A must-see for anybody visiting Banff is to take a short drive and check out the mesmerising Emerald Lake (just an hour and fifteen minutes west of Banff on Highway 1) in Yoho National Park. This is one of the bluest and greenest lakes your eyes will ever see. Emerald Lake was founded by chance back in 1882 by Thomas Wilson, a Canadian Pacific Railway packer. Whilst rounding up his wayward pack horses near the town of Field, Wilson, rather luckily, happened to stumble upon Emerald Lake. Upon discovering this natural beauty, Wilson was instantly hypnotised by the emerald-blue colours of the water and the surrounding mountain backdrops, leading to its name - Emerald Lake. An interesting fact is that Wilson first named the now-known Lake Louise as Emerald Lake, but this was later changed to ‘Lake Louise’ in honour of Queen Victoria's fourth daughter and wife of John Campbell (Governor General of Canada at the time), Princess Louise Caroline Alberta.
But why so blue? As spring rolls around, glaciers begin to melt and deposit glacial silt (aka rock flour) into nearby mountain lakes. This rock flour is extremely light and stays suspended near the top of the water for a long time. As sunlight hits the surface of the water, the rock flour distorts the wavelengths of light, reflecting back more blues and greens in the colour spectrum. Because of this, we see a spectacular lake of these intense colours. The blue and green colours are most vivid during the height of summer (July & August).
And if just seeing Emerald Lake isn’t enough, there are a couple of outdoor activities that you can do too. Surrounding the entire lake is a short and easy 5.2km trail where you can take in all of the lake’s angles and jaw-dropping views alongside vibrant wildflowers. If you want to get on the water, canoe rentals cost $40 per hour, which may seem steep but this is slightly cheaper than renting at Moraine Lake or Lake Louise. One of the great things about Emerald Lake is that it is lesser-known compared to its counterpart, Lake Louise, so you won’t bump into as many herds of tourists.