Blue waters of Lake Louise with mountain peaks in background.
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Take This Route for the Best Lake Louise Hiking Trail

No visit to Banff National Park is complete without checking out the hiking trails at Lake Louise. The turquoise blue waters draw millions of visitors each year. Take full advantage of its loveliness by attempting this circuit, which combines four trails into one dazzling route

Plain of Six Glaciers Highline Trail Circuit


Hiking Trail Overview

  • Distance: 9 mile circuit (14.6km)
  • Elevation Gain: 1,40 ft. (500m)
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Location: Link to GPS Coordinates

SUMMARY of SIX GLACIERS HIGHLINE TRAIL

You don’t have to walk far to be greeted by the stunning vision of Lake Louise’s striking blue waters. The glacial backdrop is breathtaking even at the start. But, if you’re up for some trekking, you can encounter even more beauty and serenity. Hike the Plain of Six Glaciers Highline Trail Circuit.

This 9-mile semi-loop offers up six glaciers, three lakes, two teahouses, and one memorable journey.


TWO QUICK TIPS for HIKING SIX GLACIERS TRAIL

  • Carry some cash if you want to enjoy lunch or a snack at the Tea Houses.
  • Be prepared for the hike by packing the right gear. We provide a list of recommended gear near the end of this article.

DID YOU KNOW?

Check out these three fun facts about Lake Louise:

  • Lake Louise’s turquoise waters are caused by the “rock flour” that runs down along with the meltwater from the glaciers above it. The fine powder is suspended in the lake water affecting the light absorption and refraction and giving it its iconic color.
  • The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, situated on the edge of the lake, was developed by the Canadian Pacific Railway to encourage travelers to explore the country by trail. As the general manager of the railway, William Cornelius Van Horne, put it: “If we can’t export the scenery, we’ll import the tourists.”
  • The Stoney Nakoda First Nations people named the lake Ho-run-num-nay, which translates to Lake of the Little Fishes. Tom Wilson, led to the lake in 1882 by a Stoney Nakoda First Nations person, called it Emerald Lake for its color. In 1884, it was christened Lake Louise to honor Princess Luise Caroline Alberta, the wife of Governor General of Canada and a daughter of Queen Victoria.
Two Hikers trekking along shore of Lake Louise in Banff National Park in Canada
Lake Louise, Banff National Park | Credit: Jane Cullina

Getting to the Trailhead

Because of its popularity, getting to the trailhead can be a bit of a bear. You’re contending with thousands of other people who want to visit the glorious lake each day during the high season.

DRIVE and PARK

If you want to drive yourself, be aware that the cost to park is CA$21. The fee for parking near the lake is the same for any duration of time you’re there.

Another downside to driving is that you won’t be able to tell if the lot is full until you arrive. You need to drive all the way around to figure out whether or not there is a spot. If the lot is full, you may still need to return to where you came from. It can take a lot of time only to have to start over with an alternative form of transportation.

PARK SHUTTLE

PARK SHUTTLE TICKETS

A more sure method, albeit one that requires some advanced planning, is to take the park shuttle. You can reserve a seat via Parks Canada. The majority of tickets are released in the spring. Depending on the volume of reservations, additional seat tickets are made available with a 48 hour lead time. Those tickets are released at 8am MT.

DEPARTURE AND RETURN

The process is simple. Select a time slot between 6:30am and 6:00pm to depart for the trailhead. Your departure ticket is specific to that time. You can return on whichever bus you want. The last shuttle departs at 7:30pm.

LOCATION

The shuttle comes and goes from the Park and Ride located at the Lake Louise Ski Resort. That resort is just north of town and can be used to get to Moraine Lake as well.

ROAM PUBLIC TRANSIT

A third option is to take the 8X route on the Roam Public Transit bus from the town of Banff. Research the route map and schedule in advance so you can plan your schedule.

HIKE TO THE TRAILHEAD

Finally, if you’re staying in Lake Louise, you can hike the Louise Creek Trail. The distance is approximately 2.3 miles from the center of town. The trail skirts the edge of the road toward the lake. So you get a peek, but compared to the trails you’ll access once you’re at the lake, it’s not particularly impressive.

What to Expect Along Six Glaciers Trail

So now you’re at Lake Louise! Of course, so is half of Canada. The good news is that the beauty of the lake is stunning enough to be shared with millions. And once you begin your walk, the crowds will thin.

The first part of the trail takes you around the edge of the milky blue lake. As you start hiking up you may spot rock climbers attempting the routes on Back of the Lake above you. You’ll reach a delta with wooden planks to keep your feet dry before the trail begins to ascend more definitively.

Lake Louise in Banff National Park seen from Six Glaciers Trail, an amazing hike
Lake Louise, Banff National Park | Credit: Jane Cullina

ARRIVING AT SIX GLACIERS TEAHOUSE

A steady trek up brings you to a plain and the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, established in 1927. There you can enjoy lunch or a snack if it’s between 9am and 4pm. Cash is the best option as they add a surcharge for any credit card payments.

After that, it’s less than a mile along a rocky trail to arrive at the Plain of Six Glaciers Lookout. At this point you can catch sight of the surrounding hanging glaciers for which the lookout is named. Those glaciers include Mount Aberdeen, Lefroy, and Victoria.

View of Plain of Six Glaciers hiking trail located in Banff National Park
Plain of Six Glaciers | Credit: Jane Cullina

RETURN TRIP and ALTERNATE ROUTE

On the return trip, you can choose to simply retrace your steps, but for a more interesting route, I recommend diverting yourself to the Highline Trail that allows you to visit Big Beehive, Lake Agnes, and Mirror Lake, while making your way back to the parking lot.

Look for the trail sign indicating the Highline Trail branching to the left. You’ll walk along a level ridge and then enter into a forest, where you take another left turn to head toward the Big Beehive. At this point, you’ll have a bit of a climb, but it’s not long until you arrive on top of the Beehive for a view that captures glaciers, Lake Louise, and Lake Agnes below.

Follow the trail down to Lake Agnes and if you’re ready for another snack, stop in at the Lake Agnes Tea House (open from 8am-5pm, cash only). You’ll pass by a waterfall as you begin your descent, which will bring you back to Lake Louise right by the Fairmont Chateau.

With this circuit, you get to appreciate the best of Lake Louise: its lakes, woods, waterfalls, and teahouses!

Ready for more top day hikes in Banff? Try the Wenkchemna Pass and Sentinel Pass Combo from Moraine Lake or the ascent to Mount Bourgeau and discover even more opportunities to be awestruck!

Recommended Hiking Gear


Hiking at Lake Louise requires being prepared for many different weather conditions: from sunshine to rain to cold and wind. Before you hit the trail, add these key items to your day pack:

  • Sunhat
  • Rain Jacket
  • Rain Pants
  • Down Jacket
  • Hiking Poles
  • Water Bladder
  • Bear Spray
Sunday Afternoons Ultra-Adventure Hat
$44.45
Pros:
  • UPF 50+ sun protection
  • Sunglasses lock
  • Water and stain-resistant
  • Available in various colors and sizes
Buy Now
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06/20/2024 03:46 am GMT
MARMOT Women's PreCip ECO Jacket
$100.00

Made from 100% recycled nylon. Available in various colors and sizes.

Pros:
  • Breathable
  • Packable in built-in pocket
  • Waterproof NanoPro nylon ripstop fabric
Buy Now
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06/20/2024 04:30 am GMT

If you prefer REI, another recommended option with similar style and function is the REI Co-Coop Rainer Jacket.

MARMOT Women's PreCip Eco Pant
$100.00
Pros:
  • Marmot NanoPro waterproof nylon ripstop fabric
  • Breathable
  • Side zips at ankles and zip front hand pockets
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06/20/2024 04:40 am GMT

Another recommended option is the REI Co-Coop Rainer Pants.

MARMOT Women's Jacket
$200.00
Pros:
  • Water resistant
  • Ultralight and packable into its own pocket
  • Zippered hand and interior pockets
  • Machine washable
  • 700-fill power down
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06/20/2024 01:50 pm GMT

As an alternative, check out the Patagonia Down Sweater from REI.

Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles
$135.00

Be sure to purchase the correct length based on your height. Available in 100cm - 130cm lengths.

Pros:
  • Aluminum shafts
  • Z-pole design
  • Speed-cone deployment
  • Foam grip
  • Breathable, moisture-wicking strap
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06/20/2024 07:21 pm GMT

The Black Diamond Trekking Poles are also available from REI.

Osprey Hydraulics Water Reservoir
$48.95

Reusable water reservoir with 2 Liter capacity.

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06/20/2024 03:00 pm GMT

If you have a co-op membership, you can purchase an Osprey Hydraulics Water Reservoir REI.

Counter Assault Bear Spray with Holster
$54.99
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06/20/2024 03:20 pm GMT

Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray is also available from REI.

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