This hike was my favourite during our trip in Banff. The trail brings you magnificent views at almost every point of the hike. You encounter three beautiful lakes — Lake Louise, Lake Agnes and Mirror Lake, gorgeous mountain views of course, and not to mention different vantage points of Lake Louise. The loop connects the Lake Agnes and the Plain of Six Glaciers trail through the Highland trail. It is 14.6 km long with approximately 500 m of total elevation gain (you ascent up to Lake Agnes, descend a bit on the Highland trail, and then ascend again at the Plain of Six Glaciers trail). Both the Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers also have tea houses for some mid-hike snack, though they operate only from June to October. Overall the hike is rated moderate, but can be a bit more challenging in the winter season.
The trail to Lake Agnes starts at Lake Louise. We started our hike around 10:30 am. The weather was calm and foggy. There were several centimetres of snow on the ground, some parts which had turned into ice. The view of Lake Louise at this time was soothing. Snow covered the mountains with its image beautifully reflecting off the tranquil glacial waters of Lake Louise. Due to the lack of sun earlier in the morning, the lake water did not (yet) exhibit the vivid turquoise blue colour it normally carries in the late summer months. Nonetheless, it was still gorgeous.
More on how glacial lakes get their beautiful colour: Click Me
The beginning of the Lake Agnes trail for us was fully covered in snow. It was also in a continuous uphill incline, and I remembered feeling SO glad that I decided to invest on a pair of hiking cleats. As we ascended up the mountain, we could see Lake Louise behind the pine trees. The colour of the lake was now more turquoise due to the angle we were in and a bit more sunlight hitting the lake.
We reached Mirror Lake not long after. If it wasn’t for the sign, I would not have known there was a lake. Mirror Lake is small, frozen, and covered in snow when we were there. Behind it however, is the famous Big Beehive Mountain. I’ve been told by friends (and also the wold wide web) who’ve been there that the lookout has spectacular views of Lake Louise. It can be accessed from Lake Agnes and is 1.6 km one way with 135 m of elevation gain. Due to all the snow and the time we have left, we decided to forgo it, but will definitely recommend to anyone if the weather permits.
Here are more photos of the magnificent views of the hike. You can see the Lake Louise Village Ski Resort as well as different angles of The Big Beehive. You also encounter a waterfall just before reaching Lake Agnes! Steve and I drank some of water and as expected, the water tasted very pure.
Just shortly after, we reached Lake Agnes and the Lake Agnes tea house. Unfortunately, the tea house is closed this time of year, but we took the opportunity to have a quick lunch on one of the benches. It also wasn’t long until a clark’s nutcracker (bird) came towards us to try to get some food. Lake Agnes was also frozen and snow covered, but the view was still very beautiful.
Descending down the snow covered stairs from Lake Agnes to connect to the Highland Trail was a bit of a challenge as it was very slippery even with our cleats. We took our sweet time to be safe. After the stairs, there was a bit of downhill so I crouched down and sled with my cleats. It was pretty fun!
The trail after was covered in trees for a bit before revealing more views of Lake Louise. From up top, the water was really blue! As we continue towards the Plain of Six Glaciers trail, we get closer to a series of prominent mountains — Mount Lefroy, Mt. Aberdeen, Mount Victoria, and the Victoria Glacier.
The trail continued on an open section and the snow became thicker and higher the further we went. Looking back the way we came, we could again see Lake Louise from a distance. The lake appeared tiny from where we were. We also saw a couple of snow doves teetering along –perhaps looking for food– close to our trail. The path after became a bit more strenuous due to the slight incline and high snow which was not walked on yet. Steve, being the taller one (and with longer legs), took the lead and broke the path. I followed behind his footsteps which made it a lot easier for me to walk on.
To be honest, I was extremely exhausted at his point and kept stopping for water and snack breaks. The thick snow really gave a lot of resistance. At least it was a good workout in the end! I pushed hard to get to the Plain of Six Glaciers tea house and felt accomplished when we finally got there! We took washroom breaks and then sat on a picnic table on the porch of the tea house to fuel up with our packed snacks. We also had a lovely little visitor while we were eating. He was tiny, sneaky and bold, and managed to take dried cranberry from us! Nevertheless, it was good to make a friend up here.
Before going back down, don’t forget to read the information stands. They provide a legend of the mountains and the glaciers in the area, as well as share a bit of history on the early mountaineering attempts that took place.
If you’re up for it, you can also take a side trip to the Abbot Pass Viewpoint from the tea house to get a closer look at the Victoria Glacier and Abbot Hut. The trail is 1.5 km one way, out and back, with 50 m of elevation gain. It is estimated to be an hour trip.
The way back was a lot faster as most of it was downhill and we were both re-energized. The area that had fresh snow was also already walked on by several groups of people who followed after us, which also made it a lot easier.
The end of the trail takes you along the edge of Lake Louise. We marvelled again at its beauty and of course, took more photos!
The entire hike took us approximately 6.5 hours. We stopped by at the Chateau afterwards to relax and warm ourselves up a bit before heading back to our hotel in Banff. It was a great day 🙂
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