Lake Louise, Alberta is a major tourism destination, for good reason. Lake Louise is a tiny hamlet in the Canadian Rockies, located about an hour drive west of Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway. The village is not on the lake itself, but is well worth a separate stop for its unique coffee shops and local businesses.

The majestic expanse of Lake Louise sits perfectly tucked between famous Rocky Mountain peaks. Local legends aside, the stunning turquoise color of Lake Louise that entices so many visitors to this magical spot is a product of light reflecting off of tiny rock particles that are carried into the lake by the glacial melt from the peaks high above.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a gem of Canadian history where you can take in stories of the past, enjoy a hot chocolate while gazing out the massive windows that frame the lake, or get fancy and book a reservation for high tea in the elegantly decorated dining room. While in winter you can walk and skate on the frozen lake, take horse-drawn sleigh rides, and ski at the nearby resort, summer hosts perhaps the most entrancing activity of all: canoeing.

Canoeing on Lake Louise provides a wholly unforgettable experience. If this place is stunning from the shore, it’s awe-inspiring from the water. Canoeing Lake Louise is entirely worthy of your bucket list! Here’s what you need to know to experience it for yourself.

Red canoe on the waters of Lake Louise
Paddling across the turquoise water in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains is an unforgettable experience.

Lake Louise canoe rental

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the only game in town for renting a canoe to paddle the lake. The Fairmont runs a boathouse on the west shore of the lake where you can rent canoes by the hour, or choose a guided tour.

Canoe times

Lake Louise is high in the Alberta Rocky Mountains, and that means the lake stays frozen longer into the spring. Canoe season depends on when the ice thaws on the lake, which can be variable each year depending on the winter season and spring temperatures. Mid-June is normally a safe time to start planning your trip. Likewise, the close of the season will depend on fall temperatures and the amount of snowfall. October might provide paddlers with a beautiful and crisp fall paddling experience, or perhaps be a bit too snowy and icy for an enjoyable time on the lake.

Summer in Alberta is reliably warm and sunny, with summer thunderstorms sometimes rolling in through the mountains in the late afternoons. Boat staff at the Fairmont are very aware of the weather conditions each day and will make sure you’re not on the water if it isn’t safe.

The Fairmont does not currently have Summer 2020 hours posted, however in past years the boathouse has been open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Canoe cost

Again, the Fairmont does not currently have rates for Summer 2020 posted, but in past years the cost for non-hotel guests has been $125 plus tax per hour and $115 plus tax per half-hour. For hotel guests, the rates are $85 plus tax per hour and $75 plus tax per half hour. Please keep in mind that these are likely to change for the 2020 season, and check back with the Fairmont’s website for updates as we move closer to the opening of the season.

Lake Louise canoe tours

In addition to hourly canoe rentals, the Fairmont also offers three tour options. The guides who operate these tours are passionate and knowledgeable paddlers and will fill you in on all kinds of fun facts and history as you canoe Lake Louise.

Sunrise Canoe Experience

If you’re a morning person, or willing to be a one-time morning person for this incredible experience, you’re in for a treat. This is the best time to avoid crowds on the lake as you watch the purple and pink sunrise hit the peaks around you, and sink down toward the calm surface of Lake Louise. After your adventure, enjoy your well-earned breakfast as the rest of the world slowly wakes.

Summer 2020 prices are not posted yet, please check back soon for rates.

Voyageur Canoe Experience

Voyageur canoes are an incredibly unique way to experience Lake Louise. These crafts are steeped in Canadian history. The Fairmont describes the experience as follows: “As you journey across the lake, your guide will share local stories about the wildlife, the indigenous people and the early explorers.”

  • Adults $55, Children (8-12 years) $30

Evening Canoe Experience

Evening Canoe Experience tours leave the boathouse at 8 p.m. and provide guests with an hour of calm, crowd-free time canoeing Lake Louise. Evening in this spot is a special time. Not dark yet at this time of year, the light is fading into sunset and the air is softly colored and warm around you.

Summer 2020 prices are not posted yet, please check back soon for rates.

Rules

You can paddle your own canoe on Lake Louise and on all lakes in Banff National Park. The catch is that there are no public boat launches available on Lake Louise, so you’ll have to find your own spot to launch from the shore.

Can you swim in Lake Louise?

Temperatures in Lake Louise are normally no warmer than 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), but can be much colder than that! Lake Louise is fed directly from Victoria Glacier, so at all times of year the lake is, quite literally, glacially cold. Most lakes in the Canadian Rockies are glacier-fed, so be careful dipping your toes in!

Lake Louise canoe trips

While canoeing on Lake Louise itself is the main paddling experience people associate with the town, there are other paddling opportunities in the town and nearby. Check out the Parks Canada paddling site when you’re trip-planning.

Lake Louise to Castle Junction/Banff

If you’re looking for more of a whitewater canoeing or kayaking experience in Lake Louise, the Bow River from Lake Louise to Castle Junction is a great half-day section, followed by Castle Junction to Banff. If you do these two sections together, be ready for a very full day on the river.

The Bow River is a favorite for local paddlers due to its challenging watercourse and dynamic characteristics. If you’re an experienced paddler, this is absolutely worth a trip! This is not a trip for beginner paddlers.

There are many factors to keep in mind when paddling The Bow; hazards pop up quickly and can change day to day. There are high numbers of sweepers, strainers, logjams, and submerged boulders. In addition, tight corners make river hazards hard for less experienced paddlers to see and avoid, and water flow can change quickly.

If you’re paddling the Castle Junction to Banff section, you will encounter Redearth Rapids. If you’re not prepared to run the rapids, this is an area that must be portaged around, and there is no set portage area. Preparation is key for this stretch of river. Parks Canada has a comprehensive guide to make sure you stay safe while enjoying one of Alberta’s favorite rivers!

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