Lake Louise Circuit: Hike EVERYTHING at Lake Louise in 1 Day

Lake Louise – Banff’s most famous spot. Everyone knows about this beautiful blue lake, but did you know the view of Lake Louise is better from up high? The Lake Louise Circuit allows you to hike everything at Lake Louise AND see the bright blue alpine water from above.

Another fun fact for you – in the immediate vicinity of Lake Louise you can also find 2 other lakes as well as 6 glaciers. These are 5 separate hikes OR you can complete the Lake Louise circuit and hike everything at Lake Louise in 1 day! This is what I did and I’d highly recommend hiking Lake Louise in this fashion.

Before we get into specifics about the Lake Louise Circuit, it’s important to note that Lake Louise is in Banff which is a National Park. You’ll therefor need a Park’s Pass for each day you’re in the Park which can be purchased at the Park gates, online, or at the visitor centre.

Now, let’s hike everything at Lake Louise!

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~ Taylor ♡




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How To Get To Lake Louise

Parking for the Lake Louise Circuit and the trailhead marker:

You can bet that Banff’s 4 million+ annual visitors flock to Lake Louise’s blue alpine waters, making it the most popular place in Banff. Due to this finding parking is extremely difficult. You can drive here, but if you’re coming from the town of Banff, I’d recommend taking the Roam bus.

The Roam bus will cost you basically the same as it would to pay for parking (implemented as of 2021) and will save you the hassle of circling the lot a thousand times looking for an open spot.

If you aren’t coming from the town of Banff you’ll have to drive or rent a car to get to Lake Louise.




Where to Stay in Lake Louise

 
  • Luxury Stays – the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the most iconic hotel in Banff. Staying here gives you direct access to Lake Louise, local hiking trails, and on-site parking. The Moraine Lake Lodge is a hard-to-book, but beautiful cabin stay located directly next to Moraine Lake. Staying here gives you the ability to drive your own car to the lake, meals are included and so are the pricey canoe rentals. Book this hotel as far in advance as possible.
  • Mid-range staysParadise Lodge & Bungalows is located a mere 500m from Lake Louise, but it comes in at a much lower price point than the Fairmont Chateau. Alternatively, the Lake Louise Inn offers the best value in town.
  • Budget staysHI Lake Louise is the only hostel in town.
  • Campreservation info.

A popular choice among travellers is to spend the day in Lake Louise, but lodge in Banff. There are more things happening in Banff opposed to Lake Louise such as restaurants, bars, events, etc. Here are my top Banff lodging recommendations:

Travellers often also lodge in Canmore during there stay which is 20 minutes from Banff. Lodging in Canmore is often cheaper and more available than lodging in Banff; especially during high season.


About The Lake Louise Trails

The Lake Louise trails are busy and well marked. You won’t get lost here, but if you do there are tons of other people around to ask for help. Since the trails are super busy, this is also a great place to try out solo hiking.

The terrain changes slightly as you move from one area to another, however everything BUT Devil’s Thumb is suitable for beginners. Devil’s Thumb is considered a scramble and features steep terrain covered in loose rock – this portion is not for the faint of heart, but it does offer incredible overhead views of both Lake Louise and Lake Agnes.

I recommend to hike everything at Lake Louise in a day because the trails overlap and you’ll have to re-hike sections to complete the individual hikes. However if you prefer to hike individual trails on separate days, here are the maps you’ll need:

hike everything at Lake Louise - Lake Louise circuit
Mount Niblock (left) and Mount St Piran (right) from Devil’s Thumb

Lake Louise Circuit

The Lake Louise Circuit is not featured on Alltrails or any other hiking app – The Holistic Backpacker is the self-proclaimed trail name-er of this beast.

The Lake Louise Circuit allows you to hike everything at Lake Louise and takes around 8-9 hours of continuous hiking to complete. Over the course of the Lake Louise Circuit you’ll cover 26km+ with about 1300m+ (rough estimate) of elevation gain. This seems intimidating, but I assure you it’s totally doable and well worth the effort.

Now, let’s get into the good stuff.

Mirror Lake & Little Beehive

The Lake Louise Circuit trailhead starts to the right of Lake Louise. You’ll want to start hiking up the Lake Agnes trail, NOT the Plain of 6/Lakeside trail; keep right and look for the teahouse signs.

The Lake Agnes trail is no walk in the park. You’ll continuously gain elevation, but it’s not overly strenuous and can be completed as long as you’re somewhat fit.

hike everything at Lake Louise - Lake Louise circuit
Mirror Lake backed by the Big Beehive on the Lake Louise Circuit

Within 3kms of starting the trail you’ll reach Mirror Lake. I hiked The Lake Louise Circuit late in the season which meant the lake was almost empty. If you hike earlier in the season the lake will be much more full and therefor a little more striking to view.

After Mirror Lake you’ll want to continue (right) and take a right at the next 2 forks; watch for the Little Beehive signs as you climb the switchbacks. You’ll reach the second fork in less than 1km, then it’s only a quick walk to the Little Beehive Lookout!

The best place to take photos is in the clearing. Here you’ll see one very prominent rock that looks “misplaced.” This is the location for the classic Little Beehive photo!

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Lake Louise from Little Beehive
hike everything at Lake Louise - Lake Louise circuit
Little Beehive Lookout backed by Big Beehive and Devil’s Thumb (far right)

The Little Beehive is the lower of the two beehives and is the perfect place to watch sunrise. You’ll have an overhead view of the beautiful Lake Louise and you can watch the sun cast its morning alpenglow over the Victoria Glacier. At the top of Little Beehive you’ll have gained a total of 535m.

Lake Agnes

After the Little Beehive you’ll want to head back toward the second fork and continue walking straight toward Lake Agnes. Within 0.2km you’ll reach the teahouse!

hike everything at Lake Louise - Lake Louise circuit
Lake Agnes

The Lake Agnes teahouse is open during the summer; closed from Thanksgiving to early June. Here you can find all sorts of delicious treats as well as 100 types of loose leaf tea! Just be aware of the aggressive birds – one scratched my hiking partner’s face trying to get her food!

The day I hiked the Lake Louise Circuit Lake Agnes was covered in low fog, but normally you’ll have views of jagged peaks that surround the most unique dark green water.

hike everything at Lake Louise - Lake Louise circuit
Teahouse snacks!!!

If you’re lucky you’ll get to watch helicopters land near the teahouse to drop off supplies.

Big Beehive

After Lake Agnes is when more of the “big hiking” starts. Next you’ll walk around the shore (right hand side) of Lake Agnes and take switchbacks up the mountain. Along the way you’ll cross over the large slabs of rock at the back of the lake and have the chance to view the teahouse from the opposite side of Lake Agnes.

hike everything at Lake Louise - Lake Louise circuit
Trekking around Lake Agnes

Once you reach the top of the switchbacks, head left. Along the way to the Big Beehive you’ll come across the perfect spot overlooking Lake Agnes. Be sure to stop here and take a photo!

hike everything at Lake Louise - Lake Louise circuit
Overhead view of Lake Agnes

In just under 2km with 200m (approximate) gain, you’ll arrive at the Big Beehive. The Big Beehive overlooks Lake Louise from the rear end of the lake at a higher elevation point than the Little Beehive. This is excellent because the further you hike up, the bluer Lake Louise’s water looks below.

hike everything at Lake Louise - Lake Louise circuit
Lake Louise from Big Beehive

You’ll also find a pergola at the top of the Big Beehive which makes for the perfect place to hang out and and enjoy the views.

Devil’s Thumb

Now you definitely can’t hike everything at Lake Louise without summiting Devil’s Thumb. However I ONLY recommend hiking Devil’s Thumb if you or your hiking partners are experienced and have good physical fitness. If you’re not prepared for Devil’s Thumb, skip ahead to Plain of 6 Glaciers.

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To complete this part of the Lake Louise Circuit, hike back from the Big Beehive and locate the split in the trail; the split will go 3 ways. You’ll want to continue walking STRAIGHT from the direction you just walked from. There’s no sign marking Devil’s Thumb because it’s an advanced hike and Parks Canada wants to keep tourists off the trail.

hike everything at Lake Louise - Lake Louise circuit
Cliff on the way to Devil’s Thumb via the Lake Louise Circuit

As soon as you start hiking toward Devil’s Thumb you’ll start gaining elevation. On the way you’ll walk on a cliff edge, then start scrambling up a steep section of the mountain. The terrain is treacherous and you can expect some loose rock/scrambling along the way.

Some route finding skills are required here as the trail splits and the terrain changes as you go. Upon arriving at the top you’ll have overhead views of both Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes!

Spooky views on the Lake Louise Circuit
Looking down into the abyss

My experience hiking up Devil’s Thumb was a bit unique. As I previously mentioned there was low fog around Lake Agnes. To get to Devil’s Thumb I had to walk through the fog with absolutely zero visibility. It was quite spooky.

When I got to the top of Devil’s Thumb I had NO view. I couldn’t see a single thing. My hiking partners and I decided to wait it out and hope the fog dissipated. So we waited, and waited, and waited… About an hour passed when the fog finally started clearing!

hike everything at Lake Louise - Lake Louise circuit
Inversion at Devil’s Thumb! Lake Agnes (left), Big Beehive (centre), Lake Louise (right)

What we saw was incredible… An inversion! As the fog cleared I saw a thin layer of clouds floating above these two beautiful lakes! The views were well worth the wait and then some.

Plain of 6 Glaciers

The final destination on the “hike everything at Lake Louise Circuit” is Plain of 6 Glaciers. Plain of 6 Glaciers is an excellent hike for all ability levels, but it does add a considerable amount of distance to your already long hiking day.

hike everything at Lake Louise - Lake Louise circuit
Hiking to the Plain of Six Glaciers via the Lake Louise Circuit

After summiting Devil’s Thumb, hike back to the 3 way-split in the trail and take the route in the middle; there should be a sign marking the Plain of 6 Glaciers. From here it’s pretty much a straight shot. You’ll be hiking in the trees for a few kilometres, then come out into a valley filled with vibrant wildflowers (hike during early-mid July for the wildflowers).

The terrain is easy to navigate and you won’t gain too much elevation. There’s a second teahouse just before the glaciers. Once you arrive at the teahouse continue for another 1km for up-close views of Lake Louise’s glaciers.

Plain of Six Glaciers via the Lake Louise Circuit

After Plain of 6 Glaciers you’ll walk back the direction you initially came from. Rather than taking the trail that leads higher up the mountain you’ll stay right and follow the path next to the stream; this is the glacial stream that feeds Lake Louise.

You’ll have around 7km until you reach the parking lot, but make sure you take time to check out the mini waterfalls along the way!


Looking for More Banff Adventures?

Banff is an adventurer’s & view seeker’s paradise. If you’re planning a trip to this gorgeous Canadian Park, you can start with this step-by-step guide designed to help you plan the perfect Banff itinerary.

Alternatively, check out this page with all my Banff resources.

Banff Hiking Resources

On this page you can find all my Banff trail guides. A few signature hikes in Banff are these easy trails, Tunnel Mountain, Sulphur Mountain, Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon. If you’re only in Banff for a few days, start with those!

A few of my personal favourite hikes in Banff are Mount Bourgeau, Sentinel Pass, Tower of Babel, the Banff Skoki Loop, and the Sulphur Mountain Traverse Route.

More Banff Resources you Might Find Interesting:

Want to continue your Canadian Rockies expedition outside of Banff? Check out my trail guides & travel resources for British Columbia and Kananaskis Country as well as Jasper, Waterton, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks 🙂


Tips For A Successful Hike

  • Ensure you have a decent level of fitness
  • Wear the right clothes and have the right hiking gear – I’ll talk more about this next (skip ahead)
  • Bring extra food and water OR bring a water filter/aqua tabs and cheese cloth to ensure you have enough water and sustenance for the day
  • Start early: catch sunrise from little beehive, avoid the crowds, and make sure you have enough time to complete everything
  • Bring cash/card if you plan on making a purchase at the teahouse(s). Check with the teahouse to see whether they’re taking cash or card payment


Happy adventuring!

Taylor ♡


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About The Author

HI, I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.

After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.

I now spend my days travelling the world, climbing mountains, and spending nights under the stars in the Canadian Rockies backcountry.

I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.

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