Home Canada Plain of Six Glaciers – The Best Lake Louise Hike

Plain of Six Glaciers – The Best Lake Louise Hike

by Andy Vanr

The best hike in Banff National Park is the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. We explain what to expect in each section of the trail to help you plan your best hike! See sweeping views of Lake Louise and a chance to see Victoria Glacier up close.

The Lake Louise area offers lots of great hiking options.  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

This is the plan for our Lake Louise day hike.

Total Hike Time: 6 hours

The times above are our total time to complete each section. We provide it as a guide to your Lake Louise Hike.

Lake Louise Hiking Trail Map

This map shows the hiking trails of Upper Lake Louise.

Lake Louise Trail Map
Lake Louise Hiking Map

Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail

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

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
I posed for the typical tourist shot on the lakeside boardwalk with Lake Louise and its surrounding mountains and glaciers.
Walking along Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail
Val is trucking ahead on the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail, a flat smooth trail and a great warm-up for the trails to follow.

Follow the trail signs and walk the flat Lakeshore Trail to the end of this stunning turquoise lake.  Notice that the crowds ease as the distance from the Chateau increases.

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 colour.

Enjoy a walk along the delta and admire the lake before beginning the ascent to the plain above.

Meltwater delta with Lake Louise and chateau in background
At west end of Lake Louise is a large, silty delta made of silt particles brought by the meltwaters of the creek.
Chateau Lake Louise and mountain reflections in lake
Chateau Lake Louise as seen in 1990 on a previous visit. It is 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.

Climbing through the valley, the forest thins offering great views ahead and behind.  Passing the tree line, mountain goats are often seen on the steep sides of the valley. 

Mountain goats on valley side - Plain of Six Glaciers
Look up to the valley sides for possible mountain goat sightings on the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.
Scree slope with mountain peaks Plain of Six Glaciers
The section of the trail behind me is a scree slope made of small loose stones.

The landscape changes from low shrubs to a rocky area with incredible views of Lake Louise far in the distance.

Resting on rock Plain of Six Glaciers
We took a break and enjoyed the great view.

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, arrive at the teahouse.

Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse 

The rustic teahouse is a great place for a well-deserved lunch. Relax and enjoy the beautiful mountain views.

Eating food Plain of Six Glaciers Teahous
Val thoroughly enjoyed her soup at Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse

Two Swiss guides built the teahouse for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1927.  Since 1959, the Kimbal family has owned and operated it.  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, 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 continuing your hike.

Abbot Pass Viewpoint

Many hikers end their hike at the teahouse, but we recommend extending your hike to the Abbot Pass Viewpoint.

The trek is not difficult.  Hike another 1.5 kilometres along a moraine, climbing 50 metres 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
I am bundled up as it was starting to snow on the hike along the moraine to the Abbot Pass Viewpoint.
Hiker at side of glacier - Plain of Six Glaciers
Hike along the side of a glacier at the Plain of Six Glaciers.

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

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

After exploring, just turn around and hike the same trail down, past the teahouse, and back to Lake Louise.

We extended our hike, taking the Highline Trail to Lake Agnes.

Highline Trail

On Highline Trail with Plain of Six Glaciers below
We both took a lot of pictures of the views on the Highline Trail above the Plain of Six Glaciers.
Panorama Lake Louise with ski slopes in the distance
Lake Louise and the ski slopes are visible across the Bow Valley from the 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.

From the teahouse, hike back toward Lake Louise for about 1.5 kilometres.  At a forked junction, head to the left.  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.  At several points along the trail Lake Louise is visible 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 going up and over the top.

Big Beehive Hike

At a trail junction, a trail climbs steeply to left. The single-track connector trail has a series of switchbacks leading to the top of the ridge to 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
Beautiful Lake Agnes, behind me, sits in a stunning mountain setting.
Board of Lake Agnes Tea House historic photos
Be sure to check out the 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-kilometre 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 picture.

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

The best trail conditions are 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 open from June through October.

Lake Louise Parking

The parking lot near the Chateau fills up quickly (especially in the summer).  It’s likely best to take public transit or book a Parks Canada shuttle. For information about parking and transit options, visit the Parks Canada – Visiting Lake Louise webpage.

Weather

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.

Standing on Plain of Six Glaciers Trail with Lake Louise in background
Be sure to dress in warm clothes with layers and wear sturdy shoes.

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 Centre.
  • 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 are often seen along the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail
Canoe and kayak rental Lake Louise
Canoes are available for rent at Lake Louise

There are recreational activities available in addition to hiking. Horseback riding is permitted on some trails. Kayak or canoe on Lake Louise. Canoe rentals are available at the lake. Check the Banff National Park Activities webpage.

Interactive Plain of Six Glaciers Trail Map

With limited cell coverage in the area, we suggest downloading this map prior to heading out on a hike.

For more things to do in Banff National Park, be sure to check out our complete article Banff to Jasper Road Trip.

Lake Louise surrounded by forest mountains


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