The Big Beehive hike
The Lake Agnes Teahouse and Big Beehive hikes at Lake Louise are a great adventure if you’re a bit short on time but still want some epic views. It’s a short and steep adventure but definitely a must-do if you’re visiting Lake Louise. The is roughly split into three parts:
- Lake Louise Lakefront to Mirror Lake
- Mirror Lake to Lake Agnes (and Lake Agnes Teahouse)
- Lake Agnes Teahouse to the Big Beehive
Lake Agnes Teahouse:
- Distance: 3.5km (approx 2.2 miles)
- Elevation gain: 400m or 1300ft
- Approx time: 1-1.5hours (we’ve raced up in 45 minutes but that’s if you really motor)
- Difficulty: easy but steep
Big Beehive hike (from Lake Louise)
- Distance: 10km round trip (approx 6 miles)
- Elevation gain: 647m
- Approx time: 3-4hours round trip
- Difficulty: moderate
The Lake Agnes Tea House hike, followed by the hike up to the Big Beehive ( a rock, not an actual beehive) probably takes around 4 hours to the top if you’re very fit, and probably around 5-6 if you want to take it a bit slower. The whole trip is roughly a 10km round trip, and there is a total of around 647m elevation gain.
Note, you have to pass the Lake Agnes Teahouse to get to the Big Beehive, unless you go the much longer route via the plains of the six glaciers hike
Escape the crowds at Lake Louise
Arriving at Lake Louise, you’ll see the stunning pale blue lake stretching away from you. Unless you’ve arrived at sunrise, you’ll likely find yourself in a sea of tourists fighting to get their photos. Be prepared for absolute madness!
If you’re anything like us, you’ll want to get away from the crowds as quickly as possible and find something a little quieter and a little more unique. You’ll have to put in some hard work for that, but it’s worth it, we promise you.
Lake Louise to Mirror Lake
Starting in front of Lake Louise (looking out at the lake), you’ll want to head right and up into the trees. The thick forest may fool you into thinking you haven’t made much ground, but just wait until you catch a glimpse of the lake through the trees. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ve climbed.
Keep pushing ahead and you’ll quickly find yourself at Mirror Lake. The first stopping point on this trail, 0.5km from the tea house.
We’ve done this hike at lots of different times of day, and if you’re a keen photographer and are after a reflection shot, you’ll want to get here as early as possible. Once the sun is above the tree-line, you won’t get the amazing reflection shots but instead, the water will turn a beautiful deep green. Either way, it’s stunning.
Another reason for attacking the hike early is to avoid the crowds. The condition of the path, the proximity to the Fairmont, and the teahouse at the top is the perfect storm for fair-weather hikers and tourists, so expect obstructions in your photos, and to be dodging tourists most of the way up. As with most things in life, it is very definitely a case of, “the early bird catches the worm” with this hike.
Mirror Lake to Lake Agnes and the Teahouse
From Mirror Lake, it’s a short way to Lake Agnes, and far less strenuous than the first part. Head upwards again and enjoy the views on your right hand side. You’ll have stunning views of the valley from here but, if you plan on doing the beehive hike, there are still better views to come! This part of the trail is shared with the horse track, so keep an eye out for horses!
You’ll know you’re at the teahouse when you see a waterfall cascading into the lake below, and a wooden staircase. Congratulations, you’ve made it to the beautiful Lake Agnes!
The Lake Agnes Teahouse
Opening hours: 8am-5pm
Closed: (Canadian) Thanksgiving until early June
We generally like to take a break here and stop at the family owned teahouse for some scones with Jam and a lemonade, but it’s an equally good picnic spot. Here are a few things to bear in mind when you visit the Lake Agnes Teahouse:
Bring cash (it’s cash only) if you want to grab something from the teahouse and expect to pay a little bit more than usual for food and drink, as supplies are carried up every day on foot! If you plan to buy drinks and snacks then $10-$15 per person seems about right. You can see the menu here.
It can also take up to half an hour for the kettle to boil at that altitude, so patience is necessary here! There are some basic outhouses here as well, just a stone’s throw from the teahouse.
The lines at the Teahouse in the summer are atrocious. It’s the easiest hike in the park and is completely accessible to all abilities. Arrive early to avoid waiting in lines.
In the peak summer this year (2019), the teahouse generally opened at 8am, so arriving by 7.45am was a good way to grab a table outside before the line started.
Although the teahouse website says they serve coffee, this year they were very clear with us that they weren’t selling coffee. Get your fix down at Lake Louise if that’s your preference.
Go for a dip in Lake Agnes!
If you don’t mind freezing water, this might be a good spot for a little dip as well! From first hand experience, we can tell you it’s not for the faint hearted. The temperature of the lakes stays fairly constant throughout the year and sits slightly above freezing.
If time is of the essence, then this would be a good time to turn around and head back to Lake Louise.
As 99% of tourists turn around at this point, the next part of the hike is significantly quieter and less traveled, so going a little bit further is definitely worth it! Next stop, the Big Beehive!
Lake Agnes to the Big Beehive
From the Teahouse, follow the edge of the lake around to the right, and keep going until you reach the back left corner. The switchbacks start here, and again, these aren’t for the faint hearted, or those afraid of heights!
Once you’re past the 8 gruelling switchbacks, you’re almost there! Just head left at the top towards the fire lookout over lake Louise, and prepare yourself to be greeted by some of the most stunning panoramic views in Banff National Park.
The edge of the Big Beehive is quite precarious but the views are unbelievable.
The spot is incredibly peaceful, and all of your aches and pains will drift away as you get lost in the views. Cast your eyes back to the shores of Lake Louise and count the camera flashes of all the tourists you left behind and you’ll know you made the right decision.
Can you continue on any further?
From here you can either continue on further, to the plains of the 6 Glaciers and the other teahouse, scramble up to the Devil’s thumb for even more epic views, or start the hike back down to Lake Louise.
The Big Beehive is one of the shortest hikes in the Canadian Rockies, with some of the most stunning views. We regularly take friends from out of town here and it’s the perfect hike if you have a few spare hours on a long summer day.
Getting to Lake Louise
Getting to Lake Louise is extremely straightforward from Banff. Just take the Trans Canada (Highway 1) west, and you can’t miss it. Actually getting to Lake Louise from Lake Louise village is a little more complicated if you visit in the summer.
Typically, if you arrive later in the day, you’ll have to take a shuttle bus from the village up to Lake Louise. The parking lot often fills before sunrise, after which point, taking the shuttle is the only option.
2020 Shuttle bus update: Tickets for the Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Shuttle buses will now only be available by making an online reservation in advance. In 2020, it will no longer be possible to purchase a walk up spot for either bus. Tickets for the 2020 buses will be released on April 1, 2020; please check the Parks Canada Website and register for email alerts for important updates.
Where to Stay in Lake Louise?
There are plenty of places to stay in Lake Louise, but none of them are very reasonably priced.
The obvious choice would be the Chateau Fairmont Lake Louise, which has spectacular views over the Lake itself. This is a great place to stay in summer or winter and has plenty of activities on offer at any time of year. Try night skiing and the winter Ice magic festival, for example!
You can check availability for the Fairmont here.
Our other favourites in the Lake Louise area are Deer Lodge (which has the best rooftop hot tub in the rockies), and the Post Hotel, which has an amazing weekend brunch.
Contact us for more details and trip planning.