The hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House is high on the list of things to do for those visiting Lake Louise. It is certainly one of the most popular hikes in the area. How can you resist a hike that ends with the option of sipping a cup of hote steeped tea, a bowl of homemade soup and sandwich or dessert. You can actually do this on two different trails at Lake Louise! Not as many visitors know about the second tea house. If you’re up for more of a challenge check out our tips for hiking to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. It’s a longer but very rewarding hike.
The trail to the Lake Agnes Tea House starts at the front of the lake near the Fairmont Chateau Hotel. Head to your right down the lakeshore pathway, after a few hundred meters you will see another path that breaks off to the right. A sign post marks it as the Lake Agnes Trail.
The trail quickly starts to climb uphill on switchbacks. There is not a lot to see on the first part of the hike as it works up through the trees. Once you get higher in elevation there are breaks where you get glimpses of the lake.
Prior to reaching the teahouse there is a wooden gate, head past it to the left to tiny Mirror Lake. The tea house and Lake Agnes are not much further past Mirror Lake. The final ascent to the teahouse has two sets of steep wooden staircases. Before you head up the steps there is a waterfall you can stop at for some photos and a rest.
Now you can enjoy the best part of the hike, indulging in lunch or tea and goodies. The tea house has no electricity or running water. Supplies are flown in by helicopter at the beginning of the season, but all fresh food is packed up the trail by the staff.
Banana bread and tea is our recommendation, or if it is a cooler day perhaps some hot chocolate. The original tea house was built in the early 1900’s, the structure you see today was constructed in 1981.
After you have enjoyed the tea house you can spend some time exploring around Lake Agnes. This lake was named after Lady Susan Agnes Macdonald. She was the wife of the first prime minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald. She made a visit to the lake in the late 1800’s.
On a clear day you can get a nice reflection of Mount Niblock and Mount Whyte in the water. There is a lookout at the back of Lake Agnes, it’s approximately 500 meters in distance.
What Fitness Level Is Required To Do The Lake Agnes Tea House Trail?
There is nothing particularly difficult about the terrain, but the trail is uphill the entire way. The steady climbing can become tiring and you may feel more out of breath than usual. This is due to the high altitude, which means there is less oxygen. Just take your time and stop for rests as needed. Another complaint people frequently have is the strain on their knees when they are coming back down.
- Distance: One way from the lake to the tea house is 3.6 km (2.2 miles)
- Elevation: Gain 400m (1312 ft)
- Elevation of Lake Agnes and tea house 2135 m (7005 ft)
- Rating Of Hike: Moderate
- Time: average of one hour, less or more depending on fitness level.
Lake Agnes Tea House Seasonal Opening And Hours Of Operation
- The tea house opens for the season in early June and remains open through the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday weekend in October.
- Hours from early June to September Labour Day Weekend (first Monday of the month) 9am to 6pm
- The rest of September to October Thanksgiving weekend 10am to 5:30pm
- Take note: We have gone up in inclement weather and found the tea house to be closed early.
- Only Canadian or U.S. cash or travelers cheques are accepted
Hiking Tips And Information For The Lake Agnes Tea House Trail
- Go early to avoid the crowds during July and August, especially on weekends.
- There is limited seating inside and on the tea house patio, be prepared to share your table with strangers.
- Early June there may be snow patches or wet and muddy sections or freshly fallen snow, which can occur in the Fall as well.
- Wear comfortable footwear such as running or walking shoes, hiking boots are not necessary.
- The mountain weather can be unpredictable, always check ahead. In spring it can change rapidly and become cold and rainy.
- It can be cooler up at Lake Agnes, bring layers to adjust to the temperature as needed.
- In June or September and October you may need light gloves, a hat and sweater and possibly a rain jacket.
Hiking Options Beyond The Lake Agnes Tea House
Trail To Little Beehive
Heading to the Little Beehive will leave the crowds behind, since most people don’t go beyond the tea house. From the Little Beehive summit you will get even more spectacular views looking down at Lake Agnes and Lake Louise as well as the surrounding glacier covered mountains. The distance from the tea house to the Little Beehive is just under 1km (.6 miles) The trail branches uphill on some steep switchbacks, it starts at the shore of Lake Agnes just behind the tea house. There is a shortcut from the Little Beehive that goes back to Mirror Lake so that you don’t have to return to the Tea House.
It can vary from year to year, but generally in the last two weeks of September the larch trees needles have turned their golden colour. Hiking the summit of the Little Beehive will give you a spectacular view of the colours of the trees with the turquoise waters of Lake Louise down below.
Trail To Big Beehive
The distance from Lake Agnes to the summit of the Big Beehive is 1.6km. Allow approximately 40 minutes one way. The trail continues past the far end of Lake Agnes. A series of switchbacks climbs to a junction on the Beehive Summit Ridge. It will take another 5 minutes to traverse eastward along the ridge to the gazebo shelter. The views down to Lake Louise below and over the Bow Valley are stunning. Return back along the ridge you came, do not attempt to shortcut down the cliffs from the gazebo viewpoint.
Devils Thumb Scree
Devils Thumb is not a mountain, but considered a promontory. From the top of Devils Thumb the view of Lake Louise is magnificent with the Chateau Hotel looking like a small square along its shore. The distance from the Lake Agnes Trail is not far, but it’s not a trail everyone will be comfortable taking on. It is a well maintained path until you get to the thumb then it deteriorates and narrows as it goes up a steep pitch. It is technically a scree, but strong hikers would go up it without any concern. If you are not comfortable going up the summit the panoramic views from below are still satisfying.
Highline Trail From Lake Agnes To Plain Of Six Glaciers Tea House
If you are looking for a full day outing you can visit both of Lake Louise’s tea houses. The Highline Trail to the Plain Of Six Glaciers Tea House is 5km’s. From Lake Agnes you have to cross the Big Beehive’s summit ridge at the viewpoint trail junction and descend down the steep 1 km (.6 mile) trail running upvalley from Mirror Lake. Turn right and follow the trail across the lower slopes of Devil’s Thumb where you will meet the intersection of the Plain of the Six Glaciers trail. Keep hiking another 1.4 km’s (.9 miles) to the Plain Of Six Glaciers Tea House.
To return to Lake Louise you will go back from the tea house and follow the Plain of Six Glaciers trail that leads down to the back of Lake Louise and then follow the shoreline trail back towards the Chateau Hotel. The entire circuit is 14.5km’s.