Visitors Guide to Stunning Peyto Lake in Canada

Peyto Lake is a stunning glacial-fed lake with a spectacular mountain backdrop located along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Known for its vibrant turquoise color and the shape of a wolf’s head, Peyto Lake Viewpoint is a must-visit. The short walk from the parking lot to the viewing platform along a paved path is accessible for most people. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful places in the Canadian Rockies you can’t miss! Find everything you need to know in our complete guide before visiting Peyto Lake. 

Where is Peyto Lake?

Peyto Lake is situated at an elevation of 1,860 m (6,100 ft) in Banff National Park. Located along the Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the world, Peyto Lake is an easy visit. 

The closest town to Peyto Lake is Lake Louise which is only a 40 km, about 30 minutes, drive north from the famous lake town. 

Coming from Banff, it’s about an hour west over 100 km (62 miles), and you will pass Lake Louise on the way. So that makes it a great day trip if you can combine a visit to Lake Louise and Peyto Lake. 

The town of Canmore is 120 km (75 miles) south of Peyto Lake and takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes driving.

Jasper National Park is a 130-minute drive without stops over 190 km north of Peyto Lake. However, because the Icefields Parkway is such an iconic and spectacular drive, I would recommend allowing a full day to get from Peyto Lake to Jasper. There are plenty of beautiful stops along the way!


How to reach Peyto Lake?

Peyto Lake is super easy to reach with its close proximity to the Icefields Parkway. You only have a short walk of about 10 – 20 minutes to the main viewpoint of Peyto Lake over a paved trail. This makes it even a wheelchair-friendly visit and a perfect visit for the whole family! 

Obviously, you will need a car to reach Peyto Lake parking. But if you don’t drive a car, you can also get to Peyto Lake with these day tours


Best tours to Peyto Lake

If you’re wondering ‘How to see Peyto Lake if I don’t have my own transport?’, then booking a tour including a visit to Peyto Lake is the best option. Here are the best tours visiting Peyto Lake. 

Icefields Parkway full-day tour from Banff

This is the best value for money if you want to explore the beauty of Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway from Banff. Departing at 9 am you will get picked up from your hotel in Banff and visit all the Icefields Parkway highlights. These include Lake Minnewanka, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Bow Lake, the Crowfoot Glacier and Peyto Lake of course!

With a limited amount of spots available and 5-star reviews, this tour is highly popular, so I recommend booking your spot for this full-day tour far in advance

Small group tour to Icefields Parkway, Mistaya Canyon & Peyto Lake

If you prefer to visit the highlights of the Icefields Parkway in a small group, then this full-day tour is your best choice. Limited to 12 guests, this full-day adventure gives a more personalized feeling. You will visit the Banff and Jasper National Parks’ highlights, including Peyto Lake, Mistaya Canyon, and the Columbia Icefield.

Private Icefields Parkway Tour

If you prefer a private and exclusive tour of the Icefields Parkway highlights, then this is the tour for you. Especially in the winter months, this full-day tour is the best way to explore Peyto Lake and other highlights because the vehicle you go with is a Jeep! In contrast to the other tours, you will be transported in a van or bus. This private guided tour takes you on easy hikes at highlights such as Herbert Lake, Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls, Natural Bridge, Marble Canyon, and of course Peyto Lake! 

Is Peyto Lake worth visiting?

Yes absolutely! Peyto Lake is not only one of the easiest accessible lakes along the Icefields Parkway, but also one of the most beautiful and unique ones. The shape of the lake looks like a wolf’s or fox’ head, and because you are standing above the lake, you have stunning views of the valley. Most of the other lakes you can visit along the Icefields Parkway are on the same level. So the elevated position of Peyto Lake’s viewing platform makes it extra beautiful! Besides that is the short walk a great stop during your Icefields Parkway road trip. 


Peyto Lake hikes

There are a few hikes accessible from Peyto Lake, but the most well-known and visited is the short walk to Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint. However, if you are looking for longer hikes, then there are more options available in the area of Peyto Lake.

How long is the hike to visit Peyto Lake?

You might wonder ‘Is Peyto Lake a hike?’, because I shared before about the paved path leading to the viewing platform. I wouldn’t say that visiting Peyto Lake requires ‘real’ hiking It’s just a short walk from the parking lot to the first viewpoint over a tarmac path. However, there is a bit of incline involved with a total elevation gain of 92 meters (305 feet) over 0.5 km. From the first, upper viewpoint to the second one, it’s another 0.5 km which is a flat walk. So Peyto Lake trail is very easy and accessible for many people. 

The walk to Peyto Lake on a snowy day in fall

Other hikes near Peyto Lake

Bow Summit, Bow Glacier Falls Trail and Observation Peak are the most well-known hikes from which Bow Summit provides some great photo spots and a closer view of Peyto Lake. This 6.8-km (4.2 miles) out-and-back trail with a 286-meter (941 ft) incline takes you to a viewpoint from where you can see both Bow Lake and Peyto Lake. The area of exposed rocks is lower than the upper viewing platform and does have some good photo opportunities with natural features. However, if you’re short in time, the view from the official lookout is your best bet. 

Views from Bow Summit on Peyto Lake

Bow Glacier Falls Trail is a longer and more challenging hike that offers stunning views of Bow Glacier and the surrounding landscape. This trail is 9.6 kilometers (6 miles) round trip and is also accessible from the Bow Summit area. 

Observation Peak is another Peyto Lake hike and is much more adventurous. In fact, this is more a scramble instead of a hike. Therefore this full-day hike should only be attempted by experienced hikers – scramblers. The hike takes you up along a ridge to the far northern end of Peyto Lake. So you will be on the opposite side of the official viewing platform. From here, you won’t see the wolf head shape of Lake Peyto anymore. In all honesty, even though we didn’t do this hike ourselves, from the pictures I’ve seen I wouldn’t recommend it directly because of its risk compared to less impressive views you can get at the easy viewpoint. 

What is the best time to visit Peyto Lake?

Peyto Lake Lookout is open year-round unless there is heavy snowfall and the road closes. 

But the best time to visit Peyto Lake is either in late spring, the summer months and fall, which goes from June to October. 

In May and June you can see many beautiful wildflowers around the lake which definitely adds beauty to the already stunning atmosphere! During the summer, the majority of snow on the surrounding mountain melts, yet Peyto Lake retains its stunning blue hue. Weather-wise the summer months are often the best time to visit considering good, calm weather. 

However, fall can be a great time to visit a well! Although you won’t see scenic autumn colors around the lake because there are no Larch trees, it is a great season to visit with most likely fewer crowds. 

If you are really lucky to visit Peyto Lake with the first snowfall in (often early October), you will be in for a treat! The surrounding mountains then received their first dust of snow while the lake wont be frozen yet! 

Peyto Lake in a winter wonderland, right before the lake freezes

And that brings us to the winter months, which are not the very best time to visit considering the frozen lake. Of course, the scenery will still be breathtaking! But the striking turquoise color is less visible when the lake is frozen. 

Regarding the best time of the day to visit Peyto Lake the early morning and late afternoon are often the best time to avoid the crowds. For photography both sunrise and sunset are also great! 

Can you visit Peyto Lake in the winter?

Yes, you absolutely can visit Peyto Lake in the winter months because the lookout is open year-round. However, you might need some more preparations to get there. The road conditions on the Icefields Parkway are much more challenging during the winter months, with heavy snow and icy roads. Therefore you’ll need winter tires and winter chains. 

Also, the path to Peyto Lake lookout can be slippery, so micro spikes for under your hiking shoes might be necessary to keep the grip. After heavy snow, you might even need snow shoes!  

If you don’t want to drive yourself, then this full-day tour shows you the highlights of Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks including a visit to Peyto Lake!


Does Peyto Lake freeze?

Yes, Peyto Lake freezes in the winter months. The freezing typically occurs between late fall and early spring. During this time, the lake’s surface becomes covered with ice and snow, which means that the turquoise color isn’t visible anymore. It does result in an enchanting winter landscape. However, if you want to see the striking blue color of the lake you need to plan your visit in any month except winter. 

Frozen Peyto Lake in winter

Peyto Lake or Doghead Lake? 

You might have noticed it in the pictures already. The shape of Peyto Lake looks like a wolf, dog or fox head! Fun thing is that before being named Peyto, the lake was actually known as Doghead Lake! You can see the dog-wolf-fox head from any high point near the lake’s south end looking north. What do you see? A dog, wolf, or fox’ head?

Later the lake was renamed to guide Bill Peyto, who would become one of Canada’s first Banff National Park warden. 


Where to stay near Peyto Lake?

There are plenty of options to stay close to Peyto Lake, varying from campgrounds and accommodations. With Lake Louise only a 30-minute drive away from Peyto Lake, it is the easiest option to stay in Lake Louise Village

10 minutes from Peyto Lake

The closest accommodation option from Peyto Lake, situated along the Icefields Parkway is HI Mosquito Creek Hostel. This wilderness hostel offers family rooms and beds in dormitory rooms. There is also shared kitchen facilities available and a wood-heated sauna. 

Accommodations in Lake Louise 

30 minutes from Peyto Lake is the charming Lake Louise village. Home to the world-famous Lake Louise. With just enough facilities such as a grocery, some restaurants, and enough outdoor activities, Lake Louise Village is a great base to explore the south end of the Icefields Parkway and Yoho National Park. Here are the best accommodations in Lake Louise Village

Fairmont Château Lake Louise

Without a doubt, the most beautiful and unique accommodation in Lake Louise is the Fairmont, located along the lakeshore. If you want to stay somewhere special, then booking a room with Lakeview at Fairmont Château Lake Louise is the answer. With a heated indoor pool and a complete fitness center, 8 on-site dining options and a wine library you will feel like a king and queen in Fairmont Château Lake Louise. 

Fairmont Château Lake Louise room view

Lake Louise Inn

Lake Louise Inn is conveniently located in the center of Lake Louise Village. With standard double rooms, one-bedroom apartments studio’s and suites, Lake Louise Inn has plenty of choice for every kind of traveler. Most of the rooms have views of the surrounding mountains, and featuring a heated indoor pool and hot tubs, Lake Louise Inn offers great value for a fair price

Lake Louise Inn

Post Hotel and Spa

Idyllishly located along the Bow River, Post Hotel and Spa offers their guests spacious, rustic rooms and suites, alongside an indoor pool and a hot tub, a fitness center, free private parking, a restaurant and cozy bar.

Post Hotel & Spa

Campsites near Peyto Lake

There are also several campsites nearby Lake Peyto such as Mosquito Creek Campground, Silverhorn Creek Campground and Waterfowl Lakes Campground. Another option for RV camping halfway the Icefields Parkway is the Columbia Icefield Campground where we camped.

Icefields Parkway RV camping

How was Peyto Lake formed?

Peyto Lake was formed through glacial processes from the nearby glaciers. Approximately seventy million years ago, internal pressures within the Earth’s crust led to the uplifting of the Rocky Mountains. Cracks and fractures carved out the valley below and a period of glaciation, beginning about one million years ago, further sculptured the mountains, leaving them in their present form.

During this period Peyto Glacier, an outflow of the Wapta Icefield, moved far down the valley transporting and depositing tons of rock and debris at its terminus. When the glacier retreated, the debris was left behind as a terminal moraine impounding the water and forming Peyto Lake.

Peyto Glacier

How deep is Peyto Lake?

Peyto Lake reaches a maximum depth of approximately 90 meters (295 feet).

Can you swim in Peyto Lake?

Theoretically, you can swim in Peyto Lake. However, it is not recommended because of a few reasons. The lake is glacial-fed, so the water temperature is extremely cold, even during the summer months. Also, the trek down to the lakeshore isn’t easy. In fact, there isn’t a maintained path going down to the lake. If you really want to take a dip in a glacier-fed lake, then there are easier (and safer!) options. 

Is Peyto Lake dog-friendly?

Yes, you can visit Peyto Lake with your dog. However, they must be kept on a leash at all times to ensure the safety of wildlife, other visitors, and the pets themselves. Also, dog owners need to clean up after their dog and properly dispose of waste.

Why is Peyto Lake so blue?

The short answer is that the unique blue waters of Peyto Lake are caused by the rock flour from glacial meltwater that flows into the lake. 

The comprehensive answer to why Peyto Lake has such a striking blue color is a bit more complicated as it’s a fascinating natural phenomenon.

Above Peyto Lake sits a glacier called Peyto Glacier. When glacial meltwater seeps down into the lake, it carries fine particles of rock flour or glacial silt. These tiny rock particles are created as glaciers grind against the bedrock beneath them, turning it into a fine powder.

The glacial rock flour is suspended in the lake’s water, and when sunlight penetrates the surface, it scatters in a way that enhances the blue and green tones of the spectrum. The specific shade of turquoise or blue that you see in Peyto Lake is a result of this scattering phenomenon, combined with the reflection of sunlight off the finely ground rock particles.

So this unique process of light interaction with suspended glacial rock flour gives Peyto Lake its distinctive and vibrant blue color.


Do you need a National Park Pass to visit Peyto Lake?

Yes, because Peyto Lake is located inside Banff National Park, you’ll need a Parks Canada Pass to enter. Depending on the number of days you plan to visit the Canadian National Parks, you can either buy single daily admission tickets or the Parks Canada Discovery Pass which is a multi-park entry pass for 365 days. You can purchase the different Parks Canada Passes online at the Parks Canada website, at the National Park Visitor Centres or at booths upon entering the many national parks. See all the options and prices below.  

Single daily admission pass

This entrance fee ticket is sold per person, per day, per National Park. It is only the best option if you are solo traveling and just visiting one or two national parks for a couple of days.

  • $10.50 CAD for an adult (from 18-64 years)
  • $9.00 CAD for Senior (65+)
  • FREE entrance for kids younger than 17 years

Group daily admission pass

For the ones traveling with 2 or more people in one car, you can buy a single-day group admission pass. This pass gives entrance for up to 7 people in one vehicle.

  • $21.00 CAD for one vehicle entry for one full day (maximum 7 people)

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass” is the best option for travelers who plan to visit multiple National Parks. Basically, if you’re spending more than 7 days in the Canadian National Parks, you’ll have a much better deal buying the Discovery Pass. This multi-park entry pass is valid for 365 days to access all participating national parks in Canada. These include Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and much more.

  • $72.25 CAD for one Adult (age 18-64)
  • $61.75 CAD for one Senior (64+)
  • $145.25 CAD for a couple or group/family up to 7 people in one vehicle

More Canada travel inspiration

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about Peyto Lake in Banff National Park. For more travel inspiration about British Columbia and Alberta, head over to our other Canada travel guides. See below our Canada guides per National Park and area for more things to do and see. 

Read here our incredibly extensive guide about RVing in Canada

Banff National Park 

Parker Ridge Trail – Complete Hiking Guide

Plain of the Six Glaciers Trail – Complete Hiking Guide

Horse riding experience in Banff National Park

Jasper National Park

Mount Edith Cavell hike – The Complete Guide

Kootenay National Park

Floe Lake hike – Complete Guide


Chester Lake hike – Complete Guide

Smutwood Peak hike – Complete Guide

East End of the Rundle hike – Complete Guide

British Columbia

How to hike the epic Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Park

Joffre Lakes hike – Complete Hiking Guide

Lynn Canyon hike Vancouver

St Marks Summit hike Vancouver

The best Whale Watching tours in Vancouver

Stunning Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Park

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