The second largest country in the world, Canada is known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities. It’s home to eight distinct forest regions, two mountain regions, volcanoes and the arctic zone. It also happens to be have the world’s largest amount of fresh water lakes, which are spread across all ten provinces and three territories.
It’s believed that there are over 2 million lakes in Canada, 31,752 of which are larger than three square kilometres, with 561 of these lakes having a surface area larger than 100 square kilometres. In fact, over nine per cent of the country is covered by freshwater. That’s over 890,000 square kilometres! With so many lakes, it’s nearly impossible to decide which lakes are the best. But some of these lakes are much more spectacular than the others. Here is our list of the 15 best lakes in Canada.
1. Lake Louise; Banff National Park, Alberta
You have not seen a lake in Canada until you have seen Lake Louise. The glacial lake is small, but extremely spectacular with its emerald green water and stunning surrounding mountains.
Lake Louise is nestled at the foot of Mount Victoria at an elevation of 1,750 metres. It’s one of Banff National Park’s main draws, not only for the scenery, but also for its outdoor activities, which include hiking, mountain biking, boating, ice climbing and ice fishing.
On the eastern end of the lake is the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which is one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. The lake is also close to the Lake Louise Ski Area, one of three major ski areas within the national park and the first stop on the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup.
2. Garibaldi Lake; Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia
This turquoise coloured alpine lake lies in the Garibaldi Provincial Park at an elevation of 1,484 metres above sea level. It’s a stunning lake that is surrounded almost entirely by mountains that reflect into the mirror-like water.
Garibaldi Lake stretches for over 990 hectare between Whistler and Squamish. It’s only accessible by hiking along the nearly nine kilometre Garibaldi Lake Trail.
Visit in the winter and enjoy backcountry skiing or snowshoeing while being mesmerised by the lake’s beauty. Throughout the rest of the year, go hiking and enjoy the meadows, flowers and waterfalls.
3. Moraine Lake; Banff National Park, Alberta
Although Lake Louise tends to get more attention, there’s nothing less captivating than Banff National Park’s Moraine Lake. The picture-perfect glacial fed lake sits in the Valley of the Ten Peaks at an elevation of more than 1,880 metres.
Some may recognise the lake from adverts, video games or even log-in screens, though they don’t even come close to the real thing. In fact, it’s arguably one of the most photographed lakes in all of Canada.
There are a number of walking trails surrounding the lake that offer spectacular views of the lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks behind it. The lake is also the starting point of the Perren Route; an eight to ten hour climb to the Neil Colgan Hut.
4. Emerald Lake; Yoho National Park, British Columbia
Emerald Lake is the largest of 61 lakes found within the park, and also happens to be the best of the bunch. The beautiful emerald green lake is completely enclosed by mountains of the President Range and sits at an elevation of over 1,200 metres.
The lake is one of the Yoho National Park’s premier attractions, offering canoeing, hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. It’s also easy to get to by vehicle, even though it’s in a secluded area.
The lake is frozen from November to June, and is most outstanding in July when the snow melts into it from the surrounding mountains. Still, no matter when you visit Emerald Lake you’ll be impressed.
5. Spotted Lake; British Columbia
Spotted Lake is a natural phenomenal because as the water evaporates in the summer it leaves spots of mineral deposits. This can only be seen in the summer months, which is the only time to visit the lake and experience its amazingness.
As the summer progresses, the spots change in size and location. As well, the spots change colour as the evaporation increases.
The alkali lake is located in the Similkameen Valley near the desert town of Osoyoos and is accessible by road (Highway 3). It’s protected by a fence, as it’s a cultural and ecologically sensitive area, though it’s still easy to snap photos from behind it.
6. Abraham Lake; Alberta
Located in Alberta on the North Saskatchewan River, Abraham Lake is an artificial lake that was created in 1972 by the Bighorn Dam. It sits in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 1,340 metres.
Abraham Lake is not a big lake, but it’s an impressive one, what with its incredible blue colour. This is a result of the rock flour created by the mountains.
One of the main reasons to visit the lake it so witness the formation of the frozen bubbles beneath its icy surface in the winter months. This odd natural phenomenon is caused by the rotting of plants in the lake, which release methane gas that can’t be released, forming bubbles.
7. Lake Superior; Ontario
The largest of North America’s Great Lakes, Lake Superior is also the one to visit, as it’s the world’s largest freshwater lake. In fact, it’s so big that there are actually countries that are smaller than it.
Lake Superior is shared with neighbouring USA, though one of its main attractions is on the Canadian side; the Lake Superior Provincial Park. The park is sits along the north-eastern shores of the lake is home to the famous Agawa pictograph, 11 hiking trails and three campgrounds.
It’s not possible to walk around the 2,783 kilometres shoreline, but driving along its Great Lakes Circle Tour scenic route is very popular, and highly recommended. It’s the best way to enjoy the cliffs, canyons, waterfalls and wildlife surrounding the lake.
8. Great Slave Lake; Northwest Territories
The deepest lake in North America should be on everyone’s bucket list, especially if planning a holiday to the Northwest Territories. Great Slave Lake has a long and important history that dates back over 8,000 years, and is still an important part of the local’s lives today.
The capital city of Yellowknife sits along the lake’s shoreline, as do a number of Indigenous communities. It’s a lake filled with culture and unspoilt wilderness that boasts unparalleled reflections of the aurora borealis.
Eight months of the year Great Slave Lake is cut off from civilization, though visitors can enjoy going on a snowmobile tour over it. Visit in the summer and go kayaking or fishing.
9. Maligne Lake; Jasper National Park, Alberta
This stunning lake has incredible azure-blue water, which is what it’s most known for. Well that and its amazing surrounding peaks, three glaciers and charming Spirit Island.
A great thing about Maligne Lake is that it’s accessible by road, and many shuttle buses head here from the nearby town of Jasper. It’s also possible to hike along the 44 kilometre Skyline Trail from the town to the lake.
Maligne Lake is home to two Alberta registered historic buildings as well as three camping sites that are only accessible by canoe. From spring to autumn, boats run to the iconic Spirit Island.
10. Peyto Lake; Banff National Park, Alberta
This gorgeous glacier-fed lake is located in the Banff National Park at an elevation of 1,860 metres above sea level. Peyto Lake is only 530 hectare, but it’s truly beautiful.
Although the lake is quite high, it’s easy to get to by driving along the Icefields Parkway. The drive is extremely scenic, although so are the views of the lake that can be seen from the viewpoint (Bow Summit).
From the viewpoint there is a trail heading down to the lake as well as one going further above it, where the view is even better.
11. Lake Memphremagog; Quebec
Created by ancient glaciers, Lake Memphremagog is a stunning lake that sits between Quebec and the US state of Vermont, with 73 per cent of it is located in Quebec. The lake is named after the Algonquin word for ‘where there is a big expanse of water’.
Lake Memphremagog’s surroundings make is particularly beautiful, what with the rolling hills in the east and rugged mountains in the west. It’s also home to 21 different islands, 15 of which are in Canada.
It’s not uncommon to see yachts of all sizes sailing around in the water, especially since they summer day cruises started in 2011. Also, the children’s sailing club Sargent’s Bay Yacht Club can be found on its shorelines.
12. Berg Lake; Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia
When thinking about seeing a lake perched right in front of a mountain, well that’s Berg Lake. Canada’s highest peak – Mount Robson – is right behind the stunning turquoise blue lake that is partially fed by a glacier.
If that’s not enough, the lake is also surrounded by icebergs, even in the summer! Plus, the hike there is also quite spectacular, as it passes through the incredible Valley of a Thousand Waterfalls.
The only way to reach Berg Lake is by hiking along the Berg Lake Trail that runs from a car park and up along the Robson River. The trail is 19 kilometres and there are campsites along the way.
13. Kootenay Lake; British Columbia
Part of the Kootenay River, Kootenay Lake sits between the Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges, making it quite serene. Plus, most of its 145 kilometres shoreline is completely undeveloped, which just adds to its beauty.
It’s one of British Columbia’s largest lakes and was formed through the erosion of the river and nearby glaciers. Today, it’s overflowing with seven species of fish, including rainbow trout, white sturgeon, kokanee salmon and mountain whitefish.
All year the Kootenay Lake Ferry crosses the lake between Kootenay Bay and Balfour that can carry a maximum of 80 vehicles and 250 passengers. The ferry is completely free and happens to be the longest free scenic ferry in the world.
14. Lake Ontario; Ontario
Lake Ontario provides drinking water to over nine million people both in Ontario and in the US state of New York. But it’s also a picturesque lake that is dotted with cliffs, beaches and city centres.
It’s not only a lake that boasts beautiful scenery (especially when looking at the Toronto skyline), but also offers activities like paddle boarding, windsurfing and canoeing. The lake also happens to be one of the largest in the world!
Lake Ontario is a freshwater lake with a loads of biodiversity. This includes not only animals living in and around the water, but also the plants and trees around it.
15. Kluane Lake; Yukon
Kluane Lake sits at an elevation of 781 metres in the mountains near the near Kluane National Park. It’s a glacier fed lake, giving it an amazing turquoise colour that reflects the surrounding mountains.
The lake is very well known for its fishing, particularly its lake trout and whitefish. Plus, Aishihik and Kluane caribou herds migrate in the lakes vicinity.
The Alaska Highway runs along most of Kluane Lake’s southern shoreline, offering some spectacular views of the lake and its surrounding area.