Yesterday did not start well.

Chock that up to a longer than anticipated drive to Lake Louise from Calgary, the longest lines I’ve ever seen to get into Banff National Park (I have a yearly pass but our guests did not and spent 30 minutes waiting for one), unbelievable crowds at Lake Louise and parking nightmares.

But there was a reward for our troubles – the hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House above Lake Louise.

It’s an easy three and a half to four kilometre hike one way starting right from the Lake Louise itself. The elevation gain is 1,300 feet. There is another option to get to the Tea House – via a horseback ride. Book a ride through Brewster or Timberline Stables in Lake Louise.

"Lake Louise"

Lake Louise

The trail is wide and well signed and after just a few kilometres of easy hiking the views begin – first of the turquoise waters of Lake Louise hundreds of feet below, and then of the distant mountain peaks and glaciers.

"View of the valley part way up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse"

View of the valley part way up to the Lake Agnes Tea House

"Glacier view"

At about the three kilometre mark you reach the small but very beautiful Mirror Lake. Skimpily clad girls were busy screaming and making much ado about their swim. This is frigid water and despite the 27C temperatures I’m not sure I would want to make the dive in. But then again I’m not trying to impress the cute guy either.

It’s only 0.8 kilometres from here to the Lake Agnes Tea House and in fact if you look up you can see it.

"Mirror Lake"

Mirror Lake – you can see Agnes Lake Tea House from here

"Girls swimming in Mirror Lake"

The plunge into Mirror Lake

"Girl shivering"

It was a frosty swim

"Lake Agnes"

Lake Agnes

Lake Agnes is breathtakingly beautiful – even with summer crowds. And if you’re still keen to hike you can continue along  the trail that takes you to the far end of the lake and then steeply switchbacks its way up to the Big Beehive Hut – about 1.7 kilometres away. You’ll lose the crowds once you’re past the Tea House.

"The Teahouse at Lake Agnes"

The Teahouse at Lake Agnes

The Lake Agnes Tea House

Lake Agnes Tea House was named for Canada’s original first lady – Lady Agnes MacDonald. She was the wife of Canada’s first Prime Minister – John A. MacDonald. She was wowed by the beauty of the lake way back in 1886.

The Tea House was built for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1901 and in 1905 it began serving tea. Now it serves food – sandwiches, teas and more but as a sit down service only. I’m not sure why you can’t just get a drink to go – perhaps a garbage issue – so as an alternative be sure to bring your own food and drink and sit by the lake. Lake Agnes Tea House is open until Canadian Thanksgiving. They take Canadian and US cash and travelers checks but no credit cards.

"View of the mountains on the hike down from the Teahouse"

View of the mountains on the hike down from the Teahouse

The hike down from the Tea House is equally delightful and goes by quickly. Once back at Lake Louise you can always take the trail that wanders all the way around the lake or rent a canoe and extend your visit.

"Mountain views"

"Statue of one the original Swiss guides in the Lake Louise area"

Statue of one the original Swiss guides in the Lake Louise area

This is a terrific hike and one I highly recommend. It’s a rare hike that delivers this caliber of scenery for the time and effort required. But if you can, hike it on a weekday or early in the day.

Have you done the hike to Lake Agnes Tea House?

Leigh McAdam


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