lake’s water level rises. It tends to peak in late June. When it does, the water turns a peculiar shade of blue-green. That comes from light refracting off of rock flour constantly being deposited on the lake’s floor.

It’s yet more proof that no matter how many places you see, the next one will always have something unique. I’ve never seen water that color anywhere else.

Oh, yes, one more thing, Justin. Some of those other trails I mentioned? They might have a warning sign posted on them. See, a young male grizzly has taken up residence near the lake. He doesn’t hurt anybody. Heck, you probably won’t even see him. But no one wants to see anyone, even the bear, get hurt, so they do take precautions.

I can’t say I blame the bear, either. If I was going to settle down, Lake Moraine would be one of the places I’d consider. Never fear! I aim to wander about these mountains for a long time yet.

Alberta Adventure Guide

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