The first alarm goes off at 4:30AM. Canada’s northern summer prevents the sun from every really setting, so it was still technically bright out when we rolled out of our tent. Court, Gregor, and I were all so exhausted, but we knew it’d be worth it. The one thing everyone, continuously told us we had to do while we were in Banff National Park was to catch sunrise at Moraine Lake. We got dressed as quickly as possible and all hopped into the truck and punched in Moraine Lake into the GPS. Turns out, the map of the park makes everything seem much closer than it really is. It estimated the drive from Two Jack Campground to be over an hour. Good thing sunrise wasn’t until 5:30AM.
We drove up the mountain roads, towards the parking area, which is closed to everyone besides shuttles and tours at 9AM. We arrived to a packed parking lot, but luckily found a spot and were headed to the lake in no time with cameras and dog in-tow. We walked to the first obvious view point, and it was stunning, truly stunning. The color of the water was out of this world, but there was still something left to be desired. This wasn’t the view I had seen so many times on Instagram and online. We knew there was more (obviously). So we turned our backs towards the lake and headed back towards the parking lot to head up the trail leads up the mound of rock on the north end of the lake. From there, we saw it.
It was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. The sunlight illuminated the towering skyline of rock above the lake known as the Ten Peaks. Mt. Little, Mt. Bowen, and the tallest Mt. Shaknowa all climbing high up into the sky. And then, the sun crept over the ridgeline from across valley and illuminated our backs and then the lake itself. We had made sunrise at Lake Moraine. It felt like I was front row for the greatest show on Earth. A moment, only able to be captured by a National Geographic photographer; except, we were standing there with dozens of other tourists sharing this moment. And what a moment it was.
The sun light brightened the glacial waters to a shade of blue I never thought was naturally possible. Crystal clear water turning to pure turquoise blue. The morning’s breeze subsided and left the lake’s surface calm and like a sheet of glass. The reflection of the peaks became clearer and clearer. The heavy winter’s snow could still be seen clinging to the granite on the mountain’s faces. And dense, dark evergreens lined the shorelines of the lake, slowly becoming lighter and lighter as the morning’s sun rose higher into the sky.
The hike to these view points is short, only a 1/4 mile or so. Once you’re up on the rock, there are a half dozen “designated” view points that provide equally stunning views across the vista. Find one that doesn’t have a crowd and just start snapping away. Sure, there are some trees that get in the way of a few shots, but DO NOT be like the ignorant visitors that jump over the boundary and hike down a non-existent trail, deteriorating the vegetation even more. If you want a better view, head all the way up to the last view point, and scramble down on the rocks. That way, no trail restoration is needed.
But if you really want the best, immersive experience at Lake Moraine, then I 100% recommend getting on the water yourself! We packed our SUP board and brought it onto the lake for the most unforgettable moment on the trip. Floating across the lake, surrounded by the blue water, dwarfed by the peaks above. It was a once in a lifetime moment. No matter how you experience it, at 6AM or 6PM, on the first day of summer, or deep in the heart of winter. This place is truly amazing, and I don’t think there is ever a bad moment to be here!
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.