Among the most interesting things to do while visiting Banff National Park is tackling the best hiking trails in Lake Louise. Thanks to its pristine namesake glacial lake nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, the area’s reputation among Canadian & international travellers borders on legendary, making Lake Louise a must-visit destination on any Canada travel itinerary.
Ready to set your sights on some of 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…
Table of Contents
- Top hiking trails in Lake Louise
- Where to stay in Lake Louise for hikers
- When to visit Lake Louise for hiking
- Getting there
Top hiking trails in Lake Louise
Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail
If you’re looking for an easy start for 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, delivering beautiful forest and lake views along the way.
The hike is a perfect first choice for families travelling with smaller children to Lake Louise or people 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
Forking off to right from the lakefront trail, the Lake Agnes Trail moves upward from the lakeside, eventually climbing to its namesake destination at 466 metres in elevation via Mirror Lake.
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 and get refreshed before continuing along the lakeshore toward the The Big Beehive Trail or reversing course towards The Little Beehive.
(NOTE: The teahouse is only open of 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
Just before reaching Lake Agnes, you’ll see another trail veering up to your right towards The Little Beehive. Although the entire return trip is about 9 kilometres, from fork in the trail it’s just 2 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 get to experience incredible views over Mirror Lake, Lake Agnes, and Lake Louise.
Getting back off the smaller mountain, if you’ve got some extra energy you’ll love a chance to check out the peak’s bigger brother, The Big Beehive.
- Distance: 9 kilometres (return)
- Time: 3 to 4 hours
The Big Beehive
Once you’ve made it to the Lake Agnes Tea House, continue along the northern shores before looping along its eastern shoreline towards The Big Beehive Trail.
Moderately challenging but heartily fulfilling, this top-rated Lake Louise hiking trail extends the trek up a series of steep switchbacks to the summit of The Big Beehive.
Once atop, rest up those burning quads while enjoying amazing views over the entirety of Lake Louise and its legendary Fairmont hotel.
While the entire trip is just over 10 kilometres return, the section from Lake Agnes to the summit is only about 1.5 kilometres each way and should only add about an hour to your day hike.
- Distance: 10.3 kilometres (return)
- Time: 4 hours
Plain of Six Glaciers
Also sitting near the top of any list of the best hikes in Lake Louise is the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. Famous for its stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, glacial formations, and down towards Lake Louise, this popular trail climbs upwards from the lakeshore towards its namesake glacier—even showcasing a small teahouse a short kilometre from the trail’s end.
Clocking in at a 14.6 kilometres return trip, the moderately challenging Plain of Six Glaciers hike 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
If you 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, looming to the south of Lake Louise.
Along the way up to the summit, you’ll get to enjoy sweeping views over the Bow Valley, Paradise Valley, and Mount Temple. Once atop, you’ll marvel at incredible vistas over Lake Louise and several majestic peaks including Mount Temple, Mount Aberdeen, Haddo Peak, and Mount Victoria.
From the Saddleback Pass at about 600 metres elevation gain, the last 400 metres to the Fairview Mountain summit becomes a little more challenging. Depending on the weather conditions and season, you’ll likely want to pack some crampons for better grip on snow and ice along with some layers including a softshell jacket to deal with the coolswinds at the top.
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
If you’re 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, diverging to the left towards to go even deeper into backwoods of Banff National Park.
From here, the trail get a little more difficult and quite a bit less crowded. The final push to the Mount Saint Piran summit turns into a bit of a scramble, but is well worth the effort for the spectacular views of the Devil’s Thumb, Fairview Mountain, and the Little & Big Beehives along with a number of stunning turquoise glacial lakes.
- 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.
A tad more difficult than the nearby Big Beehive, The Devil’s Thumb will involve a little bit of scrambling and tougher terrain to scale up to its 2,458-metre-high summit. When you reach the top, you’ll unleash spectacular views towards Lake Louise, Lake Agnes, Lake Louise Ski Resort, Mount Victoria, Abbott Pass, and Mount Leroy.
With the higher difficult 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
One of the best places to visit in Banff National Park in fall, Larch Valley & Sentinel Pass are reached with a moderately difficult hike starting that the Moraine Lake parking lot.
The trail treks through a series of switchbacks and dense forest before reaching a flat area where the path’s famous larch trees come into view.
If you happen to be visiting Lake Louise in fall, particularly in September or October, you’ll catch the larches exploding into a magnificient cavalcade of bright yellows and oranges. It’s one of the most impressive things to see in the Lake Louise area!
Departing from the end of the Larch Valley trail, it’s another 1.5 kilometres to Sentinel Pass, climbing about 180 metres in elevation. After negotiating a series of switchbacks, you’ll reach the pass and get to delight in spectacular views of Paradise Valley.
- Distance: 10.9 kilometres (return)
- Time: 3 to 5 hours
Pushing through a gorgeous valley between Mount Temple and Fairview Mountain, Paradise Valley is a long but rewarding hike full of incredible mountain & forest scenery.
The first section of trail is a relatively easy 5.6-kilometre run between the trailhead (off the Moraine Lake road) and Lake Annette. You can choose to turn back after marvelling at this small but beautiful turquoise-hued lake or continue on towards The Giant Steps, a lovely waterfall that sits at the 10-kilometre mark.
To take this demanding full-day hike to its most epic conclusion, follow the trail through from The Giant Steps to Sentinel Pass where you’ll enjoy incredible views of The Valley of Ten Peaks. From here, you’ll be able to connect with Moraine Lake trails and either loop back 12 kilometres to Lake Louise or (possibly) catch a ride back.
Keep in mind that prime hiking season in Paradise Valley is also primetime for grizzly bears. There’s often a mandatory group requirement of 4 people initiated 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. But it’s probably not what you think. While the two main Moraine Lake hikes—The Rockpile Trail and Lakeshore Trail—are among the easiest hikes in Lake Louise, 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, both of these hiking trails will 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 and scoot up the well-maintained Rockpile Trail. On 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
Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges of sorting through all the best places to stay in Lake Louise is availability. There’s a very limited selection of accommodations in the Lake Louise area, clustered around the lakeside, Lake Louise Village and along the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A).
Many travellers to Lake Louise opt, instead, to choose 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, about two hours away by car.
- 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: Sitting on the picturesque Bow Valley Parkway about 20 minutes south of Lake Louise Village, this mountainside resort offers everything from private rooms & suites to detached chalets. The amenities here are superb including a steam room, fitness centre, and sauna.
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: Hardly requiring an introduction, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is one of the most legendary hotels in Canada. Dating back to 1890, this 5-star hotel delights guests with its elegant rooms and world-class amenities including a spa and a collection of excellent 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 and hiking trails will 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 are no exception to that.
A great alternative to the summer, if you’re willing to bundle up a bit more, is September and October. If you time your visit just right, you’ll hopefully 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 in the wee hours of the morning. The 182-kilometre drive between Calgary and Lake Louise along the Trans-Canada Highway take about two hours in good weather conditions.
From Jasper: If you’re coming from Northern Alberta, Lake Louise lies about 233 kilometres southeast of Jasper along the beautiful Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93), one of Canada’s most scenic highways. The drive from Jasper to Lake Louise is around 3 hours.