The Lake Louise area is truly a land of enchantment within Canada’s spectacular Banff National Park. The majestic peaks and the intense blue greens of its lakes dazzle thousands of visitors each year. With such stunning 360-degree views around every corner, it’s no wonder that this area offers avid hikers a host of scenic treks. From family-friendly options to something for those who like a little more of a challenge, hiking Lake Agnes and the Plain of the Six Glaciers has something for everyone!
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Less than an hour from Banff, you’ll find the parking area for Lake Louise and the Lake Agnes Tea House and Plain of the Six Glaciers trailheads. Just take Highway 1 to the Lake Louise exit and turn left. While parking is a little easier in the colder months, arrive early in the summer when crowds peak if you want to grab a spot.
Until May 2023, parking is free. After that, parking costs $12.25 per day, so be sure to bring a debit or credit card to pay at the convenient kiosks. There is also a Park & Ride option available at the Lake Louise Ski Hill, but this option is only available in the summer months.
Once you’ve reached the lot, be sure to snap a postcard-worthy photo against the backdrop of Lake Louise. Then look for the Lake Agnes Tea House trailhead to the right just beyond the Chateau Lake Louise hotel. The Plain of the Six Glaciers trailhead is to the left.
Lake Louise Tea House Hike
Many folks choose to begin their hiking day at Lake Louise with the moderate Lake Agnes hike. The initial incline is very gradual and increases very little throughout the duration of this hike. This makes it a particularly attractive option for beginners or those visiting with children. Get your camera ready for the incredible views of the Victoria Glacier and the intense turquoise of Lake Louise.
Beyond the initial views, you’ll find yourself in a thick forest of evergreens. In the summer months, you’ll even find patches of colorful wildflowers pushing up through emerald grass. Just under 700 meters, about a half-mile in, you’ll encounter a small stream, though in summer it may be nothing more than a dry bed. You’ll notice the beautiful, but endangered, white bark pines lining the trail. Further on, the massive roots of one of these trees sprawl across the trail. Be sure to watch your step! Look for Fairview Mountain to your left. You can also spy the Mount Aberdeen Glacier through the trees.
A switchback takes hikers in the opposite direction, but still upward. This part of the trail takes you to another golden photo op of Lake Louise. It also marks where the trail requires more negotiation with rocks and roots to be wary of. The flora begins to change here as well. Hikers with a keen eye can spot Alberta’s provincial flower, the wild rose, as well as brilliantly red paintbrush flowers.
Fairview Mountain continues to rise over Lake Louise before the trail bears left and away from the lake. You’ll pass a horse trail before arriving at Mirror Lake, a popular rest point for hikers who need a break. From here, hikers have the option of continuing on to the Lake Agnes Teahouse and stunning views of Mount Whyte and Devil’s Thumb, or taking the trail toward the Plain of Six Glaciers Hike.
Plain of the Six Glaciers
While you can access the Plain of the Six Glaciers Hike via the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail, you can also access the trail from the trailhead near the Chateau Lake Louise hotel. This flat gravel path is the same as the lakeshore trail and is easy walking. At about 3km (1.9 miles), the gravel gives way to a wooden boardwalk over running water. The water originates from the glaciers that are the goal of this hike.
When the boardwalk ends, the path becomes more rugged. Rocks and roots clutter the path and you’ll have to keep an eye on your footing. The first glacier you’ll spot will likely be on Mount Victoria’s slopes. Around 5km (4 miles), you’ll want to keep your eye on more than rocks and roots. The path narrows, its edge a significant drop-off. But don’t worry—though the path narrows, it’s still wide enough to allow safe passage until it reaches a rocky berm where the views are simply spectacular.
Here hikers are afforded an unobstructed view of the huge glaciers to your left and Lake Louise at the rear. Down the mountains, waterfalls churn down the slopes. Don’t be alarmed if you suddenly hear a massive cracking sound. It’s the natural sound of the glacier as the ice separates and continues its sloth-like slide.
You’ll navigate a steep set of switchbacks before coming to an abruptly smooth section of the trail at the Plain of the Six Glaciers Teahouse, a great stopping point for lunch and rest. The last portion of the trail takes you through a Larch forest. If you visit in the fall, you’ll experience a golden treat. When you reach the rocky field beyond, you might hear the shrill call of the resident pikas.
To finish out the Plain of the Six Glaciers Hike, you’ll encounter another section of rough trail that opens into a natural amphitheater with more fantastic photo opportunities, through a rocky clearing, and to another rocky berm that marks the end of the trail.
How long is the Lake Agnes Tea House hike?
One-way, the Lake Agnes trail stretches for an easy 3.4km (2.11 miles) from the trailhead to Lake Louise itself.
How difficult is the Lake Agnes Tea House hike?
The Lake Agnes Hike is an easy trail. It is an excellent choice for beginners and for those hiking with children. It is a relatively short trail with a moderate elevation gain. The path is relatively uncluttered. There are also a number of great spots to take a rest should anyone need it.
How much time should I allot for the Lake Agnes Tea House hike?
Moving at a moderate pace, the average hiker can complete this hike in under three hours. If you factor in ample time for lunch, rest stops, and picture taking, you can expect to spend up to four hours on this trail.
Is the Lake Agnes Tea House hike suitable for children?
If your children are young or brand-new to hiking, we suggest the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail. But if your children are a little older and healthy and active, this is a great hike for the whole family. If you are uncertain whether your children can handle the hike, there are numerous stops available to let them recharge.
What is the difficulty level for the Plain of the Six Glaciers hike?
The Plain of the Six Glaciers hike is very easy for the first leg. Afterward, however, the incline rises steadily over sections of rough trail, making it more of a moderate trail.
Is the Plain of the Six Glaciers hike suitable for children?
This is a bit of a long, challenging hike for most children. It has a steady, if not incredibly steep climb which can wind those not used to the exertion. While not impossible for kids, be certain they are up for the physical challenge. There are also sections of the trail with sheer drop-offs, so do keep children well in hand.
How long is the Plain of the Six Glaciers Hike?
Out and back, the Plain of the Six Glaciers hike is almost 15km, just over nine miles.
How much time should I allow to complete the Plain of the Six Glaciers hike?
To complete the full trail, allow yourself at least four hours at a moderate pace. Factor in extra time for lunch, breaks, and picture taking.
Are there any restrictions on the Lake Agnes and Plain of the Six Glaciers hikes?
Mountain bikes are not allowed. Dogs on leashes are permitted.
What equipment is necessary for the Lake Agnes and Plain of the Six Glaciers hikes?
While the Lake Agnes Trail can be done in street shoes, the rough terrain and incline of the Plain of the Six Glaciers trail calls for a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or boots. Trekking poles are not necessary, but can help provide extra traction over uncertain terrain. Do invest in hydration packs to ensure you have enough water for either climb. Dressing in layers is advisable, as is carrying a lightweight daypack to stow extra clothes as you peel them off. Be prepared for potential wildlife encounters, like bears. Bear spray is an absolute necessity. Cougars are a rare, but potential hazard. Read more on wildlife safety in Banff National Park.
So, if you are looking for an easy to moderate hike with scenic vistas, majestic, towering peaks, and massive, breathtaking glaciers, head to the Lake Louise area and try the Lake Agnes Tea House hike, the Plain of the Six Glaciers hike, or both! There’s something for beginning hikers to families to more experienced trekkers. We’re not just dropping the “tea”—there’s nothing “plain” about these fabulous hikes!