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Ultimate Day Hiking Guide to Lake Louise, Banff National Park: Lake Agnes, Devil’s Thumb, and Plain of Six Glaciers 

Hiking Lake Louise Banff National Park Lake Agnes Teahouse Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse Devils Thumb

Calling all adventurists, want-to-be adventurists, outdoor enthusiasts, and nature lovers.  In one of the most famous national parks in the world, Banff National Park, is a hiker’s playground, Lake Louise.  From expert scrambles to meandering strolls to teahouses, Lake Louise has a day hike for any adventurer. Keep reading to find out the top routes in the area…

Tips for Hiking Lake Louise

I recommend starting all these hikes before 9 am for three reasons

  1. So you can get a less crowded and well-lit view of Lake Louise early in the morning
  2. You are more likely to get a table at Lake Agnes Teahouse (see the Teahouse’s summer hours here) and
  3. The sun won’t beat down as hard while, if you choose to partake, hiking toward the Plain of Six Glaciers on one of the more strenuous routes.

4 Best Day Hiking Routes in Lake Louise

  • Lake Agnes
  • Lake Agnes + Big Beehive
  • Lake Agnes + Big Beehive + Plain of Six Glaciers
  • Lake Agnes + Devil’s Thumb + Plain of Six Glaciers:

Without further ado, here are the descriptions and highlights of each hiking route. We’ve included distance and difficulty so you know which hike is right for you…

Lake Louise Hiking Route A: Lake Agnes Teahouse

Distance roundtrip: 7 km (4.5 mi)
Elevation gain: 400 m (1300 ft)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate

If you want to see the beauty of Banff without the intense physical exertion of the strenuous hikes, this is your hike.

The easy 3.5-kilometer hike is a steady incline through a lovely forest and stops at the pretty Mirror Lake before finishing at Lake Agnes Teahouse.

Hiking Lake Agnes, Hiking Lake Louise Banff Guide
A pretty waterfall on the way to Lake Agnes

The small hike is greatly rewarding when you sit and have tea at the Teahouse while taking in the gorgeous ridges of mountains reflecting on the lake. Snack on tea and desserts before returning down the way you came.

Note: Lake Agnes Teahouse only takes cash (US or Canadian)

Lake Agnes, Guide to Hiking Lake Louise Banff Guide
Lake Agnes views from the Teahouse

Lake Louise Hiking Route B: Lake Agnes + Big Beehive

Distance roundtrip: 10.5 km (6.5 mi)
Elevation gain: 550 m (1800 ft)
Difficulty: Moderate

So you’re ready to move outside your comfort zone a teeny bit, I like it. This is perfect for someone who wants a few-hour hike, slightly strenuous but not too difficult.

After the directions from Route A to the wonderful Lake Agnes. Continue around the right shore of the lake upon which you’ll reach some steep switchbacks. Don’t worry, they won’t last long.

After .7 km (.4 mi)—only 15 minutes, you’ll finish the climb and go left at the saddle, following signs for Big Beehive. Feast your eyes on noteworthy views out to Banff Valley and toward the towering mountains behind you.

Big Beehive, Guide to Hiking Lake Louise Banff Guide
The view of Lake Louise from Big Beehive
Photo credit and copyright

Either head back the way you came or if you don’t like backtracking (like us) continue down toward the Highline Trail.

When you reach the junction, turn left and you’ll be brought back to Mirror Lake. This section is 2.4 km (1.5 mi), about 1 km longer than backtracking, but is almost entirely downhill. Finish the last 2.7 km with a beautiful view of Lake Louise. 

Lake Louise, Guide to Hiking Lake Louise Banff Guide
The iconic Lake Louise view and the start of all 4 of these hikes

Lake Louise Hiking Route C: Lake Agnes + Big Beehive + Plain of Six Glaciers

Distance roundtrip: 13 km (8 mi)
Elevation gain: 550 m (1800 ft)
Difficulty: Strenuous

This route contains an equal adventure level as the last hike but with nearly twice the length and endurance.  Once you’ve achieved spectacular views of the Big Beehive, head down the steep trail and once you reach the junction for the Highline Trail, go right and follow the signs toward the Plain of Six Glaciers.

 After hiking 2km through blooming meadows along the mountainside, you’ll reach a narrow ridge in the valley of the Plain where you’ll gaze longingly toward the glacial endpoint that you will soon reach.  1.2 more kilometers and you’ll come across the lovely resting point of the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse.

Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, Guide to Hiking Lake Louise Banff Guide
The Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, a great place to stop for a snack

The lunches looked really good here so I recommend waiting on having food until you get here (although the meals are a bit pricey).  

Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, Guide to Hiking Lake Louise Banff Guide
Grabbing a bite at the Teahouse on the way to Plain of Six Glaciers

Despite how much your feet might hurt by the time you get here, it’s worth the short 1-kilometer push to view the entirety of the remaining four glaciers from the scree slopes below a large pouring waterfall. (See photos below)

Finally, make the long, lovely, 6.8 km (4 mi) descent to Lake Louise and once again take in the gorgeous blue waters.

Lake Louise Hiking Route D: Lake Agnes + Devil’s Thumb + Plain of Six Glaciers

Distance roundtrip: 13 km (8 mi)
Elevation gain: 550 m (1800 ft)
Difficulty: Strenuous

This is the five-course meal of hikes, expensive as hell, in an effort that is, but gloriously worth it.

This hike is almost identical to Route C. In fact, Big Beehive sits on the same mountain ridge as Devils’ Thumb but Devil’s Thumb is a little higher up.

Devil's Thumb, Guide to Hiking Lake Louise Banff Guide
One of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen from the top of Devil’s Thumb. See Lake Agnes, Big Beehive, and Lake Louise below

On this hike see Banff’s most gorgeous views from its most attractive angles. See the jaw-dropping reflections from Lake Agnes and its Teahouse, have your mind blown from the epic scramble up Devil’s Thumb, see beyond dozens of mountains in a panoramic view as well as the perfect blue waters of Lake Louse down to the night, and finally, the entire Banff Valley beyond.

and take in the magnificence of the glaciers and waterfalls at the furthest point on the Plain of Six Glaciers. as the glaciers of the Plain of Six Glaciers and a glacier mountain by Lake Agnes

Lake Louise will finish off your hike with one last oomph of beauty. 
Devil's Thumb, Guide to Hiking Lake Louise Banff Guide
A towering mountain as seen while sitting atop the Devil”s Thumb
I suggest you start this hike before 9am for crowd and heat reasons.

The 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) to Lake Agnes is a great warm-up for this long day of walking.

The trail heads steadily uphill through the forest, past Mirror Lake, for an hour before reaching Lake Agnes and the Teahouse.

Once you arrive, take in the wonderful view from the balcony of the tea house where you can enjoy tea, coffee, or a dessert.

After a short rest, continue right along the shore of Lake Agnes and up a few steep switchbacks which should take only 15 minutes (about .7 km) upon which you’ll reach the saddle where, instead of going left to the Big Beehive, you’ll walk right to get to the Devil’s Thumb.

This next section will take 1.5 to 2 hours though it is only about 2 miles round trip.

  • Follow a narrow, well-defined trail straight, you’ll reach a small rock face that you’ll have to scramble up, then head left around the mountain for about 15 minutes.
  • You’ll then see a scree slope above you. Challenge accepted!
  • 15 more minutes and you’ll be rewarded with the most epic views of your life.
Have a snack by the cairn and rest your legs. Make SURE you take in all of the panoramic views.

Now head back down the way you came and at the saddle, go right down a steep 1.5 km (1 mile) hill toward the Highline Trail.

Devil's Thumb, Guide to Hiking Lake Louise Banff Guide
A beautiful sneak of Plain of Six Glaciers was seen while descending Devil’s thumb

You’ll arrive in flowering meadows shortly that trace the edge of the mountainside and you’ll begin to see portions of the Plain of Six Glacier. Hiking here for 30 minutes, 2 km (1.2 mi) will bring you to the ridge with a lookout of the towering glacial mountains and 30 more minutes will bring you to the second Teahouse.

This teahouse seemed to have some good (but pricey) food but we had already brought snacks. Rest your legs to make the final uphill section.

Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, Guide to Hiking Lake Louise Banff Guide
Ascending the final stretch of the Plain of Six Glaciers trail

At last, you’ll see the entire Plain of Six Glaciers complete with waterfalls, blue Glaciers, black glacial peaks, and scree slopes to view them from.

Looking back you’ll see Lake Louise down in the valley. Guess what? That’s where you’re headed.

Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, Guide to Hiking Lake Louise Banff Guide
The final view giving this Banff trail it’s name, Plain of Six Glaciers

Begin the 2-hour, 6.8 km (4 mi) return trip to Lake Louise via the rightmost trail which provides beautiful views the whole way back. The pure blue color of Lake Louise is a perfect view to end this hike. 

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Kara Dykstra

Tuesday 30th of July 2019

This is the best guide on the Lake Louise hiking that I have come across. We're visiting in August with our 3 & 5 year old. The 3 year old will be in a backpack. Do you think that the first segment to Lake Agnes and back to the hotel would be doable for a 5 year old? I see that adding in Big Beehive is only 2 mi more, but is it substantially more difficult?


Friday 2nd of August 2019

Yes, Lake Agnes is totally doable for a 5 year old and highly encouraged! It may be slightly challenging but just take it slow, it's not a long hike. Adding big beehive is significantly harder because of the switchbacks you'll have to go up. I think it's possible to get your 5 year old up it if you take it really slow and have lots of snacks. Also note that it can get really hot on the switchbacks because there isn't much tree coverage.

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