Here’s one of our favourite facts for you: Canada has more lakes than all the other countries in the world combined. Wow. We think that’s pretty incredible, but it’s more than a soundbite to impress with. Canada’s lakes are integral to the country’s iconic landscape. A holiday to Canada simply wouldn’t be the same without those incredible lakes as highlights along the way.
Glaciers create those unforgettable turquoise hues that make Canada’s lakes world famous. They grind rock faces down into a fine powder known as rock flour. When this powder gets into a lake, the particles hang suspended in the water and reflect the light, creating those eye-popping colours.
It’s true that where there are mountains, there are lakes, so our list of our favourite lakes in Canada is biased towards the West. But with four of the five Great Lakes on Canada’s US border, the East is spectacular too. Read on to find our top lakes in Canada:
1. Moraine Lake
Nestled in the Valley of the 10 Peaks, Moraine Lake in Banff National Park has to be one of the most iconic – and most photographed – lakes in the world.
Best access: Less than 10 miles’ drive from Lake Louise on Highway 1
2. Lake Ontario
No trip to Toronto would be complete without a cruise tour to see the memorable skyline from the water. As one of the five Great Lakes, Ontario is suitably massive and spans more than 7,000 square miles.
Best access: A choice of harbour cruises depart from Queens Quay West in Downtown Toronto
3. Lake Louise, Alberta
If there was any contender to Moraine Lake’s crown as the most photographed, it would be Lake Louise. This enduring favourite in Banff National Park is as famous for the Fairmont Hotel as for the stunning mountain views and Victoria Glacier.
Best access: Driving from Calgary or Banff on Highway 1
4. Peyto Lake, Alberta
Peyto Lake off the Icefield Parkway is so mind-blowing that it is often unfairly accused of being photoshopped. Thanks to the concentration of rock flour created by the Peyto Glacier, this lake really is as blue as it looks in pictures.
Best access: From the Icefields Parkway, around 47kms from Lake Louise. Hike up the short, marked trail once you take the signposted turn off the Highway.
5. Maligne Lake, Alberta
Nestled in Jasper National Park, this lake really is a treat. At 14 miles long, a boat cruise is the best way to see the whole thing and do it justice, from the Hall of the Gods to the sacred Spirit Island.
Best access: An hour’s drive from Jasper on the scenic Maligne Lake Drive. Brewster operate cruise tours on the lake.
6. Emerald Lake, British Columbia
The largest lake in BC’s Yoho National Park is a stunning sight to behold. The colour of its waters lives up to its name, and the luxury Emerald Lake Lodge is its defining landmark.
Best access: 40 minutes’ drive from Lake Louise in the centre of Yoho National Park on Highway 1.
7. Garibaldi Lake, British Columbia
If you’re making the trip between Vancouver and Whistler, stop off at Garibaldi Lake. Seriously, it’s a turquoise gem that you don’t want to miss, complete with fantastic hiking trails.
Best access: 12 miles drive from Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway to the Rubble Creek Trailhead, then a two-hour hike to the lake.
8. Abraham Lake, Alberta
This lake off the North Saskatchewan River comes into its own in winter. Bubbles frozen into the ice create a magical, otherworldly scene – you wouldn’t guess they are produced by something as unglamorous as methane gas from decaying matter on the lake bed!
Best access: After driving about 1 hour 40 minutes along the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise, turn onto Highway 11.
9. Spotted Lake, British Columbia
Rich in minerals like calcium, sodium and magnesium, Spotted Lake puts on a show in summer when the water in the lake evaporates. The minerals are left as concentrated spots on the surface.
Best access: Located in Osooyoos in Southern BC, you can dive here from Penticton in an hour.
10. Okanagan Lake, British Columbia
This is BC’s wine region. Surrounded by vineyards and boasting a meditteranean climate, 84-mile-long Okanagan Lake is ideal for watersports, relaxing and magical sunsets.
Best access: From the town of Kelowna in the heart of the Okanagan Valley
11. Lake Huron, Ontario
Another of the Great Lakes, this huge expanse of freshwater creates an enormous coastline along Ontario’s southeastern border. There are coves, islands and sandy beaches begging to be explored.
Best access: Bruce Peninsula National Park boasts flowerpot rock formations, a cove called the Grotto, pictured above, and a Dark Sky Preserve 3 ½ hours’ drive from Toronto.
12. Lake Superior, Ontario
This is the big one. The largest of the Great Lakes covers a long stretch of Ontario’s southern border with Michigan. Towns like Agawa Bay and Thunder Bay make the most of the watersports on offer.
Best access: Agawa Bay is a 9-hour drive from Toronto so is best enjoyed as part of a roadtrip. There are endless coastal coves and beaches to stop off at.
13. Bow Lake, Alberta
This lake might not be one of the biggest in Banff National Park, but it makes up for it with its stunning colours. It is a favourite attraction on the Icefields Parkway and lies below the Crowfoot Glacier.
Best access: Half an hour’s drive from Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93)
14. Berg Lake, British Columbia
This stunning aquamarine lake sits at the foot of Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Rockies. Not only does it afford fantastic hiking and views of the peak, but it is dotted with icebergs year-round.
Best access: Just over an hour’s drive from Jasper is the Berg Lake Trail. The hikes from here can be 14 miles long, so plan in advance.
15. Lake Minnewanka, Alberta
This glacial lake means “Water of the Spirits” and is a fantastic place to visit just outside of Banff. With cruises available, you can spot all sorts of wildlife along the shores of Lake Minnewanka.
Best access: The 13-mile-long lake is just 3 miles from the town of Banff, meaning you can easily drive, hop on a tour bus or even walk.