Peyto Lake Hike to the Bottom | Banff National Park

Peyto Lake Hike to the Bottom | Banff National Park

Written by Brian Callender | Photography by Julie Boyd

The first time Julie and I laid eyes on Peyto Lake in person, we were blown away.

Like so many of the lakes in the Canadian Rockies, the striking blue water is captivating.

Is the water really that blue?

A question we are often asked when showing photos to friends and family. It most certainly is, and it’s something that is best appreciated firsthand.

When the two of us visited for the first time in 2016, we assumed the only Peyto Lake hike was the one which lead you to a viewing platform high above the shore. We walked she short paved path from the parking lot, and when we arrived at the crowded platform, we decided to duck into a little clearing to enjoy unobstructed views of the lake. From our vantage point, I could see a dirt path that descend into the trees below, but I wasn’t certain if there was a true trail to the shore of Peyto Lake.

After returning home, I opened our Canadian Trails book, flipped to the page on Peyto Lake, and sure enough there it was: two routes down to the shoreline. I bookmarked the hike, and added it to our itinerary for our 2018 trip.

Peyto Lake Hike Details

Starting Elevation: 6,051 ft.

Distance: 2.00 miles, round trip

Elevation Gain: 427 ft.

Hike Type: Out and back, day-hike

Difficulty Level: Easy

Date Hiked: June 12, 2018

Finding the Peyto Lake Hike  Trail

Peyto Lake Hike
Peyto Lake from the viewing platform.

There are two ways to reach the shore of Peyto Lake with the most obvious one starting from the overlook and gradually working its way down. On our second visit to the lake, I explored a bit further down on the main trail from the viewpoint, and discovered that the trail is easy to follow.

However, an easier route begins just a short drive further along the Icefields Parkway. Here, a small pull-out provides access to an unmarked trail to the lakeshore. When we arrived in the late afternoon, there were no other cars parked at the trailhead, which made sense as I wasn’t able to find any information when researching this hike online, and concluded this isn’t the most popular trek. Admittedly, the classic view of Peyto Lake is from above, but my desire to reach it’s shoreline and visit a place less frequented was running high.

Peyto Lake Hike
Scene from the trail during our Peyto Lake hike.

The Peyto Lake hike is a short and easy two miles, round-trip. From the roadside, we descended quickly into a forest before the trail flattened out a bit. We continued along, and across, a small stream before we found ourselves back in the forest. As it was later in the afternoon and we were clearly the only ones on the trail, we made sure to blurt our random noises to alert any nearby bears. In a quick thirty minutes, we made it to shore of Peyto Lake and, as expected, there was not a soul in sight.

Walking on the Shore of Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake Hike
We made it! Standing on the shore of Peyto Lake.

We spent about thirty minutes hanging out by the lake and enjoying the beautiful blue water we had, up until now, only seen from above. Despite the crowds that frequent the overlook, we felt as though we had stumbled upon a secluded alpine lake, high off in the backcountry as we soaked in the cool temperatures of the early evening.

Peyto Lake Hike

As the sun began to set, we decided it was best to say our goodbyes to our lakeside solitude and make the short hike back to the car before dark. Again, we were sure to make regular noise, thinking it might be dinner time for some hungry bears, and not wanting to startle one unexpectedly. Once we reached the car, we headed straight for the overlook so that we could capture the setting sun over Peyto Lake. Perhaps the best thing about visiting any destination around 9:00 p.m. is you are assured to be surrounded by little to no other people, at that was definitely the case when we arrived.

Shore of Peyto Lake

Just past 9:00 p.m., the sun finally set on our adventure and we said goodbye once again to the vibrant blue water. I was excited to have checked an item of my list from two short years ago, and to have returned to one of my favorite lakes. I’m certain Julie and I will find ourselves back at Peyto Lake once again in the near future.

Thanks for following along! Let us know if you’ve been to Peyto Lake or if you would like to visit, in the comments!

Shop our favorite gear for this adventure:


Shore of Peyto Lake



Hiking to Lake Agnes & the Big Beehive

Hiking to Moraine & Consolation Lakes

Driving the Icefields Parkway

Columbia Icefield Tour: Athabasca Glacier Walk

The Best Places to Visit in Banff


20 thoughts on “Peyto Lake Hike to the Bottom | Banff National Park”

  • Believe it or not. For all the time we were in the Canadian Rockies the summer of last year, we never visited Peyto Lake. I know. Next time we are back, it’ll be on the top of our list.

    • Wow, I didn’t realize you guys never made it to Peyto Lake! Yes, you definitely need to visit on your next trip, even if it’s just to the overlook. It’s well worth it!

  • I totally agree about being captivated by the colour of these glacial lakes! I can stare at then for aaaages. We’re actually heading to Banff at the end of the month, so hopefully I’ll be able to take a peek at this prettiness!

  • I have never been to Banff and would love to see all this natural beauty for myself. I love the vibrant color of the lake. Never get tired of seeing it.

  • Thank you for your post. How do you now where to pull off and where to start the hike if the trail head is unmarked? I wouldn’t want to get lost out there. Your photos are beautiful. I have been to Peyto Lake but now down to it and plan to soon

    • Thanks for your question, Susan. We highly recommend the guidebook we have linked on this page. It’s where we did the research that talks about how to get to the trailhead. Essentially though, you go past the main turnoff and it is a pullout that is unmarked. If you’re looking for it, you will find it with ease!

  • Wow! Superb pics. I saw your post and was planning to take this route at the end of august but now park posted that they will be closing all trail and parking lots for peyto lake. Do you think this trail will be affected? I saw peyto lake in winter and i really wanna see it in summer.

    • Thanks Manisha! I highly doubt this route would be closed as it is not an official parking lot. Reading the Parks Canada page, it sounds like they are just doing updates to the official parking lot and viewing platforms. While I can’t say with 100% certainty, you should be fine if you wanted to visit the bottom of Peyto Lake with this route.

  • Hi Brian. Thank you for uploading this post. We visited the Rockies from the UK for the first time in May 2017 and viewed Peyto Lake, still frozen, from the viewing platform which was covered in so much snow that we didn’t realise there was a fence around it! Apart from one other couple, we were the only people there and it was my favourite part of the trip. We returned to the Rockies in September 2018 and had to visit again. This time, the Lake was gloriously blue but the viewing platform was overcrowded with tourists, so we asked further on to the rocky outcrop and spent about 30 minutes there in solitude until a group of young men arrived who were quite loud and exuberant. I never realised there was a trail to the lakeshore but when we return at the end of May this year, we will certainly hunt this out so we can view the lake from both angles.

    • Hi Dawn,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your experiences visiting Peyto Lake! It’s definitely a beautiful place to visit and each season provides a different opportunity to view the lake. If you have a chance, we recommend checking out the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide book which provides a wealth of information on hiking in the area. It’s where we learned about this and other alternate ways to view the lake. Enjoy your visit in May and hopefully it’s not too snowy!

  • Jullie! where is this turnout for the other hike down to peyto? i only did the overlook and want to do the hike next time..

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