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Plain of Six Glaciers – The Best Lake Louise Hike

by Andy Vanr
Plain of Six Glaciers - The Best Lake Louise Hike

The Lake Louise area offers lots of great hiking options.  Our pick for the best hike in Banff National Park is the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.

On this hike you’ll see sweeping views of Lake Louise and a chance to see Victoria Glacier up close.

Try an easy hike to Six Glaciers Teahouse and back in about 4 hours or enjoy a longer hike by adding on one of the other Lake Louise trails.

Day Hike Plan

Here is the plan of our Lake Louise day hike.

  • Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail (25 minutes)
  • Plain of Six Glaciers Trail (65 minutes)
  • Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse (half hour)
  • Abbot Pass Viewpoint return (1 hour 20 minutes)
  • Highline Trail (1 hour 40 minutes)
  • Lake Agnes Trail (1 hour)

Total Hike Time: 6 hours

The times above are our total time to complete each section. We hope this helps you plan your own Lake Louise Hike.

Lake Louise Trail Map

This map shows the hiking trails of Upper Lake Louise.

Lake Louise Trail Map
Lake Louise Trail Map

Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail

The Lakeshore Trail is the first section of the Plain of Six Glaciers trail.

The trail begins behind the famous Chateau Lake Louise.  Stand among throngs of tourists taking the iconic photo of the Rockies reflected in the mirror of beautiful Lake Louise.

Lake Louise with mountains, glaciers background
Lake Louise with Mountains and Glaciers – A Tourist Photo Spot
Walking along Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail
Along Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail

Follow the trail signs and walk the flat Lakeshore Trail to the end of this stunning turquoise lake.  You will notice that the crowds subside the further you walk around Lake Louise.

At the end of the lake, a white milky creek deposits its silt onto the large delta.  It is these silt particles that give the lake its turquoise color.

Enjoy a walk along the delta and admire the lake before you begin your ascent to the plain above.

Meltwater delta with Lake Louise and chateau in background
Meltwater Delta at west end of Lake Louise
Chateau Lake Louise and mountain reflections in lake
Chateau Lake Louise as seen in 1990 on our previous trip – still beautiful.

Plain of Six Glaciers Trail

The Plain of Six Glaciers hike is considered moderately difficult.  The trail’s elevation change is 385 meters between Lake Louise and the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse.

As you climb through the valley, the forest will thin offering great views ahead and behind you.  Passing the tree line, you’ll often see mountain goats on the steep valley sides. 

Mountain goats on valley side - Plain of Six Glaciers
Mountain goats on valley side – Plain of Six Glaciers
Scree slope with mountain peaks Plain of Six Glaciers
Scree slope made of small loose stones on Plain of Six Glaciers

The landscape then transitions from low shrubs to a rocky area where there are incredible views of Lake Louise far in the distance.

Resting on rock Plain of Six Glaciers
Taking a rest on Plain of Six Glaciers

This is a popular trail but it never feels crowded.  A horse trail also weaves with the main trail, bringing both tourists and supplies up to the teahouse. After navigating a couple of switchbacks, you’ll reach the teahouse.

Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse 

The rustic teahouse is a great place for a well deserved lunch as you relax and enjoy the beautiful mountain views.

Eating food Plain of Six Glaciers Teahous
Enjoying a light meal at Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse

Two Swiss guides built the teahouse for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1927.  The teahouse was purchased in 1959 by the Kimbal family and has been in operation ever since.  At the start of the year, the main raw supplies (flour, sugar, etc.) are helicoptered in to last the entire hiking season.  Fresh supplies are brought up daily, either by pack-horse or carried up by staff.

There is no electricity here, but that doesn’t stop the staff from creating fine fresh meals each day on propane stoves. The teahouse serves refreshing teas, sandwiches, soups and snacks. 

This two-storey teahouse has ample seating both inside and outside along its wrap-around balconies.  Modern outhouses are here as well.  It’s the perfect spot to refresh mind and body before proceeding on your hike.

Abbot Pass Viewpoint

Many hikers end their hike at the teahouse, but we think this is a mistake.  After lunch, we recommend extending your hike to the Abbot Pass Viewpoint.

The trek is not difficult.  You’ll hike another 1.5 kilometers along a moraine, climbing 50 meters in elevation.  The trail ends at the Abbots Pass Viewpoint on the side of a scree slope.

Standing on a moraine at Abbot Pass viewpoint
Hiking along the moraine to Abbot Pass Viewpoint
Hiker at side of glacier - Plain of Six Glaciers
Hiking along side of glacier at Plain of Six Glaciers

It may add a bit over an hour to your trip, but the great views of Victoria Glacier with Mount Lefroy and Mount Victoria on either side are stunning rewards.

If you look closely at the top of the pass, you might be able to make out the mountaineer’s hut built in 1922.  Abbot Pass Hut is maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada.  At an elevation of about 2900 meters, it is the second highest permanently habitable structure in Canada.

Although it was windy and snowy on our visit, we spent a good 15 minutes at the viewpoint taking photos and scrambling on the rocks above the trail.

Glacier filled valley seen from Abbot Pass Viewpoint
Valley seen from Abbot Pass Viewpoint

When you’ve finished exploring, just turn around and hike the same trail down, past the teahouse, and back to Lake Louise.

We decided to extend our hike, by taking the Highline Trail to visiting Lake Agnes.

Highline Trail

On Highline Trail with Plain of Six Glaciers below
Highline Trail above Plain of Six Glaciers
Panorama Lake Louise with ski slopes in the distance
Lake Louise and the ski slopes across the Bow Valley from overlook on Highline Trail

This trail is an excellent option to extend the Plain of Six Glaciers hike.  The Highline Trail links the two teahouses and offers some solitude as it gets far fewer hikers than the two individual teahouse trails.

To access it, hike back down from the teahouse for about 1.5 kilometers.  You’ll come to a forked junction. Head left here.  This is the Highline Trail.

The trail offers a nice variety of scenery.  The lower part is open meadows with great mountain views while the upper portion is thick pine forest.  There are several vantage points along the trail to photograph Lake Louise far below.

The trail is not steep and elevation gain is minimal.

The Beehive from Highline Trail
The Beehive from Highline Trail

The Highline Trail provides two options to reach Lake Agnes. We hiked the direct route around the base of The Beehive.  There is an optional side hike, Big Beehive, taking you up and over the top.

Big Beehive Hike

You’ll arrive at a junction with a trail climbing steeply to left. The single-track connector trail has a series of switchbacks leading you to the top of the ridge where you meet the Big Beehive Trail.  Turn right to hike to the peak of The Beehive for great views of both Lake Louise and Lake Agnes.  Take the Big Beehive Trail clockwise around Lake Agnes to get to the Lake Agnes Tea House.

Lake Agnes Trail

Lake Agnes ringed by mountain sides
Lake Agnes in its stunning mountain setting
Board of Lake Agnes Tea House historic photos
Lake Agnes Tea House memorabilia

Of the two teahouse hikes in the Lake Louise area, the hike to Lake Agnes is the easier hike and gets far more visitors. The Lake Agnes Tea House was built in 1901 as a refuge for hikers by the Canadian Pacific Railway. We rested here for 10 minutes admiring the lake and teahouse before continuing down the 3.4 km Lake Agnes Trail.

The trail winds past tiny Mirror Lake at the base of the Beehive.  The Beehive’s reflection in the lake makes for a great photograph.

The Beehive and Mirror Lake
The Beehive and Mirror Lake

The trail continues to descend 385 meters through thickly wooded hillside, eventually ending at Lake Louise.

Know Before You Go

Best Time to Go

You’ll find the best trail conditions June through August.  We visited in September.  While the weather was cooler (it did snow on the plain), we enjoyed the conditions and the lack of summer crowds. The teahouses are only open from June through October.

Lake Louise Parking

The parking lot near the Chateau fills up quickly (especially in the summer). It’s likely that you’ll end up having to park at the overflow lot along the highway and stand in line waiting for a shuttle ride to the Chateau. To enjoy a great hiking day, try to arrive early to get a good parking spot at the Chateau.

Weather

Make sure you wear sturdy shoes and warm clothes.  Dress in layers, as the weather can be sunny at the lake and then change rapidly to snow flurries up on the plain. Bring rain and sun protection year-round.

Hiking Tips

Carry at least these items in your hiking pack.

  • First aid kit with blister treatments.
  • Water and snacks – There are NO taps on the trail.
  • Map – Download the map below or pick up a map at the Lake Louise Visitor Center.
  • Bear spray – Know how to use it (try it before you hike).

It’s Bear Country!

Bear spray is a must.
Hiking in groups is recommended. Don’t walk silently. Announce your presence by talking, singing or clapping. Wearing bells is not enough.
Should you encounter bears, stay calm. Don’t run or turn your back. Back away slowly. Keep together and try to look bigger. Always pick up small children and pets.

Other Lake Louise Activities

Horseback riders on Plain of Six Glaciers trail
Horseback riders on Plain of Six Glaciers Trail
Canoe and kayak rental Lake Louise
Canoe and Kayak rental available at Lake Louise

There are recreational activities available in addition to hiking. Horseback riding is permitted on some trails. Check the Parks Canada website. You can kayak or canoe on Lake Louise. Rentals are available at the lake. 

Interactive Plain of Six Glaciers Trail Map

With limited cell coverage in the area, we suggest you download this map prior to heading out on your hike.

Standing on Plain of Six Glaciers Trail with Lake Louise in background
Plain of Six Glaciers Trail with Lake Louise in the background


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