Plain of Six Glaciers Hike
Plain of Six Glaciers is a classic hike in Banff National Park, which guides you alongside Lake Louise, ascends past a lovely Tea House, and finishes with stunning glacier views. We also share a very special alternative route back, which goes along The Highline trail, up to Big Beehive and down to Lake Agnes.
To get to the trailhead of the Plain of Six Glaciers hike, drive up the hill towards Chateau Lake Louise and park in one of the lots to the left of the Chateau. PARKING IS LIMITED and is often full by 8am. Parks Canada offers shuttles from the Lake Louise overflow parking lot.
|When to do|
June through October
Out and back
Plain of Six Glaciers Hike
Plain of Six Glaciers Route Description
To complete the Plain of Six Glaciers hike, you’ll need to get to Lake Louise early to secure a parking spot, or else take a bus or taxi. If you get here before 8am you should be able to get a parking spot in the Lake Louise parking lot, though every summer it seems to fill up earlier and earlier. If you can’t get there that early, consider a bus or taxi from Lake Louise Village or Lake Louise overflow parking lot.
From the Lake Louise parking lot, make your way down to Lake Louise, where you follow the broad path that goes to the right, passing by the Chateau Lake Louise. It’s crowded here, with thousands of tourists all trying to get their photos taken.
Follow the lakeshore trail around the right side of Lake Louise. Here, you will pass signs to go up to the right towards Little and Big Beehives, however, to get to the Plain of Six Glaciers trail you need to continue on this wide path around the lake, soaking in its tranquility.
Towards the end of Lake Louise, you will pass over a delta created by the glacier’s silt deposits as it melted. As you get farther on this trail, the crowds will subside. Finally, at the end of Lake Louise you begin to feel like you’re on a proper hike and anticipate getting to the Tea House and the Plain of Six Glaciers viewpoint.
You will pass a popular rock-climbing spot – take a moment to gaze up at climbers suspended in space, always an intriguing part of the trek. The forest will quickly thin as you climb, granting you views down to Lake Louise and the valley below. You will hike up and then begin to cross left above the treeline. The view below will be scattered with deep, dark crevices and massive imposing mountains with huge, sheer faces. In addition, right below the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House are two sets of switchbacks that are especially steep.
After 5.5km of hiking, during which you have gained 365m of elevation, you will arrive at the Plain of the Six Glaciers Tea House. This Tea House is beautiful and quaint, and serves tea, coffee, scones, soups and sandwiches. Be forewarned that during peak season it can get very busy. You are not allowed to bring your own food to eat in the hut – it is reserved for patrons only. The Tea House typically opens mid- to late-June in most years and it is cash only. There are also washrooms here, though they can be busy.
While many people stop at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, we love the Abbots Pass Viewpoint that is roughly 1.5km farther along. The route to this viewpoint is still a hike, though it is more challenging then the trail to the tea house. At times, the trail is narrow as it goes along a glacial moraine. The route may not be suited to young children, depending on how well they can hike.
To get to the viewpoint, continue on the trail from the tea house, for a relatively flat 1.5km hike. The trail comes to an end on the side of a scree slope looking up at glaciers and the pass, which separates British Columbia and Alberta. This is sometimes called the Abbots Pass viewpoint, though in reality it is the end of the Plain of Six Glaciers hike. Look closely up at Abbots Pass (the furthest right) and you might be able to make out the mountaineer’s hut built in 1922 that still stands. Marmots and chipmunks, however, will certainly be around. So, if you are eating your lunch here, take care that none gets stolen! Be warned, do not attempt to access Abbots Pass from here, as the route up is called The Death Trap for a reason – it’s highly dangerous.
We like to take a break at the viewpoint and soak in the incredible views. Many other hikers climb up and scramble on the rocks above the trail, though we don’t like to take a chance with increased rockfall risk.
To return to Lake Louise, most hikers simply retrace their steps. This makes it an achievable day for most hikers. There is an alternate route back to lake Louise, described below.
Alternate Route Back to Lake Louise
We love the alternate route back to Lake Louise, taking the Highline Trail, then up to Big Beehive and down to Lake Agnes, before hiking back down to Lake Louise. This alternate route is shown in Yellow on the map. This is a more challenging hike, as the total distance for the hike is 19.4km, with 905m of elevation gain. This means you are adding 4.4km and 485m of additional elevation gain to take this route back.
To take this alternate route back to Lake Louise, hike back to the Tea House. From there, continue on the path you came up on for 1.5km as you head back towards Lake Louise until you reach a junction. At this junction, take the path that goes to the left.
This path goes up and down over the next 1.8km, before starting up a series of switchbacks that take you to the pass just below the Big Beehive. You can look down here and see Lake Agnes below, and to your right is the Big Beehive. We like to take the trail to the right and have a look at the views from the Big Beehive. The views are very nice here, but it’s very hard to capture it with a camera.
From the Big Beehive, walk back to the pass and then hike down the steep switchback to Lake Agnes below you. Go left when you hit Lake Agnes and contour around the far end of the lake, before coming back towards the Lake Agnes Tea House. This is another great, though busy, teahouse.
From the Lake Agnes Tea House, follow the well-signed trail for 4.0km as it heads back down to Lake Louise, passing Mirror Lake along the way.
Hiking Trail Highlights
Plain of Six Glaciers
The Plain of Six Glaciers is one of the most popular hiking destinations near Lake Louise, and the perfect place to observe the way these immense ice giants have carved the landscapes of the Canadian Rockies over millennia. The sound of the ice scraping slowly and steadily over the rock is a reminder of the awesome weight and power of the glaciers, and their role in sculpting the mountains and valleys of this beautiful region.
The plain takes its name from the surrounding hanging glaciers of Mount Aberdeen, Lefroy and Victoria, in addition to the Lower Victoria and Lefroy glaciers and the hanging glacier that adorns Pope’s Peak. From the viewing point at the tea house, it’s possible to catch a glimpse of some of these glaciers (although not all of them at the same time!), and observe the early summer avalanches that come crashing down the mountainside.
Further up the plain, it’s also possible to see the old Abbot Pass hut, constructed in 1922 by Swiss guides working for the Canadian Alpine Association, and an important piece of Canadian mountaineering history. Both the pass and the hut are named after Philip Stanley Abbot, who perished during an attempt to climb Mount Lefroy in 1896. The hut and the teahouse were constructed to provide a respite and shelter for mountaineers who were exploring this majestic and beautiful part of the Rockies in the early 20th century.
Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House
The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House is a popular destination for hikers on this trail, offering fantastic views over the mountains and glaciers. The tea house was constructed in 1927 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, as a refuge for visitors on their way to the Abbot Pass hut further up the trail. It is built in a traditional style with beautiful wooden verandas that provide the perfect spot for a rest and a cup of tea!
Today, the tea house has maintained many of the traditional features and practices that were put in place almost a century ago. Owned and run by the same family since 1959, the building has no electricity or road access, and all supplies are helicoptered in at the beginning of the season, or carried up by staff along the hiking trail. It’s a popular place to sit, admire the view and take some refreshments, but remember to bring cash as the lack of electricity means that there are no card payments accepted.
If you start very early or quite late you may be able to find space at either of the Tea Houses for a snack. If it’s cold or raining you may luck out and get a seat inside, a rare treat when it is cold outside.
If you don’t want to hike, consider booking a horse tour through Brewster Stables.
Bring layers for the hike. The temperature changes drastically from the warm Lake Louise to the windy Moraine.
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