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
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
DID YOU KNOW?
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
- Rain Jacket
- Rain Pants
- Down Jacket
- Hiking Poles
- Water Bladder
- Bear Spray
If you prefer REI, another recommended option with similar style and function is the REI Co-Coop Rainer Jacket.
Another recommended option is the REI Co-Coop Rainer Pants.
As an alternative, check out the Patagonia Down Sweater from REI.
Be sure to purchase the correct length based on your height. Available in 100cm - 130cm lengths.
- Aluminum shafts
- Z-pole design
- Speed-cone deployment
- Foam grip
- Breathable, moisture-wicking strap
The Black Diamond Trekking Poles are also available from REI.
Jane Cullina is based in Santa Barbara, California, where she draws inspiration from the juxtaposition of sea and mountains that frame her surroundings. Her experiences as an outdoor educator on both coasts cemented Jane’s belief that time spent in nature leads to extraordinary moments of growth and connection. Today, whether at work as a project manager, educator, and writer, or at play in the wilderness of the U.S., Canada, and beyond, Jane seeks to weave together the practical with the profound.