With jaw-dropping views and spectacular scenery all the way up, the iconic Lake Agnes Tea House trail to Big Beehive is one of the best hikes in Banff National Park.
Starting at the base of emerald Lake Louise, the pathway winds past a cascading waterfall and two more gem-toned lakes before arriving at a birds-eye view of one of the prettiest spots in the park.
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It takes about one hour to get to the tea house, and another 45 minutes to reach the summit of Big Beehive for a total elevation gain of 1300 feet. The hike to Lake Agnes is medium difficulty, which makes this one of the most rewarding Banff hiking trails for families from June to October.
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Lake Louise to Mirror Lake
The Big Beehive hike starts from the Lakeshore Trail just past the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, where a sign marks the start of the pathway to the Lake Agnes tea house. Be sure to follow it up the hill when it branches off to the right, since the other trail that continues around the lake is for a different, much longer trail.
The first section is a moderate climb that’s mostly treed in, so the first notable stop is Mirror Lake which takes about 45 minutes to get to.
Lake Agnes Tea House
It only takes about 20 minutes to get to the next great feature on the trail: a cascading waterfall that pummels down into the Bow Valley. It’s slightly off the pathway–just head down to the left for a quick detour when you see a fence.
Back on the pathway, a set of wooden steps leads straight up to the tea house, where hikers are greeted with this glorious view of shimmering Lake Agnes:
The Lake Agnes Tea House was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1901, and a few years later it started serving tea. The family-run business now makes soup, sandwiches and desserts to fuel hungry hikers, along with 100 types of tea.
And yes, the staff hike up and down to work each day, and those so inclined can help them out by bringing a small bag of trash down since everything is packed in and out. There are also a few outhouses just up the hill and some picnic tables, which makes this a perfect spot to relax for a while and soak up the views.
While many people enjoy a leisurely hangout at the tea house then head back down, the best views are actually just 1.6 kilometres further along the Big Beehive hike. However, the last stretch is where things get more challenging, in the form of a series of steep switchbacks.
The pathway starts out relatively easy as it winds around the lake, and the reflection of the surrounding peaks in the water creates a stunning scene. Once you reach the other end, it turns into scree and the 135 metre elevation gain happens on trails so narrow that only one person can pass at a time.
Luckily, the glimpses of Lake Agnes more than make up for the incline.
A smattering of trees and huge boulders await at the top, where the reward is a panoramic view looking down at Mirror Lake, Lake Louise, the chateau and Bow Valley. There isn’t one specific lookout, so be sure to do a loop around the summit to see the lakes from different vantage points.
More hikes from the Big Beehive trail
The fun doesn’t have to end at the top of Big Beehive, as there are a handful of other hikes in the area. The Little Beehive trail is a one kilometre walk from Lake Agnes with a 105m elevation gain, and the former fire lookout has views of the Bow Valley.
One of the best Lake Louise hikes is called Plain of Six Glaciers, which also has a tea house that dates back to 1924 and was built by Swiss guides. By connecting the Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers trails via the Highline trail, hikers can head to the heart of the Victoria Glacier, Mount Victoria and Mount Lefroy.
Lake Louise to Moraine Lake
If you make it up and back early enough in the day, then be sure to tack on another iconic Banff landmark: Moraine Lake.
The turquoise waters and surrounding Valley of the Ten Peaks have made this spot Instagram-famous, and it’s so beautiful it once graced Canada’s $20 bill. Unfortunately, that means it gets absolutely packed and parking is at a premium, and virtually impossible unless you’re there at the crack of dawn or late in the day. Same goes for Lake Louise.
The best bet for visiting both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake without getting stressed is to take advantage of the Lake Louise Park and Ride by booking a spot on the Parks Canada shuttle.
Shuttles go to both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake throughout the day, and there’s also a connector bus linking them. Advanced reservations are required, and buses depart from in front of the Lake Louise Ski Resort’s lodge. Note that you’ll also need to display a Parks Canada pass on your vehicle when leaving for the day.
More transportation options for getting to Lake Louise:
Another way to enjoy the Big Beehive and Lake Agnes Tea House hike is by booking a horseback ride with Brewster Adventures, and there are also guided tours that include stops at Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake and up the spectacular Icefields Parkway:
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