Mike and I have officially returned home from another adventure. Let me tell you, we tried to jam pack A LOT into our Rockies road trip. I have quite a few stories to share, however, I could use about two weeks worth of sleep first. I drank just enough coffee to power through writing this blog post. So, let’s jump right into it. This post is all about Hiking the Plain of Six Glaciers. I’m going to share my experience and directions for your next trip. Along the way I’ll even sprinkle in a few pro tips.
Let me take you back to the morning Mike and I did this hike. The first thing I remember is my alarm clock going off at some ungodly hour. Somehow, I convinced myself to get out of bed. One of the joys of visiting Lake Louise is that the parking lot fills up by sunrise (*facepalm*). Don’t be the person that hits the snooze button. Get up and get going. On a clear day you definitely don’t want to miss this sunrise. I’ve attached a few pictures below to encourage you to get out of bed.
These two pictures were taken on a previous trip to Lake Louise in mid October. This year, on our October trip, Lake Louise had already been transformed into a winter wonderland. Huge snow clouds blocked my view of the sunrise. Whether rain, shine or snow, a morning at these mountains never disappoints. On the morning of this adventure the air was crisp and the trees had been covered in a blanket of snow. We enjoyed the view of the lake from a park bench where we brewed our morning coffee.
After caffeinating up we headed to the Lake Agnes Trailhead to begin our hike. Now, there are a few different ways that you can hike the Plain of Six Glaciers. Knowing that we only had one day to explore Lake Louise we weren’t afraid to take a longer way around. There are quite a few main attractions in the area. In my opinion the top two places you don’t want to miss are the Lake Agnes Teahouse and the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. Keep in mind theses destinations are not open year round. However, they are still fun to explore when closed. In fact, the journey to both locations offers incredible views along the way. I’ve attached a map below so that you can see the route we took. Our total hiking time was four hours and 30 minutes. If you want to extend your hike a few extra hours I would recommend adding the Big Beehive and Abbots Pass Viewpoint to your adventure.
From the main parking lot head to the Lake Agnes trailhead. From the trailhead begin hiking towards Mirror Lake. Pre-warning this section is steep! This leg of the hike is 2.7km and 276m of elevation gain. It took us 47 minutes to complete including many photo breaks.
From Mirror Lake continue your hike towards the Lake Agnes Teahouse. It should take you roughly 15 minutes to hike this 0.8 km section. If the teahouse is open make sure you enjoy a bowl of soup and a warm cup of tea 🙂 .
Next, circle back to Mirror Lake. Our initial plan was to hike around Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive (Trail marked in grey on the map). However, as soon as snow falls many hikers are less bold in the backcountry. Which makes complete sense as avalanche risk increases in November. Most visitors heading in this direction only travel as far as Lake Agnes. Meaning, you will probably be making your own tracks towards the Plain of Six Glaciers. This makes for a longer and more tiring hike. By circling back to Mirror Lake it simply shortens the length of the journey.
Once reaching Mirror Lake follow the trail in the direction of the Plain of Six Glaciers. It will take 2.9km to reach the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. Just a warning that the last 800m of this hike are steep. The good news is that your tea will taste extra amazing paired with the satisfaction of completing this hike.
Pro-tip: Interestingly, from Mirror Lake we hiked alone for well over an hour. However, when we arrived at the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse we met a ton of other hikers. Every single one of them took the Lake Louise shoreline both to and from the teahouse. If you have extra time take the route I have provided directions for. It’s the best of both worlds as you get to see the Lake Agnes Teahouse and walk the Lake Louise shoreline on your way back. Essentially it involves less backtracking. In my opinion the route we took to the Plain of Six Glaciers was more more enjoyable as we had more breaks in elevation. We also got to see some killer top views of Lake Louise that one simply can’t see along the lakeshore route.
Time to return back to the parking lot! From the teahouse hike 5.3km to arrive back at your car. Enjoy the beautiful blue shoreline of Lake Louise along the way. It’s safe to say the way back is WAY easier. It’s all downhill with only 25m of elevation gain! In fact, we hiked 6.1 km in 1 hour 10 min. We definitely speed walked a large portion of the trail.
Every year the Lake Agnes Tea House opens on June 4th and closes on Thanksgiving. Their hours of operation are from 8:00am to 5:00pm. This Tea House runs without the use of electricity. The people who work there take on the same hike you do. The journey from the base of Lake Louise to the teahouse is steep. Trust me, a bowl of soup and warm tea is very rewarding on a chilly day. If you’re interested in learning more details before making the journey yourself you check the Lake Agnes Tea House Website. Unfortunately, during our trip we arrived just after thanksgiving. The teahouse was already closed but I manages to find an old photograph for you.
The hours and dates of operation for this teahouse are quite similar to Lake Agnes’. This teahouse opens in early June and closes on Canadian Thanksgiving. The hours of operation are 9:00am-5:00pm. Here’s the link to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse website if you’d like to learn more 🙂
At the trailhead you will see a warning that grizzly bears live in the mountains. You will find this warning at all the hikes you do in Banff National Park. Thankfully, I am yet to run into any gizzels (misspelt on purpose lol) on my adventures! I recommend that you always hike with a friend in the Rockies. Make noise and pack out all of your garbage. I personally always hike with bear spray as a precaution. Don’t let your fear of bears keep you from exploring the mountains! It’s always a good idea to review methods of bear safety before heading out on the trail.
Cash: Both of the teahouses are CASH ONLY.
Snacks: We had just eaten prior to the hike. Dependent on the time of year you can always bring lunch with you or purchase it at one of the teahouses. As the teahouses were closed we just brought along a couple granola bars and apples.
Water: Don’t forget to bring re-usable water bottles. We brought along two each. Each bottle held roughly 17oz (500ml)
Camera: This item is a staple on all of our hikes. Especially when we are hiking amongst glaciers and kool-aid blue waters.
These recommendations are for people doing the hike during October at Lake Louise. None of these products are affiliated links. They are simply products I own and trust.
WEAR LAYERS: You will get warm while hiking! It’s nice to be able to add and take off layers throughout the journey.
Base Layer Recommendations
Mid Layer Recommendations
Outer Layer Recommendations
Toque: When it’s chilly out this item is absolutely key. I recommend toques built of warmer materials such as wool!
Gloves: I like to wear gloves that I can confidently operate my camera with. My hands tend to get warm if i wear anything heavier while hiking. You’ll see in one of the pictures I’m holding an extra pair of mittens that I definitely shouldn’t have brought.
Hiking boots: Wear a good pair of hiking boots. I highly recommend boots that are water resistant. These are the Asolo hiking boots I own. I believe they have been discontinued. I recommend looking at MEC as they have a great variety. Often the workers are quite knowledgable about the products.
Microspikes/ Yaktrax: You will especially appreciate having these on the way down. In October the trail can be quite icy. Microspikes greatly improve your traction.
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