The Plain of Six Glaciers hike at Lake Louise in Banff National Park has to be one of my favourite hikes in the Canadian Rockies. Getting an early start for this hike is helps you to avoid the crowds on the lake shore trail and gives you plenty of photo opportunities.
Once you’ve parked in one of the parking lots make your way to the lake shore, if you get there early you’ll be able to get in some nice photos before the crowds that arrive a little later in the day. Make your way along to the north side of the lake, in front of the Chateau Lake Louise, away from the log boat house at the base of Mount Fairview.
You’ll pass a small statue of a Swiss Guide before a fork in the path. Take the lower trail on the left beside the lake, the other trail heads up to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive which I’ll talk about in another post.
The trail wanders alongside Lake Louise and there are some excellent reflections in the lake of the Victoria Glacier if you are there early. Keep following the lake shore trail and you’ll eventually reach the cliffs at the back of the lake. The trail continues along at the back of these cliffs and then goes over a wooden boardwalk for a short distance.
From the relative flat of the path beside the lake, the trail begins to climb. First you head through an area of forest beside the creek which feeds into Lake Louise, you’ll notice that the water of this creek changes from clear in the morning to greyish in the afternoon as more sediment is released from the glaciers upstream.
The trail continues through patches of trees and open areas and then head up over an area of scree. There are a few switchbacks too, as you get closer to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. It’s a good idea to take your time on the hike up, don’t forget to stop and look behind you, the views back towards Chateau Lake Louise are truly fantastic. That being said the views in front of you going up towards the Victoria Glacier are pretty awesome too!
Once you reach the area around the tea house there are several benches where you can sit and take in the views. The tea house sells great snacks for you to enjoy.
Though you could stop and turn around and head back to Lake Louise, if you have the time to spare it’s possible to carry on along the trail a little further. This part of the trail is marked and you cross over a small bridge at the start of the trail. You’ll get excellent views of Mount Lefroy and the Mitre, when you reach the end of the trail you’ll get a view to the pass between Mount Victoria and Mount Lefroy where Abbot Hut is located. The trails end is on the scree at the base of the cliffs, it can be cooler and windier here, so I’d recommend putting on another layer just before you leave the cover of the trees.
If you’ve spent enough time and have taken some beautiful photos, then it’s time to head back down the trail. You can return back to Lake Louise the same way as you hiked up to the Plain of Six Glaciers. There is another option if you’re keen to extend the hike, you can take the highline trail up to the Big Beehive, then to Lake Agnes and back to Chateau Lake Louise via the Lake Agnes trail. I’ll describe this hike in a later post.
This hike is definitely worth doing if you are in the Banff/Lake Louise area, the scenery is stunning and I find that you gain more perspective on one of the most photographed views in the Canadian Rockies. I’ll always look forward to doing this hike.
The total distance for the hike is approximately 13 kilometres (8 miles) and 425 metres (1400 feet) elevation gain.
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