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Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint (The Best View in Alberta Canada)

After enjoying a one-week journey through Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint still jumps at to me as perhaps the single best view from the entire trip.

This viewpoint located along the Icefields Parkway is best known for its easy access, stunning turquoise water color, and breathtaking glacier views.

Any outdoor enthusiast, whether a beginner or an experienced one, is sure to enjoy the quick stroll out to one of Alberta’s crown jewels.

The world class views combined with the ease of reaching the viewpoint help make this one of Banff National Park’s most frequented stops. Just driving along the Icefields Parkway, the route to the lake, is an experience in and of itself, offering breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding mountain landscapes.

Peyto Lake in Alberta, Canada Banff National ParkPin
Glacial runoff feeds Peyto Lake and the sediment that creates results in the turquoise water color shown here

If you want to beat the crowds, early arrival is key. We arrived in the late morning before things had gotten too crazy, but if we had waited much longer there could have been issues securing parking or getting space for our group at the viewpoint to take some photos and soak up the scenery.

This was one of my favorite photography stops during our trip, and in the future I would love to revisit Peyto Lake to do some sunrise photography. As a pro tip, the landscape here is super wide so it’s a good opportunity to take panorama photos on your smart phone.

Bring a packed lunch or some snacks with you and once you’re finished at Peyto Lake, head a few minutes down the road to the Bow Lake or Crowfoot Glacier viewpoints which make for excellent picnic spots.

In this blog post, I will be covering all the essential tips and advice you need to know about the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint while sharing some of my favorite photographs from the adventure!

You’ll notice some links and advertisements from partner or affiliate sites throughout this post. I typically earn a small commission on any purchases made through those links at no additional cost to you. If you check those out, great. If not, I’m still happy you’re here!

Where is the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint located?

The Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint is a popular tourist spot, located within Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Known for its breathtaking panoramic views, this viewpoint allows visitors to admire the turquoise-hued beauty of Peyto Lake, Peyto Peak, Caldron Peak and other surrounding mountains.

Man taking selfie at Peyto Lake Alberta, CanadaPin
Taking in views of Peyto Lake was one of the big highlights from our trip to Banff

If you’re driving here from Banff like we did, you’ll travel along the Icefields Parkway. Keep an eye out for the Bow Lake and Crowfoot Glacier pull offs which you’ll encounter a few minutes before the Peyto Lake parking area.

The drive along the Icefields Parkway is considered one of the best in the world and a bucket list activity in and of itself. If you continue driving another two plus hours north along the parkway, you’ll eventually run into the town of Jasper.

Where is the best place to stay when visiting the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint?

When planning a trip to see the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint, the three most popular towns to setup home base in are Banff, Canmore, and Jasper.

First up, the town of Banff is about 66 miles (106 kilometers) away from the viewpoint, equating to about a 1.5-hour drive. Banff isn’t the cheapest option in the area, but the town is walkable, located closer to many park attractions and offers tons of restaurant and shopping options.

Downtown Banff Canada walking street with shopsPin
The streets of Banff are pedestrian friendly and lined with art galleries, restaurants and shopping

We spent two of our nights in Banff at Brewster’s Mountain Lodge. This is a middle lodging option in a great location, right across from my favorite restaurant in town the Three Bears Brewery. You can check out deals on other hotels in Banff at the link.

Next up is the town of Canmore, which is roughly 85 miles (137 kilometers) away, and would take about a 2-hour drive to reach the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint. For those on a budget, Canmore is an excellent option as it tends to be more cost-effective compared to Banff.

If you stay in Canmore, you’ll also have the Three Sisters Viewpoint hike in your backyard so take advantage!

Our group spent four nights in Canmore at a beautiful home we rented on VRBO. Although it’s located slightly further outside of Banff National Park, the difference isn’t a big deal since you’ll still be doing a lot of driving regardless of where you stay. Lodging in Canmore is more budget friendly which helped balance out our trip cost.

Lastly, there is the town of Jasper, located approximately 143 miles (230 kilometers) north of the viewpoint. The travel time is around 2.5 hours by car. Although our group didn’t visit Jasper, I plan to eventually make my way up there and it’s a town growing in popularity as an alternative to Banff.

If you want a more remote experience exploring the Canadian Rockies, consider checking out hotel options in Jasper.

Where do you fly into to reach the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint?

If you’re visiting Banff and looking to reach the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint, the best airport to fly into is the Calgary International Airport (YYC).

Calgary International Airport is the closest major airport to Banff National Park, thus making it the perfect launchpad for your adventures. The distance from the airport to the town of Banff is approximately 80 miles (128 kilometers) or a 1.5-hour drive.

Once you land in Calgary, the drive towards Banff will slowly evolve as farmland makes way to rugged mountain landscapes.

For anyone who still needs to book flights, be sure to read over the post covering my favorite hacks for finding cheap airfare. In that blog I’ll cover all of the tips and tricks I’ve learned during my travels to pay the absolute minimum for flights!

Do you need to rent a car when visiting Peyto Lake?

Due to the remote nature of Banff National Park and the Icefields Parkway which leads to Peyto Lake, I’d highly recommend renting a vehicle. Renting a car ensures you can explore the park at your own pace while making plenty of stops along the way.

While public and private transportation options do exist in and around Banff National Park, you’ll be limited in terms of what you can see and be held captive to their scheduling.

Parking lot for Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint in Banff National ParkPin
If you visit during the afternoon the parking lot for Peyto Lake can be overcrowded, arrive early!

One important thing to note is that there is only one gas station along the Icefields Parkway. Being mindful of this, and make sure to fill up your gas tank before embarking on your journey to the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint.

Rental cars out of Calgary will be in high demand for the summer season so I’d suggest reserving one well in advance. If you don’t, they could sell out or you might be stuck paying astronomical prices for whatever is leftover.

Once you have your trip dates figured out, use a rental car price comparison tool to help ensure you’re getting the best price!

What is Peyto Lake named after?

Peyto Lake derives its name from the nearby Peyto Glacier which feeds the lake with glacial meltwater. The glacier is an integral part of the Waputik Icefield in Banff National Park.

The Peyto Glacier itself is named after Bill Peyto. He was an early pioneer, trail guide, and one of the first park wardens in the area. He is remembered for his contributions to the exploration and conservation of the Canadian Rockies.

What are some interesting facts about the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint?

Sadly, it’s important to mention that the Peyto Glacier is rapidly melting due to climate change. Since monitoring of the glacier began in the 1960’s it has lost over 70% of it’s mass with that trend expected to continue over the upcoming century.

As sad as the reality might be, I believe that witnessing the effects of climate change in person is an important part of continuing to gain support and awareness for the issue.

Peyto Glacier melting into Peyto LakePin
Views of Peyto Glacier and its runoff into Peyto Lake are equally impressive as the lake itself

On a lighter note, the Peyto Glacier is also responsible for Peyto Lake’s spectacular turquoise color. As the glacier melts and moves across the terrain it pulverizes the rock. The sediment formed from this process ends up in the water.

Once in the water, these sediments refract and absorb sunlight in such a way that it creates the super vivid colors that you see. The more light that strikes the lake, the more vivid the color!

Is there cell phone service at the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint?

Due to its remote location, visitors should not expect any reliable cell phone service when visiting the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint.

Given the lack of coverage, it’s essential to plan your visit accordingly and not rely too heavily on GPS while traveling along the Icefields Parkway. Our phones often lacked sufficient service to even let us input directions.

Fortunately, the Icefields Parkway pretty much takes you out in one direction, and then back the way you came. However, be sure to map out any stops you want to see ahead of time since you won’t be able to do further research with your phone along the way.

Having some form of offline navigation, such as a downloaded map from a GPS, a dedicated GPS device that does not rely on cellular coverage or paper maps are other good strategies to get around this problem.

Are dogs allowed at the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint?

Like most of Banff National Park, dogs are welcome at the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint. Just be sure your pet is kept on a leash at all times and that you’re cleaning up after them along the way.

Hikers leaving the Peyto Lake Viewpoint with their dogPin
Most areas of Banff National Park are dog friendly

Be mindful that the parking lot, trail and viewpoint can all be extremely busy with guests and other pets. Make sure your pet is well behaved before bringing them into such a congested area.

Are there bathrooms at the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint?

Bathroom facilities are conveniently located near the parking area, providing easy access before heading out on the short hike out to the viewpoint. You won’t find any facilities at the actual viewpoint itself.

Peyto Lake parking lot signagePin
You’ll find signage and restrooms facilities at the main parking lot for Peyto Lake

Be sure to use them while you stop here, since there aren’t many other great places to go along the Icefields Parkway!

Can you swim in Peyto Lake?

Although visitors can technically swim at the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint, it should be noted that reaching the lakeshore is extremely difficult. There are no maintained trails leading down to the Peyto Lake lakeshore, making the descent to the water’s edge difficult and potentially unsafe.

Even if you were hell bent on reaching the lakeshore for a swim, the water temperature doesn’t rise far above freezing even during the summer months which means it isn’t conducive to more than a quick dip.

What is the best time of year to visit the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint?

While the viewpoint is generally accessible in all seasons, I’d suggest timing your visit to Banff National Park and the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint for summer or early fall.

Between June and September, the weather in Banff National Park is typically bright and warm, making it an ideal time to hike and explore the great outdoors.

Peyto Lake and Peyto Glacier panoramaPin
The viewpoint is amazing during the summer, but I’d love to come back and see it during the winter!

During this time the roads and trails are also free of snow, making hiking and driving throughout the area much easier than the winter months.

If you hope to catch a glimpse of a snow covered Peyto Lake in the winter just be aware that the Icefields Parkway can experience closures during periods of heavy snowfall.

Don’t forget that I also have a guide covering important things to know when planning a trip abroad. That guide will come in handy if you’re still piecing together travel plans to Banff National Park!

What is the best time of day to visit the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint?

The best time of day to visit the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint is during the early morning, specifically for a breathtaking sunrise experience. By arriving early, you can dodge the large number of tourists that accumulate in this area by afternoon.

Views from the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint in Alberta, CanadaPin
The Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint platform wasn’t too busy when we arrived around 10am in late August

During my visit we arrived before 10am and the parking lot was at least 75% full. The trail leading out to the viewpoint was fairly crowded, as was the viewpoint itself. It wasn’t terrible, but I can’t imagine how much worse it would get if we had waited any later in the day to visit.

How long does it take to visit the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint?

For most visitors, spending 60 minutes walking the trail and taking in views from the viewing platform should be plenty of time. This is a great spot for sunrise photography or to enjoy a packed lunch so consider budgeting extra time for those activities.

There’s an area just below the viewing platform that can be accessed if you want to sit down on some rocks and just hang out.

Views down the center of Peyto Lake in Alberta CanadaPin
The views of Peyto Lake are so mesmerizing it’s difficult to leave!

The photo opportunities down there are a bit better in my opinion and you won’t have to compete with dozens of other people trying to look over the viewing platform railings.

How difficult is the hike to the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint?

In terms of difficulty, the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint hike is typically classified as easy, making it ideal for visitors of all fitness levels, including families with children. The total length of the trail to the viewpoint is less than 1 mile (approximately 1.2 kilometers).

Despite the relative ease of the trail, it’s worth noting that there is a small amount of elevation gain along the way.

While not significant, this incline coupled with the altitude can be a challenge for some visitors since the viewpoint resides at over 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) above sea level.

Is hiking to the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint safe for children?

The viewpoint platform itself is protected by guardrails, making it safe for children to enjoy the incredible scene of Peyto Lake. The hike leading up to the viewpoint is naturally protected from any steep or dangerous drops by dense foliage.

Check out these activities available in the area

Looking for more ways to fill out your trip itinerary? Be sure to check out the list of activities below from GetYourGuide.

Is visiting the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint worth it?

The Peyto Lake Viewpoint offers a unique combination of epic views and ease of access that justifiably makes it one of the most visited areas in all of Alberta, Canada.

When visiting Banff National Park be sure to incorporate a drive along the Icefields Parkway into your itinerary. Depending on how much time you want to spend in the car, Peyto Lake, the Athabasca Glacier or Jasper all make for good driving destinations before turning around.

A single canoe occupies Bow Lake in Alberta CanadaPin
Could you imagine having Bow Lake all to yourself on that canoe?

There are tons of other interesting stops along the way, with Bow Lake and Crowfoot Glacier being another one of my favorites you should consider.

If you’re looking for more inspiration on things to do during your trip to Banff consider checking out Emerald Lake or Takakkaw Falls in neighboring Yoho National Park.

Or consider checking out posts covering some of my favorite hikes, from Larch Valley to Sentinel Pass originating near the turquoise waters of Moraine Lake and the Lake Agnes Tea House to Big Beehive hike which starts near Lake Louise.

There’s another good hike situated between Banff and Lake Louise just off the Bow Valley Parkway, called the Johnston Canyon Ink Pots Hike which is well worth your time as well.

Another resource you might find helpful for your trip is my day hike checklist. It covers everything you could ever need on some of the longer day hikes you’ll encounter in the Canadian Rockies.

I hope this blog covering what to expect at the Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint in Alberta, Canada was helpful and answered any questions you might’ve had!

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