Lake Agnes Teahouse - Lake Louise - Hiking Alberta

 

Iconic Lake Agnes Teahouse is perched above Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

The drive west from Calgary to the mountains in Banff National Park is uncharacteristically a late start.  The objective for the day is a hike or snowshoe which will be decided on the spur of the moment when the spirit moves us.  Snowfall is forecast.  The scenic drive continues past the distinctive and perennially impressive profile of Castle Mountain at the junction of Hwy 93 south to Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia, Canada.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Castle Mountain in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The spirit moves us at the exit to world-renowned Lake Louise.  There are plenty of options to consider, ranging from easy to very challenging.  The short walk from the parking area to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise at the north end of Lake Louise is always a WOW! moment with a view south to the Plain of Six Glaciers from running water at Louise Creek.  Predominantly overcast skies, and a light snowfall at higher altitudes, provide a subdued view of the hanging glaciers past the far end of Lake Louise.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Louise view to the Plain of Six Glaciers in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

An added bonus is the remaining remnants of ice sculpture created for the annual Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival, which ended nearly a month earlier.  It is worth our time to view the wide variety of sculptures, too numerous to include here.  A few examples follow.  They are remarkably well-preserved given recent warmer weather.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Ice sculptures at Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, The Ice Bar at the Chateau Lake Louise has ice tables and is located near the ice Maple Syrup Bar

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta,

 

The casual stroll continues past the back of the Chateau Lake Louise to consider the flat, 1.9 KM (1¼ mile) Lake Louise Lakeshore trail along the north shoreline of Lake Louise.  Throughout winter months, frequent and regularly scheduled horse-drawn sleigh rides are provided on the shoreline trail.  Near the beginning of the trail there is an option to hike, or snowshoe, the 3.5 KM (2¼ mile) one-way trail, with an elevation gain of 390 m (1,280 ft), to the Lake Agnes Teahouse at an elevation of 2,120 m (6,955 ft).

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta,

 

Again the Spirit moves us to hike the trail to Lake Agnes Teahouse with hiking crampons favored over snowshoes.  This speculative decision could prevent reaching the chosen destination, but the trail is well-traveled and may be packed to a solid base for the entire distance.  Recent snowfall has been minimal.  There are occasional glimpses of Lake Louise, progressively further below, combined with spectacular mountain winter scenes along the trail which gains consistent, moderate elevation to one major switchback in an avalanche gully at 1.6 KM (1.0 mile).

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta,

 

Snow coated mountain views of Fairview Mountain on the other side of Lake Louise lead past the junction with the horse trail to the basin which contains tiny Mirror Lake hosting the impressive and aptly named Big Beehive looming large behind.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta,

 

From Mirror Lake, a right turn leads to a series of short switchbacks which pass the trail junction to Little BeehiveBig Beehive changes form as we gain elevation around it, and soon arrival at the bottom of the two-tiered, steep stairway leads to a sketchy ascent to Lake Agnes and the historic Teahouse.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta,

 

Hiking crampons have been the preferred weapon for the trail ascent and now become the only sensible choice for climbing the steep wooden stairs whose steps are covered in light snow over mounds of polished ice.  Steps can easily be punched into the ice on a sideways ascent while holding onto the wooden hand rails (for dear life).  The rustic, and very popular log cabin destination throughout the summer is, of course, closed for the winter.  Pity.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta,

 

From this vantage point there are amazing views across the TransCanada Highway, to the mountain range hosting Lake Louise Ski Resort.  WOW!  The world famous resort is a long-established, world-class complex which annually attracts local recreational skiers in addition to the best ski talent on the planet who participate at international competitions.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta,

 

Directly behind, light snowfall masks the rugged definition of the mountain bowl containing snow-covered Lake Agnes, named after Lady Agnes Macdonald, wife of Sir John A. Macdonald, first Prime Minister of Canada who visited this area in 1886.  The named honor is shared with the very skilled Toronto speaker of the time, Agnes Knox, who was escorted, to what was then known as Lakes in the Clouds, at nearly the same time. 

The return trip, initially by the same route, offers up spectacular and breathtaking views of Fairview Mountain as the sun fights to penetrate thinning cloud cover.  This is the definition of winter. 

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta,

 

Just past Mirror Lake, with Big Beehive in the background,  a questionable decision is made to gamble on return via the horse trail.  The lesser quality and more rustic trail is narrow but well-packed.  To veer from center is a three-foot, thigh-deep posthole situation but the trail has more switchbacks and diversity through predominantly spruce and fir evergreen forest supporting and enhancing amazing snow sculptures.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta,

 

The horse trail ends above the back of Chateau Lake Louise where we wander beside cross-country ski track to locate access to the original trail-head.  The view along Lake Louise is always spectacular and a long lens image is captured of the large, blue-ice glaciers hanging from The Mitre, Mount Lefroy and Mount Victoria.  The camera struggles with contrast in the broad range of light.  The editor gives up hope.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta,

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Long lens view of the Plain of Six Glaciers beyond Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

Back at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, we enjoy final views of Lake Louise with ice sculptures on the perimeter and the annually popular Ice Castle on the lake's surface where several cleared ice surfaces provide a popular surface for recreational skating or an impromptu game of hockey. 

The entire 2.0 KM (1¼ mile) length of the lake is track-set for cross-country skiing in the awesome, surrounding, snow-covered, mountain ambiance.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta,

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, The Ice Castle on Lake Louise with the Plain of Six Glaciers in the background at Banff national Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta,

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, A final view of Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

Louise Creek provides foreground for the final view of Chateau Lake Louise before the return drive to Calgary with one stop at the lookout above the Town of Banff for a late afternoon view of Mount Rundle over Vermillion Lakes.

 

Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Mount Rundle across Vermillion Lakes in Banff National Park on the return to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

This excellent impromptu day arrives back in Calgary at dusk as winter days are mercifully and noticeably lengthening.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

It was my first time on the Lake Agnes Teahouse trail in winter and it is a unique experience compared to summer. If we had been able to start earlier, we could have taken in both of the beehives and perhaps part of the highline trail as well. Another day. Thanks for your comment, Leigh.

I did that trail recently on a cloudless blue sky day. I was the first one up to the lake - and what a peaceful place it was. It's got quite a different feel to it compared to the summer.

Personally, I have not challenged Mount Niblock but I have fond memories of hiking around Devil's Thumb and beneath Mount Whyte to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse along the Highline Trail. I have added a repeat of this to the ever expanding 2013 summer bucket list. What an incredible day of musings that will be. Thanks for your comment, D.

After a month of exposure to subalpine weather, the ice sculptures were not at their prime but were still impressive in my eyes. In all, I would estimate there were about 20 in various stages of decline. The Lake Louise area is a fabulous treasure of hiking, scrambling and climbing opportunity year round. This short jaunt to the Lake Agnes Teahouse is the first time I have done the hike in winter and looking around, I realized it has been too many years since I have hiked the incredible trails above and around Lake Louise. While we were at the teahouse, there was an overwhelming urge to continue along the Highline trail but the late start would have limited our progress and it is likely we might have needed snowshoes. I hope you can get here to experience the trails with Ewa. I have fond memories from years back of our crossing the very cold sheep river, then missing the branch to Triple Falls which gave us the opportunity to hike upstream into rugged wilderness terrain. Thank you for your comment, David.

Love the ice sculptures Barry. Hopefully I can get to Calgary with MY Ewa out for a hike or two this year - I know we'll do some research on your blog first.

A favorite place Barry, especially on the way up Mt. Niblock. Lots of musings to be had all along the way.

Hiking in the Lake Louise area of Banff National Park is spectacular. The awesome scenery is endless. Although the hike to the Lake Agnes Teahouse is an outstanding half day trip, there is a full day alternative which links the Lake Agnes Teahouse with the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse via the Highline Trail. Two teahouses in the same day. The direct route is about 13 KM (8.1 miles) return, but a more aggressive alternative could include the viewpoint from the Big Beehive and a visit to the Little Beehive on the home stretch. For avid photographers like youself, Charlie, it is unlikely you and Kim will ever be seen again. I hope you make the opportunity to visit the area. There are too many other opportunities to mention. Thank you for your comment, Charlie.

Always a pleasure, Ewa. You did an excellent job of hiding the fatigue. I can relate. Even though I hike regularly, there are some days stronger than others. Thank you for joining me on the hike to the Lake Agnes Teahouse. The Lake Louise area, in Banff National Park, is a goldmine of recreational opportunity year round in some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. I appreciate the time you have taken to comment. We must share another adventure soon.

Looks like great fun Barry. I always want to have tea in the summer at one of the tea houses. Thanks for the post :)

It was an awesome day which I enjoyed a lot! I remember when we met many years ago, Barry, you told me on one of our initial hikes, that at the beginning, when you climb on steep elevation, and you are panting for breath, and your legs are tired, it is common to imagine conversations (most of which use language unfit to be verbalized out loud), silently directed towards the lead person. Well, I imagined those conversations as we were hiking to the teahouse. Then, at some point, you said you thought we were about half way there. I was not sure I could hike all the way. I am glad I pushed on because soon there was a sign that said we were getting close. That was the turning point when I knew I was going to make it! Thank you for all the times we have enjoyed in the mountains together!

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