A line-up at the Lake Louise Park ‘n Ride shuttle bus kiosk mid-June. While shuttle bus service has been expanded to include Moraine Lake this summer, a lot of visitors are being left frustrated and in the lurch. Any visit to Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and their popular hiking trails will require careful advance planning. Photo courtesy of Damien & Shawna alpenglowphoto.ca.

The expansion of shuttle bus routes at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake this summer promised to ease some of the congestion and improve access to these two popular destinations. But things haven’t been running smoothly. Here are some comments that were sent to my blog  More shuttle buses in Banff for 2019 (Mar 17, 2019):

“Although mass tourism has made this necessary, the way they organized it is very slow and inefficient…. Lining up  to pay 4 dollars with credit or debit card when only one person receives payment created a long lineup and congestion in the payment area so some buses were leaving half empty.”

“Two hours standing in line on July 15th for shuttle tickets. Ridiculous! We waited from noon until after 2:00. People arriving at 11am had an even longer wait from those I spoke with.”

Without wading into how Parks Canada might correct the situation, here are my suggestions, specifically for hikers.

 

Lake Louise

  • If you’re going to Lake Louise for the day, try driving to the lake before sunrise. You should get a spot in the parking area.
  • Take the ROAM bus from Banff to Lake Louise. It’s a direct route that utilizes larger buses. The Banff to Lake Louise ROAM  has been accommodating riders more successfully (so far). It also allows hikers a full day at the lake (a late departure back to Banff). See ROAM Lake Louise Express schedule.
  • Don’t plan on visiting both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in one day. Tickets for Moraine Lake are sold at the Lake Louise kiosk and are often booked by noon.
  • Don’t plan to visit Lake Louise on weekends or holidays.

 

Moraine Lake

  • As with Lake Louise, try driving to Moraine Lake before sunrise.
  • Try to catch one of the four “Early Bird” shuttles that depart from  Lake Louise Park ‘n Ride between 6:00 and 7:30. These are  the only direct shuttles to Moraine. All others during the day go through Lake Louise. (As previously noted, tickets to Moraine Lake from Lake Louise often sell out by noon.)
  • Don’t plan to visit Moraine Lake on weekends or holidays.

 

Final thoughts

Parks Canada needs to take a hard look at its shuttle service after the summer season is over. It is quite clear that more and perhaps larger shuttle buses will be needed in 2020. And maybe it should consider making it a free service, as it is in U.S. National Parks.

I know that “free” flies in the face of Parks Canada’s long-standing cost-recovery policy. But much of Canada’s tourism industry depends on the Rockies and specifically Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors make these two mountain valleys their primary destination. There’s no free lunch. Canada needs to provideIf a reliable, hassle-free way of visiting these ultra-popular areas.

In the meantime, visitors thinking about a trip to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake or hiking the spectacular trails in these two popular valleys, need to plan carefully. You’ll have to be very strategic and maybe a bit lucky in 2019.