Hiking Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada

Note to my fellow wanderers: This guide was written from my first-hand experiences. I try my best not to over-glamorize any location I travel to because I want HappyWander’s content to be as authentic as possible. My goal is to provide you real information so that you can have the best possible adventures wandering the world. Enjoy!

Looking for a mind-blowing epic hike? Look no further than hiking Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada. Located about 40 minutes north of Banff, Lake Louise is quite a destination for nature lovers as few places on the planet rival its beauty. Pictures simply don’t do it justice (or any of the surrounding Canadian Rockies). In this guide, I will review my route hiking Lake Louise in October, personal experience, and tips to help you have the best hiking possible!

Overview of Lake Louise

Located in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, Lake Louise is world famous for it’s insanely beautiful turquoise waters surrounded by picturesque mountains. In late October, Lake Louise can be a beautiful snow-covered postcard from every angle.

Hiking Lake Louise in Alberta Canada

This is a map (via alltrails.com) of the route I did. After parking, you’ll have a short walk before the unveiling of the famous Lake Louise view, where you will no doubt take a ton of pictures! 

Where to Park

Parking is “free” at Lake Louise, and in my experience, there was plenty of it. I arrived at around 9:00 AM on a Friday in late October, and there was barely anyone there at that time (it filled up more in the afternoon). You will need a Banff National Park pass, which can be purchased for each day you visit the area.

Here is the exact location via Google where I parked:

Distance Traveled

If you start at the parking lot I did above and follow my route (described in more detail below), the hike was about 10.5 miles (or about 17 KM) in length.

How Long Does it Take to Hike

I started the hike around 9:00 AM and got back into my car at around 4:00 PM. However, I took a ton of photos and videos as I hiked this 10.5 mile trail. I also set up a phone stand multiple times, and talked to some fellow hikers on the trail for several minutes at a time. There is no doubt you could do this trail much faster than 7 hours, but if you like to take your time, plan on about 7-8 hours.

Elevation Change

The highest point of this trail is Big Beehive, which is 7448 feet above sea level, with a prominence about the surrounding terrain of 1,283 feet. In addition, you’ll also climb Little Beehive, which is 7251 feet above sea level, with a prominence of 1086 feet above the surrounding terrain. Overall, you can expect to climb about 2550 feet, or 777 meters.

Hiking Lake Louise in Alberta Canada Elevation

Lake Louise elevation profile (out and back – via alltrails.com)

Difficulty

Difficulty is a relative term, but this one was not too challenging for me. In late October, it was quite snowy and icy, but I had crampons so that was somewhat negated.

I’d give this hike a 6 / 10 in difficulty.

Permits

As mentioned above, you will need to purchase a day or yearly pass for Banff National Park. At the time of purchasing this in October 2023, I spent about $10.00 USD per day. Other than that, you’re good to go!

Cost

The only definite cost is the above mentioned daily or yearly pass for Banff National Park access.

When to Go

The Canadian Rockies are popular year round due to the many seasonal activities available. If you’re hiking, summer would be great, but it’s notoriously very busy during this time, and the cost of staying in nearby towns (like Banff) is highly inflated. I chose to hike Lake Louise in late October, although it was super cold at this time (around 5 degrees F, or -15 C, when I arrived at 9 AM). Just a few weeks before it was around 60 degrees F, or 15 C. The benefits of going in late October are that the prices to lodge are significantly lower, and the area is also significantly less busy. If I could choose a date again, I’d go in early October as many other hiking trails are still accessible then (such as nearby Moraine Lake).

Recommended Gear

Hiking Lake Louise in October certainly has it’s unique challenges, mainly the snowy cold terrain! I’ll highlight the gear that I brought, as well as additional gear that might benefit you:

  • Layers: I’d recommend wearing at least 3 layers if you hike in October, especially if a cold front swings through. In the summer I would still dress in layers as different elevations will be colder than the base.
  • Thermals: Speaking of layers, if you hike Lake Louise in October and it’s cold, wear thermal pants and a thermal shirt underneath your other layers.
  • Waterproof coat: You never know what the weather will be like out hiking. That is especially true at Lake Louise. It was snowing for a portion of my hike, and snow was also falling off of trees on top of me, so having a waterproof coat definitely helped. Make sure it’s plenty warm!
  • Hiking backpack with straps: If you don’t have a backpack with straps, I recommend you get one. They aren’t too expensive on Amazon. Your shoulders and back will thank you later. This hike has some steep climbs so having the proper backpack is key.
  • Portable charger: If you take a lot of photos / videos like me, you’ll want to bring a portable charger for your phone. I also use the alltrails.com app to navigate so having enough battery is important. My phone got down to 2% however, because it was so cold that my phone would not charge!
  • Water bladder: If you want to save on weight and also help your backpack be more balanced than carrying a big bottle of water in your bag, a water bladder is important. I personally use a 3L water bladder that lasts an entire 10 hour day hike. It’s also super convenient to be able to sip on water whenever you need it without taking your bag off. In the case of hiking Lake Louise, the exposed tubing froze solid after 10 minutes! I put the tubing inside my shirt to thaw it out with my body heat, which worked after an hour or so. If it’s below freezing, make sure you sip on your water every few minutes until you get warm water from your water bladder.
  • Hiking shoes: If you have anything other than waterproof hiking shoes, you will be in for a tough time. I had hiked many times with my shoes, but this terrain gave me blisters on my heels. My next recommendation would be:
  • Multiple pairs of socks or thick socks: As mentioned above, I got blisters on my heels about 3 hours into the hike going up Big Beehive. It was definitely painful, so I’d recommend wearing multiple socks or a special product to prevent heel blisters.
  • Snacks: I’d recommend bringing some snacks on your Lake Louise day hike. You’ll be burning a ton of calories, so it’s important to replenish your energy. My personal go-to’s on this hike were: Peanut M&Ms, protein bars, protein shakes, gummy worms, and honey roasted peanuts.
  • Sunscreen: You don’t have to worry about the sun too much for the first couple miles, but once you get on top of the Beehives or around Lake Agnes, you’ll be exposed to the sun for a decent bit. I had a slight sunburn after my hike at Lake Louise, even in below freezing temperatures in October.
  • Bug spray: We didn’t experience any bugs on our hike in October, but if you go during summer I’d recommend it.
  • Bear Mace: Uh, just in case!
  • First Aid kit: It’s a good idea to bring Band-Aids, a bandage, and some cut cleaning items. I used a few bandaids for my heel blisters, which definitely helped.

Nice to Have Gear:

Here are a few items that would make your Lake Louise hiking experience even better:

  • Shoe impact insoles: These probably wouldn’t have been needed in late October as I was hiking on snow. But even so, shoe insoles can save your knees some pain on the terrain you’ll experience here.
  • Hiking poles: I personally didn’t use hiking poles but I did see some others with them. There are certain parts that hiking poles would have been great on, such as the Beehives and climbing up next to Lake Agnes.
  • Phone Tripod: I used a phone tripod with a remote to take pictures as I hiked Lake Louise solo. If you want some epic shots of you solo, with your partner, or with a group of friends, this is a great addition for your hike.

The Play By Play: My Route Hiking Lake Louise

So what’s it like hiking Lake Louise? One word: Epic. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, especially with the late October snow. When I arrived on a Friday morning around 9:00 AM, there weren’t too many people there yet. In this section, I’ll outline my route and experience at each part of the trail.

Lake Louise Starting Point

As soon as you park (ample places to park in October), you’ll walk through a few trees and be greeted by an unbelievable view of Lake Louise.

This is especially unbelievable if you’ve never been here before, like I hadn’t. In late October, you have a good chance of encountering a snow covered version of Lake Louise, which is stunning.

Here is my first views walking towards the lake:

Once you get in front of the lake, you’ll want to take an epic shot to make your friends and family jealous!

I considered myself so lucky and blessed to be standing here in the midst of such beauty. It got even better when the sun rose above the mountains and started hitting the icy waters:

Lake Agnes Trail

It seemed like most people there didn’t go beyond the lake area, which has a trail around most of it. I however took a the Lake Agnes Trail, which was just a short walk from the main entrance of the lake. It starts taking you up in elevation immediately, zig-zagging through the woods towards Little Beehive.

As you continue climbing up in elevation, you’ll start rising above the trees, which starts opening up views of Lake Louise from behind you:

As you continue on Lake Agnes Trail, you’ll run into Mirror Lake, which was frozen (behind the 2 stumps below):

Lake Louise Entering Mirror Lake on Lake Agnes Trail 2

Behind Mirror Lake, you’ll have a great view of the Big Beehive, which you’ll climb a little later in the hike. Don’t worry, it’s not as intimidating as it looks from here!

Little Beehive Trail

Instead of taking a left on the trail towards Lake Agnes, head right on Little Beehive Trail. This trail is not too steep and takes you through the woods with some great views on your right side as you head towards the end of Little Beehive.

Little Beehive

I heard that a lot of people skip Little Beehive because they’d rather go to Big Beehive. I think some of my best pictures were from Little Beehive.

Hiking Little Beehive at Lake Louise

I’d recommend taking the extra 30 minutes to do Little Beehive if you want a few great pictures along the top of the trail.

Lake Agnes Tea House

I could have really used some hot tea at this point! Unfortunately, Lake Agnes Tea House was not operating in late October. This tea house is beautifully situated facing Lake Agnes, with a bridge over a small waterfall from water pouring from Lake Agnes down the hill to Mirror Lake.

Lake Agnes Tea House in October

Big Beehive Trail

Little Beehive Trail started a few hundred feet / meters before Lake Agnes Tea House. It’s an insanely beautiful trail, especially around Lake Agnes. I couldn’t believe the views of this place:

Big Beehive Trail takes you about half way around the lake before you start climbing up to Big Beehive. It is pretty steep and takes around 20 minutes to climb up, so be prepared to struggle a little, especially in the snow!

Big Beehive

Big Beehive was somewhat similar to Little Beehive, but with a closer view of Lake Louise, which made pretty cool photos! I met some lovely fellow hikers on the top of Big Beehive, and they were kind enough to take my photo.

Hiking Big Beehive Overlooking Lake Louise

The views at Big Beehive are somewhat similar to Little Beehive but a lot closer to Lake Louise and Fairview Mountain, which create a pretty backdrop for photos. Here’s what the view looks like:

If you continue towards the end of Big Beehive, there is a gazebo looking structure that is kind of cool to see, with views on 3 sides:

After I started descending Big Beehive towards Highline Trail, I didn’t really see anyone for the next 45 minutes. It’s a wooded area that’s pretty easy because it’s all downhill. I was expecting to encounter a giant Grizzley around one of the narrow trails through the woods but, nope. Bear mace was ready at all times, however!

Highline Trail

Once you descend down on Big Beehive trail, you’ll run right into Highline Trail. I took a right, which takes you towards the Trail of Six Glaciers Tea House. This part of the hike opens up to the Plane of Six Glaciers which is spectacular. I was in awe of what surrounded me:

Here is a panoramic view of what you’ll see on Highline Trail:

While most of the views were on the left side of the trail, the right side has some interesting ice formations happening:

If you follow this trail you’ll run into the Plane of Six Glaciers Tea House, but I turned around and headed back towards the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail as my feet were getting a little blistered from the uphill climbs.

Plain of Six Glaciers Trail

Once you get on the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail, it starts taking you back towards Lake Louise. There are some great views on this trail also:

This trail is lower than Highline Trail, so you’ll be in and out of the trees as you descend towards the lake. The pine trees in Alberta are beautiful, tall and slender like something Bob Ross would paint:

The trail continues next to the back parts of Lake Louise, which was great because I saw very few people in this area.

The water of Lake Louise is unlike any water I’ve ever seen. It’s turquoise in color and crystal clear. Many parts of the lake are extremely peaceful, which is great for seeing the reflection of Fairview Mountain.

Lake Louise Mountain Reflection in the Snow

All in all, what a magnificent hike Lake Louise is. This one ranks as one of my all time favorites. I mean, look at this beauty!

Lake Louise in October with Snow

Continue on the the Plain of Six Glaciers trail for about another mile and you’ll end up at the starting point near The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel.

After Hike Dinner

After a big hike, no doubt your appetite will be massive. I was lucky enough to be staying in downtown Banff and had booked a reservation at Chuck’s Steakhouse.

Chuck's Steakhouse in Banff, Interior Shot

I was starving, and that’s good because Chuck’s Steakhouse has massive portions. I ordered an Espresso Martini to wake up, along with this amazing garlic bread called “The King of Garlic Bread” which included Garlic Butter, gruyère, old cheddar, and bacon. If you go to Chuck’s, order this, especially before or after a big hike! You’ll thank me later. I also ordered a 16 ounce Ribeye steak, which was crazy delicious:

Chuck's Steakhouse in Banff 16 Ounce Ribeye with The King of Garlic bread

All in all, hiking Lake Louise and topping it off with a dinner at Chuck’s Steakhouse was an epic day I’ll never forget.

About My Experience Hiking Lake Louise

Overall, hiking Lake Louise was just so great. Coming from the Eastern United States, I’ve never seen anything like the Canadian Rockies. Every twist and turn lit up my eyes like a Christmas tree.

Favorite Parts

Here are a few of my favorite parts of hiking Lake Louise:

The Lakes: Ok this one is obvious. But I truly loved the lakes. Lake Louise is obviously famous for it’s beauty, but I may have liked Lake Agnes even more for several reasons:

  • Way less people than Lake Louise
  • With less people, it was very quiet and peaceful
  • The mountains surrounding Lake Agnes are stunning

Beehive Views: Climbing up the Beehives has some amazing views. There is not necessarily a “top” to these mountains as they are more rounded than other mountains in the area, but there are several spots towards the top of both mountains that you can take amazing pictures at.

The Views: I was blown away by the overall views of this place. They were stunning: The aqua colored, clear water, the snow on the pine trees, frozen Lake Agnes, steam coming off as the sun hit Lake Louise, and the mountain peaks stunned me.

Least Favorite Parts

This trail didn’t have any parts I didn’t like. I did hike solo so I was slightly concerned with encountering wildlife (i.e. Grizzley Bears) in certain areas, such as Highline trail where I didn’t see many other hikers, but I didn’t see any! So there were no least favorite parts of this trail for me. I enjoyed every minute of this hike. Oh, I also got blisters on my heels from the somewhat steep inclines on this hike, but that’s just part of the deal.

Overall Score

I loved this hike, one of my favorites ever. I give it a 9.8/10. Epic at every turn.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada

I can’t unsee this beautiful place. Lake Louise and the surrounding areas left an everlasting impression on me with its beauty. I know when you see this place with your own eyes, you will be blown away. I always say that hiking solo is a spiritual experience. Hiking Lake Louise solo will take you as close to heaven as you can get this side of heaven.

Anthony Bart
Author: Anthony Bart

Hello! Welcome to HappyWanders! I'm Anthony and I'm on a mission to live a life full of adventures. As an ex-corporate worker and current entrepreneur, I've been working to design a life with more time for adventure and less time for the 9-5 grind. If you're ready for happy wanders, you're my type of person!

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