Lake Louise is probably most famous not for the lake itself, but for the hotel named after it, the Chateau Lake Louise. One of the same family of Canadian Pacific Railway hotels that gave us the Banff Springs, the Chateau, as the name suggests, was modeled after the French building style; some find it beautiful, others not so much. The lake, though, is undeniably stunning. At the far end of the lake (perhaps an hour's hike on the Lakeshore Trail), the Victoria Glacier hangs above the blue-green waters, preternatural and spectacular.
Lake Louise, the village, is 56km (35 miles) northwest of Banff, but leaves behind the crowded, touristy feel of its neighbor. It's small, for one thing, centered around a shopping plaza nestled in trees next to the Bow River. There is no main street, and it is an overall perfectly peaceful place. It also sits next to one of the largest ski areas in North America and offers easy access to some of the most amazing trekking to be found in the park.
When you get to the Chateau, though, expect to fight for parking in summer and brave the crowds (this might be the only place in Louise you find them) heading out to take a stroll (or just take a photo) along the Lakeshore Trail.
You can reach the back of the lake quickly and easily via a flat trail. Then, decide if you want to continue up toward the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail to a teahouse with a beautiful view. The location is deeply rewarding and otherworldly.
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