The Lake Agnes Tea House hike is one of the most popular hikes in Lake Louise thanks to its relatively short distance and lakeside tea house nestled in a scenic hanging valley.
In addition to the beautiful scenery of lakes, forests, and mountains, the hike and its tea house also have a long history with ties to the Canada’s original First Lady and the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The Lake Agnes hike is often combined with other Lake Louise hikes, such as the Big and Little Beehives, Mount St. Piran, Devil’s Thumb, and Plain of Six Glaciers, since those hikes either branch off from or are extensions of Lake Agnes Trail.
Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
Distance: 7.7 km
Elevation Gain: 392 m
Surface: Paved to start then packed dirt and rock
Trail Type: Out and Back
Time: 2.5- 3 hours (with a short break at the tea house)
Trailhead: In front of Chateau Lake Louise, along the lakeshore.
To start the Lake Agnes hike, follow the path from the Lake Louise parking lot towards the chateau. Just after the bridge at the mouth of the creek, you’ll see a sign marking the trailhead for hikes in the area.
The first part of the hike is an easy stroll along a paved path on the shore of Lake Louise. This area can get very busy with tourists, guests of the chateau, and other hikers, so it’s worth getting an early start if you want to beat the crowds.
After passing by the chateau, make a slight right onto Lake Agnes Trail. Here you’ll begin a steady, but not steep, ascent through the forest.
The trail surface is old pavement at first, but then transitions to packed dirt with some rocks sticking out in places.
There’s not much to look at except trees for the first two kilometers, at which point Lake Louise appears through an opening in the forest. It’s just a partial glimpse of the lake, but a welcome change of scenery, if only for a moment.
After this view, the trail makes a sharp turn right and continues climbing through the forest. As you gain elevation on Lake Agnes Trail, you’ll start to see more of the mountains that frame Lake Louise.
Weaving through the forest, the Big Beehive will come into view as you approach Mirror Lake, the first point of interest on the Lake Agnes Hike.
The aptly named Mirror Lake is a great spot to rest for a few minutes while enjoying views of the Big Beehive reflecting in the emerald water.
At Mirror Lake, you’ll notice a trail junction and sign indicating two possible routes. The traditional way to get to Lake Agnes is by going right and staying on Lake Agnes Trail.
If you go left onto the Plain of Six Glaciers highline trail, you’ll come to a steep path that branches off and traverses a rockslide beneath the Big Beehive on route to Lake Agnes. You can also choose to take this route on your return hike to make a loop around Mirror Lake, instead of retracing your steps for a 100% out-and-back hike.
Keeping right on Lake Agnes Trail, the path continues through the forest offering up views of the Big Beehive, Devil’s Thumb, and other surrounding mountains as you hike the last 0.8 km to the tea house. Along the way you’ll pass the Little Beehive Trail branching off to the right.
Nearing the end of Lake Agnes Trail, you’ll come to a waterfall created by the lake’s outlet stream. You can only see a small portion of it but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful, especially since it’s backed by the distinctive Big Beehive.
The final approach to Lake Agnes is via a wooden staircase that delivers you to a cobblestone pathway beside the tea house. This is also where you’ll get your first view of Lake Agnes.
The Lake Agnes Tea House was built in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway to provide a comfortable place for their wealthy clientele to enjoy nature. Initially used as a shelter for hikers, it began serving tea in 1905. As the first tea house in the Lake Louise area, it started the local tradition of having tea on a mountain top.
The log building of the Lake Agnes tea house was replaced in 1981, but much of its history was preserved by incorporating the original windows, tables, and chairs. Of course, there’s still a veranda with a view of the lake.
Lake Agnes is a gorgeous location and it’s worth having a seat on one of the benches or rocks around the shore to take in the scenery. From here you can look across the small lake and see Mount Whyte and the Devil’s Thumb reflecting in the clear water.
It looks like a peaceful scene, but chances are you’ll be sharing the view with a lot of other people, especially if you visit in peak season of July and August.
Like the tea house, Lake Agnes has a place in Canadian history. It was named after Lady Susan Agnes Macdonald, wife of Canada’s first prime minister, after she visited the lake in the late 1800’s.
Now that you’ve reached the end of Lake Agnes Trail, you can return to Lake Louise the same way you came or extend your hike by carrying on to some other nearby destinations.
At Lake Agnes you’ll find trails leading to popular lookouts on Little Beehive and Big Beehive. From Little Beehive Trail you can also access Mount St. Piran, where as the Big Beehive Trail connects with routes to Devil’s Thumb and the Plain of Six Glaciers.
Review of the Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
The Lake Agnes hike offers an enjoyable combination of Canadian history and nature.
Some people may find the first section of trail a bit dull, but after gaining elevation through the forest there’s more scenic variety with mountains, lakes, and a small waterfall.
The trail is well marked with signs and distances, so it’s easy to find your way and decide if you want to continue past the tea house to other destinations.
Aside from the moderately graded ascent, there are no big challenges so inexperienced hikers will be able to complete the hike to Lake Agnes. This hike is also safe to do solo since it’s a high traffic trail.
Once of the nice things about the Lake Agnes Tea House hike is that it doesn’t require venturing far off into the backcountry to get to beautiful alpine views. However, that is also one of its downsides because the easy accessibility/close proximity to Chateau Lake Louise means it gets crowded with tourists.
If you prefer hikes with fewer people in less developed areas, then this might not be one for you, but for those looking for a short hike with a good reward to effort ratio, then the Lake Agnes Tea House trail is a great choice.
Tips for Hiking Lake Agnes Trail
Location: Lake Agnes Trail is located at Lake Louise in Banff National Park.
Getting to the Lake Agnes Trailhead: After you reach the hamlet of Lake Louise via Highway 1 or Highway 93 (Icefields Parkway), drive uphill on Lake Louise Drive to the Chateau Lake Louise. The hiking trails start from the chateau.
Best Time to Hike to Lake Agnes: The Lake Agnes Tea House 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 recommended unless you have avalanche training and equipment.
Lake Agnes Tea House: The tea house is open from June to early October (Canadian Thanksgiving). Hours are 8:00 am- 5:00 pm daily.
- The menu includes soups, sandwiches, chips and salsa, tea biscuits, desserts (cookies, squares, loaves), and hot and cold drinks, including 100 types of loose leaf tea.
- Since all supplies are hiked or helicoptered in, the prices are on the high end. You may also have to wait a while for your order because items are prepared individually and there can be a lot of customers waiting in line.
- The tea house accepts cash only.
Facilities: There is a washroom building at the Lake Louise parking lot and an outhouse at the Lake Agnes Tea House. The tea house operates without electricity and running water.
Visitor Guidelines, Safety and Etiquette: There are no garbage cans 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.
- Portions of this trail pass through avalanche zones that are marked by signs. Avalanches can happen from November to June.
What to Bring: If you’re only hiking to the tea house and back, sturdy running shoes should be fine for the terrain. If you plan to continue on to other trails, then hiking boots are recommended.
- Weather in the mountains can change quickly so come prepared with layers and rain gear.
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