Lake Louise is absolutely stunning from any angle. After viewing the mountain ranges from the Lake Louise Gondola we headed down to the lake and around the Chateau Lake Louise.
This is one of the most visited parts of Banff National Park with amazing scenery just steps from the parking lot. Keep in mind, however, that you must arrive before 6AM to get a parking spot and before 4AM for parking at Morraine Lake. There is often vehicle congestion but an offsite parking lot and shuttle service is available, so take advantage of those to avoid disappointment.
We skirted around Lake Louise's turquise waters with the towering mountains overhead and the massive glaciers dominating the backdrop to the Lake Louise Agnes Tea House Trail on the right. Signs for the trail are easily visible and the trail immediately starts ascending at a good angle.
The trail is mostly forested with a lot of switchbacks and viewing areas along the way. Some spots can get very rocky and very muddy, so be aware of weather conditions.
The trail is 3.6KM long and an elevation gain of 1300 ft is made. Now this does not seem like a difficult hike, and it isn't for most. But remember you are high above sea level already and the mountain air, although perfectly fresh, is thinner. We would rate this hike as easy-moderate. Advanced hikers will think it is a breeze, but for those inexperienced, just take it very slow and you will be rewarded. Only about 1 km to the final destination is Mirror Lake, a small still water lake way up high in the range.
Near the end of the hike you will be rewarded with a fantastic small waterfall and a stairway descending to the the tea house.
The Lake Louise Agnes Tea House is located in a lovely hanging valley on the shores of Lake Agnes. For those preferring a less strenuous approach, horses are available for hire at Brewster or Timberline Stables in Lake Louise.
One could say that the Alberta Rocky Mountain tradition of having tea on a mountain top began at Lake Agnes. Since 1905, the Lake Agnes Tea House has been serving, with pride, fine loose leaf teas to visitors from around the world.
Lake Agnes was named for original First Lady of Canada - Lady Agnes MacDonald, the wife of Canada’s first Prime Minister. In 1886, Lady MacDonald visited Lake Agnes and was delighted by the beauty of this idyllic lake and the hanging valley it sits in.
The Lake Agnes Tea House was originally built in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, as a refuge for hikers, and started serving tea in 1905. The log building was replaced in 1981 but still features the original windows, tables and chairs.
This is a family-operated Tea House that offers hearty homemade soup, sandwiches on freshly baked bread, and more than 100 varieties of delicious tea. You can sit inside the Tea House or on the small patio but our preference is to sit right along Lake Agnes on the picnic tables or the rocky shoreline. Here, mountains surround you and the beauty of the Canadian Rockies provides the perfect backdrop.
The Tea House is open from June 4 until Canadian Thanksgiving. The trail is hiked in fall and winter months as well, but is done so with caution.
Nearly everyone that works at the Tea House actually live on site. They are university and high school students who reside in rustic cabins and lofts above the Tea House. Supplies for the Tea House are bought up on hikes, by horseback and even helicopter.
Once you have picked out your tea from the list of over a hundred varieties and have downed your quick meal, take in the scenery. You will often find people from nearly every corner of the world here. We met a couple from Brooklyn, New York who said this was their second vacation as a married couple. After being disappointed while visiting Niagara Falls they booked a trip to Banff not a week later.
"This is what I thought Canada would look like," he said. "We spent three days in Niagara Falls and we were so disappointed. Its just ruined. They took nature and built a very bad Las Vegas around it. Now this, this is what I wanted to see!"
We also met an older couple from Switzerland who were right in their element. They indicated that the Canadian Rockies were more beautiful and scenic than back home.
"In Switzerland we have similar mountains and outdoors but here it is so large, so big. It cannot be even compared. We like it here better."
There are now different places to explore while near Lake Agnes. There are many hiking trails taking you to different locations.
5 Quick Tips for a Great Hike:
Wear comfortable shoes that offer ankle support as the trail can be very rough in areas.
Wear clothing in layers as the temperature at the bottom may be hot, while near freezing on the top of the mountain.
Bring plenty of drinks. It may not seem like a long hike in terms of length, but because of the elevation gain it can take between 2 to 4 hours.
Allow time to rest. There are plenty of overturned trees and massive boulders to rest on. Take advantage and take it slow.
Take it easy on the decent. You may be refuelled and energized but remember to watch your footing and take in the views at each viewpoint.
Before we hiked around Lake Louise we took advantage of the Lake Louise Scenic Gondola to see the area from above. And of course we wanted to be near all the attractions and in the middle of the beautiful Canadian Rockies so we chose to stay at the Paradise Lodge and Bungalows just steps away from Lake Louise itself!