“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
If you feel this way then a trip to the Canadian Rockies will surely answer your calling. There is something special about being surrounded by majestic peaks, bright turqoise lakes, and endless pines. With abundant views comes abundant photo opportunities. It’s pretty difficult to point your camera in the Canadian Rockies and not land on a stunning view. I’ve narrowed it down to this list of my favourite 8 photo spots in the Banff area.
- Banff National Park is located about an hour west of Calgary, with several other parks adjacent to it such as Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay. I would suggest staying at least 4-5 nights in order to see everything on this list.
- Definitely rent a car. Icefields Parkway may be one of the most scenic drives ever. Also having a car gives you a lot more freedom to explore.
- This guide is for visiting Banff during the months of May-October when the glacier lakes are unfrozen.
- During the summer months the days are very long. Sunrise is around 5:30am and sunset is not until 10pm. This gives you a lot of time to shoot.
1. East End of Rundle
Not going to lie, this is not an easy spot to get to. It involves a fairly challenging hike. But the views are absolutely stunning and 100% worth the effort. The full hike to the peak is about 8km, however you don’t need to go all the way to see the views you came for. My photo below is from the “false” peak, about halfway to the real peak. It took us about 2 hours to reach this spot. The hike is steep and involves scrambling up large rock faces at times, but like I said – totally worth it!
2. Canmore Swing
I posted a photo of this swing on Instagram and it later got shared by Travel Alberta. Within minutes I was receiving numerous DM’s asking me for the location. The swing is located along a trail in a residential neighbourhood of Canmore. Park on Ridge Rd near the marker in my map above and you’ll see a trail leading up. Once you get to the top of the hill turn right and keep following the trail for about 5 minutes before you’ll see the swing. Not only are the views glorious, the swing is also super fun and made me feel like a kid. We spent about an hour here swinging and laughing at how terrible we all were at rope swinging.
3. Moraine Lake
This list is purely in geographical order. Otherwise Moraine Lake would likely be my number one pick for the most scenic view in Banff. The road here is only open May-October and often gets closed down when the parking lot is full. This happens quite early in the day during the busy summer months so you want to get here early, preferably before 8am. I recommend giving yourself more than one opportunity to visit this lake as conditions can be very different depending on weather. We visited twice and got two completely different moods, and I really loved both.
4. Lake Louise
Probably the most famous lake in Banff and also the most touristy, but for good reason. You want to get here EARLY. Otherwise the main parking lot will fill up and you’ll have to park in overflow, which involves waiting in long lines for shuttles and is no fun at all. The reflection is also way better in the morning.
There are countless photo ops at Lake Louise. You can take a classic shot from the rocky shore, hop in a canoe for some photos, or take one of the trails that lead upwards (Lake Agnes Trail or Plain of the Six Glaciers Trail) for a view of Lake Louise from above.
5. Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake is actually located in Yoho National Park in the neighbouring province of British Columbia, but is only a 35-minute drive away from Lake Louise. It’s a, you guessed it, emerald coloured lake with the beautiful Emerald Lake Lodge attached. The best views are from the edge of the lake facing the lodge, which is conveniently where the parking lot is. You can also rent a canoe here and enjoy the views from the water.
6. Icefields Parkway
This is the scenic road that leads from Banff to Jasper, with endlessly stunning views and stops along the entire drive. After leaving Banff one of the first stops you should make is Bow Lake. It’s a turquoise glacial lake with the Rockies as backdrop, with a picturesque bridge that is perfectly positioned for photos. Other worthy spots along the way are Peyto Lake, the Athabasca Glacier, and Athabasca Falls. However some of the best photo ops are of the Parkway itself, either taken from the car or if you can find a safe place to stop along the way.
7. Peyto Lake
While this is along Icefields Parkway, Peyto definitely deserves its own mention. Second to Moraine Lake this was probably my favourite view. After parking in the lot, there is a short trail that leads you to the main viewing platform. You might think this is already a pretty stunning view, but if you keep following the trail for about 10 minutes you will find an even better viewpoint that is also a lot less crowded.
8. Maligne Lake & Spirit Island
You’ve probably seen many photos of Spirit Island and until you do your research, you might think it’s a viewpoint as easily accessible as most of the ones on this list. You would be very wrong. Spirit Island is about 14km away from the Maligne Lake parking lot and there are only two ways to see it: by tour boat or by canoe/kayak. Boat tours leave frequently and tickets can be purchased online, however keep in mind that the tours are quite short. Most of them allow you to only spend around 15 minutes at the Spirit Island viewing platform. That leaves little time for taking any creative photos and you definitely won’t be there at sunrise or sunset. If you can I would highly suggest planning ahead and heading there by canoe or kayak. If you’re ambitious you can make this a day trip, or there are camp sites near Spirit Island where you can spend a night and enjoy the sunrise and sunset views in all their glory.
Of course there are countless more photo opportunities in the Canadian Rockies, and if you can you should definitely spend more time there getting off the beaten path. There are truly amazing views around every corner.