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No Cell Service at Moraine Lake, Climbers Come Prepared

You can find cell service on the road, but several kilometres from the lake. Plan to bivy the night before your climb to get an early start

Starting in 2023, Moraine Lake Road in Banff National Park is closed to personal vehicles. Parks Canada allowed nearly 1,000 cars a day into Moraine Lake last year and turned away over 5,000. So, moving forward only Parks Canada shuttles, Roam Public Transit, and third party transportation providers (e.g. tour buses) are permitted from June to mid-October. Due to the hours of commercial transportation, you won’t be able to reach Moraine Lake parking until around 8 a.m. and the last option to leave will be at 6 p.m.

There’s no cell service at Moraine Lake, which means you can’t just call for a taxi or for help, you’ll have to walk over five kilometres down the road until you might be able to find cell service. If you’re a climber who wants to start early on an alpine route in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, including Mount Temple and Grand Sentinel, you’ll have to get a taxi (which there might not be any of and of which you can’t call for a pick up because there’s no cell service) or ride your bike 14 kilometres up and 14 kilometres back. Have you ever tried to ride a bike that far with a pack on that’s full of climbing gear? Practice before committing to such a long distance.

The new rules don’t eliminate climbing in the area, but will complicate things for some climbers and will mean that access to some areas will be limited. If you go up to Moraine Lake this year to access a climb, consider taking the last shuttle up in the afternoon the day before you plan to climb, bivy (be sure to get a backcountry permit) and get an early start the next day. Be sure to have a fully charged cellphone and know exactly where on the Moraine Lake road you can find cell service to call a taxi the following day.

While many people applaud the decision to ban personal vehicles at Moraine Lake to protect wildlife, others argue that if you’re going to close the road to personal vehicles then close to the road to all vehicles including huge polluting tour buses, and close the resort lodge on the shore of Moraine Lake to keep these places truly wild. For more information visit here.

Moraine Lake shuttle
Moraine Lake shuttle

Banff Answers Popular Questions

  • I am a climber or mountaineer. Can I drive to Moraine Lake?
    • The only vehicles permitted on Moraine Lake Road in 2023 are Parks Canada shuttles, Roam Transit, and commercial buses. Buses are defined as “commercially registered vehicles that transport 11 or more people, have a business license with Banff National Park, and have a commercial park entry pass”. Visitors with a disabled parking hang tag will also be permitted.
    • Climbers and mountaineers travelling by personal vehicle are unable to drive to Moraine Lake and will need to take the Parks Canada shuttle or a commercial transportation operator. Mountaineers staying at the Neil Colgan hut, or who have obtained bivy permits will be provided with a shuttle ticket as part of their reservation.
    • Climbers who need access outside of the hours when Parks Canada shuttles are running will need to arrange private transportation.
  • Why has Parks Canada decided to restrict personal vehicle traffic on the Moraine Lake Road?
    • Demand to reach Moraine Lake far exceeds available parking. In 2022, traffic flaggers were required 24 hours a day to manage the demand for access. During the peak of summer 2022, the parking lot remained full nearly 24 hours a day.
    • Traffic control at Moraine Lake Road has ensured that safe access into and out of the area was maintained. However, it has also contributed to the degradation of the visitor experience. Most visitors who attempt to drive to Moraine Lake are turned away as parking lots are full.
    • Replacing personal vehicles with Parks Canada shuttles, Roam Transit and other commercial transportation providers will provide several benefits. These include:
      • Predictability and improved visitor experience – Visitors with Parks Canada shuttle reservations are guaranteed to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. This removes the uncertainty and frustration when arriving in a personal vehicle but unable to park.
      • Improved wildlife movement in the Fairview wildlife corridor – Moraine Lake Road runs through an important wildlife corridor. Eliminating personal vehicles will reduce stress on animals who use the corridor, particularly in the late evening and early morning.
      • Reduced carbon emissions – Eliminating personal vehicles means a reduction of approximately 900 cars per day and 20,000 kilometres per day of driving. Based on an average fuel consumption of 9.0L/100km, this would mean a reduction of more than 4 tonnes of CO2 per day.
  • How can people see Moraine Lake in 2023?
    • Visitors who wish to visit Moraine Lake will have four options in 2023:
      1. Take the Parks Canada Shuttle – Visitors can reserve a seat in advance on a Parks Canada shuttle to see Moraine Lake. Shuttle fares include the Lake Connector route between Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, allowing visitors to see both lakes in one day. 40% of tickets are released for reservation in the spring. The remaining 60% of seats are released for reservation 48 hours in advance of departure. More information can be found here.
      2. Take Roam Transit: Roam riders departing from Canmore or Banff who purchase the Roam Transit ‘superpass’ can connect to Moraine Lake via the Parks Canada Lake Connector Shuttle upon arrival at the Lake Louise Lakeshore. Riders can reconnect with the Roam system by returning to the Lake Louise Lakeshore on the Parks Canada Lake Connector Shuttle.
      3. Use a commercial transportation provider – Visitors can use a commercial transportation operator or registered taxi to get to Moraine Lake.
      4. Bike the Moraine Lake Road – Bicycles, including pedal assist e-bikes will be allowed on Moraine Lake Road. Visitors will by able to access the lake by bicycle. The journey is 25 km round trip. Please note: There is very limited parking within the community of Lake Louise, and this is best suited for visitors who are already staying in the community.
  • Will Parks Canada be running more shuttles to accommodate visitors who had been driving to the lake?
    • Yes. Some additional shuttle capacity will be added for 2023 to help accommodate visitors who had been driving.
  • Will Parks Canada be running a sunrise shuttle?
    • In order to protect our important wildlife corridors, Parks Canada is unable to run a sunrise shuttle. To help minimize disturbances to wildlife using the Whitehorn wildlife corridor, access to the Park and Ride via Whitehorn Drive is restricted between 8:00 pm and 6:00 am. Parks Canada understands that not every visitor’s desired visiting times or requirements will be met by the shuttle and appreciates the disappointment that may cause.
    • Parks Canada is unable to provide a shuttle for sunrise but will allow commercial transportation providers to accommodate visitors wishing to see the sunrise at Moraine Lake. Parks Canada is committed to evaluating management strategies and will continually look for ways to improve visitor experience while maintaining ecological integrity.
  • I have a disabled parking tag; can I drive to Moraine Lake?
    • Yes. Visitors in possession of a disabled parking hang tag will be granted vehicle access to Moraine Lake. Please have your tag visible and speak to the traffic control staff when you arrive at the Moraine Lake Road Junction.
    • Visitors who require accessible parking but do not possess a disable parking hang tag should proceed to the Park and Ride and speak with Parks Canada staff.
  • Will I be allowed to take my pet on the shuttle?
    • Certified assistance animals are allowed on board at no charge. Owners of assistance animals should be prepared to show the animal’s verification of training.
    • Passenger pets are allowed on board at no charge. All pets must be crated in a secure and clean carrier designed and intended for the carrying of animals which is small enough to fit on the owner’s lap.
    • Passengers must hold onto the carrier at all times and are responsible for the safety of their pet.
  • I want to visit Paradise Valley. Can I drive my car?
    • No. Access to Paradise Valley will be via the Parks Canada shuttle.
    • Camping at the Paradise Valley Backcountry Campground? Visit Parks Canada staff at the Park and Ride and show your backcountry permit. You will receive a special Paradise Valley ticket and must show this to the bus driver. All reservations for this campground must be made 24 hours in advance through the Banff or Lake Louise visitor centres. This campground is closed when group access restrictions are in effect due to bear activity.
    • Day hiking in the Paradise Valley? On the day of your hike, visit Parks Canada staff at the Park and Ride for a first-come-first-serve seat on the Parks Canada shuttle. A limited number of tickets is available each day. The number of first-come-first-serve seats corresponds to the average daily use recorded by trail counters in 2022. You will receive a special Paradise Valley ticket and must show this to the bus driver.
    • To return to the Park and Ride, visitors can hike through to Moraine Lake and catch the shuttle from the lakeshore or return the way they came, and catch the next available shuttle to the Park and Ride from the Paradise Valley Trailhead. Two seats on every return shuttle are reserved for Paradise Valley users.
  • If I have a watercraft, can I drive to Moraine Lake?
    • No. The Parks Canada shuttles can accommodate many different types of watercraft including inflatable paddleboards, packrafts, inflatable kayaks, and even small hard-sided kayaks provided space permits. If you are unsure about whether your watercraft can be accommodated, please speak to the Parks Canada staff at the park and ride.
  • What happens if I miss the last shuttle?
    • Parks Canada takes great care to ensure that no visitors are left stranded at Moraine Lake. In the event that visitors return later than planned and miss the last shuttle, they are responsible for their own return to the Park and Ride lot via private transport, bike or foot. Phone access is available at the Moraine Lake Lodge located at Moraine Lake.
    • Visitors returning later than the last shuttle to the Park and Ride lot should note that access to Whitehorn Drive is restricted using a permanent gate between 8 pm and 6 am from May to October. Vehicles cannot be retrieved after 8 pm and will not be accessible until 6 am the following morning.
Moraine Lake in summer