Lake Agnes and Big Beehive Hike in Banff
The Big Beehive hike begins at the world-famous Lake Louise in Banff National Park. The trail will take you around the jade-green waters of Mirror Lake and beautiful Lake Agnes, where the popular Lake Agnes Tea House is situated. Here you can grab a sandwich and a variety of beverages.
From Lake Agnes, the trail continues up the Big Beehive. As you walk up the steep switchbacks, you will see the lake below you. Hiking up is worth all the effort. From the summit of Big Beehive, you will get a stunning view of Lake Louise and the surrounding mountains.
Lake Agnes and Big Beehive Hike
Begin your hike by walking counterclockwise along the shore of the turquoise-coloured Lake Louise. If you visit during the summer months, you might be surprised by the number of people who come to see the lake.
Hike Key Facts
- Distance: 10.9 km out-and-back
- Estimated Time: 3-4.5 hours
- Elevation Gain: 776 m
- The Big Beehive: 2270 m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Location: Banff National Park
- Best Time to Hike: June to mid-October
- Parking: Lake Louise Parking Lot
Lake Agnes Trail
When you come to the far end of Chateau Lake Louise, you will see that the path splits. To the right is the trail for Lake Agnes, Little and Big Beehive. Straight ahead is the Plain of the Six Glaciers. Turn right at this junction.
The trail is straightforward and well-marked the entire way. Every junction has a sign. Keep following the markers for Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes. You will ascend into the forest over two very long switchbacks.
After walking 2.6 kilometres, you will reach Mirror Lake, with the Big Beehive towering above it. We took a few photos here.
From Mirror Lake, take the trail on your right (going north) and keep going uphill. It is only 0.8 kilometres to Lake Agnes and 2.4 kilometres to Big Beehive.
The trail on the left side of the lake will also take you there. We decided to take this trail on the way back.
When you come close to the lake, you will see a small waterfall coming down from Lake Agnes. A nice wooden staircase will take you to the lake and the Lake Agnes tea house.
Lake Agnes is a very popular destination and can get very busy. This glacially fed scenic lake sits below three massively rugged peaks. The area is well developed, with paved pathways and multiple benches for people to sit on.
Lake Agnes Tea House is situated right next to the lake. It was initially built in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway as a refuge for hikers and started serving tea in 1905. The original log building was replaced in 1981, but the windows, tables and chairs remained.
At the Tea House, you can grab a delicious soup, sandwiches, and various tea and beverages. We should also mention they only take cash, no credit cards.
A cirque of mountains surrounds lake Agnes. Some are easier to climb than others. The easiest trails to hike are the Little Beehive and the Big Beehive.
Above the Big Beehive is Devil’s Thumb, while above Little Beehive is Mount St. Piran. Mount Whyte and Mount Niblock are at the far end of the lake and are both scrambling routes.
Hiking from Lake Agnes
To hike the Little Beehive, turn right just past the Lake Agnes tea house. Follow the trail to the summit. To hike up to the Big Beehive, walk along the shore trail on the right side of Lake Agnes.
The walk around the lake was so pretty and peaceful. We kept admiring the clean and pristine water inside the lake. Finally, we could not resist, and we decided to take a dip. The water was freezing but so refreshing and energizing.
We followed the rocky pathway alongside the lake. The boulders at the end of Lake Agnes are a great place to stop and reflect. The view of the tea house from this angle provides a new perspective of where it stands on the water’s edge.
Onto Big Beehive
Once we finished rounding the lake, we began to ascend via several switchbacks. The path was rocky and steep, but the switchbacks made it manageable. A little forewarning that one section of the trail is very narrow, and if you are afraid of heights, this might make you uneasy.
As we hiked up, high above us was the unique peak of Devil’s Thumb. We could see Lake Agnes from various viewpoints. The colour of the lake looked amazing from this angle.
On the top of the pass, there was a four-way junction. We turned left to get to Big Beehive. To the right was a hike to Devil’s Thumb. From there, you can get amazing views of both Lake Agnes and Lake Louise, as well as the huge glaciers along the backside of the trail.
From the junction, it is only around a 5-minute walk to the lookout. The area is mostly flat with a bit of easy scrambling over some rocks. At the end of the trail, we found a wooden gazebo.
There were a few different viewpoints on the summit. We admired the amazing views of Lake Louise, the nearby Rocky Mountains and Bow Valley. Seeing how far we had come left a feeling of accomplishment inside.
There was a choice of the return route. We decided to take the same path back to Lake Agnes, which was the shorter option.
As an alternative, we could hike a loop by returning to Lake Louise via the Highline and Plain of the Six Glaciers trails. This option offers great views of Mount Victoria and the Victoria Glacier.
Once at the Lake Agnes Tea House, we took the trail on the right-hand side instead of the path that we came on. It was a good choice. We got more nice views of mountains, and we saw a few more squirrels on the way. Then from Mirror Lake, we descended back to Lake Louise.
Over the last couple of days, we finished a few hikes in Yoho and Banff National Parks, and our legs were tired. However, the amazing views from the mountains made every trip special and worth the effort.
Best Time to Visit
The best months to hike Lage Agnes and Big Beehive are from June to mid-October. If you are planning on visiting in autumn, you will want to pack crampons in case there is snow or ice on the trail.
Winter travel is not recommended because both the Lake Agnes and the Plain of the Six Glaciers trails cross major avalanche paths.
Directions to Lake Louise
The closest airport to Lake Louise is Calgary International Airport (YYC). Lake Louise is 187 km from Calgary, 85 km from Canmore, and 61 km from Banff. Follow the signs on the Trans-Canada Hwy (Highway 1). Take exit for Lake Louise.
There are two parking lots at Lake Louise that are free. The parking is limited and fills up very fast, especially during the summer high season.
If you stay in Banff or Canmore, you can take a shuttle from your hotel to Lake Louise. You can also take the shuttle from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake to see them both in one day.
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We hope you enjoyed our guide on hiking the Big Beehive. Let us know in the comments below. Here are a few of our favourite articles to inspire your travels around the Rocky Mountains.
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