For many people the hiking season ends when the snow starts to fly. But it…
The Lake Agnes – Big Beehive hike delivers world-class mountain scenery. Normally the hike to Lake Agnes Teahouse is a ridiculously busy one, especially in the summer. But we elected to do the Big Beehive hike in the third week of October, a couple of weeks after a particularly big, early season snow storm, so the number of hikers was way down.
Starting early always helps but on this occasion the trail to Lake Agnes was also like a skating rink early in the morning. Lots of people turned back unless they had brought “icers or traction devices” with them. By the time we got to Lake Agnes and the start of the Big Beehive hike, the sun was melting snow and the going was much easier.
Finding the trailhead to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive hike
The 10.3 km return hike to the Big Beehive via Lake Agnes starts right at Lake Louise. To find the trail, follow the shoreline path west -northwest in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Look for a trail intersection and you’ll see signs at the north corner of the lake.
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The Big Beehive hike looks like this
Follow the well-maintained trail up through the woods. Around the 1.7 km mark you’ll get some decent views of Lake Louise. Don’t take the horse trail that returns to Lake Louise at the 2.4 km mark. Once you’ve reached Mirror Lake at 2.6 km you have a choice.
Go left and take the Highline Trail – with a hike up to Lake Agnes or stay right to reach Lake Agnes in 3.1 km after climbing a couple of sets of stairs by a waterfall.
This is also the route to reach the Little Beehive and Mount St. Piran. In the winter the final stretch before Lake Agnes passes a slope that gets loaded with snow – so there can be avalanche danger.
The Lake Agnes Tea House
The Lake Agnes Teahouse was closed when we were there – much to the disappointment of some hikers we met later in the day. It opens early in June through until Thanksgiving weekend in October.
After stopping for a few photos at Lake Agnes continue in a southwesterly direction on a trail that follows the north shore of the lake. It’s easier walking now. An in October the trail is still very pretty with larches showing their fall colours.
The trail to Big Beehive is well-signed from Lake Agnes.
The trail curves around the west shore of Lake Agnes on a gentle grade. It was well stomped out when we did it and it would be equally obvious without snow. Switchback up the gully to reach a four way intersection.
To reach the Big Beehive go left. If you want to return via the Plain of Six Glaciers you would go straight to reach the Highline Trail. If its the challenging Devil’s Thumb you want to hike, turn right.
Once you’ve reached the intersection the climbing is over. Simply follow the trail through pretty woods – at times with some breathtaking views of Lake Louise all the way to the Big Beehive Lookout. There are lots of viewpoints around that make for a good lunch spot.
Getting back to Lake Louise
Retrace your steps to return to Lake Louise. Keen hikers might want to knock off Devil’s Thumb as well but with all the snow around I figured we’d come back and do it in the summer instead as there is some challenging scrambling involved.
There is also the option to hike to Little Beehive – by taking the trail above the Lake Agnes Teahouse and following the signs. That would at most add about an hour of hiking to the day, and if you’ve never been I’d recommend it.
Allow four to five hours to do the round-trip hike to Big Beehive. You’re not going to want to rush it with so many beautiful lookouts.
Where to stay in and near Lake Louise
With Lake Louise becoming increasingly busy and popular as a hiking destination you might want to consider treating yourself to a night or two in the area so you can avoid a lot of driving.
A few places I’d recommend include Paradise Lodge & Bungalows, just a kilometre from the lake, the Lake Louise Alpine Centre Hostel, and Deer Lodge IF you get a renovated room (their food is very good).
The 5 things that come with me on most hikes
I like something comfortable to sit on at lunch time. I swear by my blowup inflatable seat cushion.
I like using hiking poles, especially when there is steep terrain or when a stream crossing is involved. Invest in a good pair that are collapsible, preferably made of carbon because of their weightless quality. Trust me – on a long hike weight makes a huge difference.
I always pack a buff as it’s a multi-purpose piece of cloth that has at least a dozen uses – including keeping your neck and head warm if the temperature drops.
If if I’m not going on a long hike, I like to take water treatment droplets – in case I drink more than normal or someone in my group runs out of water. These ones take up almost no room and it only takes 5 – 6 minutes to make stream, river or lake water safe to drink.
Another nice addition for those of you who love wildflowers is the book Popular Wildflowers of Alberta and the Canadian Rockies.
Further reading on hiking near Lake Louise
Visit the Banff National Park website for updated information on trails.
- A Hike to the Summit of Fairview Mountain
- Taylor Lake Hike in Banff National Park
- Backpacking to Baker Lake, Skoki Area, Banff National Park
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