If you are planning to explore Alberta in Canada this year I’m almost certain that you will have already added Lake Louise to your list of destinations. There are actually very few things to do in Lake Louise town itself so chances are you are going to be hitting the tourist trails and visiting Lake Louise itself like we did during our visit.
Heading to Alberta means that you will be hiking (it is of course the great outdoors and one of the main reasons to come here!) and one of our favourite trails was the hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House at Lake Louise.
Lake Louise really doesn’t need an introduction. It’s known worldwide as being one of the most beautiful lakes in the world with perfectly still waters, surrounded by mountains and overlooked by a glacier; unfortunately there was too much forest fire smoke when we visited so we were unable to see it. Despite this the lake is truly stunning and somewhere you can easily waste away a few hours just soaking it all in.
At Lake Louise there are numerous hiking trails that you can undertake which range from short, easy hikes to longer, more advanced hikes. You can find a full list of the hiking trails at Lake Louise on the Parks Canada website at https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/randonee-hiking/lakelouise.
Lake Agnes Tea House Trail
Trail Length: 3.4 km each way
Hiking Duration: 1 to 1.5 hours each way
Trail Difficulty: Moderate
When planning our trip to Lake Louise we had originally planned to hike the Plain of Six Glaciers trail which is 5.3 km each way (around 4 hour round trip) and looks back on Lake Louise. With the smoke thickness and time of day we weren’t sure if it would be worth it however for such a long hike so instead we chose to set this one aside for the next time we’re back in Lake Louise in years to come (spoiler, we’re definitely heading back here!). Instead we decided to go with the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail which was 3.4 km each way and around 2.5 to 3 hours as a round trip.
The Lake Agnes trail starts from just past the front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. It’s a popular hiking route so it’s well sign posted and easy to know where to head to. The trail begins with a fairly shallow incline and a smooth path which I’m not going to lie, leads you on a little that you should expect an easy hike!
However after a short time you realise that the gradient isn’t getting any easier – it’s relentless with very few sections flattening off so be prepared to quickly get your sweat on and experience the burn in your legs! Not only that but after about 1 km the trail surface becomes a lot more uneven creating a lot more impact on your feet so you need to make sure you have some good sturdy hiking shoes/boots on for this trail. When you reach these parts of the trail you’ll start to see everyone taking regular rest stops!
Around 3 km from the trail head at Lake Louise you’ll reach Mirror Lake which would usually contain a lot more water however Alberta was experiencing very dry weather during our visit (thus the forest fires).
Here you have the option to continue the final half mile to Lake Agnes, take the route to Little Beehive 1 mile away or continue along the path to the Plain of the Six Glaciers 4 miles away.
Whatever route you choose to take you can take this opportunity to sit down and get some well deserved rest! Trust us that not only will you need it here from the hike you’ve just completed, but if you’re continuing the Lake Agnes route you’ll definitely need to regain your energy for what’s to come on the final stretch of your hike!
From Mirror Lake the trail is only half a kilometre to Lake Agnes but it feels like a about 10! From Mirror Lake the trail almost immediately takes on a much steeper and more uneven gradient and again this continues non-stop all the way to the top – at this point you just want it to be over!
After a short while luckily the end comes into sight with the first sign of this being the small stream/waterfall coming down the mountain.
When you see this you are only about 1 minute away from Lake Agnes where you’ll find a large wooden staircase takes you there.
Once at Lake Agnes you’ll be seriously glad the uphill hike is over. It’s not a particularly long hike but the constant gradient is pretty brutal on the legs. At Lake Agnes you can take a few photos and head to the Tea House for you guessed it, tea!
Lake Agnes Tea House
The Tea House at Lake Agnes is a beautiful building on the lake that is family run and incredibly popular. It was built in 1901 as a refuge to hikers and and started serving tea in 1905.
If you are planning a trip here there are a few things to note; firstly the Tea House is quite small so seating both inside and outside if limited. You need to be prepared to queue up and wait for a seat to become free. Additionally the seating isn’t reserved so you simply need to walk in, find a seat and sit down. This will mean sharing tables and sitting alongside your fellow hikers who have also endured the long hike to the top!
Sarah and I were lucky to find a seat outside and enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate, piece of cake, lake view and talked to other hikers at our table.
Having had a bit of a rest we gathered some mental strength to hike back down the trail. As the Lake Agnes trail is a switch-back trail the great thing is that you know exactly what to expect on the way back down which in this case was a steep downhill route the whole way! A lot easier than the effort required to get up the mountain!
On the way back down you will catch some occasional glimpses of Lake Louise. About half way up there is a clearing in the trees with a rest point which offers you this view so take some time to look out for it – the colour of the water from this height is incredible.
Once back at the trail head on Lake Louise it was definitely a welcome relief – this is a really tiring trail to undertake! Make sure you take plenty of water with you, wear good quality hiking shoes/boots and take layers in case the weather changes.
We really enjoyed this hike and would certainly place it up there with the best hikes we undertook whilst in Banff National Park. We have no doubt you’ll love this one too… if you have the energy!
Have you been on the Lake Agnes Tea House trail? Are you planning to this year? Let us know in the comments!