LAKE LOUISE – Access to Lake Louise was temporarily shut down to vehicles last weekend for being too congested.
From 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Saturday (Aug. 14), Parks Canada restricted vehicle access to the much-visited Banff National Park destination from the Trans-Canada Highway when parking became unavailable during the afternoon.
“These restrictions occur when the Lake Louise lakeshore parking lots are full, and there is a significant influx of vehicles trying to reach the lakeshore that traffic congestion begins backing up down Lake Louise Drive,” said Lindsay McPherson, Parks Canada spokesperson for Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks, in an email.
McPherson added there are 450 parking stalls, including bus/RV parking at the lakeshore. In addition to the congestion increase, Parks Canada shuttles to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are not currently operating.
Saturday's vehicle restriction was the third time this summer traffic was diverted from the Lake Louise area. The previous two times (July 11, Aug. 2) were both on weekends with great weather conditions.
Around 4.5 million visitors travel to Banff National Park annually, with about 75-80 per cent, or 3.2 million travelling to Lake Louise.
Parks Canada noted that when a high volume of traffic starts flooding into the village, it becomes a safety issue.
“This was necessary to manage congestion and ensure continued access for emergency vehicles. Traffic may be diverted from the Lake Louise area as needed until parking is available,” said Amy Krause, Parks Canada spokesperson for Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks, in an email. “This is standard safety protocol that is implemented throughout the summer, usually on sunny weekends.”
Aside from the world famous turquoise-coloured lake, the area has access to Moraine Lake, another popular destination for sightseers and hikers, as well as the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
Krause said that despite the pandemic, Canadian visitation remains high. However, with COVID-19, visitors should expect a different experience when visiting national parks.
“Expect increased signage, limited services and experiences, and limited parking at popular locations to help ensure physical distancing can be maintained,” said Krause. “As well, washrooms at the visitor centre are operating at a reduced capacity, and may be temporarily closed to allow staff the ability to clean using enhanced COVID-19 protocols.”
If visiting a national park this summer, Parks Canada recommends:
- Planning ahead. Learn ahead of time what is open and close, and what to expect when arriving at the park.
- Be prepared with a backup plan in case parking stalls fill quickly at popular areas.
- Visit BanffNow before arriving to check is Lake Louise parking is full.
- Visit www.roamtransit.com for information on public transportation to Lake Louise.