Lake Louise and The Big Beehive Hike

Lake Louise is a lake of many names. The first colonial explorers named the area Emerald Lake for its crystal clear color. But for thousands of years prior, First Nations members called it “The Lake of Little Fishes.” Whichever name you go by, one thing is certain – the lake is both beautiful and famous. And, as one of the best-known sites in Banff National Park, planning a trip to Louise takes a bit of prep work. Show up at the wrong time and you may find heavy crowds and a parking headache. However, with a bit of research, you can avoid the busiest spots and enjoy the lake’s serene beauty. Today, let’s take a look at how to plan a trip to Lake Louise. We will also look in detail at several hikes around Lake Louise, including the Big Beehive Hike.

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Lake Louise and mountains reflect in the lake, Banff National Park.
Lake Louise at Sunrise

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Packing Travel Tip:

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What is the Best Time To Come to Lake Louise?

If you ask a local they will tell you that in the summer, Lake Louise parking lot often fills up at 5 am on weekends and 6 am on weekdays. However, when I came to the Lake at 6 am on a weekday I saw plenty of spots open, some until 8 am. Perhaps it was just a slow day – or perhaps the parking is not as bad as people make it seem. To guarantee a spot, try to get here early. But keep in mind that you may get lucky even if you oversleep.

Alternatively, the parking lot becomes less busy again in the evenings. After seven pm you will likely have no trouble. You won’t, however, get the beautiful sunlight reflection in the evening. But sunset at Lake Louise has its own charm.

Read More:

Banff National Park Guide and Map

Lake Louise framed by trees and mountains - Banff National Park, Canada.

Lake Louise Shuttle

Your third option is to come during peak hours and take a shuttle. You’ll need to park in the village (which is super cute) and hop on the bus. This is a great way to explore the lake if you want to come around midday. However, the line for shuttle does get busy on the weekends, so keep that in mind. And unless you are very lucky you won’t get a spot during the day because the road is closed.

A few readers told me that if you circle around a couple of times you may get lucky and the road will open. On the other hand, this might also result in a total waste of time. One reader mentioned that you can take a shuttle from Moraine Lake to Lake Louise – but that line gets long too.

Travel Tip:

While driving in the morning towards the parking lot, I saw several signs that said: “the parking lot is full.” As it was still dark, I figured they were wrong and kept going. I think the signs aren’t updated as they should be, so if you see them it’s safe to ignore them, especially early in the morning.

A cabin on the shores of Lake Louise during sunrise.
Sunrise at Lake Louise.

The Big Beehive and Other Lake Louise Trails

Most people who get to Lake Louise stay in the area of the Lake Louise Chateau which is only a few steps from the parking lot. In this area, you’ll find a beautiful lookout point. In addition, at the hotel, you can pick up breakfast and lunch and enjoy stunning views with your meal. Although this is an ideal location for those with limited mobility there is much more to do in Lake Louise.

You have many options for hikes around Lake Louise. Some of the most popular include the moderate/advanced Big Beehive and Small Behive trails, followed by the easy Lakeshore trail. I can recommend all of them, but they are best for two different types of hikers. Let’s look at the harder trails first.

A trail sign at Lake Louise indicates hiking trails.
Look for this sign at Lake Moraine as you get started on your hike.

Hikes Around Lake Louise – The Big Beehive Trail

The Big Beehive trail starts at the shores of Lake Moraine. Here, begin with a short but steep walk (about 45 minutes) away from the water to the first viewpoint. At this stop, you see just a smidge of Lake Moraine from above.

The first view of Lake Louise from the Big Beehive trail.
The tiny sliver of the lake, at the first viewpoint of the Big Beehive Trail.

Another 45 minutes walk up from the first viewpoint, and you’ll find yourself at the shores of the small but pretty Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake on the Big Beehive trail, Alberta, Banff National Park.
Mirror Lake, Lake Moraine, Alberta, Banff, Canada

After a brief pause at the Mirror Lake, continue up to Lake Agnes. First, you’ll pass by a waterfall.

A small waterfall in Banff National Park.

Then, to the right of the waterfall, walk up the old fashioned wooden stairs.

The stairs to Lake Agnes Tea House, Banff National Park.

And finally, you reach Lake Agnes and the Lake Agnes teahouse. If you were expecting a quaint teahouse you might be disappointed. The place is packed, and the line is long. They also accept only cash – so keep that in mind when you pack for the hike.

Dozens of people waiting in line to Lake Agnes Tea House, Banff National Park
This is not really what I was expecting when I set out on the hike! The line to Lake Agnes teahouse.

The lake, however, is beautiful.

Lake Agnes on the Big Beehive Trail in Lake Moraine, Banff
Agnes Lake, Lake Moraine, Banff National Park.

To continue to the Big Beehive, follow the signs and walk around Lake Agnes. Alternatively, from the tea house, take the path up to the Little Beehive. Will follow that one later. For now, let’s keep walking along the lake to the Big Beehive.

A trail runs along lake Agnes, Banff National Park, Canada.

At first, the trail is flat and easy. But once you walk to the end of the lake, things get a little more advanced. This is where many people turn around.

The gravel path up to The Big Beehive, Banff National Park, Canada.
Do you see that path in the gravel? That’s the way up.

As you rise, you’ll have another look at Lake Agnes – which looks very blue from up here.

Lake Agnes from above seen from the Big Beehive Trail.
One last look at Lake Agnes before the final ascent to the Big Beehive.

As lake Agnes falls out of view, you will eventually come upon this sign.

A trail marker close to the end of the Big Beehive Trail.

From here you can proceed past the sign towards the Big Beehive. If you walk to where the arrow is pointing, you will find yourself on the Six Glaciers Trail. If you are really looking for a challenge, you can take the Six Glaciers Trail all the way back to Lake Louise. I spoke with some people who just finished The Six Glaciers hike and its a hard one. They told me it takes about 4 hours, but there was no trail time marker here.

But for now, proceed straight past the sign. Finally, you reach the Big Beehive and this view opens up to you. You are done, right? Not quite.

The first view of the milky Lake Moraine from above.

Keep walking just a tad longer until you reach this shelter.

A small shelter at the end of the Big Beehive trail.

And now you are done. Your reward is not just the views of Lake Louise, but the tiny mirror lake (bottom left) and the Lake Louise Chateau.

The second view of Lake Moraine includes the Lake Louise Chateau Hotel.

Now, you can either turn around and go back to Lake Louise the same way we just came or via the trail of the Six Glaciers. However, I wanted to go up to the Little Beehive to compare the views, and so I made my way back to Agnes first.

The Little Beehive Trail

In order to explore the Little Beehive hike, I walked back to Lake Agnes and to this sign. As you can see, from here the hike to the Little Beehive is only 1 km and the hike to the Big Beehive is 1.6 km. Although the distance was similar, the Little Beehive was much flatter and easier to walk.

A trail marker next to the Lake Agnes Teahouse.

Unlike the walk to the Big Beehive, the hike to the Little Beehive is mostly forested. The ascent is flatter and instead of walking on rocks, wildflowers surround your path.

The view of Lake Moraine as you approach the little Beehive.

I was pretty tired by this point, so it took me about 45 minutes to reach the Little Beehive. As you can see, the views (while beautiful) aren’t as impressive as the views from the Big Beehive. They are, however, very similar. Therefore, I would only pick the Big Beehive or the Little Behive trail to do next time.

The view of Lake Moraine from The Little Behive

With the Little Beehive trail finished, there was nothing more to do than to get back to Lake Louise and start on the Lakeshore Trail.

Lakeshore Trail at Lake Louise

This flat, easy trail is just an ideal casual walk. Similar to Lake Moraine Lakeshore trail, here you can explore the lake without a real physical challenge. The trail extends for 6 kilometers. Eventually, it leads to the advanced trail of the Six Glaciers, which in turn takes you to the Big Beehive. However, even if you chose to walk here just a few kilometers, you will be rewarded with beautiful lakeside views.

The easy and flat Lake Louise Lakeshore trail is a pleasure to walk.
The mostly flat Lakeshore trail at Lake Louise is beautiful – and rewarding.

Lake Louise Packing List

The weather at Lake Louise can change quickly. These are my recommended necessities for the hike.

FAQ

When does Lake Louise Freeze?

Summers in Lake Louise are short, and winters are long and brutal. This means the lake is frozen for over half a year. The most popular time to visit the lake is in the months of July and August. Shoulder season is May through June and September through October.

What is the Altitude of Lake Louise?

Lake Louise is located at 1,731 meters above the sea level. As pacific air rises over the continental divide, the area gets more than 700 mm annual precipitation.

One more thing

If you have read this far, I have a favor to ask you. If you have found the article helpful, please leave a comment or a question. Your comments and questions help tell the search engines that the article is valuable. In addition, they make me feel awesome – I love knowing you are reading my work. Thank you again for reading, and I’ll see you on the road – and on the trail.

Viktoria Aka Traveltipster.

A cabin on Lake Louise at sunrise, a Pinterest friendly graphic.
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4 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Jessica de Vries
    December 30, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    Hi Viktoria, thank you for your wonderful explanation about the big beehive. I could not find a good explanation for this trail. We will visit Lake Louise september 2020 and will take the trail when the weather is ok.

    regards,
    Jessica
    The Netherlands

    • TravelTipster
      Reply
      TravelTipster
      December 30, 2019 at 3:26 pm

      So glad you found this explanation useful, Jessica. Enjoy your trip!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Julia Ohst
    August 16, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    Awesome write-up, Viktoria!

    • TravelTipster
      Reply
      TravelTipster
      August 17, 2019 at 2:21 pm

      Thank you so much Julia!

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