Banff National Park: Lake Louise to the Plain of Six Glaciers
Date Hiked: August 14, 2009
Best Season: Summer
Check Trail Conditions: Banff National Park (403) 522-3833
Notes: Tea house is only open during summer. Kid-friendly ONLY if kids are experienced hikers.
- Distance: 6.8 miles round-trip
- Elevation Gain: 1,215 feet
- Route Type: Out-and-Back
- Trail Type: Paved and dirt
- Difficulty: Moderate
One of the coolest most unique hikes in the Canadian Rockies is the 8-mile round-trip there-and-back trek in Banff National Park from majestic Lake Louise up to the Plain of Six Glaciers. Jeff and I did this hike on the sixth day of our honeymoon — August 14, 2009. The hike provides stunning views of Lake Louise. The terminus is a high moraine overlooking the convergence point of six different glaciers — Aberdeen, Upper Lefroy, Lower Lefroy, Upper Victoria, Lower Victoria, and Popes — that feed the pristine waters of Lake Louise. And a quaint alpine tea house up near the terminus provides well-welcomed rest and nourishment with a breathtaking view.
The starting point for the hike is the walking path along the east side of Lake Louise, which can be accessed right behind the chateau. This first stretch is well paved and quite crowded, but once you hit the dirt path near the end of the lake, and then the headwaters (nicknamed the “tourist turnaround”), the hike becomes much more pleasant. The trail hugs the base of a rocky mountain face before starting a gradual climb up into lush green forest.
A bit later, the now rocky and muddy trail leads you through a peaceful mountain meadow, which continues to climb up to a narrow rocky stretch of trail situated on a rocky ledge that gets so wet and slippery from rain that metal cables are embedded into the mountain for hikers to use as handrails. After a series of switchbacks that climb a dirt trail, hikers can either take a short path on the right to the tea house, or proceed up a steep rocky narrow moraine to finish the climb to the terminus marked by the six glaciers. At trail’s end, the trail is flanked by a steep glacial valley below on one side, and what looks like a former landslide on the right. If you’re lucky, the weather will be clear enough to catch a glimpse of Abbot Pass Hut — the second highest permanent structure in Canada — up on top of Victoria glacier
After a short walk down from the terminus, Jeff and I took the detour to the historic tea house. The tea house is situated in a wood and rock alpine style hut that was built in 1927 by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Now privately owned, the tea house is only open during summer months and all supplies have to be hiked up, packed up on horseback or airlifted in. The tea house (which takes cash only) serves tea, scones, chocolate cake and a few other goodies…all made without the benefit of electricity, and set among the most peaceful setting imaginable.
After enjoying our lunch, and waiting out a sudden heavy rain storm, Jeff and I retraced our route back down to Lake Louise.
This hike is best done during summer months, when the tea house is open, and is suitable for children who are used to hiking moderate distances. But, be sure to pack rain gear and take footwear with good traction because it rains frequently, which can make portions of the trail very slick and muddy. Despite being labeled in most hiking publications as an “easy” hike that can be done in a few hours, it can take up to 6 or 7 hours.