Canadian Rockies – Lake hunting in Jasper & Banff

My love affair with these postcard perfect lakes began much before I landed in Canada. These lovely turquoise lakes, nestled in the Candian Rockies, had me the very instant I got a glance of them from my plane to Calgary. If I were you, I wouldn’t bet my money on whether these lakes are really this blue (or turquoise or emerald or whatever shades of blue and green they come in). Whether you are a tourist or traveler or mere observer, the medley of colors at these lakes is sure to leave you spellbound!

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Such amazing views on the plane from Vancouver to Calgary.

Pine and spruce trees, jagged snow-capped mountains and wildflowers that complement the colors of the lakes are the common themes in these rocky mountain lakes. These commonalities may make all lakes seem familiar yet every lake surprises you with an unparalleled view.

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Just another random lake at Jasper.

So, naturally, lake hunting was on the top of my list when I arrived in Jasper. I saw so many of these lakes at Jasper and Banff (yet these are only a fraction of all the lakes there) that they warrant a blog-post of their own. Here are some of my favorites!

MALIGNE LAKE, JASPER

With its gorgeous blue-emerald waters, deep blue skies with perfectly shaped clouds and a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and pine trees, Lake Maligne can mesmerize just anybody. Now throw in a few log benches that provide great vantage points for viewing and carpets of green grass with yellow wildflowers near the lake shore. An absolute delight for the eyes!

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Maligne lake was so huge!  Apparently, it is the longest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies.

Despite the slight showers that began, we decided to walk around the Mary Schaffer Loop – a scenic loop around one part of the lake. The trail has the lake to the right and an ascending line of pines and spruces to the left. The walk was totally worth it, even the mushy part of the trail, as the lake had its most beautiful emerald hues towards the end of the loop.

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If solitude is what you seek, then look no more.

VALLEY OF FIVE LAKES TREK, JASPER

One of my favorite hikes in Jasper, Valley of Five Lakes combines an easy trek with stunning views of five lakes in vivid shades of blue-green. I don’t know which is better – the trek or the view of the lakes. It’s definitely the best of both worlds! Also, we started the trek pretty early and did the longer loop so there were fewer people and it was much more peaceful – an added advantage.

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Valley of Five Lakes Trek – First Lake

The trek starts in a forested area and opens onto a boardwalk on the Wabasso creek wetland (do watch out for beavers!). Few more minutes of walk and you will be surrounded by meadows and valleys with striking greens, browns and wildflowers. Soon my friend and I found ourselves walking alone in a forested area, with deep elevations at few places. The wilderness had a charm of its own, with age old pine trees forming a canopy that hardly allowed any sunlight to enter. I cursed myself for not carrying bear bells (thankfully we didn’t encounter any!). If you saw the picture and thought the first lake must be the most beautiful, you will be in for a wonderful surprise – the scenery just gets better and better.

BOW LAKE, ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

Magnificent snow-capped mountains and glaciers, aquamarine blue waters, lake-trail lined with fireweed and lovely viewpoints – that is Bow lake for you.

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Fireweed and wildflowers near Bow Lake
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Loved the colors at Bow lake!

PEYTO LAKE, ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

I stood there embracing the riot of colors – the radiant turquoise lake, the blue skies and the endless mountains with green trees and snow-capped peaks – all too beautiful to be true. Baby pine trees and colorful flowers like the Indian paintbrush skirted the short but steep hike to the lake from the parking lot. If not for the tranquility in Moraine, Peyto would have topped my list of favorite lakes!

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Peyto Lake

The Icefields Parkway has many other lovely lakes and few don’t even require a detour.

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I lost track of the lake names, but my guess here is Waterfront Lake.

LAKE LOUISE, BANFF

Lake Louise is one of the very popular and touristy lakes in Banff. The lake gets crowded near the Fairmont Chateau and along the easy hikes early on in the day. So we ditched the popular Plain of Six Glaciers hike and headed to the less crowded and more difficult Beehive hike. The lake remains hidden against a backdrop of baby pines due to the elevation for most part of the trail. At few points, we could see both Mirror Lake and Lake Louise, a view to behold. The lookout points atop offer an aerial view of the lake and Chateau – landscapes straight out of a fairy tale. The morning mist ascending from the mountains conjured a dreamy vibe to the whole landscape.

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View point en-route the little beehive lookout.

Along the trek, we passed the emerald Mirror Lake that reflected the huge mountain behind it. The Mirror Lake makes for a great hike-stop. We returned downhill from the Lake Agnes route to see the lake and the tea-house but I didn’t find either worth the hype.

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View of Lake Louise from near Fairmont Chateau.

MORAINE LAKE, BANFF

‘This better be worth waking up at 4am, the morning traffic and the freezing cold’, I muttered as my friend parked in the last parking spot (I am still not sure if it was a parking spot though) and got out of the car. But turns out, it was worth everything. Probably one of the most photographed lakes, Lake Moraine is the queen of all the lakes in Canadian Rockies in my opinion.

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Sunrise at Lake Moraine.

From watching the moonlit mountains during the drive to Moraine to watching the night disappear into shades of yellows and oranges on ten mountain peaks, everything about Moraine was spectacular. The vibrant canoes and sunrise added the missing colors on canvas of the lake. While the Rockpile trail was crowded from the morning tourists, the trail around the loop was as calm as it could get and it ends in a boardwalk next to a tiny waterfall. My own, personal, NatGeo moment to savor! Though I cursed my sunrise at the lake idea at 4 am, in retrospect, I wouldn’t want my day to start any other way.

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Don’t the picture and calm blue waters of the lake reflect the tranquility one can feel there?

Still think they are photoshopped or have hundreds of filters snapped on them? Pack your bags to Alberta and go and experience this magic yourself!

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