Nestled amidst mountains and glaciers, the turquoise-hued Lake Louise stands as one of the most impressive sights in Banff National Park, offering an excellent opportunity for exploring various hiking trails.
Lake Louiseis one of the most spectacular lakes in Alberta. You can opt to stroll around the Chateau Lake Louise, taking in the breathtaking scenery, or venture away from the crowds to gain a deeper appreciation of the landscape through the numerous hiking trails available in the vicinity.
Hiking allows you to discover hidden treasures that may go unnoticed, such as babbling brooks, vibrant wildflowers in the summer, the splendor of fall colors, and encounters with wildlife. Smaller creatures like pikas, hoary marmots, and chipmunks may join you for lunch as you perch on the rocks and give your legs a rest. If you’re fortunate, you might catch a glimpse of larger wildlife. In certain instances, group hiking with a minimum of four participants is enforced when grizzly bears are in proximity to a specific trail.
The hiking trails around Lake Louise cater to all fitness levels and abilities, ranging from leisurely walks along the lakeshore to invigorating ascents of mountain passes.
These hikes are conveniently located within a small geographical area, and staying directly at Lake Louise facilitates easy access. Parking at Lake Louise is limited, and for Moraine Lake, a shuttle is required. Reservations for the Parks Canada Shuttle are mandatory and can be made online.
1. Lake Louise Shoreline Trail
The Shoreline Trail, one of the easiest paths in the entire Lake Louise area, offers a completely level terrain, making it perfect for those seeking a stroll along the lake. The short walk provides amazing views.
While most crowds gather at the beginning of the trail, the further you walk, the more the people disperse, creating a surprisingly relaxing atmosphere. In early summer, pay attention to the end of the lake, as you may frequently witness glaciers calving and crashing to the plains below.
This hike spans only four kilometers round-trip, relatively short by Lake Louise hiking standards. It follows an in-and-out route, starting in front of the Chateau Lake Louise, allowing you to turn back whenever you choose.
As you proceed up the lake, the view improves towards the Chateau. Looking towards the far end reveals glacier and mountain views, with the Plain of Six Glaciers visible in the distance. Nearby, a glacier-fed stream cheerfully makes its way across rocks to the lake.
2. Big Beehive Hike
Extend your adventure beyond the Lake Agnes Tea House hike by considering the Big Beehive extension. Once you have enjoyed the view of Lake Agnes, Mount Niblock, and Mount Whyte from the Tea House and still crave more excitement, the Big Beehive hike awaits.
The Big Beehive, a prominent rock formation towering above Lake Agnes, offers breathtaking views over Lake Louise and down the Bow River Valley, making it one of the top hikes in Banff National Park .
Commencing from the teahouse, the hike traces the lake’s perimeter to the far end, allowing you to capture the iconic photo of Lake Agnes with the teahouse in the distance.
While the initial part may seem easy, the ascent of switchbacks toward your goal will challenge your legs. After ascending roughly 140 meters (450 feet) from Lake Agnes to the top, a stroll along the ridge leads to the picnic shelter at the end.
Combined with the Lake Agnes Tea House hike, this creates a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) round-trip hike. The total elevation gain from Lake Louise is approximately 535 meters (1,755 feet).
3. Lake Annette Hike
The often-ignored Lake Annette hike, overshadowed by the allure of the more prominent trails like Sentinel and Larch Valley, offers a delightful experience. The trail maintains a mostly level terrain, with a modest climb toward the end as it traces Paradise Creek to reach Lake Annette. Upon completing the hike, you’ll be treated to the sight of a vividly blue lake framed by sheer cliffs, with Mount Temple gracing the backdrop.
Compared to many other hikes in the vicinity, this is a relatively easy one, featuring a lower elevation gain (245 meters/803 feet). The hike covers approximately 11.4 kilometers (6.8 miles) round-trip. While the trail meanders through wooded areas for a significant portion, occasional open spaces reveal wooden bridges spanning the river.
For an added adventure, consider extending your hike to the Giant Steps Waterfall. Here, Paradise Creek cascades over a series of broad ledges.
It is essential to note that this region is a prime grizzly bear habitat, and trail closures are common. Parks Canada may also implement group hiking requirements, often stipulating pods of four or more people, to mitigate risks.
4. Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
The Lake Agnes Trail leading to the Lake Agnes Tea House stands out as one of the most sought-after hikes in the Lake Louise area. Beyond offering a scenic journey to a hanging lake surrounded by majestic peaks, the trail invites hikers to pause for refreshments at the charming teahouse.
While the trail boasts a wide and mostly even footing, it’s worth noting that it presents a relatively challenging ascent. With an elevation gain of approximately 400 meters (1,260 feet), the round-trip covers 6.8 kilometers, with the Tea House situated midway.
This hike is well-suited for groups, allowing two or three individuals to walk abreast for a significant portion of the journey. A small lookout point along the trail provides a narrow view of Lake Louise below.
About 800 meters before reaching the teahouse, hikers encounter Mirror Lake, offering a convenient spot to rest before the final stretch to the teahouse.
At the teahouse, amenities include washrooms, a patio area, picnic tables, and benches with panoramic views of Lake Agnes and the neighboring mountains, namely Mount Niblock and Mount Whyte.
The trailhead is conveniently positioned on the right-hand side of Lake Louise, a short distance from the Chateau Lake Louise. For those who prefer not to hike, joining a tour and opting for a horseback ride are alternative options.
4. Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail
Upon reaching Moraine Lake, it is challenging not to be mesmerized by the breathtaking scenery unfolding before you. While resembling Lake Louise with its turquoise waters and encircled by snow-draped mountains, Moraine Lake, situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, offers a more dramatic setting. The lake is smaller, and the proximity of the mountains enhances the awe-inspiring ambiance.
To fully appreciate the surroundings, the Moraine Lake Shoreline trail proves to be the optimal choice. Despite its popularity, don’t be discouraged; the trail is predominantly flat, wide, and suitable for all hikers.
Covering three kilometers (1.9 miles) round trip, the trail leads to the viewing platform at the lake’s south end. Take a moment to observe the cascading water making its way down from the glaciers above. If you prefer a shorter walk, you can turn back at any point.
After absorbing the panoramic views extending down the lake and up to the hanging glaciers, simply retrace your steps, savoring the scenery on your return.
It’s important to note that the most iconic photos of Moraine Lake are typically captured not on this hike but rather from the brief Rockpile hike at the lake’s outset.
6. Consolation Lakes Hike
The Consolation Lakes trail provides a tranquil and less-traveled hiking option at Moraine Lake. If the crowds at Sentinel Pass and Rock Pile have left you feeling a bit overwhelmed, this trail offers the perfect remedy.
Covering an easy 5.8-kilometer round-trip, with minimal elevation gain, on a wide and well-marked trail, this hike is suitable for most hikers in decent condition. It resembles more of a stroll than a challenging hike, as there are no steep or difficult sections. The entire hike is delightful, with Babel Creek accompanying you for a significant portion of the journey.
Despite being an out-and-back trail, the scenery varies throughout. On the outbound leg, you will be treated to the majestic peaks of the Quadra and Bident Mountains. On the return journey, you will be captivated by the vistas of the Ten Peaks surrounding Moraine Lake.
The lakes themselves boast shallow depths and rocky shorelines. Among the rocks, you may encounter marmots, pikas, and other mountain creatures, especially when the sun emerges, prompting them to indulge in a bit of sunbathing.
7. Plain of Six Glaciers Trail
If you embark on the Shoreline Trail and find yourself curious about what lies beyond the lake’s far end, extend your journey to The Plain of Six Glaciers hike. The complete hike covers 10.6 kilometers (6.6 miles) round trip, with an elevation gain of 365 meters (1,977 feet).
A delightful extra feature of this hike is the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, a charming structure with origins dating back to 1927. Inside, you can indulge in tea, baked goods, and other delectable treats.
While many hikers turn back at the teahouse, you have the option to venture onward for approximately another 1.5 kilometers, where the views become even more spectacular. This marks the trail’s virtually final stretch and serves as an excellent spot to take a rest.
8. Sentinel Pass Hike
Sentinel Pass encompasses all the delightful features of Larch Valley, with the bonus of offering a vantage point at the summit where you can peer over the edge into the aptly named Paradise Valley. To reach Sentinel Pass, commence your hike on the previously described Larch Valley trail, then persist onward and upward beyond the Minnestimma Lakes.
This hike to Sentinel Pass poses a relatively challenging endeavor, spanning just over 11.6 kilometers (7.2 miles) and involving an ascent of nearly 725 meters (almost 2,400 feet).
While standing by the lakes, the pass may seem within close reach, but you still have 2.5 kilometers (1.55 miles) and an ascent of nearly 200 meters (650 feet) to conquer before reaching the summit. Even if you are in excellent physical condition, expect to breathe heavily, as the air becomes thin at this elevation.
Upon reaching the top, having climbed to just under 3,000 meters (8,500 feet), you will have ample time to catch your breath while marveling at the panoramic view of the mountains before you. If, by some chance, that view loses its allure, redirect your gaze to the opposite side of Sentinel Pass, where the stunning Paradise Valley unfolds. Occasionally, you may spot adventurous climbers attempting to scale one of the Sentinel Towers.
At this juncture, you can either retrace your steps back the way you came, or if you have arranged for a car shuttle, proceed down the steep slopes into Paradise Valley and past Annette Lake, completing a full loop.
9. Wenkchemna Pass
Hikers seeking a demanding trek encompassing a considerable distance with a moderate elevation gain should undertake the Wenkchemna Pass trail. This round trip of 19.4 kilometers will challenge your hiking boots. Anticipate spending eight to 10 hours on the trail, factoring in rest stops, numerous pauses to admire the scenery (of which there will be many!), and a lunch break at the pass.
Initially following the same route as Eifel Lake, the hike begins with a substantial number of switchbacks. However, as the trail progresses, it levels out, the pass becomes visible in the distance, and the crowds will have largely dissipated.
The vistas are breathtaking, with towering peaks on all sides, scree slopes, and Moraine Lake in the distance. Although the pass may appear close, it is a considerable distance away. The sheer beauty of the surroundings makes the act of placing one foot in front of the other feel almost effortless.
Upon reaching the pass, you’ll have the opportunity to gaze over the other side, a view that few people ever get to witness. Returning to the trailhead feels like embarking on an entirely new hike. If you commenced your journey early in the day, many of the mountains would have cast shadows; now, the trail will be bathed in full light, and everything will appear even more glorious.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lake Louise: Best Areas & Hotels
Q: Is Lake Louise suitable for beginner hikers?
A: Absolutely! There are trails of varying difficulty levels, ensuring a delightful experience for hikers of all skill levels.
Q: Are there guided tours available in Lak1e Louise?
A: Yes, guided tours are available, providing valuable insights into the history, flora, and fauna of the region.
Q: What is the best time of year to visit Lake Louise for hiking?
A: The summer months (June to September) offer ideal hiking conditions, but winter also presents unique opportunities for snow-covered adventures.
Q: Can I camp along the trails in Lake Louise?
A: While camping along the trails is not permitted, there are designated campgrounds in the area for overnight stays.
Q: Are there any restrictions on hiking with pets in Lake Louise?
A: Pets are generally not allowed on the trails around Lake Louise to preserve the natural habitat and wildlife.