Somehow, I underestimated the size of Banff during my vacation planning. It looks relatively compact on a map, but the reality is that Banff National Park is 2,564 square miles, and it is filled with so many amazing places to explore. I thought we would have time to explore more of it, but we were only able to get a taste of the park during our short time there.
On our first full day in Banff, we explored Lake Louise and Moraine Lake – two must-see highlights that will show up in any guidebook on the area. The numbers of tour buses in both areas confirmed their popularity. The concierge at our hotel had advised us to head to Moraine Lake first, since there is little parking and it tends to fill up. I was so glad we had this piece of advice. The park service closed off access to the road to Moraine Lake by about 12:30 on the day we explored due to the crowds.
Whether it was because the lake is so visually stunning, or because it was our first alpine lake of the trip, or simply because we had such a great morning there, Moraine Lake was one of our favorite places during our time in Banff.
We climbed to the top of the aptly-named Rock Pile for our first views of Moraine Lake, then we walked the lakeshore trail, a 1.5 mile roundtrip to the south end of the lake. As we neared the southern end of the lakeshore trail, we were able to see more clearly the glaciers in the surrounding peaks.