Canada

Hiking Guide to Lake Louise and the Lake Agnes Tea House

When it comes to day trips in the Banff National Park, few activities in any given brochure could top some quality time with Lake Louise. As the long-serving poster child for the Canadian Rockies, hopes were high as I spent a day exploring one of the greatest bucket-list items in the world.

  • Published on 25th August 2018
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Hold up! Before any traveller can scribble Lake Louise off of their ‘things to do before you die’ list, they need to get there, and thankfully the tourist transportation system set up here is fantastic.

A free shuttle service (in the form of a retro school bus) from the Lake Louise Visitor Centre operates every 15 minutes in high season, taking visitors straight to the lake. Park (also free of charge) at the visitor centre and simply hop on. Wonderful!

The destination of dreams

Now we’re here, let's jump straight to the main course. Lake Louise is the most visited natural sight in the entire national park. The darling beauty of the Canadian Rockies, it draws in thousands of people to its shores every year, and the reason why became clear upon arrival.

Shore-side at Lake Louise, in all its turquoise-y greatness.

The scenic spectacle is a naturally glacial lake, taking its rare emerald colour from rock flour passed into the melt water from the surrounding glaciers. Working in tandem with the magnificent mountainous terrain, the scene in its entirety would stun any visitor.

Despite brushing shoulders with the hordes of sightseers, it’s still easy to find a spot along the water’s edge to soak up the scenery. However, if you’re like me and you need plenty of space and a bit of peace and quiet, then it’s time strap up the hiking boots and head up the Lake Agnes Tea House trail, which starts right here on Lake Louise’s shore.

An entirely uphill climb to earn a snack and some tea

The Lake Agnes Tea House trail takes 1-2 hours from Lake Louise (3.5km / 2 miles) and is virtually uphill all the way, as you’re essentially ascending along a mountainside. Although alpine trees largely obscure view of Lake Louise as you climb, the occasional glimpse of the heightened view can be caught in breaks in the tree line.

The Lake Agnes Tea House trail - a clear, forged and uphill path the whole way.

The trail is pleasant and comfortable to walk on. I would say comfortable enough for any kind of footwear, but I observed girls in flip-flops undertaking the challenge and groaned!

Part of the way along the route, a particularly unique resting point emerges in the form of Mirror Lake - a tiny emerald body of water with an interesting backdrop:

Mirror Lake, with the Big Beehive tearing into the skies behind.

The Big Beehive is pretty difficult to miss beyond the alpine trees lining the edge of this small, enchanting lake. Whether you’re in need of a quick rest, an adequate spot for a picnic or just a scenic pick-me-up, take a moment of two to enjoy the view.

Arriving at the Lake Agnes Tea House

The remainder of the journey is far from a challenge, with pleasant views along the way, including a waterfall tumbling down from the shoreline of Lake Agnes.

The waterfall tumbling down from Lake Agnes. If you see it, you're nearly there.

Reaching the trail end, the Tea House can be found on the right side of the lakeside when facing the lake. In peak season it sees a colossal number of visitors, all seeking that picture-perfect lunch time experience. To be fair, I could care less about nutritional indulgence and a hot tea when confronted with the real appetiser...

The dramatic scenery at Lake Agnes.

Not bad, right? Admittedly I soon sat down at one of the picnic tables near the Tea House to munch on a cereal bar - perhaps seeing a horde of dining tourists made me peckish. I’m glad I did though, as I made a friend. He never gave me a name though, and only seemed interested in my snack…

Common in the Canadian Rockies it seems, this little chipmunk clearly has a good eye for picnic spots.

There are several trails kicking off from Lake Agnes awaiting the tread of eager explorers, including the Little Beehive trail, which leads to a superb view of Lake Louise. A further 30 minutes and 600 metres uphill from the Tea House sounded like a fair deal to bear witness to such an awesome landscape.

Heading to the skies with the Little Beehive trail

The route, much like the previously conquered Lake Agnes trail, is clear and moderately challenging all the way to the view point:

As I rose higher and higher, the scenery became better and better with every step, making the uphill hike easier to endure. Before I knew it, I was at the top, and the reward was beyond sufficient.

The Little Beehive view point made it much easier to appreciate the actual size of Lake Louise - at ground-level it seemed a lot smaller. Dramatic, rugged mountains guarded the far end of the emerald masterpiece with an unmissable view over a huge mass of the Banff National Park in the distance.

The obligatory shot of myself, overlooking the monstrous mountains.

The most incredible thing about both the Lake Agnes Tea House trail and the follow-up trail to the Little Beehive is the opportunity to see more of the stunning scenery Alberta has to offer. Neither trail proved too difficult to tackle (as unfit as I may be) and the payoffs were extraordinarily generous. It goes to show that you can earn a lot for just a small amount of legwork in this breathtaking part of Canada.

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