While in Alberta, Canada we had planned a visit to Lake Louise and I managed to talk the family and friends we were with to join me on the hike up to Lake Agnes Teahouse. We were staying in Banff and knew how busy it gets at Lake Louise, so started early and after the 45 minute drive arrived at Lake Louise at about 7.45 am, plenty early enough to be able to park right by the lake and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel.
The clouds were still clinging to the tops of the mountains this early but it was beautiful regardless. Not a complete surprise to me, as my husband and I had stayed at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel about 10 years previously and so this was a return visit, but we hadn’t done the hike to Lake Agnes on that occasion.
This photo with the Canoes in, shows the hillside of trees that the hike to Lake Agnes takes you up. I mistakenly told my family that it was 3.5 km return, so they were not too happy when we realized that it is actually 7 km (4.5 miles) round trip! I guess I had read the one-way distance and got it in my head that it was the full hike distance! I promised them tea and cake at the Lake Agnes Teahouse as added incentive to still do the hike with me, lol.
To get to the start of the hike, take the paved path between the lake and Chateau Lake Louise Hotel, then just at the end of the hotel grounds the path to Lake Agnes branches off and is well sign posted. The first part is the steepest, but for the most part it is a fairly smooth steady trial.
Half way up there is a switch back with a nice view back down to Lake Louise, then at about 3 quarters of the way up the hike you arrive at Mirror Lake, a nice spot to take a breather and take some photographs. The Teahouse is another half a mile on up from here and at this point I think my family were about ready to kill me, especially as they hadn’t come mentally prepared for such an uphill hike. Thankfully having come this far, they were OK to continue on to Lake Agnes and the promise of Tea and cake!
We rounded the last bend in the trail to see a pretty waterfall and a flight of wooden stairs that meant our arrival at the Lake Agnes Teahouse, about 1 and half hours after setting off.
To our dismay, the Teahouse was already very busy. We couldn’t find a table inside or on the deck of the teahouse with space for our group of 7, so sat ourselves down at a table closer to the Lake. I went up take a look at the menu and originally it appeared that you could only be served if you were sitting at a table inside or on the deck of the Teahouse. When I relayed this info to my family you can imagine the looks I got after the promise of tea and cake for reaching this spot!! But instead, we decided that we would just treat ourselves to a really good dinner and dessert later that night.
I then noticed that people were being served from the side door of the Teahouse, but apparently this was just for a limited menu so we decided to stick with our plan for a dinner treat later in the day and we just drank the water and munched on a few snacks we had brought with us.
As the menu shows, they take only cash, either US or Canadian Dollars, so good to remember. And it’s a little pricey, but remember that everything at the Teahouse either has to be carried in by the staff or they have a helicopter delivery once a year for dry goods and propane. Staff stay at the Teahouse and cabin and hike out a couple of times a week carrying any garbage with them.
After taking photos and admiring the view, we started our hike back down to Lake Louise, 1,300 feet below or 400 metres. There are a few sections of the trail that are shared with a horse trail, so a little rougher and you also need to take care to avoid the horse manure! On a couple of occasions we had to step to the side to let horses pass us.
We got back to Lake Louise about 50 minutes after leaving Lake Agnes, and despite my family members moaning on the way up, they were now feeling quite pleased with themselves for having done it.
The Teahouse opens at 9 am and we hadn’t got up there until about 9.30 am, so I think if you want to get a good shot at an open table you need to be up there for opening time, the rest of the day you will be struggling to find a place as the hike is very popular, on our way down we passed lots of people heading up. By the time we got back down to Lake Louise it was a lot busier and the clouds had lifted to show some blue sky. As we headed to our car, we noticed that the parking was all full and all the traffic flowing in was being re-directed back out to the overflow Parking that is 2 km outside the Village of Lake Louise, so that they could be bussed in. It seems that the parking close to the lake is full by soon after 9 am especially in peak season, so best to plan an early start. I highly recommend this hike, especially if you are prepared for the 4.5 mile (7 km) round trip, and it’s such a pretty spot on a nice day.
Date of visit; 5th August 2017