Canada is an incredible place to visit. It covers so many different bioregions and features so many different kinds of scenery that if you travel just a few kilometres away, you’re sure to discover some new and fascinating place to fall in love with. Even if you live here.
The best time to visit Canada’s spectacular lakes is late spring to early fall – Canada’s reputation for harsh winters is justified. We’ve included info about winter sports below when places have something fun on offer over the colder months.
As a note, we were spoiled for choice on this topic. We tried to give some representation to Canada’s many regions but if you do a little digging when planning your next trip, you’ll find many other spectacular lakes that equally deserve your attention.
Location: Near Kluane National Park, Yukon
Glacier-fed Kluane Lake is worth the visit for its vibrant turquoise hue and awe-inspiring mountain setting. The Kluane, Ruby and Nisling ranges surround the 81-kilometre long lake and whether you hike through the boreal forest along its shores or stop to take pictures from the Alaska highway, every moment will bring new and dramatic views.
Boating, canoeing and kayaking can be excellent ways to see the most of the lake, which is the Yukon’s largest. Many visitors come in summer for the excellent wildlife watching in the area (home to bears, caribou, mountain goats and Dall sheep).
Location: Yoho National Park, British Columbia
The name gives some idea of the beauty of this lake, but it really needs to be seen to be believed. The lake is ringed by the mountains of the President range and every step around or paddle across the lake reveals a new and stunning vista. Its wooded shores are easily accessible but the crowds tend to be less dense than at Lake Louise.
There’s an easy hiking trail around the lake and even a walkway across a small part from which visitors can take pictures and gaze out over the clear, serene waters. At the end of the walkway is a restaurant. Yoho is a prime getaway for those who like outdoor pursuits – opportunities abound for summertime hiking and watersports or for wintertime skiing and snowshoeing.
Location: Banff National Park, Alberta
Canada’s most iconic lake can be found nestled in the Rocky Mountains about two hours’ drive west of Calgary. The mountain setting is truly breathtaking and the turquoise water is unforgettable. If you go in summer, be prepared to share the view with tourists from around the world, although most visitors seem to agree that having other people around doesn’t detract from the experience.
In summer you can hike up to the historic Lake Agnes Tea House, where you can enjoy a well-earned beverage and a scenic view of Lake Louise and the Bow Valley. For those who like an easier stroll there’s a 4-kilometre paved loop with wonderful views of the lake and surrounding woods. You can also explore the lake by canoe, kayak or horse-back. If you enjoy adventurous winter sports, you can go ice climbing or visit one of the area’s renowned ski resorts.
Great Slave Lake
Location: Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
A trip to Great Slave Lake, North America’s deepest, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Set against rock and pristine forest on the one hand, and against communities like Yellowknife and Hay River on the other, the lake’s backdrop offers a new adventure at every turn. The lake is justly famous for its bird and wildlife watching, as well as for its brightly coloured houseboats.
Explore the lake’s many islands, cliffs, channels, beaches, bays and inlets by boat, canoe or kayak. Sailing, paddleboarding and other water sports can be enjoyed, as well. The lake’s extremely northern location means a lot of extra time for summer adventure but also means that winter visits can be less than ideal. In winter the lake freezes over and can be crossed by snowmobile or vehicle.
Little Limestone Lake
Location: Little Limestone Lake Provincial Park, Manitoba
At 15 kilometres long, Little Limestone Lake is the world’s largest marl lake. Marl lakes contain high levels of calcium carbonate that crystallize into calcite as the water temperature rises. In this process the waters change colour from clear to turquoise to bluish-white (and then back again as the weather cools). It’s much less impressive to read about than to see. The waters are simply stunning and reward visitors who make the trek to Little Limestone Lake and stay awhile.
The surroundings are unspoilt – there’s no infrastructure – but campers are welcome. Visitors can enjoy the lake by boat, canoe and kayak. Wildlife watching possibilities abound – watch out for fox, moose, lynx, eagles and caribou among other nonhuman visitors.
Location: Southwestern Ontario
The Great Lakes really have to be seen to be believed. All five Great Lakes are spectacular, but Lake Ontario makes our list for the variety it offers travellers. Stretched over 300 kilometres from east to west, its coastline ranges from dramatic cliffs to forests to dunes to farmland to chic cosmopolitan harbourfronts.
The ways you can enjoy Lake Ontario are as varied as the regions that surround it. If you want white, sandy beaches, Lake Ontario has that. Rugged hiking? Lake Ontario has that, too. A latte and a romantic lakeshore stroll in Canada’s largest city? You get the idea. Tours of various parts of the coastline leave from many ports and can be an excellent way to see a lot in a short period of time.
Location: Eastern Townships, Quebec
The dramatic beauty of Lake Memphremagog makes for a lovely getaway from Montreal – it’s only an hour and twenty minutes east of the city. Bear Mountain, Mount Elephantis and Owl’s Head provide a scenic backdrop to the lake’s serene, wooded shores. Although it was a thriving resort destination in the 19th century, many parts of the lake feel surprisingly private and undeveloped.
Visitors can explore its islands and inlets on a boat cruise. You can also rent a canoe or kayak if you prefer to discover the sights on your own. The area is rich in ski resorts and there’s lots to do in the region all winter. Monster hunters should know that the lake is home to a mysterious creature, Memphré, who’s been the subject of legend for centuries.
Western Brook Pond
Location: Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
This unique inland fjord is a must see. Carved from the Long Range Mountains, the lake runs past astounding cliffs and dizzying waterfalls. The views from the dock, where most travellers arrive, are impressive, although the lake is probably best appreciated when visitors can explore at least a bit of its 16-kilometre length.
Western Brook Pond requires some travel to get to – it’s over 650 kilometres from Newfoundland’s capital, St. John’s. If you’re short on time, flights into Deer Lake will get you about 30 minutes from the park itself. The area features hikes for both rugged adventurers and those with more limited mobility. You might get the most out of your trip by booking one of the popular boat tours.