The trail of Plain of Six Glaciers starts at Lake Louise. Lake Louise is a short trip from Banff, Alberta and is a big tourist destination for a lot of people. With buses running all the time from Banff and a big car park if you choose to drive. Getting there isn’t a problem but do allow yourself plenty of time as the hike does take at least 6 hours depending on trail conditions and walking speed. Just to note we did this hike in late May 2018 which is before the season kicks off so it wasn’t as busy however a lot of the trail was under snow and hadn’t been maintained by the Parks Canada.
To start off, there are many different hikes in the area but the Plain of Six Glaciers is the one of the longer ones. There are smaller hikes to Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes but we decided to try and do them all in the one day. We decided to head out to the Plain of six Glaciers Tea House first, we weren't exactly sure what we would find out here because the trail hadn't officially opened but thought we would give it a crack. To start the trail, you head out right around the edge of the lake passing the hotel. It is well marked so just following the signs. At first the route is very busy but the further you head out past the lake and down the trail people become scarce.
As you round out past the lake there is a small stream that meets the lake to the right there are big cliffs with rock climbers on the face. As you continue the trek up the mountain, we came up to numerous old avalanches that had come down the mountain covering the path. It was surreal to see these huge amounts of snow that had completely wiped out all the trees in their path. Luckily there was some paths through the snow that had already cut out by previous hikers but there was still the odd patch where we would fall through up to our knees and soaking us. As we continued up it becomes continually gravelly but you eventually come to a series of switch backs which takes you to the top towards the tea house. Due to how early in the season we went, the Tea House was completely covered in snow and closed but it was still nice to get in some rest before we headed back down the mountain. From here though you can continue further up the valley however there was too much snow for us to keep on going.
Make sure you keep your eyes out for the native wild life, there are plenty of bears about in summer. The way down to is via the Highline trail, it takes you to Lake Agnes and Mirror Lake. The trail down was very pleasant and it traverses across the side of the mountain and tails around until Mirror Lake. The views from here are incredible as they look over Lake Louise. This then continues onto Lake Agnes where there is another tea house where you can buy a range of hot drinks and food. The trek home from here is much easier and leads to you back to the carpark.
There are many different routes you can take up the mountain and different degrees of skill. In the end, it’s an incredible view from the top and worth spending the day out there. After your hike it is worth travelling back and going to the Banff Upper Hot Springs to help those sore muscles.
Lake Louise and the Plain of Six Glaciers trail are located in Banff National Park, Alberta. The trail starts at the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, where hordes of tourists will undoubtedly be snapping pics of the bright turquoise water. Don’t let the crowds put you off, by the time you’ve walked around the lakes edge and are heading up through the spruces and firs a lot of people will have disappeared and you’ll be free to admire the stunning cliffs and snow capped mountains. Be sure to look up every once in a while, each cliff seems to have its own collection of rock climbers, who (buff as they may be) look rather fragile when balanced so far up above the rocky ground.
For a good couple of hours, you’ll hike up through the picturesque valley, it can get pretty darned hot, so don’t forget your hat and water. Just when you’re feeling as though your poor old knees might leave you and head for home, you’ll find yourself looking at a 1920s stone teahouse tucked in behind the trees, surrounded by wildflowers. A hot cup of tea or a warm lemonade might not be the first thing you feel like after the long climb up, but once you’re sitting on the shady veranda looking out at the stunning landscape, you’ll make any excuse to have another cuppa. This place is exceptionally purdy, so take your time and have a slice of blueberry cake. Many people turn back from here, but do not be one of those people, regardless of how full you are! The best views yet are just half an hours walk away.
A further 1.5kms up from the teahouse is the Abbot Pass viewpoint. The trail to the lookout is loose and rocky with steep slopes on either side, so mind your step (and be prepared for the snarky criticisms of serious hikers if you’ve chosen to wear sandals). At the very end of the track you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of the lower Victoria Glacier and in the distance a very small, but no less vivid, Lake Louise.