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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another 45 minutes walk up from the first viewpoint, and you’ll find yourself at the shores of the small but pretty Mirror Lake.
After a brief pause at the Mirror Lake, continue up to Lake Agnes. First, you’ll pass by a waterfall.
Then, to the right of the waterfall, walk up the old fashioned wooden stairs.
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.
The lake, however, is beautiful.
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.
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.
As you rise, you’ll have another look at Lake Agnes – which looks very blue from up here.
As lake Agnes falls out of view, you will eventually come upon this sign.
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.
Keep walking just a tad longer until you reach this shelter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lake Louise Packing List
The weather at Lake Louise can change quickly. These are my recommended necessities for the hike.
- Rain Jacket
- Fleece Sweatshirt
- Water-Resistant Base Layers
- Gloves (perfect for early mornings)
- Hiking Socks
- Water-resistant hiking pants
- Hiking bag
- Water Bottle (you haven’t lived until you drank glacier water)
- Water-resistant hiking sneakers
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.