Looking for interesting things to do while visiting Banff National Park? Tackle the best hiking trails in Lake Louise.
Nestled in the heart of the the Canadian Rockies, Lake Louise is famous for its pristine namesake glacial lake. The area’s reputation among Canadian & international travellers borders on legendary. On any Canada travel itinerary, Lake Louise is a must-visit destination.
Ready to set your sights on the best hikes in Lake Louise? Plan your trip to this beautiful corner of Banff National Park with this guide to hiking in Lake Louise…
Top hiking trails in Lake Louise
Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail
Want an easy start to your Lake Louise hiking adventure? Look no further than the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail.
This relatively flat path follows the western shoreline of Lake Louise to its southwestern tip. Along the way, you’ll indulge in beautiful forest and lake views.
The hike is a perfect first choice for families travelling with smaller children to Lake Louise. It’s also a good option for those who aren’t quite mobile enough to take on the area’s more challenging hikes.
This trail also connects to the blissful Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. (More on that soon enough!)
- Distance: 4.7 kilometres (return)
- Time: 1 hour
The Lake Agnes Trail forks off to the right of the lakefront trail. The trail moves upward from the lakeside, climbing to its namesake destination. The path passes by Mirror Lake before reaching Lake Agnes at 466 metres in elevation.
When you finally reach the lakeshore, you’ll find yourself at the Lake Agnes Tea House. Built in 1901, this historic tea house is one of the most interesting places to see in Lake Louise. It’s a fantastic place to rest your legs and get refreshments during your hiking journey.
From here, you can continue along the lakeshore to The Big Beehive Trail. Another option is to reverse course towards The Little Beehive.
(NOTE: The teahouse is only open to visitors in the summer/fall hiking season between early June and mid-October.)
- Distance: 7.6 kilometres (return)
- Time: 2 to 3 hours
The Little Beehive
Before reaching Lake Agnes, you’ll see another hiking trail veering to the right. This trail lead towards The Little Beehive.
The entire return trip to the Little Beehive is about nine kilometres from the lakeshore. From fork in the main trail though, it’s only two kilometres there & back to the summit. It should only tack an extra 20 minutes to the Lake Agnes hike each way.
Once you reach the top of The Little Beehive, you’ll experience incredible views over the area. Below, you’ll dazzle at Mirror Lake, Lake Agnes, and Lake Louise.
Got extra energy? Once you’re done with the smaller mountain, check out the peak’s bigger brother, The Big Beehive.
- Distance: 9 kilometres (return)
- Time: 3 to 4 hours
The Big Beehive
Made it to the Lake Agnes Tea House? Continue along the northern shores before looping along its eastern shoreline. The path leads towards The Big Beehive Trail.
This top-rated Lake Louise hiking trail is moderately challenging but heartily fulfilling. The trail extends the trek up a series of steep switchbacks to the summit of The Big Beehive.
Once atop, rest your burning quads while enjoying amazing views over the area. You’ll see the entirety of Lake Louise and its legendary Fairmont hotel.
The entire trip to The Big Beehive is just over 10 kilometres return from the shoreline. The section from Lake Agnes to the summit is only about 1.5 kilometres each way though. It should only add about an hour to your day hike.
- Distance: 10.3 kilometres (return)
- Time: 4 hours
Plain of Six Glaciers
Sitting near the top of any list of the best hikes in Lake Louise is the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. The trail is famous among local hikers for its stunning views over the area.
The trail climbs upwards from the lakeshore towards its namesake glaciers. Along the way, you’ll witness the Rocky Mountains and glacial formations and peer towards Lake Louise. The trail even showcases its own small teahouse about a kilometre from the trail’s end.
The moderately challenging Plain of Six Glaciers hike clocks in at a 14.6 kilometres return trip. And it can be a doozy at times. Be sure to bring along plenty of water especially in summer.
- Distance: 14.6 kilometres (return)
- Time: 2.5 to 3.5 hours
Need to toss a more hardcore hike into your itinerary? Look no further than Fairview Mountain.
This difficult hiking trail powers up over 1,000 metres to the summit of Fairview Mountain. The mountain looms to the south of Lake Louise.
Along the way up to the summit, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the area. You’ll peer over the Bow Valley and Paradise Valley.
Once atop, you’ll marvel at incredible vistas over Lake Louise. You’ll also catch a glimpse of several majestic peaks. Try to pick out Mount Temple, Mount Aberdeen, Haddo Peak, and Mount Victoria.
The first part of the trail climbs to Saddleback Pass at the 600-metre level. From here, you’ll make your final push to the Fairview Mountain summit. The last 400 metres elevation gain is the most challenging section of the hike.
Depending on the weather conditions and season, you might want to pack some crampons. They’ll give you better grip on the snow and ice. You’ll also want to bring along warm layers including a softshell jacket. At the top, the cool winds can pierce right through your clothing.
Mountaineering experience is recommended outside of the July to September prime hiking season.
- Distance: 9.2 kilometres (return)
- Time: 4 to 5 hours
Mount Saint Piran
Looking for a more challenging hike around the Lake Agnes area? Head for the summit of Mount Saint Piran.
The fork for the trail departs about 400 metres from the summit of The Little Beehive. It diverges to the left, venturing into the deep backwoods of Banff National Park.
From here, the trail gets more difficult and less crowded. The final push to the Mount Saint Piran summit turns into a scramble. But it’s well worth the effort for the spectacular views.
At the peak, you’ll spot the Devil’s Thumb, Fairview Mountain, and the Little & Big Beehives. You’ll also marvel at several stunning turquoise glacial lakes below.
- Distance: 12.2 kilometres (return)
- Time: 4 to 6 hours
The Devil’s Thumb
It’s hard to say whether naming The Devil’s Thumb was a PR stunt to get more people interested in tackling this hiking trail or to detract people from it. Either way, there’s no denying that this challenging hike is a must for adventurous hikers visiting Lake Louise.
The Devil’s Thumb is a tad more difficult than the nearby Big Beehive. Scaling 2,458-metre-high summit will involve scrambling over tougher terrain.
When you reach the top, you’ll unleash spectacular views over the area. Gape at Lake Louise, Lake Agnes, Lake Louise Ski Resort, Mount Victoria, Abbott Pass, and Mount Leroy.
With the higher difficulty level, you’ll want to pack the right gear for hiking The Devil’s Thumb. Be sure to wear a sturdy pair of hiking boots to protect your ankles.
- Distance: 11.9 kilometres (return)
- Time: 5 to 6 hours
Larch Valley & Sentinel Pass
Larch Valley & Sentinel Pass are two of the best places to visit in Banff National Park in fall. The hiking trail to Larch Valley & Sentinel Pass departs from the Moraine Lake parking lot. At 10.9 kilometres return, it’s a moderately difficult hike.
The trail treks through a series of switchbacks and dense forest. Soon, you’ll reach a flat area where the path’s famous larch trees come into view.
Visiting Lake Louise in fall? During September or October the larches here explode into a cavalcade of bright yellows and oranges. It’s one of the most impressive things to see in the Lake Louise area!
From the end of the Larch Valley trail, it’s another 1.5 kilometres to Sentinel Pass. To get there, you’ll climb about 180 metres in elevation, negotiating a series of switchbacks. When you reach the pass, you’ll delight in spectacular views over Paradise Valley.
- Distance: 10.9 kilometres (return)
- Time: 3 to 5 hours
Paradise Valley pushes between Mount Temple and Fairview Mountain. The hike is long, but rewarding, and passes by incredible mountain & forest scenery.
The first section of trail is relatively easy. It runs 5.6 kilometres from the trailhead, off the Moraine Lake road, to Lake Annette.
After marvelling at the small turquoise-hued Lake Annette, you can choose to turn around. But unless you’re beat, resist the temptation; the best is yet to come!
Continue on the trail to The Giant Steps, a lovely waterfall sitting at the 10-kilometre mark. From here, you’ll be able to take this demanding full-day hike to its epic conclusion.
Trudge along the trail’s final stretch from The Giant Steps to Sentinel Pass. Reaching Sentinel Pass, you’ll enjoy incredible views of The Valley of Ten Peaks.
From here, you can connect with Moraine Lake trails or loop back 12 kilometres to Lake Louise. (If you’re lucky, you might even be able to catch a ride back to the village.)
Keep in mind that prime hiking season in Paradise Valley is also primetime for grizzly bears. There’s often a mandatory group requirement of four people at this time of year for the safety of hikers.
- Distance: 20.6 kilometres (return)
- Time: 7 to 9 hours
Hiking around Moraine Lake won’t be the easiest task on your Lake Louise trip. And it’s not what you think…
The two main Moraine Lake hikes—The Rockpile Trail and Lakeshore Trail—are among the easiest hikes in Lake Louise. But they’re also among the most popular.
The number of parking spaces at the Moraine Lake parking lot are very limited. In fact, it’s a good idea to arrive no later than 5:30-6:00am in the height of tourist season to get your best chance at snagging a spot here. (The alternative is to visit around 8-9pm.)
If you do manage to beat the crowds to this top Alberta travel destination, you won’t be disappointed. Both of these hiking trails put some of the most iconic views in Banff National Park in front of your eyeballs.
For the best views of Moraine Lake, hang a right from the parking lot. Scoot up the well-maintained Rockpile Trail. Once you hit the top, you’ll watch an incredible panorama of Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks unfold.
- Distance: 2.6 kilometres (Shoreline Trail); 0.8 kilometres (Rockpile Trail)
- Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Where to stay in Lake Louise for hikers
One of the biggest challenges to booking one of the best places to stay in Lake Louise is availability. There’s a very limited selection of accommodations in the Lake Louise area. Most of the hotels & lodges are clustered around the lakeside, Lake Louise Village and along the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A).
Many travellers opt, instead, to stay in one of the top hotels in Banff and visit Lake Louise as a day trip. If you don’t mind driving a little further, you’ll find an even better selection of places to stay in Calgary. It’s about two hours away by car though.
- Lake Louise Inn: Located just a few minutes north of the village, this popular resort features amazing extra amenities including a heated pool, hot tubs, private balconies, fireplaces, and two on-site restaurants & bars.
- Baker Creek Mountain Resort: This mountainside resort sits on the picturesque Bow Valley Parkway about 20 minutes south of Lake Louise Village. It offers everything from private rooms & suites to detached chalets. The amenities here are superb. Included for guests are a steam room, fitness centre, and sauna.
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: Requiring no introduction, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is one of the most legendary hotels in Canada. This world-famous 5-star hotel dates back to 1890. For over a century, it’s delighted guests with its elegant rooms & accommodations. The hotel also offers world-class amenities. Guests will love indulging in the luxurious spa as well as eating & drinking at the classy on-site restaurants & bars.
When to visit Lake Louise for hiking
For hikers, the best time to visit Lake Louise is between July and mid-October. By July, the area’s glacial lakes will finally be unfrozen. The hiking trails will also be cleared of most of their snow.
The only caveat to visiting Lake Louise between July and August is the crowds. The summer high season can be a very busy time to visit Banff National Park. And the hiking trails in Lake Louise are no exception.
A great alternative to the summer, if you’re willing to bundle up, is September and October. If you time your visit right, you can even catch the beautiful fall colours at their peak!
From Banff: Lake Louise is located about 60 kilometres northeast of the town of Banff along the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1). The drive is about 40 minutes.
From Calgary: Lake Louise is one of the best day trips from Calgary. If you’re tight on time, embark on your journey from Calgary to Banff National Park in the wee hours of the morning. The 182-kilometre drive between Calgary and Lake Louise along the Trans-Canada Highway will take about two hours. (In good weather conditions, of course).
From Jasper: If you’re coming from Northern Alberta, Lake Louise lies about 233 kilometres southeast of Jasper. It’s situated along the beautiful Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93). The stretch is considered one of Canada’s most scenic highways. The drive from Jasper to Lake Louise is around three hours. (Heed caution when driving this highway in winter. It can get messy. Fast.)