How To Find The Second Viewpoint at Peyto Lake

There are two amazing viewpoints at Peyto Lake in Banff. This post will give you exact direction to the secret viewpoint at Peyto Lake.

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Peyto Lake is one of the most famous alpine lakes in the Canadian Rockies.

Known for its beautiful turquoise colored waters, Peyto Lake is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Banff National Park and Jasper National Park in western Canada.

Most people stop by Peyto Lake to take photos of the lake from above from the viewing platform, but not people know about the “secret” second viewpoint at Peyto Lake.

The second viewpoint at Peyto Lake offers an even better photo opportunity to capture the beauty of Peyto Lake, its glacier and snowcapped mountain backdrop and also yourself! More importantly there aren’t as many visitors at this secret second viewpoint, thus providing an even better experience when visiting Peyto Lake.

Having been to Peyto Lake twice in the summer, this blog will provide useful information on visiting Peyto Lake and more a detailed step by step photo guide on how to find the secret second viewpoint at Peyto Lake.

How to find Peyto Lake's Secret Second Viewpoint

Where is Peyto Lake?

Peyto Lake is an alpine lake located along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, the oldest national park in Canada.

Icefields Parkway is a scenic highway that connects the towns of Banff and Jasper and it takes about 4 hours to drive from end to end without stopping.

To be more precise, Peyto Lake is about 40 km (25 miles) north of Lake Louise and 100km (62 miles) northwest of the town of Banff and the only way to access Peyto Lake is via Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the world.

How to Get to Peyto Lake

It takes about 33 minutes to drive from Lake Louise to Peyto Lake and about an hour to drive from Banff to Peyto Lake.

Drive to Peyto Lake

If you are coming from Jasper National Park, it takes exactly 2 hours to drive from Jasper to Peyto Lake.

As you drive along Icefields Parkway, you need to exit at “Bow Summit/ Peyto Lake” exit in order to access Peyto Lake viewpoints.

If you are coming from Lake Louise, this exist is going to be on your left, so be prepared to stop to make a left turn.

The easiest way to find Peyto Lake on Google Maps is to just type in “Peyto Lake” and Google Maps will pull up the correct exit.

There isn’t much cellular service along Icefields Parkway, so you should probably download offline map of the entire Banff area so you can pull up directions even without cell signals.

Are There Parking Lots at Peyto Lake?

There are 2 parking lots at Peyto Lake.

Most visitors park at the large parking lot they see after exiting Icefields Parkway.

Peyto Lake Morning parking lot
Main Parking Lot

There is another parking lot if you drive past the first one (which I have never done), but mostly cars with handicapped sign and RVs park in this second parking lot.

Peyto Lake Second Parking lot
Second Parking Lot

The parking lots do get full during the day so I suggest arriving early (before 8:30am) or late (after 7pm) so minimize the chance of having to wait for parking.

When is the Best Time to Visit Peyto Lake

The best months to visit Peyto Lake are the summer months and early fall months, from mid June to early October.

Mid June to end of August are the peak tourist months due to warm temperatures and clear skies in Banff National Park. Ice is fully thawed after mid June, making the color of Peyto Lake visible; in fact its vibrant color is at its most intense during the summer months, thanks to the melting glaciers that feed it.

Morning view of Peyto Lake photo

September to October are also great months to visit Peyto Lake. After mid September you can expect fewer crowds. In addition, the fall months bring beautiful foliage colors, which can enhance the scenery around Peyto Lake.

Since Peyto Lake is open all year round, you can technically visit during the winter and spring months as well. But Peyto Lake is frozen during winter and spring so you will not be able to see the vibrant color Peyto Lake is known for.

During the winter months you will see a beautiful white Peyto Lake covered in snow.

In terms of what time it’s best to visit Peyto Lake, sunset is one of the best times to see Peyto Lake. It certainly will not be as crowded as during the day and if you are lucky you will see colorful sky above the lake.

Keep in mind that sunset in the summer is around 9:30pm.

Early morning is another good time to visit Peyto Lake when it’s not crowded. We visited around 8am and there was barely anyone, making it a great experience and opportunity to take photos.

Is Peyto Lake Open Right Now?

Peyto Lake is open 24/ 7 all year round. However it is affected by road closure, construction or infrastructure projects in Banff National Park and Icefields Parkway.

Below are some of the best resources to check if Banff National Park areas and trailheads are open:

Does it Cost Money To Visit Peyto Lake?

Peyto Lake itself is free to visit, but since it is part of the national parks you need a valid Park Pass before you can visit or you risk getting fined.

There are 2 types of pass you can purchase to visit Peyto Lake (and Banff or Jasper National Park).

If you are planning to visit Banff or Jasper for a short period of time, you can get the Day Pass.

But if you are planning to visit more than 1 national parks in Canada or you are planning to spend an extensive amount of time in Banff or Jasper, then Discovery Pass is the best option for you.

Purchase your Park Pass on the official website and be sure to print and display the pass on your dash when you park at Peyto Lake.

How To Get To Peyto Lake’s First Viewpoint

Peyto Lake View  photo from viewing platform in Banff in the summer early morning

The “first viewpoint” at Peyto Lake is the main viewing platform that every visitors go to. This viewpoint is also called Peyto Lake Lookout.

This viewing platform at Peytol Lake, along with the parking lot and bathroom, were under construction for two years and finally opened to public in 2021.

The first time I visited Peyto Lake was in 2018 with the old viewing platform and the most recent time I was able to see the new Peyto Lake Lookout, which was much bigger and wider.

This viewing platform is wheelchair accessible with boardwalks and railing all around it, making it safe and easy to see Peyto Lake from above for the entire family and those with a stroller.

Peyto Lake Boardwalk Viewpoint photo wheel chair accessible

From the Peyto Lake parking lot, you can follow the paved trail for about 0.6km (0.4 miles) to the first viewing platform.

Peytol Lake paved trail to the viewing platform
paved walk to Peyto Lake viewing platform

Even though the trail to the first viewpoint is paved, it is actually a bit steep, so be prepared to walk uphill from the parking lot.

If you parked in the upper parking lot (the 2nd parking lot where handicapped cars or RVs park), it is only a 0.3km flat walk to the viewing platform.

The railings at the viewing platform make it hard to take photo of yourself with Peyto Lake, and some people actually go off trail or hopping the fence trying to take a photo of themselves illegally. Don’t do that if you visit, go to the secret second viewpoint mentioned below if you want nice photos of yourself with Peyto Lake.

How to Get to the Second Viewpoint at Peyto Lake

If you want unobstructed view and photo of yourself with Peyto Lake, you can walk a little more to the second viewpoint at Peyto Lake.

Continuing from the first viewpoint walk along the railing to continue on the paved trail. This is the opposite direction from where the parking lot was (unless you came from the upper parking lot, then you are walking back to the upper parking lot).

Peyto Lake walk to second view point

After a few minutes the railings on the right hand will disappear and you will eventually come to a sign with a few split off paths in the forest.

Peyto Lake Second Viewpoint Trail
Continue walking down the path
Peyto Lake Sign to find the secret viewpoint
The sign you will see

When we visited Peyto Lake, we saw a few blogs saying follow the path on the right but don’t go downhill and you will eventually find the second viewpoint. We actually got really lost trying to find the viewpoint and even ventured into random off-trail paths.

I read that many other people got lost and ended up hiking to Bow Summit when trying to find the second viewpoint, so I guess it’s not just us that couldn’t find it.

Peyto Lake sign to secret viewpoint

If you do get lost and the path you walk on is not really a trail or you are starting to hike into the dense forest with branches everywhere in your face, it’s probably not the right way! We almost gave up but thankfully we followed another couple and eventually found the secret viewpoint at Peyto Lake.

When you see the sign, follow the path on the left of the sign in the photo below. Although you probably will be able to go to the second viewpoint from the path on the right, we did not go that way so I cannot comment if that trail will lead you there or not.

 Peyto Lake How to find second viewpoint
Follow the red arrow
Peyto Lake secret viewpoint trail

Continue walking down the narrow trail and if you see a split like the photo above, go right onto an even narrower path.

Peyto Lake photo and way to find the secret viewpoint viewing platform

The path now is become less narrow in the forest. You can still see this is a trail although unmarked, so continue walking down this path.

Peyto Lake hike

If you see another split, follow the one on the right.

Peyto Lake hike to second viewpoint

Soon you should see a path looking like this. See the trail marker on the right? Follow the trail marker.

Peyto Lake Secret Viewpoint trail
Trail marker at Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake Second Viewpoint Trail

Once you turn on the path with the trail marker shown above, the trail is now wider with some roots on the ground.

Walk to the Peyto Lake secret Second viewpoint for photos
the couple we followed

Walk on this path for another 5 minutes and you will come to the secret second viewpoint at Peyto Lake.

You will know you are at the second Peyto Lake viewpoint when you see an unobstructed view and a few large rocks you can climb on.

When we visited early morning around 8:30am, there was only a couple of other people at the secret viewpoint.

Peyto Lake Photo View second viewpoint direction

There is a large slanted rock that many instagrammers climb on for the perfect shot of themselves and Peyto Lake. We did not think it was necessary to climb onto that rock since there are so many rocks to stand on and we did not want to accidentally slip and fall (that rock really is slanted).

When you get to the second viewpoint at Peyto Lake you will see the slanted rock so don’t worry if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Peyto Lake Photo from second viewpoint with no railing and unobstructed view

Overall it takes no more than 15 to 20 minutes to walk from the main viewing platform at Peyto Lake to the second viewpoint. However it took us a lot longer because we literally could not find the secret viewpoint at Peyto Lake despite people making it sound so easy.

Is the View Of Peyto Lake Better at the Second Viewpoint?

You may wonder if it’s worth all the effort (actually not too much effort) to find the second viewpoint at Peyto Lake.

I will give you my honest opinion on whether the view is better at the second viewpoint at Peyto Lake.

The view of Peyto Lake and the surround area is pretty much the same in my opinion. When looking back at my photos, I cannot tell which photos of the view were taken at the first viewing platform with the railings and which photos of Petyo Lake were taken at the second viewpoint.

However the two major differences between the main viewing platform and the second viewpoint at Peyto Lake are the crowds and the railing.

You can expect way less people at the second viewpoint above Peyto Lake.

Photo of Peyto Lake

Not as many people know about the second viewpoint at Peyto Lake, especially if they are on a tour bus. The tour companies will only take visitors to the main viewing platform.

In addition, people who are visiting with children, strollers, wheelchair or have difficulty walking on uneven pavements will not venture out to the second viewpoint.

The second viewpoint also does not have railing, therefore you can take photos of yourself with Peyto Lake in the background.

A Third Viewpoint at Peyto Lake?

Aside from the two viewpoints, there is another place to have panoramic view of Peyto Lake from above.

A less visited lookout above Peyto Lake is Bow Summit Lookout, a 2.9km (1.8 mile) one way hike beyond the main Peyto Lake viewing platform.

This is a moderately challenging trail going up to Bow Summit. There is not really a clearly marked trail going up to the summit but people say most trails do end up leading to the summit.

In addition you should not try to go up to Bow Summit in the winter months as there is an avalanche risk on that trail. You will also need crampons and other gear if you were to hike it.

How Much Time Do You Need at Peyto Lake?

You need as little as 30 minutes or as much as 5 hours at Peyto Lake depending on what you want to do.

If you just want to visit the viewing platform at Peyto Lake, 30 to 40 minutes is a good amount of time to walk to the viewing platform, take some photos and go back to the parking lot.

If you want to find the second viewpoint at Peyto Lake, you can expect to spend at least an hour at Peyto Lake.

If you are interested in hiking up to Bow Summit or go down to Peyto Lake shore then you can expect to spend a few more hours on the hikes.

Why is Peyto Lake so Blue?

Banff and Jasper itinerary peyto lake view

Peyto Lake’s striking blue color is primarily due to the presence of glacial rock flour in the water.

Peyto Lake is fed by glaciers in the surrounding mountain range. These glaciers grind against the bedrock as they move, resulting in the formation of fine particles known as rock flour or glacial flour.

These particles are in powder form and they are made up of various minerals. As the sunlight hits the water of Peyto Lake, the rock flour particles scatter the shorter wavelengths of light (such as greens and blues) more than the longer wavelengths (such as reds and yellows). This scattering process, known as Rayleigh scattering, causes the blue light to be reflected and gives the lake its distinct turquoise-blue hue.

Peyto Lake’s blue color is more vibrant during the summer months when the glaciers melt more rapidly, carrying higher concentrations of rock flour into the lake. The increased concentration of glacial meltwater with suspended particles intensifies the blue color.

Aside from seasonal differences, Peyto Lake’s blue color also varies depending on things like weather conditions and sunlight angle. As you can expect Peyto Lake is more blue on sunny days with clear sky and less so on cloudy days.

Do You Need Bear Mace at Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake viewing platform has a large amount of foot traffic during the day so you generally will not see any bear when visiting.

But if you are planning to venture out to the forest area or hike up to Bow Summit or down to Peyto Lake, you should have bear spray with you just in case.

Bear Spray

There are a lot of bears in Banff National Park and there have been bear sightings even at extremely popular tourist spots like Lake Louise, so I would not be surprised if you see a bear near Peyto Lake.

Are There Bathrooms at Peyto Lake?

There are public bathrooms at Peyto Lake in the parking lot. There is no bathroom at the viewpoints.

Can You Hike Down to Peyto Lake

You can certainly hike down to Peyto Lake, but trail is steep and unmarked. The hike down to the shore of Peyto Lake is about 2 miles.

Even if you like going downhill you still need to hike back up! So be prepared to hike steep uphill when you come back from the shore of Peyto Lake.

In general nobody really hikes down to Peyto Lake as there really isn’t too much to do. The water is ice cold in Peyto Lake (since it is glacier fed and all), so you probably won’t be swimming in Peyto Lake.

There is no recreational activities available at Peyto Lake unlike the other popular lakes in Banff, so really there isn’t too much reason to visit. Peyto Lake is best seen from above after all.

Where to Stay Near Peyto Lake?

Most people stay in the town of Banff or Lake Louise when visiting Peyto Lake as there really isn’t a hotel at Peyto Lake.

If you are looking for the closest accommodation to Peyto Lake, then consider Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, a lodge along the Icefields Parkway near Bow Lake only a few kilometers away from Peyto Lake. This ledge is only open from May to October.

Lake Louise is only about 35 minutes drive from Peyto Lake, and many people do stay near Lake Louise.

Staying in Lake Louise

The most famous hotel at Lake Louise is the Fairmont Chateau, with a direct view overlooking Lake Louise.

Another great accommodation in the Lake Louise area is Paradise Lodge and Bungalows, where you can get lodge rooms and fully equipped cabins. It is only a mile from Lake Louise, so you can easily visit Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Peyto Lake during peak summer months.

Staying in Banff

One of the most popular place to stay if you want to visit Peyto Lake (and the other famous lakes) is in the town of Banff. It has a lively downtown area with tons of restaurants, shops, bars, gas station and a large super market.

It is a lot easier to find accommodation in Banff than in the Lake Louise area since there are so many options, although a lot of hotels do get booked up during the peak summer months.

I have stayed at different places in Banff before during my visits, and I would recommend a few places depending on your budget.

If money is no issue and you want luxury accommodation, then Fairmont Banff Springs would be a great choice. The hotel also has a beautiful spa and 2 pools so you can truly relax here.

If you are traveling with a group or just simply looking for a budget but convenient option, then I would recommend Banff International Hostel. It is a lot cheaper than other hotels and most important it’s located very close to all the restaurants and stores.

Dorothy Motel in Banff as one of the best places to stay in Banff

If you are looking for moderately priced hotel that are clean and convenient, I would recommend both the Dorothy Motel and High Country Inn. I stayed at both and they were both sufficient and not super expensive.

Is Peyto Lake Worth Visiting?

Peyto Lake is definitely worth a visit. It is low effort to see one of the most beautiful lakes in Banff and it is family and kids friendly.

Walking a bit more to the second viewpoint at Peyto Lake is also worth the effort. You can find a bit of quietness during the summer peak seasons and take some stunning photos of Peyto Lake with unobstructed view.

Other Canadian Rockies Travel Resources

Over the years I have written a ton of other blogs on the Canadian Rockies since I love it so much. If you are still planning your trip to Banff, Jasper or Yoho National Park, be sure to check out some of my articles below.

Banff Itinerary and Things to Do

Jasper Itinerary and Things to Do

Canadian Rockies Hikes

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How to find Peyto Lake's Secret Second Viewpoint