Most hikes in Banff National Park are incredibly beautiful and the Lake Agnes trail to the tea house is no exception. Picture a charming tea house on an alpine lake surrounded by pines and stunning rugged peaks. And if you’re up for it, continue past the tea house for amazing views over Lake Louise from atop the Beehives.
Getting to the Lake Agnes Tea House Trailhead
To reach the Lake Agnes trailhead, you first have to make it to Lake Louise. If driving, exit off AB-1 towards Lake Louise. Lake Louise Drive will take you right to the lake and resort area where there is parking, the famous Fairmont Chateau, the boathouse, and more.
There is paid parking near the shoreline where payment is required between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. from June through mid-October. There are also some free parking spots at other areas a bit away from the lake, such as at the Great Divide trailhead. We have also heard that you can park at the Chateau if you make a meal reservation, though we have not confirmed this. Parking spots near Lake Louise frequently fill up at sunrise during peak season. Even in the low season, it may be very difficult to find parking.
If you don’t want to arrive before the sun comes up, the shuttle is a great alternative. This is what we opted for as we were driving all the way from Calgary and wanted to visit Moraine Lake afterwards. Park at the Park & Ride lot and catch the shuttle. The old Park & Ride lot we parked at seems to be closed permanently.
Shuttles run from mid-May through mid-October and you must reserve your tickets online beforehand. Tickets sell out pretty far in advance, but a limited number of tickets are held for last-minute reservations. These are released daily at 8 a.m. MDT for two days before the scheduled shuttle. Each adult ticket is $8 which will take you to either Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, between the two, and back to the Park & Ride. Click here for more info and shuttle updates.
Once you’re on the Lake Louise shoreline, walk along the Lakeshore Trail on the the north side of the lake until the path forks. The upper/right fork is the start of the trail to the Lake Agnes Tea House.
A national parks pass is required to hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House. This fee is separate from any parking or shuttle fees. Purchase your pass online beforehand and display it in your car. It is $10.50 Canadian dollars per day for an individual or CAD$21 for a group of two to seven people. These passes expire at 4 p.m. the day after you select to visit the park.
If you plan to visit multiple parks in the area over an extended period, it’s worth looking into the Discovery Pass. This pass is good for a year from purchase and costs CAD$70 per adult or CAD$140 for a group pass.
Hiking to the Lake Agnes Tea House
Hike Type: Moderate out-and-back trail
Distance: 4.4 miles (7 kilometers) round trip
Elevation Gain: 1,200-1,300 feet (365-400 meters)
Duration: 2-3.5 hours
Regulations: Dogs are permitted but must be leashed. Stay on the trail. Drones are not permitted. Do not feed wildlife. Camping is only permitted in designated areas in the park.
Most of the trail to the Lake Agnes Tea House consists of long switchbacks through the woods. We arrived just after 9 a.m. on a weekday in September and the area was still pretty busy. The path is pretty well maintained and there are minimal roots and rocks along the way. There were a few horses, so just move to the side if you encounter any.
This trail is probably rated as moderate due to the elevation gain in the given mileage. It was a steady incline, but nothing too strenuous. This is a doable hike with kids.
Only after a while of walking did we get a view of Lake Louise peeking through the trees. We will say that hiking through the woods on this trail was nothing out of the ordinary but the views at the top are worth it! After just under 2 miles (about 3 kilometers), we reached Mirror Lake. Sadly, the water level was incredibly low while we were there, so we didn’t get the full mirror effect on the water. But, the Big Beehive towering above was quite picturesque.
Another short ways up the trail, you’ll reach a waterfall that flows below Lake Agnes. It was pretty crowded here, so we didn’t stop for long before continuing up the wooden stairs to the tea house.
The Lake Agnes Tea House
The Lake Agnes Tea House sits by the crystal clear waters of Lake Agnes. This small lake turns a stunning blue-green color in the sunlight. As we were there in the early fall, the larch trees were just beginning to turn their magnificent golden hue. There are quite a few wooden benches around this side of the lake near the tea house. There are also restrooms nearby if needed.
The original Lake Agnes Tea House was built in 1901 and began serving tea in 1905. Today, the tea house continues to serve many varieties of tea along with soups, bread, cookies, and other baked goods. The Tea House is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. between June 4th and Canadian Thanksgiving (early October). If you want to enjoy a snack or some tea here, make sure you bring cash in Canadian or US dollars. Please pack out all your trash!
Hiking to the Beehives
If you have the energy, we definitely recommend hiking to one or both of the Beehives! These are the towering rocky structures above Lake Louise. We chose to make the hike just to the Big Beehive since we had other activities planned at Moraine Lake. The views were absolutely stunning. Furthermore, the hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House is one of the most popular hikes in the area, but the crowds thinned a bit once we wound around Lake Agnes towards the Beehive.
The Little Beehive
Hike Type: Easy out-and-back from Lake Agnes
Distance: 0.4 miles (0.7 kilometers) from the Lake Agnes Tea House to the top of the Little Beehive
Duration: 30 mins – 1 hour from the tea house and back
As mentioned, we didn’t go up the Little Beehive on this trip, but it is supposedly easier and quicker than the Big Beehive. We also heard that it is the less crowded of the two. Up here, you’ll also get some pretty stunning views over Lake Louise though the views from the Big Beehive are supposedly a bit better. If you have the time, check it out and let us know!
The Big Beehive
Hike Type: Moderate out-and-back from Lake Agnes.
Distance: 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from the Lake Agnes Tea House to the top of the Big Beehive
Duration: 1-2 hours from the tea house and back
From The Lake Agnes Tea House, continue around the north end of the lake. This gave us a pretty view looking back towards the tea house and the peaks in the distance. From here, the trail begins to steeply climb up the backside of the Big Beehive. The switchbacks were pretty steep, but didn’t last long. Near the top of the switchbacks is a junction with the trail leading to the Plain of Six Glaciers trail. Continue to the left up the Beehive. This last portion isn’t too strenuous.
We continued out to the far edge of the Big Beehive where there is a small shelter. The views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains are absolutely beautiful! Before heading all the way back down to Lake Agnes, we perched ourselves on the edge of the Big Beehive to take in the view over Lake Louise. We could see the tiny canoes on the vivid blue water far below.
When you’re done admiring the views, you can either go back down the trail the way you came or loop back down to Lake Louise via the Plain of Six Glaciers and Lake Louise Shoreline trail.
What to Bring
Parks Pass: Make sure you purchase a parks pass before visiting to hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House.
Water: An essential for any hike.
Snacks: If you don’t want anything from the teahouse, the benches around Lake Agnes or the rocks at the top of the Beehives are a great place to refuel before the hike down.
Cash: For if you want to buy anything at the tea house.
Layers: Even summers in the Canadian Rockies can be chilly, so extra layers are a good idea. Also bring a rain jacket. In cooler months, heavier jackets, beanies, and gloves may be needed.
Hiking Boots: Sturdy hiking boots with good tread are a good idea and strongly recommended if you plan to hike to the Beehives. The trails past Lake Agnes to the Beehives are rocky and pretty narrow at points.
Extra Gear: Hiking poles may help if you enjoy hiking with them. Early or late in the season, you may need spikes/crampons to hike the steeper parts of the trail when it becomes icy.
Camera: With stunning lakes and panoramic views, you’ll definitely want to snap some photos!