Plain Of Six Glaciers, The Other Tea House At Lake Louise

It’s not a complete secret, but many people are not aware there is a second tea house in Lake Louise. In the summer months hundreds of people visit the Lake Agnes Tea House each day, but only a fraction of those numbers hike to the Plain Of Six Glaciers.

The trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House takes you up close to the heart of Mount Lefroy, Mount Victoria and the Victoria Glacier. This is one of our favorite hikes in the Lake Louise area. It offers incredible views, opportunities to spot wildlife and best of all the option to relax with a cup of hot tea. It is a moderately challenging hike that can be accomplished by people of average fitness.

The first few kilometers of the route is along the easy and relatively flat Lake Louise shoreline trail. Although you won’t have the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail to yourself in the summer months, you will leave the vast majority of the lake crowds behind you.

There is nothing particularly difficult about the rest of the hike, but it does cover 400 meters of elevation over a series of switchbacks. It’s only the final set of switchbacks near the ascent to the tea house that are significantly steeper. It can get tiring, take your time and stop for rests as needed.

Where the trail reaches the end of the lake there is a delta that has been created from silt deposited by the glacier melt water.

From here the trail passes beneath quartzite cliffs that are a popular spot for rock climbing. Just past the cliff faces a sign marks “End Of Nordic Ski Trail,” from this point the route starts to climb up into the forest. This is an area with avalanche chutes. Caution needs to be taken in the winter months and early hiking season.

Looking back as you start to make your way along the valley ridge there is a bird’s eye view of Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau Hotel. The little dark specks on the lake are canoes.

The wildlife that you may encounter along the hike are Hoary marmots, Chipmunks, Squirrels, Pika, Mountain Goats and Grizzly Bears. The Mountain Goats tend to be on the steep mountain cliffs near the approach to the tea house.

chipmunk-standing-rock-plain-six-glaciers-tea-house-trail-lake-louise-hiking-wildlife-banff-national-park

Hopefully if you spot a grizzly it is off in the distance, such as this one we saw feeding on a grassy slope. Which is just fine with us, we would rather see them from afar. They can be anywhere along the route but are more commonly spotted near the back of the lake near the delta and the rushing waters of Louise Creek.

As you get closer to the tea house you’ll find people returning who will keep telling you “you’re almost there!” Keep patient and have a sense of humour as you continue to hear this over and over for the next half hour or more. The people coming downhill tend to forget how much quicker they are covering ground compared to the hikers going uphill.

From the valley ridge you can look back at Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau as it gets smaller and smaller, finally appearing like a small dot in the distance.

Along a second ridge the trail continues alongside spots of grass, moss and sometimes even summer patches of snow. Some of the sections can be muddy or slippery.

At the end of the final switchbacks the trail climbs through the forest to an alpine grove and finally to the tea house.

Just prior to reaching the tea house there is an area with several benches where hikers can relax and enjoy the surrounding mountain views.

We tend to be slow hikers, stopping to rest often and to take many photographs along the way. With about an hour spent at the tea house and an additional hour to go to the Abbot Pass viewpoint, it took us 7 hours in total to do this hike. We didn’t start until 2pm and returned back to the lake at 9pm just as the sunlight was starting to diminish.

The Plain Of Six Glaciers Tea House Information And Hours Of Operation

The original tea house was built in 1924 by Swiss guides employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was a rest stop for mountain climbers en route to Abbots Pass. The name Plain of Six Glaciers comes from the hanging glaciers of Mount Aberdeen, Lefroy and Victoria, as well as the Lower Victoria and Lefroy glaciers and the hanging glacier on Popes Peak.

  • Seasonal Operation: Opens in late June or early July depending on the conditions and generally stays open through September and to mid-October for the Canada Thanksgiving holiday, weather permitting.
  • Hours of Operation: Daily from 9am to 6pm in July and August. ┬áIn June and September/October 9am to 5pm.
  • Serves: Sandwiches, soup, chips and hummus, scones, cake, lemonade and tea.
  • Accepts Cash Only, either Canadian and U.S. There is an ATM in the lower level of the Fairmont Chateau.

Sitting in the tea house after a few hours of hiking is a real treat. Similar to the Lake Agnes tea house, it has no electricity or running water. Everything is prepared on site and cooked with propane stoves.

At the beginning of the season a helicopter makes a trip in to stock the tea house with supplies such as flour and sugar. Additional goods are brought up by horses or packed in by the employees each week. The staff do five day shifts and hike in on the same trail as the tourists. They sleep in cabins surrounding the tea house.

While you are sitting on the veranda of the tea house you are at the perfect vantage point to witness avalanches. They are particularly common in the early summer months. You’re likely to hear an avalanche before you see it. Listen for a thunderous sound and then look towards the glaciers to see a spectacular dust cloud of snow as pieces of ice tumble down the mountain.

Hike The Extra Distance To The Abbot Pass Viewpoint For Even Better Views

The Abbot Pass sits between Mount Victoria and Mount Lefroy. You can hike an additional 1.5 km’s past the tea house along a lateral moraine to the Abbot Pass viewpoint. It covers 50 additional meters of elevation and will take approximately one hour return trip to and from the tea house.

From here you can look down across the crevasses of the Lower Victoria Glacier. It also allows you to get within very close view of the hanging glaciers on top of Mount Victoria. You can continue further along the moraine and get even closer to the glacier, but it starts to become very steep and has loose rock. We did not feel comfortable to continue on.


At the top of Abotts Pass sits a hut that was also constructed by the CP Railway’s Swiss guides. Using stones from the pass it was built in 1922 and still stands in its original form. It was used as an overnight shelter for mountaineers climbing the pass which is named for Philip Stanley Abbot. He was the first North American mountaineering fatality when he fell to his death during the first attempt to ascend Mount Lefroy in 1896.

Today the hut is still a popular hiking destination that is operated by the Alpine club of Canada. It is the second highest permanent, habitable structure in Canada. It sleeps up to 24 people and has an equipped kitchen with propane burners and lights. It is rarely accessed from the Lake Louise side known as the death trap due to falling avalanches of rock and ice. A much easier route is used on the other side of the mountains in Yoho National Park in the province of British Columbia.

In the photo below you can see the Abbot Hut that appears as a tiny speck on top of Abbott’s Pass.

Hiking Tips For Plain Of Six Glaciers

  • The temperatures can change dramatically as elevation increases, bring layers to adjust as needed.
  • The majority of the hike is exposed, in the summer months it can get quite hot.
  • Bring lots of water and clothing to keep covered up or wear sunscreen.
  • Hiking shoes are the recommended footwear
  • The tea house only accepts cash as payment, either Canadian or U.S. dollars
  • You are entering bear territory, it’s advised to carry bear spray. Make noise as you hike, especially around blind corners and at the back of the lake near the rushing waters of Louise Creek where bears are frequently spotted.

Directions And Information For The Plain Of Six Glaciers Trail

From the Lake Louise village just off the Trans Canada Highway, take Lake Louise Drive uphill for 4 kilometers to the Lake Louise public parking lot. Cross Louise Creek on the foot bridge and make your way to the front of the lake where the Chateau Hotel sits. Follow the shoreline trail to the back of the lake where it connects up with the Plain Of Six Glaciers Trail.

  • Distance: 5.5km’s one way (3.4 miles)
  • Time: 2 hours one way
  • Elevation Gain: 370 meters (1215 ft)
  • Maximum Elevation: 2100 meters (6890 ft)

Loop Hike To Both The Plain Of Six Glaciers And Lake Agnes Tea Houses

You can connect the Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers tea house trails via the Highline trail to form a 14.6 km loop. It will take a minimum of 5 hiking hours to complete, not including stops at the tea houses.

The trail can be taken in either direction starting with the Plain of Six Glaciers or Lake Agnes Tea House. Some people prefer to go to Lake Agnes first then cross over to the Plain Of Six Glaciers. This way you get to see continuous glimpses of Lake Louise as you descend back down from the Plain Of Six Glaciers. Take note that the highline trail does require a steep and strenuous climb over the Big Beehive summit.

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for sharing this excellent post. The photographs are outstanding. The information you have provided will be very helpful when I hike to the Abbot Ridge Lookout later this year.

  2. Jay Davis says

    Thanks for having such a nice, informative site about the Teahouse. We hiked up to one afternoon years ago, not knowing it was there until we heard people on the way down talking about the wonderful lemonaid and chocolate cake!
    We are going back this year in mid-September, hoping to do the hike and enjoy the Teahouse again. Do you think it will be open? (We are in our mid-60′s and not sure when we may get back again.)
    Thanks again for such an enjoyable web site. –Jay

    • Audrey says

      The Plain Of Six Glaciers tea house usually remains open through the Labour Day long weekend. It is early this year, September 2nd is the actual holiday. If the weather remains nice there is a good chance they will keep it open until mid-September. If that one has closed the Lake Agnes tea house will definitely be open. It generally operates into the month of October, weather permitting.

      I’m glad our website was able to help you out, enjoy your trip!
      Cheers,
      Audrey

  3. Drew says

    This site is wonderful!!! Thanks so much! My wife and I just hiked up to the Plain of 6 Glaciers this morning and took the connector over to Lake Agnes as well. It was absolutely breathtaking! We started at about 9:30 and there really were not that many people on the trail until we got to the tea house at lake Agnes. We actually preferred the hike to Plain of 6 Glaciers much more than the lake Agnes hike due to the decreased traffic and better scenery. It actually only took us 4 hours total to do the whole loop too which was better than we thought and that included plenty of pictures breaks and lunch (we are pretty young though and in good shape). We loved every second of the trip and would recommend it to anyone!

  4. Catherine Delorme says

    Hi,

    What is the best place to hike in the winter in Banff? Is the The Plain Of Six Glaciers Trail is open in march?

    Merci,

    Catherine

    • Audrey says

      Hello Catherine,

      I’m not sure if the trail is open in March. You would need to be well equipped for making your way through winter conditions, very deep snow, ice, possibility of avalanches, etc.

      I don’t have any specific trails to suggest for winter hiking. My husband and I only hike in the non-winter months, we are not experienced to do snow hiking. Unless you are are experienced in it, I would suggest sticking to lower valley trails. An example would be Fenland Trail near Banff. It is short, but nice. Another popular winter hike is the Johnston Canyon Trails where you can hike to the frozen falls. I would recommend wearing ice cleats in March. http://banffandbeyond.com/johnston-canyons-frozen-waterfalls/

      Cross country skiing or snow shoeing are much more popular in the winter months than hiking. We have hiked to the Peyto Lake viewpoint in winter, but it was waist deep snow and we really regretted not having snow shoes, it took us forever to get there. http://banffandbeyond.com/bow-summit-and-peyto-lake-lookout-in-winter/

      Here are some links with winter trails for hiking and cross country skiing for both Banff and Lake Louise areas:

      http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/hivernales-wintertrails/banff.aspx

      http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/hivernales-wintertrails/lakelouise.aspx

      I hope that helps you a bit. The best thing to do is go to the Parks Canada office on Banff Avenue in the town of Banff or the Lake Louise office at the small Samson Mall in the village of Lake Louise. The staff will be able to offer you hiking/trail suggestions based on your experience level, how long you want to go for and can let you know the conditions of the trails at that time.

      Cheers,
      Audrey

  5. Joanne says

    Great post! This hike was amazing, I’m glad I experienced for my first hike within the Canadian Rockies. It definitely did not disappoint! Thanks for sharing

  6. Andrew Petaisto says

    Thanks for the write up on the tea house. I was wondering if you know if it will be open in about a week June 24th-25th or is it only open July-September? I’ve looked around but there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of information about when it opens except on this site.

    Thanks!

    Andrew

    • Audrey says

      Hi Andrew,

      It is very hard to find out each year when the Tea Houses open, there is not a lot of information available. However I have just connfirmed that the Plain Of Six Glaciers Tea House is now open as well! Every day from 9 to 5pm, take that closing time with a grain of salt. I have found it to close early on slow days or in inclement weather.

      Cheers,
      Audrey

  7. Dee says

    Thanks for the very helpful information…My husband and I plan to do that hike in the middle of September this year…very excited about it after reading this. Knowing what to expect has put my mind at ease so I feel confident we can do it. We’re mid 60′s and in pretty good shape. The pictures you posted are awesome and I hope to have some of my own when I come home! I just need to study up some more about the bears situation. Thanks

    • Audrey says

      You’re welcome, glad our information was helpful to you. I’m sure you will be fine doing the Plain Of Six Glaciers hike, you’re likely in better shape than we are. There’s nothing particularly difficult about the trail. The elevation can start to get to you, we found so near the end towards the teahouse but we just slowed down and took our time. There should be a fair amount of people on the trail still in mid-September. Perhaps choose to do the hike on a Saturday or Sunday and that should ensure more people and makes for less chance of bears. It is best to carry bear spray with you as a precaution and in areas where you can’t see far ahead or around corners or in treed areas make noise so you don’t startle a bear should there be one you can’t see around you. There’s no need to get overly concerned, but reading up and being prepared is a good thing just incase you did have an encounter. Here is the Parks Canada link to bear safety: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/mtn/ours-bears/securite-safety.aspx You can also check the current warnings and trail closures for Banff National Park to see if any warnings have been issued for the area.
      Enjoy the hike and the beautiful scenery!
      Cheers,
      Audrey

  8. Bradford Kelly says

    Great post guys! Very informative and well-written. Me and my wife Jill are traveling to Lake Louise Oct. 5-10, and the 6.8 mile round-trip hike sounds ideal for us. As you mentioned in the article, we should bring lots of water, wear layers, wear proper footwear, be prepared for temperature changes and bring bear spray. Any other advice for hiking the trail at this time of year? I noted with interest your written comments above about bears. What is bear activity like here during October? Do you recommend any particular brand of bear spray and where can I get it? I suspect there are fewer hikers in early October which might embolden the bears to frequent the trail more often?

    Thanks,

    Brad

    • Audrey says

      In Lake Louise you can pick up bear spray at Wilson Sports in the village of Lake Louise or at Chateau Mountain Sports inside the Fairmont Chateau Hotel at the lake. Otherwise it is available at sporting, camping/wilderness or outdoor type stores such as Mountain Equipment Co-op, they have locations in Calgary. The brand doesn’t matter. They all have the same content, just make sure the expiry date is good.

      The Plain of Six Glaciers Trail should be fine at the beginning of October, unless there is a dump of snow, (rare that early, but it has happened). As long as the weather is nice there should still be some others on the trail, just not nearly as busy as the summer months. The bears are actively foraging for food in September and October to fatten up for hibernation, it doesn’t necessarily mean there would be more of a chance of a bear near the trails, it all depends where the food is they are searching for. Take the recommended precautions about reading up on bear safety, carry bear spray and making noise during your hike.

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