Peyto Lake in Banff National Park

Peyto Lake (pronounced pea-toe) has always been on my list of places to visit, and I was finally able to make this happen on my latest trip to Alberta. Located in Banff National Park, this glacial-fed lake is majestic in every way imaginable. The colour of the lake changes depending on how the sun is shining on it, so going back several times in a day will give you a different feel every time.

The lookout to this lake is situated in a high enough place that gives you a fantastic view of the lake and surrounding mountain range. The lookout can be reached by a somewhat steep 10 minute hike from the main parking lot. For tour groups, however, a secondary parking lot higher above allows for immediate access to the viewing platform. The view from here is particularly striking during a sunrise or sunset.

Nikon D800, 1/30 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 82mm

Nikon D800, 1/30 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 82mm

The sun set behind these mountain ranges, offering a spectacular view with Peyto Lake in the foreground.

Nikon D800, 3-Exposure Lightroom Merge, 1/20 sec., f/90, ISO 100, 14mm

Nikon D800, 3-Exposure Lightroom Merge, 1/20 sec., f/90, ISO 100, 14mm

This platform (seen above), however, is often crowded with tourists always trying to get the best vantage point within a confined area. A little known fact is, that if you hike a little longer along the pathway and onto the side of the mountain (about a 500m walk further up), you’ll get to an open space that will bring you an even better view of this lake, as seen below.

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/10, ISO 100, 24mm

This vantage point is not as well known as the platform so at most you’ll find one or two others milling in the area. But since this area is open with no barriers, you’re free to walk around anywhere, allowing you that perfect vantage point you’re after. You may find this regular vying for attention though. He seems to be quite popular amongst photographers coming here.

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 110mm

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 110mm

How to get to the secondary viewing area

This secondary view is highly recommended and only adds an extra 20-30min (roundtrip) hike from the platform. If you keep to the trails, you’ll encounter this sign below.

Nikon D800,

Nikon D800,

When you’re on the loop trail beyond the viewing platform, follow the trail to your right. After about a 5-7 minute hike, just before the loop hooks to the left, look for this sign below.

This sign is at the entrance to the hike to the open viewing area of Peyto Lake

This sign is at the entrance to the hike to the open viewing area of Peyto Lake

Follow the path that leads you into the mountainside. Eventually you will come out to an open area. The first open area you encounter offers great views, but walk a few steps more and you’ll come out to a completely open and rocky area that offers the best views of Peyto Lake, as seen here.

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/14, ISO 100, 15mm

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/14, ISO 100, 15mm

More Peyto Lake

Once you’ve exhausted your stay here by the rocks, you can continue on to the trail for a few more minutes where you’ll be able to get a glimpse of the end of Peyto Lake. This is something you won’t be able to see from that platform, but is quite striking in its own way.

A closeup with my telephoto lens at 200mm shows the details of the sand spilling through to Peyto Lake. I love how painterly this looked while I was standing there.

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/6.3, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/6.3, ISO 100, 200mm

Peyto Lake will always be a must-see in my books, no matter what time of day you’re able to get there. It’s a popular destination so pick your times wisely. Whether you take pictures from the platform or the open area, you won’t be disappointed with the results. It’s one of Banff National Park’s wonderful glacial-fed lakes and is highly recommended.

Have you been to Peyto Lake before? What was your first impression?

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