Lake Louise ranks among the top three iconic destinations in the Canadian Rockies, a must see for the millions of visitors flocking here from all over the world. Canadian Pacific trains, which brought the first tourists to the valley, still rumble over the Kicking Horse Pass, but no longer stop here; the historic station building has been converted into a restaurant.
Lake Louise village really is no village at all and many visitors are disappointed when they find a hamlet which exclusively caters to tourism: a hodgepodge of hotels, lodges, restaurants, a small strip mall, a National Park visitor center, hostel, two gas stations and a campground. But then visitors don't come here for the village life, but to marvel at the jewel of a lake a short drive away, which is accessible year round, or then to hit the ski slopes in winter.
As far as majestic mountain scenery goes, the Lake Louise area definitely has it all, and if you are a nature lover keen on skiing, snowboarding, hiking or mountaineering, you will definitely want to spend a few days in the valley. That's if you don't mind sharing the view with thousands of visitors a day and if you can afford it... high demand and limited supply make this one of the priciest places to visit in all of the Canadian Rockies, together with Banff (if cost is an issue, consider staying in the village of Field in Yoho Park, which is only a 20 minute drive away).
Apart from the aforementioned activities, winter adventures include dog-sledding, ice-climbing, back-country skiing, ice-skating and in summer canoeing on the lakes or a gondola ride over the meadows of the ski area, where grizzly bears can sometimes be spotted. Hiking in the area is stellar and there are many spectacular trails which vary in length and difficulty to the point, where just about everyone will be able to engage in this popular activity. Because of its elevation many trails are not accessible until the month of June and since the area is ideal bear habitat, some trails may be closed or restricted to groups of four or more hikers in the fall season. Among the more popular hikes are the two tea houses at Lake Agnes and Plains of Six Glaciers.
Lake Louise may be what most visitors come to see, but far more scenic is Moraine Lake, a 15 minute drive to the south. Access here is restricted to the summer months when it too, gets very busy. Make sure you arrive before 10am or you may not find a parking lot at all. The lake with the Ten Peaks as a backdrop and the hike up to Larch Valley in fall are as good as it gets. Lake Louise is also right beside Yoho Park, so it can be used as a base for visiting Yoho and the many, equally magnificent attractions of this lesser known National Park (Emerald Lake, Yoho Valley and Takkakaw Falls, Lake O'Hara, etc.). Or you can head into Kootenay National Park from here, which also offers some amazing scenery and great hiking.
Lake Louise is situated off the Trans-Canada Highway on the Alberta / BC border, about 40 minutes west of Banff or two and a half hours drive from Calgary. Golden, BC is an hours drive to the west, on the other side of the Kicking Horse Pass.
The popularity of Lake Louise is also due to its location at the southern end of the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93), which runs along the main range of the Rockies all the way to Jasper and is considered one of the most scenic roads in North America.