Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Tea time at Lake Louise

Morning reflections on Lake Louise

Classic hikes at Lake Louise in Banff National Park in Canada will take you on trails to either Lake Agnes Teahouse or Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse.  We chose to hike the Lake Agnes trail on the recommendation of the tourism office and other hikers we had met in Banff the night before.

Mirror Lake lives up to its name.

The Plain of Six Glaciers provides panoramic views of glaciated peaks in the Canadian Rockies on a trail that’s 3.3 miles versus 2.2 miles for Lake Agnes, but the estimated time for each hike is 90 minutes one way. The difference is that there’s less elevation gain for the Plain of Six Glaciers, so it’s a bit easier on the legs. At the top is a rustic teahouse serving homemade goodies baked on a wooden stove—much as when it was first constructed by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the early 1900s.

Lake Agnes waterfall

The Lake Agnes Trail, labeled moderately strenuous in my guidebook, starts in front of the Fairmont Lake Louise Chateau.  (Plan to arrive before 10:00 a.m. as the parking lot fills quickly). The trail climbs steeply for the first 1.6 miles, switch-backing through a forest of fir and spruce. It levels off at Mirror Lake, a wonderfully scenic spot that appears just when you need a break.

Near the end of the trail, just below the teahouse, a beautiful waterfall flows out of Lake Agnes, gushing over a series of rocks with a refreshing spray. The trail concludes in a series of steps leading to the historic tea house that overlooks the lake and valley.

Not having brought snacks (bear warnings all around) we were hungry, so it was a good thing we arrived in time for lunch--homemade tuna, peanut butter, or cheese sandwiches. An assortment of hot teas is available and would taste terrific on a cold day, but we were looking for something chilled after our uphill trek. Unfortunately, there’s no ice (everything has to be packed in to the teahouse), so we settled for drinking the water in our backpacks.

 Lake Agnes Teahouse

Slightly revived, we headed out for another six-tenths of a mile on a fairly steep path to Little Beehive (the longer trail to Big Beehive, a distinctively rounded mountain, joins up with the Plain of Six Glaciers trail in the opposite direction). New vantage points provided impressive views looking back at Bow Valley, Lake Louise, and the Fairmont Lake Louise Chateau.  The return 3-mile trip went much faster as our memory cards were already loaded with hundreds of images—and we resisted the urge to add more.

Mountain view along Lake Louise

There’s no better way to appreciate the stunning sights of the region than on one of these hikes. Being photo hounds who savored our lunch break, the entire excursion took us about five hours.  Naturally, we were ready for wine and cheese on our return to the Post Hotel.


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