Two Lakes and One Long Hike – Lake Louise & The Plain of Six Glaciers
Lake Louise is renowned for its turquoise blue waters and is photographed more than any other natural feature in the Canadian Rockies (in my opinion anyway). Needless to say we were pretty excited to get there. We had also decided that we wanted to undertake a pretty intense hike to one of the two teahouses. The options were Lake Agnes and the Plain of 6 Glaciers, we opted for the latter.
So, we had a good breakfast, stocked up on water and snacks and drove the few miles from the campsite to the lake. The internet tells many stories of crowds of tourists being shipped in on buses ruining the view, which to a degree is true. The first part of the lake you get to from the car park is behind the Fairmont Chateau and is pretty busy. We managed to get some good snaps but took the Internets advice and moved down the path for 5-10 minutes. It was still busy but you could get closer to the shore and get those iconic pictures.
The weather wasn’t 100% on our side as it was a bit drizzly and grey but nothing us hardy Brits couldn’t cope with. You can walk the full length of the lake, I would say this takes about 20-30 minutes each way for a fairly able body. The path is fairly flat and a bit gravely but I would think most people could manage it.
At the far end you can walk down a path (or clamber down some rocks as we did initially) and get a view back down the lake to the Fairmont. Well worth it! The lake itself is mind blowingly beautiful. Pictures don’t really do it justice. As a glacial run off lake it does have that wonderful blue hue, and yes it REALLY is that blue!
We would have been happy with our day if we had just left it there but we continued up the path signed posted to the Plain of 6 Glaciers. The tea house is in the heart of Mount Lefroy, Mount Victoria and Victoria Glacier. It’s a pretty stunning location and I would recommend this hike if you are able to!
The original tea house was built by Swiss guides in 1924. They were employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway and created a rest stop for mountain climbers. The name comes from the glaciers of Mount Aberdeen, Lefroy and Victoria plus Lower Victoria and Lefroy. Popes Peak makes the sixth.
It does take some hours to complete, from memory we left the the Fairmont at 10am and arrived back at 3pm. It was a 14km round trip and was hard. It’s mainly the second half of the hike which gains 400m of elevation but I found the whole thing hard. Probably due to my apparent inability to walk up hill, I overheat, my heart races and I can’t breathe. No idea why. Even going up the stairs. #nightmare!
There are a lot of switchbacks on the route and it is peppered with people but we managed to get some moments to ourselves. You will bump into people on their way down smiling and looking like they have achieved something which kept me going (along with jelly babies). Some people confused me as they seemed to be hiking it in shorts and flip flops with no supplies. There was me in my hiking boots, waterproof coat over many layers with water, snacks, first aid kit etc etc. I may have been a little over prepared but if I fell off the side I would have enough to keep me going before help arrived. Those in flip flops…probably not. My recommendation, be as prepared as you never know what might happen. And definitely do NOT wear flip flops.
After many mini-tantrums and jelly babies we did finally make it to the top. I did need a walking pole most of the way, but I have been known to fall over when standing still on flat ground. If you find walking hard or aren’t too steady then I would recommend a walking pole for this hike.
Once you make it to the top you come across a clearing with a wonderful tea room. It has no running water, no electricity and no heating. They do have propane cookers and we had some tea, coffee, soup plus a peanut butter and jam sandwich. It was a welcome rest. The tearoom only accepts cash so be prepared as the nearest cash point is back at the Fairmont. Annoyingly I didn’t take a very good snap of the teahouse itself!
I can imagine in the height of summer this place can get pretty busy and I expect it to be covered in wildflowers. There seemed to be a lot of respect for the environment as we saw barely any rubbish on the whole trail!
Once we had feeling back in our fingers and were feeling a little more rested we decided to hike an additional 1.3km to the Abbot Pass viewpoint. It took about an hour there and back and was a bit treacherous in the still snowy conditions but it was worth it for a better view of those glaciers!
The walk back does take a lot less time but does seem to go on forever!!! By the time we made it to the car park my feet were ready to fall off. We were exhausted but felt amazing! The sun also made a small appearance!
As if that wasn’t enough we decided to drive on a bit further and take in Moraine Lake. Some say it’s more beautiful than Lake Louise but I can’t agree. I don’t know if this was because the weather had got worse, we were exhausted or whether it just wasn’t as amazing. It was picturesque and beautiful but to me just not as much.
We snapped a few pictures and called it a day, headed back to our campsite for some beer and an early night.
Lake Agnes Teahouse trail and the Plain of 6 Glaciers trail are both well sign posted from Lake Louise and from what I hear as excellent as each other. If/when we go back we will definitely check out Lake Agnes. The car park at Lake Louise is huge and you shouldn’t have trouble parking vehicles of any size.
The Fairmont does allow visitors inside and if you time it right they do afternoon tea. We were a bit late for this which was a shame but just another reason to go back! They don’t have a dress code either so welcome the walkers. It’s a pretty iconic building and there are some good signs explaining its history.