Location: Lake Louise, Banff National Park
Park here: Lake Louise lakeshore parking lot (payment required)
Public transportation: Direct from the Park and Ride, located at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, to the Lake Louise lakeshore (reservations and payment required)
Hike distance: 3.5 km one-way
Elevation gain: 400 m
Hike duration: 1.5-2.5 hours
What makes it moderate? Switchbacks with occasional views of Lake Louise take you up through the forest; there is a final staircase ascent
Tea House Website: Click here
Lake Louise is an iconic Canadian Rocky Mountain destination, so, understandably, it can get busy. Head off on any surrounding hiking trail, and you will notice the crowds thin considerably. You’ll want ample time to take pictures and enjoy the serene views of the milky blue lake framed by the majestic Victoria Glacier and towering mountains.
I’ve always wanted to visit the Lake Agnes Tea House, which is accessible via a short hike starting at Lake Louise. When I was younger, I considered applying to work at the Tea House for a season. Although I’m no longer looking for a summer job, I finally completed the trek to the mountain-top restaurant. Here’s how it went.
Finding the Trailhead
Walk towards the beautiful, strikingly blue lake. There’s a paved pathway that traces the shoreline, allowing you to snap stunning photographs and enjoy the Rocky Mountain scenery.
When facing the lake, on the left, you will see canoes for rent. For this hike, you’ll want to head to the right, keeping the lake on your left. You will pass a sign with directions; follow the arrow up to the right for the Lake Agnes Tea House.
The Hike Itself
Soon, the paved pathway transitions to hard-packed dirt. Climb through the trees, sneaking glimpses of turquoise-blue Lake Louise through the foliage. The trail has a decent incline and is wide, rooty and rocky in places.
Eventually, you will reach the intersection with the horse trail. From here, you’ll have to watch for fresh piles of horse poop—and, of course, people riding horses. Always practise proper trail etiquette.
Once you hit Mirror Lake, you are close to the Tea House. It’s steeper and rockier from here. When you see a waterfall and wooden staircase, you are almost there! Climb the stairs and you’ll see the Tea House.
Built in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Tea House has been serving hikers since 1905. Although the log cabin was replaced in 1981, the windows, tables and chairs inside are original. You can get food and drinks to go, but we opted to eat inside for warmth, although the Tea House does not have electricity or running water. Staff tend to live at the Tea House for the entire season, hiking out every few days for some time off and to replenish the supplies when they hike back in. Our server was from Edmonton, and she told us the kitchen was the warmest place to be.
My partner and I sat in wicker bottom chairs with wooden armrests at a circular table. We ordered hearty vegetable soup, a cheese and pickle sandwich and a mountain bar. Everything was homemade and scrumptious. I chose the Hiker’s Spice tea, and my boyfriend sipped a delicious hot chocolate with marshmallows. Through the original windows, I could see the mountains and edge of the darker, teal-tinted Lake Agnes. As rain fell softly outside, it was the ideal way to warm up in the mountains.
We spent a few minutes walking around the lake for a nice view back towards the Tea House. Then, we hiked back down the same way.
Before You Go:
- Lake Agnes Tea House is open seasonally from June 4th to October (Canadian Thanksgiving). Although the website states it closes at 5 p.m., there was a sign that it would close by 3 p.m. when we arrived.
- Horses are available for hire to reach the Tea House if you don’t want to hike.
- Dogs are allowed on leash.
- Arrive early for a parking spot. We arrived at 9:10 a.m. on a Friday and got one of the last spots in the upper lot.
- You can continue past the Tea House to Devil’s Thumb, Little Beehive or Big Beehive.
- Bring cash if you plan to purchase anything at the Tea House.