If there’s one thing Canada isn’t lacking, it’s lakes. More than 8 percent of the country is covered in them, making it one of the best places on Earth for lake lovers and nature lovers to get their thrills. Some of them are popular tourist hotspots, with all the marinas, boat rams, concessions, and crowds you’d expect. Others are unspoiled slices of paradise, completely untouched by the modern world. Regardless of which variety floats your boat, you’re guaranteed to find something to suit in our count down of the 20 best lakes in Canada.
20. Lake Memphremagog, Quebec
Covering around 1780 square kilometers between Quebec and Vermont, Lake Memphremagog is nothing if not huge. It’s also startlingly beautiful… which may explain its reputation as the crown jewel of Quebec. During the summer months, it’s an incredibly popular spot for recreation. If you go, you might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Memphre, the mythical (or so the skeptics say, anyway) 30-foot river monster that’s said to have moved into the lake sometime in the 19th century and never bothered to leave since.
19. Okanagan Lake, British Columbia
Buried deep in BC’s wine country is Okanagan Lake, a vast, crystal clear expanse of water that offers a myriad of opportunities for fun and recreation. Paddleboarding and scuba diving are both popular pastimes, although be warned – the lake is said to be home to several mysterious mythic beasties that occasionally like to pop up and give visitors a fright. If you’d rather not risk it, there’s plenty to enjoy in the hiking trails and picnic spots that dot the shoreline.
18. Lake Minnewanka, Alberta
The Banff National Park is home to some incredible lakes, not least Lake Minnewanka. Measuring over 13 miles in length, it’s the second-longest mountain lake in Canada, and unquestionably one of the most beautiful. Sheltered by snow-capped peaks and ringed by forests, it’s a gorgeous sight. If you can drag your eyes away from the view, you’ll find plenty of things to keep you entertained. Hiking is immensely popular in the area, but you really shouldn’t miss the chance to scuba dive, either – buried underneath the lake’s glistening surface is a flooded ghost village that intrepid divers are free to explore to their heart’s content.
17. Berg Lake, British Columbia
Nestled in the shadow of the highest peak in the Rockies, Berg Lake is an extraordinary place. Its remote location takes it off the agenda for most causal visitors, but if you’re prepared to tackle the wilds of the Mount Robson Provincial Park to reach it (and equally prepared to have your mind blown by the utterly incredible Valley of a Thousand Waterfalls on the way), you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts. Ringed by ancient pine forests and backed by awe-inspiring mountains, it’s one of the most serenely beautiful spots in the entire province. Suffice to say, don’t even think about coming without a camera.
16. Lake Ontario, Ontario
Lake Ontario provides drinking water to an incredible nine million people. But it’s more than just a giant faucet. The 14th biggest lake in the world is a natural wonder, offering every kind of outdoor recreation under the sun. Explore its coves, discover its beaches, windsurf, kayak, paddleboard, swim, hike… you name it, you can do it here. You can even try to spot Ogopogo, the monster that’s set to swim its depths. Although legend has it he only surfaces when he’s hungry, so be careful how you go.
15. Bow Lake, Alberta
Named as one of the best lakes in Banff by thebanffblog.com, Bow Lake is nothing sort of spectacular, especially on a warm day when its aquamarine waters sparkle in the sunshine. As one of the biggest lakes in Banff National Park, its scale is awe-inspiring. Equally impressive is the vast assortment of recreational activities on offer – whether you want to hike, picnic, swim, sunbathe, or simply sit back and admire the view, you won’t find yourself disappointed.
14. Waterton Lake, Alberta
Waterton Lake is one of a handful of lakes that manage to have both Canadian and US citizenship. Regardless of which side of the border you visit it from, it’s a beautiful lake, with deep, sparkling waters and postcard-perfect surrounds. It’s nestled deep within the Waterton Lakes National Park, a pretty incredible place that’s managed to earn UNESCO World Heritage Site status. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also been named an International Peace Park and a Biosphere Reserve. The usual opportunities for outdoor recreation are on offer, but really, this is simply a place to stand still and admire the jaw-dropping beauty.
13. Lake Huron, Ontario
The second largest lake in Canada is Lake Huron, a stunning body of water that spans an epic 23,000 square miles. It’s best known for the 1000 or so shipwrecks buried deep within its waters, but it’s also an amazing spot for recreation and relaxation. Scattered along its shoreline are dozens of caves and coves, islands and beaches, all of which demand to be explored. The hiking is excellent, and there’s also plenty of opportunities for swimming and other watersports.
12. Abraham Lake, Alberta
Located on the North Saskatchewan River in Alberta, Abraham Lake is a stunningly photogenic lake that’s crying out to be explored. There are bigger lakes around, but Abraham Lake’s selling point isn’t its size, it’s its color. Thanks to the rock flour deposits created by the surrounding mountains, its depths are an almost artificially vibrant blue. If the color alone wasn’t enough to tempt you to visit, the frozen bubbles underneath its icy surface in the winter might – a natural phenomenon created by trapped methane gas, it’s an incredible thing to see.
11. Alta Lake, British Columbia
Named as one of the best lakes in Canada by gibbonswhistler.com, Alta Lake in Whistler is unquestionably one of the most beautiful lakes in British Columbia, if not the entire country. Surrounded by the beautiful Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, its backdrop couldn’t be more picture-perfect it tried. With its lovely beaches and scenic docks, it’s ideal for a lazy day on the water. If you’re in the mood for something a little more active, check out the incredibly lovely trails at Rainbow Park on the east shore of the lake.
10. Maligne Lake, Alberta
Located at the base of the Maligne Mountains, the Maligne Lake is a gorgeous stretch of water with depths of up to 300 feet in places. Located in the Jasper National Park in Alberta, its forty-five miles of shoreline offer a stunning array of recreational opportunities – hikers in particular will love the chance to explore its unspoiled beauty. It’s also a great place for fishing for rainbow trout, kayaking, canoeing, and, of course taking photograph after photograph of the world-famous Spirit Island.
9. Great Slave Lake; Northwest Territories
Want to explore Canada’s deepest lake? Then make sure to include a trip to Great Slave Lake; Northwest Territories on your list. It’s deep, it’s old, it’s oozing with history, and it boasts some of the most pristine natural scenery in the entire country. It’s also completely cut off from civilization for eight months of the year, meaning you don’t have to worry about hordes of tourists spoiling your view. Come summer, it’s a great spot for kayaking or fishing. Once the temperatures drop, leave your fishing rod at home and take a snowmobile tour over its frozen depths instead.
8. Lake Superior, Ontario
Lake Superior isn’t just the largest lake in North America, it’s the largest freshwater lake in the world, and one that absolutely deserves to be visited at least once in your lifetime. Like Waterton Lake, it can claim dual nationality, but the most scenic part can be found within the glorious Lake Superior Provincial Park on the Canadian side. Here, there are hiking trails, scores of nature trails, the famous Agawa pictograph, and, should you do the sensible thing and extend your day trip into a long weekend, three campgrounds to spend the night.
7. Peyto Lake, Alberto
Another Banff lake to hit our list is Peyto Lake. Despite being relatively petite by Candian standards, it makes up in beauty what it lacks in size. To see it in all its glory, the nearby hiking trail at Bow Point offers numerous vantage points. To reach the lake, you can either hike through the Banff National Park or take the easy way and drive there via highway 93.
6. Spotted Lake, British Columbia
Spotted Lake isn’t the prettiest lake in Canada. It’s not the biggest either. But come summer, thousands of tourists flood to its shores. The reason is simple. As thecrazytourist.com explains, when the lake dries out in the warmer months, its exceptional high mineral content leaves strange, crystallized pathways and pools behind. It’s a beautiful, if weird, sight, and one that definitely deserves a place on your bucket list.
5. Garibaldi Lake, British Columbia
Located between Whistler and Squamish in British Columbia, Garibaldi Lake is long, deep, and utterly magnificent. It occupies a jaw-dropping two thousand five hundred acres in total, with depths that plummet up to nine hundred feet. Its size isn’t the only impressive thing about it: the waters are so amazingly clear, they act as a natural mirror, reflecting crystal clear images of their surroundings. It’s about as photogenic a place as you’ll ever encounter, so be sure to bring your camera along for the ride. Outside of photography, you might also want to indulge in a little snowshoeing or backcountry skiing if you visit in winter, or hike the surrounding meadows and waterfalls at other times. It’s not the easiest place to reach (you’ll need to trek a fairly challenging 9km to reach it), but it offers enough rewards to make the effort worth it.
4. Wedgemount Lake, British Columbia
According to pandotrip.com, Wedgemount Lake can only be reached via a steep, seven-kilometer climb, for which it’s recommended to have some good boots and the right equipment. Is it worth the effort? Considering the turquoise waters are surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery on Earth, we’d hazard a guess and say yes.
3. Lake Louise, Alberta
As we’ve already seen, Banff National Park isn’t exactly lacking in lakes. Lake Louise is yet another one, and a mighty fine one it is too. Small but perfectly formed, it covers just over a mile in length and a third of a mile in width. Its mountain backdrop is incredibly scenic, while the range of activities on offer (which includes hiking, boating, ice climbing, mountain biking, and ice fishing) draws thousands of tourists to its shores each season. Conveniently, it’s located just a short drive away from the small town that bears its name, making it the perfect destination for nature lovers who don’t want to venture too far from civilization.
2. Emerald Lake, British Columbia
As flyzest.com says, if you’re ever lucky enough to visit the Yoho National Park in British Columbia, you’ll have the opportunity to explore a staggering 61 different lakes and ponds. They’re all special, but Emerald Lake is arguably the best of the bunch. Few lakes live up to their name quite so well, and in spring and summer, its shimmering emerald depths are a sight for sore eyes. In winter, its frozen surface transforms from a photographer’s dream to a cross-county skiers’ playground. Regardless of the season, it’s a great place for hiking and observing eagles and ospreys in their natural habitat.
1. Moraine Lake, Alberta
Finally, we reach Moraine Lake. Even if you haven’t been there, you’ve probably got a good idea of what it looks like already. Its image has been used on everything from money to video games, and for very good reason. Canada’s most photographed lake is, simply put, breathtaking. Ringed by pine forests and bordered by snow-capped mountain peaks, its icy blue waters shimmer and dazzle and invite a thousand photographs. If you haven’t already been, go there. If you’ve been already, go again… if anywhere warrants a repeat visit, it’s here.