You’ve been hiking all morning. Around, and sometimes over, rock piles. Down switchbacks. Through green meadows dotted with little purple flowers. It started out chilly, though it’s quickly warming up. Your fleece jacket is now around your waist. You’ve seen hoary marmots and lots of squirrels. Kinglets chirp as they fly from tree to tree. You hear a woodpecker in the distance. You’re walking through a dense forest of Rocky Mountain Firs and Engelmann spruces when you start to see bright turquoise. You pick up the pace. There’s a clearing ahead. You’re breathless by the time you reach it. But not from hiking. You just reached Moraine Lake.
Located in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, the glacier-fed lake is surrounded by mountains on one side and a massive rock slide on the other. Moraine Lake is only seven miles from popular Lake Louise, but it’s secluded and quiet. Except for the rustling of the trees, the water gently hitting the rocks, the birds in the distance, and the squirrel keeping an eye on you.
Moraine Lake Lodge is tucked in between the trees on the mountainside. You see the brightly colored canoes at the edge of the water before the lodge itself. The rooms and the cabins have handcrafted log furniture, stone fireplaces, soaking tubs, and, of course, lake views. Water comes from an alpine mountain well, and the lodge generates its own power. There are no phones or televisions to distract you. Instead, a naturalist will take you on a guided hike. Afternoon tea is served in the Library. And boxed lunches are available for your explorations. Speaking of lunch, you should be starving after your long hike. But when you spot ice cream in the Snowshoe Cafe, real food no longer matters.
Give your legs a break for the afternoon. Pull one of the canoes out onto the water. Fluffy, low-lying clouds hang over the lake. Paddle by the stream rushing in from the Wenkchemna Glacier. Harlequin ducks glide past you. The Ten Peaks–from Mount Fay and Mount Little to Neptuak Mountain and Wenkchemna Peak–are in front of you. Return to the lodge to plan your hike for the next day. Maybe the Rockpile hike for the Twenty Dollar View, as seen on the old Canadian $20 bill. Or along the Lakeshore Trail, staying closer to the water.
Eventually you’ll get to Sentinel Pass, for amazing views over Paradise Valley. But for now, you prefer to sit on your balcony with a glass of Merlot from the Okanagan Valley. This view is worth a lot more than $20.