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Activity suggestions for Lake Louise, no matter the season
LAKE LOUISE, AlLberta – The Lake Louise area is filled with tons of activities, but most people are drawn here for the excellent skiing and hiking. What do you do if you aren’t a skiier or hiker? Scan this page for some activity ideas that don’t require ski or hiking boots.
1. January temperatures plunge to some of the coldest of the season, so being outside for too long is not really an option. However, this is a great time to take a drive up the Icefield Parkway to observe the Columbia Icefields.
If you are driving yourself to the Icefields, make sure you have plenty of gas, snacks and warm clothing because there aren’t any services on the highway. You can view numerous glaciers from the highway; pick up an information packet at the Lake Louise Visitor Centre. Jasper Vacations is the official transportation company for Rockies.com and they offer drives up the Icefield Parkway to the Athabasaca Glacier.
2. Catch up on your reading and learn important Canadian Rockies history at the Lake Louise Visitor Centre. Cuddle up by the fireplace to escape the winter cold and learn about avalanches, park history and the native wildlife. Catch a spectacular pink sunset between 4:30 and 5:00.
3. Enjoy an afternoon of ice skating and a fancy European style tea at the Post Hotel. The hotel hosts a tea every afternoon and has a beautiful skating rink tucked in next to the hotel. Enjoy fresh mountain air and experience the lap of luxury during a pleasant afternoon in Lake Louise.
1. Bundle up for a horse-drawn sleigh ride along the shores of Lake Louise. You can purchase your tickets for about $15 for adults at the Brewster desk in the Chateau Lake Louise. At the lake you may see ice climbers practicing on the frozen waterfall or the ice sculptures from the international ice carving festival held in January.
2. The Lake Louise Visitor Centre hosts informative chats on Wednesday nights during the month of February. The chats start at 8:00 p.m. and are free. Listen to local wildlife experts, historians and researchers give you an insiders view to Lake Louise.
3. Snowshoeing around Emerald Lake is only a short 40 minute drive and well worth the trip. Practice following animal tracks and don’t be afraid to venture off the trails, just stay on the flats and away from the slopes for safety. After a fun day of snowshoeing, stop by the historic Emerald Lake Lodge for lunch or a hot chocolate to warm up.
1. The Burgess Shale is a famous fossil bed and is located just a few minutes from Yoho National Park. The actual quarry is closed during the winter months, but you can still see the creatures that lived there with the help of a telescope. Burgess Shale is famed for being one of only two places in the world where soft-bodied creatures have been found.
2. Tobogganing is another great way to get outside and enjoy the Canadian winter. The best hill is located right next to the Chateau Lake Louise. You can rent toboggans from Monod Sports (located inside the Chateau).
3. Send postcards to loved ones and friends or take time to reflect in a journal. The old-fashioned writing desks in the Lake Louise Chateau have seen plenty of visitors over the years, so become a part of the the tradition while sipping a warm beverage.
1. Take a historic journey at the Lake Louise Visitor Centre. After reading up on history in “Lake Louise, A Mountain Legend,” head over to the Lake Louise Train Station Restaurant for an afternoon snack. Enjoy some quiet reading time in the historic and recently restored heritage railway station.
2. Become a train buff and learn all about the adventures of the railroad from the “Kicking Horse Chronicles” at the Lake Louise Visitor Centre. Then cruise the Trans-Canada Highway to see where it all happened. Bring the pamphlet along as a guidebook to see where all the harrowing stories took place.
3. Although winter is still alive and well in April, bring a kite to enjoy the milder weather. The snow usually has melted a little in the town of Field, 20 minutes away from Lake Louise. The gravel river flats next to the Kicking Horse Pass are a great place to launch a kite if the weather is nice.
The well known tourist areas of Lake Louise open during the month of May.
1. It is easy to observe birds in their natural state on Herbert Lake (about ten minutes north of Lake Louise.) Watching unusual ducks is a great introduction to bird watching and Herbert Lake is a great place to see these creatures during their migration northward. There is a picnic area and a trail around the lake. For other bird watching hot spots, check out Kingfisher Lake or McNair Pond.
2. Animal sightings are popular on the Icefields Parkway during May because the snow is still in full force at higher elevations. Wildlife congregates near the road in search of food. Drive carefully to avoid any accidents and stay in your cars if you happen to see a bear.
3. Emerald Lake is a great place to check out early season wildflowers because of its low elevation and early spring. If you are lucky, you can catch a carpet of yellow avalanche lilies that pop up as the snow melts. Sketch any plants you can’t find in your guide book and stop by the Field Visitor Centre to identify them.
1. Bike to the Great Divide picnic area by using the #1A Great Divide Highway from Lake Louise. As of 1999, this highway is car-free and only used as a paved bike path. It is about a six kilometer bike ride to the picnic area. Tips for non cyclers – you can still reach this area by motorized vehicle. Take the Trans-Canada (#1) west of Lake Louise for ten minutes and turn left to join the #1A (also the turnoff for Lake O’Hara).
2. Paddle across Moraine Lake in a rented canoe. Moraine Lake is the first site of an aquatic restoration project in Banff National Park so you can see biologists and scientists removing invasive species to reintroduce the endangered bull trout. Walk along the Rockpile Trail to the canoe rental station located on the right.
3. June marks the longest days of the year in Lake Louise, so stay up late and take a nature walk along the Bow River Loop. The sun can be up as late as midnight so take advantage of the quite summer nights in the Canadian Rockies.
1. Have a quiet picnic at the Corral Creek picnic area located about ten minutes from Lake Louise on the #1A Bow Creek Parkway. You can have a fire and there are open grassy areas for family games. Take a short walk to McNair Pond to observe the ducks.
2. Go to an evening show at the Lake Louise Campgrounds or the Kicking Horse Campground in Yoho National Park. Parks Canada offers interpretive shows about wildlife and the history of the parks. Admission is free.
3. Enjoy the flowers along Moraine Lake Road. Usually you would have to hike to see the show, but you can drive this road and stop at all the pull outs to see and smell the wildflowers. Sketch as many flowers as you can and identify them at the visitor centre. Please don’t pick any of the flowers since some of them are endangered species.
1. Take a dip in the neighboring Herbert Lake on a steamy summer day. The waters of Lake Louise are glacier fed, therefore way too cold for swimming (although some brave locals do occasionally swim in the frigid waters.) Instead head to Herbert Lake for a swim; just make sure you go on the hottest day you can!
2. Catch a baseball game at the Lake Louise Recreation Centre diamonds. The local leagues play on weeknights for most of the summer. Catch nine innings in the midst of great Canadian Rockies scenery with Mt. Temple looming in the background.
3. View the Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park. In August, the glaciers are melting rapidly and the falls are in full force. You can view the falls from an easy walk to the overlook, but the real fun starts as you walk the trail that descends closer to the falls.
1. Head to the quiet shores of Ross Lake for an afternoon picnic. Pack a delicious lunch from Laggan’s Deli and then walk the short path (less than two kilometers) to the shores of Ross Lake. You can see fish spawning and other wildlife in the area. Park at the trailhead off the #1A Great Divide Highway.
2. See the stunning colors of the larch trees near Lake Agnes. During September, the needles of the larch tree turn a stunning golden yellow and are quite picturesque next to a clear blue sky. The trees are most accessible from the Lake Louise area since they grow at the treeline level. Lake Agnes also features a tea house for the end of your adventure.
3. From the Kicking Horse Campground in Yoho National Park, take the Walk in the Past Trail. Grab a brochure from the Field Visitor Centre and launch your journey into the railway’s past. See the “big hill” and the final stop brings you to a narrow-gauge locomotive.
1. Take a mountain bike ride around the Bow River Loop. Views of the mountains are great from this trail, especially Mt. Temple. Bike rentals are available at Wilson Mountain Sports.
2. Sip a cappuccino from Laggan’s Deli or Bill Peyto’s Cafe (at the Canadian Alpine Centre and Youth Hostel.) Take your beverage upstairs at the cafe to enjoy the game room and a comfortable hang out area.
3. Haven’t had any luck with wildlife spotting? Try the gift stores in the Chateau Lake Louise or Lake Louise Village for animal themed gifts. Some of the gifts even sponsor the protection of wildlife such as wolf packs.
1. If it has been a dry start to winter, lake skating is a great way to spend time outdoors in November. Skating season is eagerly awaited every year but the time frame is super short because of the impending snow. Rent a pair of skates and head to Herbert Lake to glide across the mirror-like surfaces. Skating on Lake Louise only happens once every ten years or so because it takes so long for the water to freeze, the snow often comes first.
2. Geology played a major role in the formation of the Canadian Rockies and it is easily accessible from Lake Louise. Check out the Rocks and Gems shop in Chateau Lake Louise. Pick up a geology book to identify the fossils, although many of them are imported from other areas.
3. Attend an informative chat at the Lake Louise Visitor Centre on Wednesday nights. Admission is free, the lectures start at 8:00 p.m. and cover all sorts of Banff National Park topics.
1. Join the skating party on Lake Louise. Rent skates from Monod’s in the Chateau Lake Louise and enjoy the rink cleared in front of the castle. A big bonfire is built every night between 6 and 7 and complimentary hot chocolate is served.
2. Bundle up for a dogsledding adventure. You will feel like a real musher after a 35 minute ride with Doug Hannah. You can make reservations at the Chateau Lake Louise.
3. Take part in the nightlife offered in the Lake Louise area. You don’t have to drive all the way to Banff. Dancing and socializing can be found at the Western BBQ and Dance, Torchlight Skiing, Explorer’s Lounge, Glacier Saloon and the Outpost.
For more information on Canadian Rockies accommodations: Click here!
For more information on Canadian Rockies activities: Click here!