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Big Beehive Hike- Lake Louise, Banff National Park

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The Big Beehive hike in Lake Louise is one of the most beloved hikes in Banff National Park, combining a trip to a historic tea house with a climb to an impressive viewpoint overlooking Lake Louise.

View of Lake Louise from the Big Beehive

Big Beehive Trail presents a nice mix of scenery and hiking experiences starting with a moderate uphill hike in the forest, then a scenic lakeshore walk, and ending with a challenging switchback climb to the top of Big Beehive.

Lake Agnes in a valley
View of Lake Agnes from Big Beehive Trail

This hike offers some flexibility in terms of route too, as it can be done as an out and back or as a loop. The hike can also be extended with a trip to the Little Beehive, Devil’s Thumb, or the Plain of Six Glaciers.

Big Beehive overlooking Mirror Lake
Big Beehive overlooking Mirror Lake

Big Beehive Hike

Distance: 10.4 km round trip

Difficulty: Moderate- Hard

Elevation Gain: 564 m

Surface: Paved to start then a mix of dirt and rock

Trail Type: Out and back (as described here) but can be done as a loop

Time: 4-5 hours (with breaks at the tea house and Big Beehive)

Trailhead: In front of Chateau Lake Louise, along the lakeshore

Track log/map of Big Beehive Trail
Track log/map of Big Beehive Trail

Like many other Lake Louise hikes, the Big Beehive hike starts beside Chateau Lake Louise, a short distance from the parking lot. You’ll find the first trail sign just after the bridge at the creek flowing out of Lake Louise. From this starting point, the Big Beehive is approximately 5.2 km and the Lake Agnes Tea House is 3.8 km.

The hike starts with an easy stroll on the paved path between Lake Louise and the chateau. After passing by the hotel, make a slight right onto Lake Agnes Trail.

Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier

The first part of the hike to Big Beehive follows Lake Agnes Trail through the forest and up to the lakeside tea house. The trail climbs continuously, but not steeply, on old pavement then packed dirt with some exposed rocks. Since this part of the hike is only moderately challenging, you’ll likely see many people on their way to the tea house, unless you got an early start.

Hiking trail in the forest
Forested hiking trail

There’s nothing notable on the trail until about 2 km into the hike, when you’ll get your first glimpse of Lake Louise through a small opening in the forest. As nice as this change of scenery is, it doesn’t compare to the view from the top of Big Beehive.

Partial view of Lake Louise through an opening in the forest

Continuing upwards through the forest, you’ll eventually arrive at Mirror Lake. Here you can see the Big Beehive overlooking and reflecting in this small, emerald lake.

Big Beehive overlooking Mirror Lake

After Mirror Lake, continue hiking in the forest on Lake Agnes Trail. A short while later you’ll come to a junction with Little Beehive Trail. If you’d like to visit the Little Beehive before the tea house, go right here. If not keep straight and enjoy views of the Big Beehive.

Trail leading towards the Big Beehive

Soon you’ll arrive at a pretty waterfall backed by the Big Beehive. From here, go up the wooden staircase to reach the tea house on the shore of Lake Agnes.

Waterfall with the Big Beehive in the background

Lake Agnes is a beautiful spot to take a snack break before heading out on the second stage of the Big Beehive hike. Just don’t expect some peace and quiet around the tea house in the summer- it’s a very popular place!

Lake Agnes with Mount Whyte and the Devil's Thumb

The next segment of the Big Beehive hike is far more scenic than the first, since Big Beehive Trail follows closely along the north shore of Lake Agnes. Not only does Big Beehive Trail offer unobstructed views of the lake, you also can see Mount Whyte and the Devil’s Thumb as you walk towards the end of Lake Agnes.

Big Beehive Trail on the shore of Lake Agnes
Big Beehive Trail on the shore of Lake Agnes

Once you reach the end of the lake there are some large rocks to cross over. A lot of the rocks have flat tops, so traversing them isn’t too difficult.

Rock slide on Big Beehive trail

Next up, the trail crosses a scree-covered slope at the west end of Lake Agnes. This is a great vantage point for admiring the gorgeous hanging valley that Lake Agnes is nestled in. The tea house can be seen at the end of the lake, dwarfed by this grand valley.

Rocks and scree slope on Big Beehive Trail
View of Lake Agnes on the Big Beehive hike
View of Lake Agnes from Big Beehive Trail

Now comes the hardest part of the Big Beehive hike- the switchbacks. Climbing and weaving up the mountainside, these switchbacks make you earn the view that awaits you at the Big Beehive. Don’t hesitate to take some breaks here, especially since Lake Agnes looks fantastic from above.

Steep switchbacks with Lake Agnes below and a mountain in the background

After conquering the switchbacks, you’ll reach a flat area with a 4-way intersection of trails. Right leads to Devil’s Thumb, straight goes down to the Highline Trail, and left is the final section of Big Beehive Trail.

Trail at the start of Big Beehive
This way to the Big Beehive

Heading left onto Big Beehive, the trail gets rockier and less defined the further you go. You have to hike over some protruding rocks and there are ups and downs along the route, but no significant elevation changes.

Rocky trail on Big Beehive with Lake Louise below on the right
Rocky trail on Big Beehive

There are several places on Big Beehive where you can stop to marvel at Lake Louise from above. Basically anywhere there’s an opening between trees you can see the lake. Be very careful though because a lot of these viewpoints are along the cliff. Don’t get too close to the edge and check for loose rocks before stepping or sitting.

Looking down at one end of Lake Louise with mountains in the background

Near the end of the trail there’s a covered shelter with a bench. This is the original Beehive shelter that was built in 1916 by the Canadian Pacific Railway. The company built the shelter so that their wealthy clientele could find refuge in case of bad weather.

The shelter offers a comfortable place to sit, but you can’t see the lake from inside it because trees block the view.

The Big Beehive shelter

Since there’s not an “official” viewpoint that’s safely contained by railings, you need to find your own spots to view the lake from. To make the most of your hike to Big Beehive, try to find a couple different places where you can safely sit and admire the lake. Some spots offer better views of the chateau than others, but overall you’ll find plenty of places with a stunning panorama of Lake Louise.

View of Lake Louise from Big Beehive

Once you’re satisfied with your time on Big Beehive, go back the way you came. There’s a nice view of Devil’s Thumb and other peaks on the return hike to the junction at the top of the switchbacks.

Big Beehive Trail with trees and mountains in the background

When you arrive at the 4-way junction, you can decide to extend your hike by proceeding onto the unmarked Devil’s Thumb Trail or going all the way to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. If neither of those are of interest, you’ll have to decide on a route to get back to Chateau Lake Louise.

Hiking trail
Connector path leading to the Highline and Plain of Six Glaciers Trails

For the return hike you have two options- retrace your steps down the switchbacks to Lake Agnes (out and back route), or head downhill into the forest then take the Highline Trail back to Mirror Lake (loop route). On both choices you will be redoing part of the Lake Agnes Trail.

Steep switchbacks with Lake Agnes at the bottom
The switchbacks and Lake Agnes

In regards to scenery, the out and back route is far more interesting. Even though you’ve already seen Lake Agnes, it’s still enjoyable to experience it from a different perspective. The loop route is forested, but the benefit of this option is that it’s not as busy.

Big Beehive Trail on the rocky shore of Lake Agnes
Big Beehive Trail on the western shore of Lake Agnes

As far as difficulty, the loop route is slightly longer to get to Mirror Lake and has more elevation change, both in loses and gains.

Either way, both return options have something to offer and can be an enjoyable end to the Big Beehive hike.

Mirror Lake and Big Beehive
Big Beehive and Mirror Lake

Review of the Big Beehive Hike

Big Beehive Trail is a great option for people who want to experience stunning alpine scenery without having to embark on a grueling, difficult hike. Although the Big Beehive hike does have some challenging sections, it’s overall only moderately difficult for the average hiker.

The Big Beehive framed by trees
View of Big Beehive from Lake Agnes Trail

This is a popular trail so you can expect to see a lot of people on the hike, but there is a noticeable decrease in traffic after the tea house. For that reason, along with the unobstructed scenery, the journey along Big Beehive Trail is more enjoyable than Lake Agnes Trail.

Big Beehive Trail on the shore of Lake Agnes
Big Beehive Trail

As beautiful as the second half of this hike is, the view of Lake Louise from the top of Big Beehive steals the show. Once you see it for yourself, you’ll understand why Big Beehive has become a classic hike in the Canadian Rockies!

Lake Louise below the Big Beehive
View of Lake Louise from the top of Big Beehive

Tips for Hiking Big Beehive Trail

Location: Big Beehive Trail is located at Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

Getting to the Big Beehive Trailhead: After you reach the hamlet of Lake Louise via Highway 1 or Highway 93 (Icefields Parkway), drive uphill on Lake Louise Drive to Chateau Lake Louise. The hiking trails start from the chateau.

Best Time to Hike to Big Beehive: The Big Beehive hike is best done in July and August but can be completed in late spring and early fall if clear of snow.

  • Winter hiking is not advised because of avalanche risk.
  • Lake Louise is extremely popular and the parking lot fills up in the summer months. Arriving early in the morning and/or on a weekday can help beat the crowds.

Facilities: There is a washroom building at the Lake Louise parking lot and an outhouse at the Lake Agnes Tea House.

  • You can buy food and drinks at the Lake Agnes tea house. The tea house is open 8:00 am- 5:00 pm daily from June to early October. They only accept cash.

Visitor Guidelines, Safety and Etiquette: There are no garbage cans, even at the tea house, so all garbage must be carried out. Do not litter your waste along the trail.

  • This hike is in bear country so bring bear spray and know how to use it.
  • This trail passes through avalanche zones that are marked by signs. Winter hiking beyond Mirror Lake is not recommended. Avalanches can happen from November to June.

What to Bring: Sturdy hiking shoes with ankle support are recommended because of the rocky, uneven terrain in places. Hiking poles can take some stress off your knees when descending from Big Beehive.

  • Weather in the mountains can change quickly so come prepared with layers and rain gear.
Big Beehive reflecting in Mirror Lake

Nearby Hikes and Activities

You may also enjoy these other trails and things to do near Lake Louise village:

Accommodations in Lake Louise

For your convenience, here is a list of HOTELS IN LAKE LOUISE. Please consider booking your Lake Louise accommodations through the included link. It costs nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!

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