With its milky turquoise waters snuggled by a dense pine forest, the Lake Louise area is one of the most breathtaking locations in the Canadian Rockies. And one of the best ways to experience its beauty is by hiking the Plain of Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes trail in Banff National Park. If you’re looking for a day of snow-dusted peaks, brilliant glaciers, glistening lakes, and panoramic views, we’ve got you covered.
Everything You Need to Know about Hiking the Plain of Six Glaciers to Lake Agnes Loop
Here are all the things you need to know to plan your hike. Don’t forget to keep reading for our detailed account and pictures below.
Plain of Six Glaciers Hike Distance: Roughly 7.5 miles round trip including the Lake Agnes trail back down.
Elevation Gain: 2,210 Feet.
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous in certain parts.
Length of Time: 5 – 6 hours. More if you stop for something to eat or take a lot of pictures like us.
Best Time of Year: June through September. Always check for trail conditions with the park rangers throughout the year.
Plain of Six Glaciers Weather: The coldest months are January, February, November and December with 2 inches of snowfall on average. May is the wettest month with April being the driest. July and August are the warmest months with temperatures averaging between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sun Exposure: A little shade but mostly exposed to full sun.
Trailhead: Behind Fairmont Chateau Hotel on the paved Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail.
Bathrooms: Located at both tea houses.
Lake Agnes Tea House: Open from early June to October.
Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House: Open from mid to late June or early July to mid-October depending on conditions.
Parking: Arrive early – before 7:00 AM – for parking in the Lake Louise lot. It fills up and stays that way throughout the day so your best bet is to get there as early as possible.
RELATED: GLACIER NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY
- Begin the hike early for parking but also for fewer people on the trail.
- Bring cash if you plan to eat or drink at the tea house and plenty of snacks.
- Trekking poles are useful if you have knee or ankle issues or if it has rained recently. There are loose rocks and steep parts of the hike.
- Bring bear spray. Don’t forget this is bear country! Make noise when you hike and it is recommended not to hike alone.
- Also take a look at our recommended 10 Favorite Things to Do in Banff.
WHAT TO PACK & WHAT TO WEAR:
For the day you’ll want to pack the following:
- Snacks and/or lunch if you do not plan on eating at one of the tea houses
- Hat and/or Sunglasses
See below for a Google Map or Download a Plain of Six Glaciers Map PDF here.
HOW TO USE THIS MAP: To view the layers and see the names of the places on this map, click the tab in the top left corner. You can select the check marks to show or hide certain layers. If you select the icons on the map, you will get more information about the point of interest.
HOW TO SAVE THIS MAP: If you select the star icon, you can save this map to your Google Maps account. To view it, open Google Maps in desktop or on your phone, select the menu button, go to “Your Places,” scroll to the right to Maps, and you will see this map.
Plain of Six Glaciers to Lake Agnes Trail Loop in Banff National Park
By far one of the best hikes in Banff National Park, the Plain of Six Glaciers offers scenic views and breathtaking vistas. Since it is an out and back take the Lake Agnes trail (making your hike a loop) so you can see different views on the way down.
If you add the Lake Agnes trail to the route, you’ll see another tea house, tree-covered trails, and two more pristine lakes. We highly recommend it!
There’s some debate as to which direction you should start the hike. The most common route appears to begin with Lake Agnes because it is the steepest part of the hike and on the way back you’ll be rewarded with continuous views of Lake Louise as you descend from the Plain of Six Glaciers.
It’s the whole getting the hard part done first theory. But we chose the opposite route, starting with the Plain of Six Glaciers, and it worked out great.
The Beginning of the Trail
The hike begins behind the exquisite Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The Lakefront Trail follows the north side of the shoreline for roughly 1.2 miles on a nice paved and flat trail.
No matter what time of day you start, my guess is this trail will always have people on it. It’s a no-brainer to walk for every visitor to Banff National Park. The waters of Lake Louise provide an almost unbelievable backdrop. If I didn’t see it for myself, I’d hardly believe the pictures weren’t filtered to the max! No wonder it has been dubbed the “hiking capital of Canada.”
For the most part, the trail is open but towards the back of the lake we walk between trees. Once we leave the water behind, the ‘shoreline’ trail goes for another 1.2 miles before meeting up with the Plain of Six Glaciers.
We follow a small creek which unfortunately happens to also be where the Plain of Six Glaciers horseback ride trots on. I am not a fan of sharing hiking paths with horses and all they leave behind, but luckily we only saw one small group and they moved quickly.
The landscape opens up to an array of impressive rocky outcrops spattered with untouched snow.
Ascend three-quarters of a mile up toward Mount Victoria and Mount Lefroy and the lake gets smaller and smaller behind you.
As you reach the glacial valley, the greenery disappears and rocks of all shapes and sizes take its place.
As you pass the ridgeline, there are a few switchbacks and it gets steep up to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. We saw a few people stop short of the one mile left but we continued on and figured we’d stop for lunch on the way back.
If you are physically fit, I highly recommend the additional mile so you can experience the base of the spectacular 11,365 foot Mount Victoria and her glacier. It’s a steep climb but one of the highlights of the hike.
The glacier has retreated over the last decade leaving behind piles of sedimentary rock in its wake but once you get a glimpse of that dense bluish tinted ice formation hanging on to the top of the mountain, you will not be disappointed.
Now, it’s time to move back down the trail to the teahouse. Created in 1927 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the teahouse is part of the park’s long history. There are no roads leading to the building so supplies arrive by either helicopter at the beginning of the season, or carried in by staff on their backs.
Therefore, you can expect the prices to be a little more expensive than usual for a light lunch, dessert, or tea. And because there is no electricity, it is CASH ONLY.
We were starving so we walked around the pine house draped in prayer flags then found a flat rock to eat our bagged lunch. The location was fairly busy, but because we arrived early we would have had no issues getting a table.
*TIP: If you do plan to snack or eat here, the word on the street is that the chocolate-chocolate cake is THE thing to order.*
Getting to Lake Agnes
After a much-needed break, we packed up and headed back the way we came looking for the Highline Trail. It’s another 3 miles to connect to the Lake Agnes trail.
On the way to Lake Agnes, there’s a quick detour to Mirror Lake, a quiet oasis with a splendid view of the Big Beehive.
*Note: there’s an option to add an additional mile climb from the Plain of Six Glaciers to Big Beehive, but our day was long enough doing the whole loop that we decided against it. The trail is steep with a series of switchbacks but does offer magnificent views. We plan to add this next visit.*
The trail continues to climb with a series of switchbacks until we reach the stunning Lake Agnes accompanied by a sharp mountain peak backdrop. There must be no sediment or algae in the lake, the light penetrates right to the bottom.
Originally constructed in 1901, the Lake Agnes Tea House was the first place in the park to offer tea to its visitors. It’s the perfect spot for an extended break so we ordered a large pot of loose leaf tea with biscuits and jam.
From the teahouse, it’s about two more miles back to the hotel to complete the loop. Because its mostly downhill, the last section goes by fast. By the time we reach Lake Louise, we are exhausted but the clouds disappeared so it’s another round of a thousand photos for us! It will go down as one of our favorite days in Banff.
Do you have any favorite hikes in Banff National Park? Tell us in the comments below!
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