Vista Lake is a stunning short and easy hike in Banff National Park Alberta. The trail is part of the longer Arnica Lake Trail, but you can easily only visit beautiful Vista Lake for a short stop to stretch your legs. Vista Lake has crystal clear green water and the peak of Boom Mountain as a backdrop makes it picture-perfect. It’s a great place to get away from the crowds in Banff as it’s not an overrun Banff Hike. Find in our complete guide all you need to know before visiting Vista Lake in Banff including some great photo spots.
How to get to Vista Lake Trailhead
Vista Lake Trailhead is located along the Banff-Windermere Highway at the edge of Banff National Park. In fact, it is the last hike in Banff before you cross the border to Kootenay National Park. From Banff, it is a 30-minute drive and from Lake Louise, it’s a 23-minute drive.
Vista Lake Trailhead is also the start of other hikes such as Arnica Lake 10.2 km (6.3 miles) round trip, and the multi-day hike to Egypt Lake. Vista Lake is only a 2.7 km (1.7 miles) out-and-back trail with 165 meters (541 ft) incline which makes it an easy and family-friendly walk in Banff.
Is Vista Lake in Banff worth visiting?
Yes, Vista Lake is absolutely worth visiting. It is a great place for travelers who like to explore quiet places that are not overrun by tourists. If you’re lucky you won’t meet other people along the trail and you can get a very tranquil experience at the lake. The short Vista Lake walk is a great way to warm up for a day of exploring the other hikes in Kootenay National Park.
Although there are no picnic benches at the lake, it is a great walk to stretch your legs. And for photographers, there are beautiful photo opportunities along the lake as well.
Vista Lake hike
The short but sweet 2.7-km (1.7 miles) out-and-back trail is an easy hike going down to Vista Lake.
Covered by the trees, you will be protected from sun while the narrow trail winds its way down to the lakeshore. Just a few minutes into the trail you’ll already have a peak through view of Vista Lake.
Further descending down, there are plenty of different access points to the lake. But make sure to walk until the point where the trail starts to gain elevation again. From this point, the view of Vista Lake with Boom Mountain as a backdrop is the most beautiful.
The stunning clear green water of Vista Lake, surrounded by vibrant green pine trees with Boom Mountain poking out at the opposite side, Vista Lake is a picture-perfect Banff Lake. It was almost wind still, so the reflection was almost fully visible. I can imagine on a calm day, you can get a perfect reflection of Boom Mountain in Vista Lake.
Getting back to the car park is easy by just following the same path back. Because you were going downhill on your way to the lake, you get all the incline on your way back, so be prepared!
Best time to hike Vista Lake
For the best circumstances, try to get to Vista Lake on a calm day without much wind. This will make the lake still with the chance of seeing a reflection. A great season for this hike is autumn to see the stunning fall foliage. If you continue to Arnica Lake, you can see the golden larch trees around this alpine lake. Vista Lake is surrounded by evergreen pine trees, however you will see some stunning fall colors along the path.
Where to stay near Vista Lake
The closest accommodation to Vista Lake is Storm Mountain Lodge & Cabins which is only a 3-minute drive from the trailhead. The closest town is Lake Louise which has plenty of options for accommodations. Below you’ll find our top picks.
The rustic and cozy cabins of Storm Mountain Lodge are the perfect base to explore Kootenay National Park. These authentic log cabins have a wood-burning fireplace, private bathroom with toiletries and the onsite restaurant serves amazing food. The best and nearest place to relax after exploring.
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.
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.
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.
Do you need a National Park Pass for Vista Lake?
Yes, because Castle Mountain 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 Vista 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 to prepare for your trip.