Welcome to our article on Peyto Lake! We are Irene and Alex: two free spirits from the two opposite ends of Spain. We met in the middle, in Madrid, where we went to university. Alex is an architect and the creative side of our project – The Palmer Experience – while Irene is a psychologist who keeps our wild dreams under control and brings some sense to it all.
For Alex, travel comes naturally. He has been travelling with his family since he was a kid – sailing across the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Caribbean and visiting almost every continent before he could even grow a beard! The moment we got together (nearly 15 years ago), that passion for travel spilled over into our relationship. Nowadays, it’s what we live for!
We believe travel is the best mind-opener and prejudice killer out there. It’s not just about the beautiful landscapes and perfect photos but also about expanding our knowledge and becoming better versions of ourselves.
Two Amazing Weeks in Canada
Canada has always been at the top of our list but the final spark that made us pull the trigger was seeing how many creative people there are in this region of the world. So many Canadian creatives share inspiring stories of their country. We can’t deny that social media played an important role. Places like Peyto Lake and Moraine Lake were high on our bucket list.
We only had a little over two weeks in Canada and so we had to make some difficult decisions on what to visit on this trip and what to leave out for a future trip to Canada. We ended up splitting our time there into two.
Half of the trip was more of an urban tour of the cities in the east – going from Toronto to Quebec and visiting Ottawa and Montreal along the way. We have to admit that this part of the trip exceeded our expectations. Places like Île d’Orleans, Niagara Falls and St. Lawrence Island – along with the character of the main cities – made us fall in love with Canada.
For the second half, we flew to Calgary where the Rocky Mountain road trip started! The Trans Canada Highway and Icefields Parkway took us to some of the most beautiful natural places we had ever visited.
We started with Banff National Park and the endless hikes around it (Lake Minnewanka, Mount Rundle, Johnston Creek) and then headed for the postcard-perfect views of Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, framed by the likes of Castle Mountain and Crowfoot Glacier. Bow and Peyto lakes were next, on our way up to Jasper National Park through the Columbia Icefield.
All of these are must-see places while going north. Waterfalls and canyons led us from Jasper National Park to Maligne Lake and Mount Robson Provincial Park, which marked the exit of Alberta and the entrance into British Columbia. The natural wonders didn’t end there, with Spahats Creek Falls and Wells Gray Provincial Park leaving a big impression on us too.
Our trip ended in Vancouver where we enjoyed its Asian heritage, golden sunsets on the shores of English Bay, hiking trails and incredible suspension bridges in Lynn Canyon, and views from the top of the ski-resort (with plenty of activities when there is no snow) of Grouse Mountain.
Peyto Lake: A Highlight along the Icefields Parkway
For this trip to Canada – since we didn’t have all the time we would have liked – we planned very carefully almost everything we wanted to see. And Peyto Lake was one of the highlights along the Icefields Parkway!
We read about it on plenty of travel blogs and national park websites. Being close to the road and so easy to find makes it a no-brainer when visiting Banff National Park and its surroundings. We needed to see for ourselves those famous turquoise and blue waters from the glacier, full of rock particles or “glacial flour” that gives it this unique colour and look.
Most people may be attracted to Banff National Park by the omnipresent Lake Louise and Moraine Lake (which they may be disappointed about if they don’t get up early enough and instead find them as crowded as a rush hour street in central Toronto), only to stumble onto the blue gem that is Peyto Lake with a lot less crowds and equally beautiful views and hikes!
Our Experience at Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake for us was the last stop of an intense day in Banff National Park. The weather wasn’t inviting enough for kayaking or any water activities. Although, we hear the water is freezing even in summer! So we are not sure we would have spent much time on the lake even on a sunny day.
Instead, we decided to clock in one more hike before calling it a day. Our first stop was, of course, the well-known viewpoint located five/ten minutes from the carpark. It was easy to get to and well equipped with a wooden deck overlooking the lake. You can step down from the deck if you are feeling adventurous and climb down the rocky area in front of the deck.
You will get an even better view with no one around. From there, we kept going on the Bow Summit trail only to discover more great views at the upper viewpoint on a well marked trail. Another rocky clearing in the woods with good photo spots. From there we had to choose to go up to Bow Summit or get down closer to the water. Our sore legs said down!
The Wolf Head Shaped Peyto Lake
It all depends on the angle you see it from but the main view that everyone tries to capture certainly has some resemblance to a wolf’s head! Take a left turn when driving on Icefields Parkway from the south, towards Bow Pass and Bow Summit. You will find a park midway. Walk five minutes upwards from there and you will see the wolf from the decks of the first viewpoint.
This was a sight we will never forget. The contrast of the blue water with the green forest, fast moving clouds in the sky and some glimpses of sun – extraordinary! If people ask us for recommendations in Banff National Park, Peyto Lake will always be at the top of our list.
5 Best Things To Do in Peyto Lake
The scenery surrounding Peyto Lake makes every activity around it so unique. There are less crowds than other places in Banff National Park if you choose the right time to visit (very early or very late in the day are always the best options). Our top 5 things to do at Peyto Lake would be:
- Take some banger photos from the platform of the first viewpoint. A view this nice shouldn’t be so easy to access!
- Step down the platform into the vast rocky area in front of it. Find a good flat rock and sit in absolute silence, with no one else around.
- Hike up Bow Summit trail to the second, upper viewpoint and beyond.
- On your way back from the hike, get closer to the water down to where the glacier tip used to be. A bed of rocky sediments and water streams with the mountain background will make for another nice view.
- Another option to get closer to the water is to stop a few kilometers further north in one of the road pullouts. Here you will find a trail through the forest down to the shore. It’s lovely to be close to the water!
Where to Stay near Peyto Lake
There are two factors when looking for accommodation in the Banff National Park area close to Peyto Lake: weather and budget. Weather permitting, we recommend camping in one of the well equipped campgrounds along the route. Silverhorn Creek and Mosquito Creek campgrounds are the closest to Peyto Lake.
If you are thinking of luxury and your budget allows it, the Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise is your best option. However, if your budget is more average we suggest either staying in Banff at the Banff International Hostel or at the only hotel option along the road, The Crossing Resort.
Other Amazing Places to Visit in Banff National Park
There are beautiful places all over Peyto Lake but we would like to focus on its overlooked neighbour, Bow Lake. The time we spent hiking around Bow Lake was the reason our legs could barely hold us when we hiked in Peyto!
We recommend stopping by, leaving the car at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge parking and starting your walk from there. The flat land around the lodge is full of little streams and wooden bridges. We had a picnic lunch sitting next to the lake in one of the most pleasant moments of our trip.
And with our energy back up, we started the Bow Glacier Falls hike. It starts flat walking along the lake’s edge and it gets a bit trickier as you approach the end of the lake. If the water is low enough, you can take a shortcut over the rocky delta to then continue along the right side of the river.
A short, slippery climb will provide a great view of the distant waterfalls. The path gets easier from here towards the falls and the views are definitely worth it! We also recommend a quick stop at the foot of Crowfoot Glacier.
There is a viewpoint by the road right before Bow lake. We loved the views from it! Another good stop is Emerald Lake, right after the Trans Canada Highway/Icefields Parkway interchange. It’s perfect for a picnic by the lake under the shade of the trees. You can even go and for a swim as the water is not nearly as cold as its glacial, better known counterparts.
Need to Know Before you Go
Our first and most important advice would be about accommodation: book well in advance if you are visiting during summer! You will find prices rocketing and places fully booked months before your visit to Banff.
Even the campgrounds fill up quickly. Rent a comfortable car too or ask for an upgrade. We found out that since most people don’t return their car where they picked it up (the Rockies are perfect for a one way trip), the rental companies are often in need of relocating their cars. They may upgrade you for free or for a cheap extra fee if you ask for it.
And the most important tip, keep your eyes open. Don’t go blindly from landmark to landmark. Allow yourself to stop and contemplate the beautiful landscapes you find along the way. You will be saluted by plenty of wildlife (bears, moose, etc.), find hidden waterfalls, see uncrowded lakes with breathtaking mountainous backgrounds – the whole Banff package!