Lake Agnes and Big Beehive Hike at Lake Louise in Banff National Park

Big Beehive Trail offers an amazing view of Lake Louise from above in Banff National Park. This blog will tell you everything you need to know to hike the Big Beehive Trail at Lake Louise.

Banff National Park is an amazing summer destination for nature lovers. From pristine lakes to towering peaks and incredible wildlife, Banff has it all.

Lake Louise in particular is one of the most popular destinations in Banff National Park for its stunning turquoise color and perfect reflection. It draws between 4-6 million visitors annually and it is not hard to see why it’s so popular for families and hikers.

In fact many people go to Lake Louise to hike as it has some of the best hikes in Banff.

If you are looking for a moderately challenging hike with stunning views, then Lake Agnes and Big Beehive Trail at Lake Louise is definitely worth checking out.

This hiking guide will tell you everything you need to know to hike Lake Agnes Trail and Big Beehive Trail in the summer at Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

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What is Lake Agnes and Big Beehive Trail?

Lake Agnes Trail and Big Beehive Trails are two separate (but connected) hiking trails located at Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

Lake Agnes Trail is a hike that starts at Lake Louise shoreline and goes up to Lake Agnes, another pristine lake with a tea house located on its shore.

Big Beehive Trail starts behind Lake Agnes and continues uphill. At the top of Big Beehive trail, you will find an incredible panoramic view of Lake Louise and the surrounding glaciers from above.

Therefore in order to hike Big Beehive trail, you will need to first hike to Lake Agnes (although there is another way which I will address below).

Lake Agnes & Big Beehive Hiking Guide from Lake Louise

Lake Agnes Trail General Stats

Wondering how long or how hard Lake Agnes trail is from Lake Louise? Here is the information you need to know:

Lake Agnes Trail Length: 3.4km (2 miles) one way. Round trip would be 6.8km (4miles)
Time it takes to hike Lake Agnes: 1.5 hours each way (total 3 hours)
Lake Agnes Elevation Gain: 1200 ft gain from Lake Louise
Lake Agnes Difficulty: Moderate (can be steep at times)
Kids Friendly? Yes, we saw a lot of kids hiking Lake Agnes

In general Lake Agnes is a very straightforward hike, the trail itself is a bit steep.

Big Beehive Trail General Stats

Wondering how difficult or how long Big Beehive Trail is? Here is some general stats about the Big Beehive Hike

Big Beehive Trail Length: 4.8km (3 miles) one way from Lake Louise; 1.5 km (1 mile) each way from Lake Agnes
Time takes to hike Big Beehive: 45 minutes from Lake Agnes
Big Beehive Elevation Gain: 450 ft gain from Lake Agnes
Big Beehive Difficulty: Steep, not recommended for young children

Big Beehive has a section of very steep switchbacks which makes the hike difficult. However the hike in general is pretty short from Lake Agnes so in general everyone should be able to do it.

However there is a few turns on the switchback that was pretty exposed and my friend that hiked a few days after us actually saw someone fall and get seriously injured.

I was also pretty scared when I was coming down those couple of turns since it was slippery, steep and narrow (nothing next to you), so I was concerned about falling, which would definitely cause some bad injuries.

For most people on my hike don’t seem bothered by those two turns on the switchback so in general you should be ok if you are pretty steady on your feet.

Lake Louise early morning

Where is Lake Agnes Trailhead?

Lake Agnes trail starts directly at Lake Louise.

As you walk towards Lake Louise (facing Lake Louise), you will follow the road to the right side of Lake Louise and walk past the Fairmont Chateau.

As you walk past the hotel and continue on the shore line, you will see a sign on your right hand side that points to Mirror Lake, Lake Agnes and Teahouse.

Signs to Lake Agnes Trail from Lake Louise

This is where Lake Agnes trail starts.

Where is Big Beehive Trailhead?

Lake Agnes view from tea house

Big Beehive Trailhead can be access at the back of Lake Agnes. Therefore you need to hike to Lake Agnes first, follow the trail to continue on the right side of Lake Agnes to loop around to the back of the lake before going uphill to Big Beehive.

However you can actually access Big Beehive trail from Plain of Six Glaciers as well. When we were hiking up Big Beehive from Lake Agnes, we saw that there was a split off where we could continue onto Plain of Six Glaciers via the Highline Connector (and the Highline trail).

Therefore technically you could do the reverse: hike to Plain of Six Glaciers, continue onto Highline Trail, switch over to the Big Beehive to Highline Connector, then down Lake Agnes Trail back to Lake Louise.

But for simplicity purpose, the easiest way to access Big Beehive trail is to go through Lake Agnes.

What is the best time to hike Lake Agnes and Big Beehive Trail?

The summer and early fall months of July, August and September are the best months to hike to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive trail.

You want the lakes (Lake Louise, Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes) to be thawed when you hike, otherwise you don’t really see the amazing color Lake Louise is known for.

During the summer months there is no snow or ice on the trail of Lake Agnes and Big Beehive, so it is much easier to hike during these months.

View of glaciers

Since most people also visit Lake Louise and try to hike to Lake Agnes and Big Beehive, you can expect a lot of people on the trail as you hike and at the tea house. This can be avoided if you start really really early or really late (like late afternoon).

Another thing to keep in mind is that there can be thunder storms and even wild fires in Banff National Park in the summer. You should not be hiking when there is thunder storm so you don’t risk being struck by lightning.

Lastly Banff National Park has a lot of bears. Even though Lake Louise area is very busy so the chance of bear encounter is low, but there has been bear sighting near the Fairmont Chateau even in the summer months. You should always carry bear mace with you when you hike in Banff National Park.

Where do You Park at Lake Louise to Access Lake Agnes trail?

If you are driving to Lake Louise, your first choice would be to park at one of the two large parking lots at Lake Louise.

Lake Louise Parking Lot early morning

You will need to pay for parking at one of the machines in the parking lot and although the lots are big, they do get filled up really fast.

Therefore your best bet to park at the Lake Louise parking lot would be to get there early, like no later than 7am early!

Alternatively you can park at Lake Louise Park and Ride lot, then take a shuttle to Lake Louise since it is 4.5km away from actual Lake Louise.

If you are planning to go hike Lake Agnes and Big Beehive trail in the middle of the day, it may be best to either get dropped off or take a Parks Canada Shuttle or Roam Public Transit.

You will need to reserve Parks Canada Shuttle and Roam Public Transit ahead of time.

My Detailed Experience of Hiking Big Beehive via Lake Agnes Trail

We hiked Lake Agnes Trail and then Big Beehive at the end of August during peak summer months in Banff National Park.

Getting to & parking at Lake Louise

We knew Lake Louise was going to be busy in the summer, so we got up extra early that day and got to Lake Louise parking lot around 7am on a Saturday.

Since there are 2 parking lots at Lake Louise, the lower lot (slightly closer to the lake) was already full by 7am, so we had to park in the upper lot.

Be sure to take down your license plate number as you walk towards Lake Louise because you will need it to pay for parking at one of the machines.

Finding the Lake Agnes Trailhead

Shortly after parking and following the road (and crowd), you will come to face the most famous lake in Banff, Lake Louise! We were here for sunset the night before (and this was my third time going to Lake Louise) so we didn’t stay long.

Lake Louise early morning

Walking towards the Fairmont Chateau hotel along the east side of Lake Louise, you will eventually see the path split. If you continue down the paved path, you will be walking on the Shoreline Trail along the right side of Lake Louise. If you continue down Shoreline Trail, you will also end up going onto the Plain of Six Glacier trail.

To access Lake Agnes Trail, you will need to follow the trail on the right. There are signs point to the right direction so you won’t get lost. There will also be a lot of people going the same way since Lake Agnes is the shorter of the two trails (compare to Plain of Six Glacier).

Signs at Lake Louise pointing to Plain of Six Glacier, Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes

The sign will say 3.0km to Mirror Lake and 3.8km to Lake Agnes.

Lake Louise to Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is one of the lakes you will pass by on the way to Lake Agnes.

As you start hiking towards Lake Agnes, the trail is wide and paved and very well maintained. The trail starts going uphill gradually from Lake Louise.

Lake Agnes Trail at Lake Louise in Banff

The entire hike from Lake Louise to Mirror Lake is pretty boring to be honest; the trail is entirely in the forest going uphill, you have no views whatsoever the first 30 minutes of the hike.

After about 30 minutes of moderate uphill, you will see an opening from the trees and see Lake Louise just for a little bit.

Break in tree line on Lake Agnes hike so you can see a little bit of Lake Louise

Right after this “view”, you will follow the trail and continue right to go up the hill.

Lake Agnes Trail

There was one part of the trail that was blocked by a fallen tree (it may or may not be there when you hike it). That was probably the most exciting part of the Lake Agnes trail at this point.

After about an hour (since starting at Lake Louise), you will arrive at Mirror Lake.

mirror lake at Lake Agnes and Lake Louise hike in Banff

The lake aptly named as it reflects surrounding trees and the actual Big Beehive, creating a beautiful mirror-like effect on the water’s surface. It’s a tranquil spot to enjoy nature and is the perfect place to take a break from walking uphill for an hour straight.

Mirror Lake to Lake Agnes

When you are at Mirror Lake, there will be signs pointing you to Lake Agnes. Make sure you don’t end up going the wrong direction and walk towards Plain of Six Glaciers.

Mirror Lake hiking sign at Lake Louise and Lake Agnes

Follow the sign and go right to continue onto Lake Agnes. You will now continue up some switch backs and the trail can get rocky and steep at times.

Lake Agnes Trail

Along the way you will finally come across another view point, and since you are higher up now, you will get a nice view of the surrounding mountains and even see the Lake Louise parking lot and the freeway.

View along the Lake Agnes hike

As you finally approach Lake Agnes area, you will see a pretty nice little waterfall and a steep staircase. This is also where you will see the sign for Little Beehive Trailhead if you want to continue onto that hike.

Lake Agnes hike waterfall and stairs in Banff
Lake Agnes stairs

The stairs are not terrible but if you do have mobility issues or a bad knee, it could be a bit challenging to climb up.

But once you climb up the stairs, tada! You are at the famous Lake Agnes Tea house.

Lake Agnes Tea house

Lake Agnes Tea House is one of the two tea houses near Lake Louise. It first opened in 1905 and it was named after Lady Agnes MacDonald, the wife of Canada’s first Prime Minister.

Lake Agnes Tea House

The Lake Agnes Tea House is situated at 7005ft (2135m) right across from Lake Agnes. Since Banff gets heavy snow in the fall and winter months, Lake Agnes tea house is only open from June 4th until Canadian Thanksgiving (early October) every year. You will not be able to access it any other months.

Does Lake Agnes Tea House take credit card?

This is probably one of the most common questions hikers have when visiting Lake Agnes. A few years ago when I visited Banff, none of the tea houses (Lake Agnes tea house and the tea house at Plains of Six Glaciers) took credit card.

However when I visited recently, credit card is being accepted at Lake Agnes tea house, even though Canadian dollars in cash is still the preferred payment method.

The tea house actually has signs that say that sometimes the credit card machine doesn’t work so you should always have cash. Even though you certainly can pay with US dollars, but it will be 1:1 exchange rate with Canadian Dollars, making everything more expensive for you.

What food is served at Lake Agnes Tea house?

As the name implies, Lake Agnes tea house has tea! Apparently they have over 100 types of loose leaf tea that you can try, but they also have coffee, hot chocolate (which I got), Chai Latte, lemonade and bottled water.

In terms of food, they have sandwiches and soup, salad, chips, and sweets. Someone told us that they are known for their chocolate cake so we had to get that and it was pretty good.

Lake Agnes Tea House menu

I thought there would be a long wait to sit down at Lake Agnes Tea House, since when we went to Plain of Six Glacier, their teahouse filled up very fast.

But to our surprise the line for take out at Lake Agnes Tea House was much longer than the line to dine in. So when you visit, be sure to ask which line is for take out and which is for dining in so you don’t wait in vain (when I was there the line on the left side was for take out).

Lake Agnes Tea House food

There are a number of tables and seats on the terrace of the tea house and we were fortunate to grab a table facing Lake Agnes.

You have to take paper products (paper plates and cups) with you when you leave. The tea house will give you a plastic bag to take with you.

Bathroom at Lake Agnes

There is a bathroom at Lake Agnes. It is located near the Tea House up on a hill. So you will need to hike for a couple of minutes up a steep hill in order to use the bathroom.

Lake Agnes to Big Beehive (1.8km)

The Big Beehive trailhead starts from Lake Agnes. If you remember from Mirror Lake, you will now need to hike up that big hill seen from Mirror Lake.

Beyond the Lake Agnes Tea House, continue down the trail along the right side of Lake Agnes.

Walk along the lake to Big Beehive

The trail can be rocky at times as it wraps around Lake Agnes. As you go around Lake Agnes the crowd will thin out and you can also see the lake from a different perspective.

From the shoreline, you can actually see the steep path going up the side of the hill and that is the trail you will be hiking on.

Big Beehive Trail
The Big Beehive trail at the end of Lake Agnes
Other side of Lake Agnes
Other side of Lake Agnes

Soon after reaching the other end of Lake Agnes, you will start going up the steep switchback of Big Beehive. I counted 8 total turns on this switchback portion and the whole section took about 20 minutes.

 Big Beehive uphill trail

To be honest it is a lot shorter than I had imagined, but some parts of the switchback (especially towards the two) are really narrow so take turn especially when you are coming down. It is probably a good idea to avoid hiking this when it’s rainy since you can easily slip when coming down those narrow turns and fall.

Big Beehive trail looking back
My friend struggling uphill
View of Lake Agnes from Big Beehive trail
View of Lake Agnes from the trail

Once you are done with the switchbacks you will be on top of the plateau, which is nice and flat.

Top of the Big Beehive

There is not a very clear trail towards the view points of Big Beehive or the shelter but it is actually not too hard to find. In addition once you are done with the switchbacks, you will see a sign pointing to Plain of Six Glaciers, if you are planning to hit all the major trails around Lake Louise, you can continue onto Plain of Six Glaciers after taking photos at Big Beehive viewpoints along the cliff.

sign towards plain of six glaciers

Assuming you are not going to Plain of Six Glaciers right now, go left to continue towards the ledges and Big Beehive gazebo/ shelter.

Big Beehive Shelter in Banff above Lake Louise

Soon you will see the Big Beehive shelter, which actually does not provide too much of a view. What you would want to do is to just walk around along the ledge and you should see the incredible view of Lake Louise below you.

Big Beehive view of lake louise 1 in Banff

Depending on what time you arrive, the “good view points” along the ledges may be quite crowded as people take lunch breaks there to enjoy the view.

You can go back down Lake Louise the same way you came or you can walk back to the junction before the switchbacks to continue onto Plain of Six Glacier.

What Should You Pack to Hike Big Beehive Trail?

Since Lake Agnes trail is pretty basic, you can actually just wear tennis shoes when hiking to Lake Agnes.

However Big Beehive would be best done wearing hiking shoes or shoes with good traction.

Hiking poles would be helpful on the steep switchback although we did not use hiking poles.

Be sure to bring at least 2L of water with you and some snacks or packed lunch if you are not planning to eat at the tea house.

If you are going to the tea house, make sure you have Canadian cash with you in case their credit card machine doesn’t work.

Hats, sunglasses and sun screen are definitely useful on top of Big Beehive along the ledges but most of the hike are in the shade.

There were some bugs when we were hiking to Big Beehive and Lake Agnes so be sure to have bug spray with you.

Lastly if you are planning to go super early or super late, make sure you have bear mace with you! Even though the trail is heavily trafficked, you always want to be prepared in case you do run into a bear (but if you do see a bear, you should probably avoid it rather than confront it).

Is Lake Agnes and Big Beehive Worth it?

Big Beehive is a worthwhile hike since it offers such a beautiful view of the entire Lake Louise and beyond from above. The hike is relatively short and quick from Lake Agnes so it really isn’t too much effort to add this onto your Lake Agnes hike.

view of Lake Louise from Big Beehive

But if you are not planning to hike to Big Beehive or Little Beehive (similar view but slightly shorter and lower attitude), I personally do not think Lake Agnes is worth it.

This may be against popular opinion but I found Lake Agnes hike extremely boring with no views what so ever and the lake is not worth the effort. Perhaps if I had gone during a different time of the day then Lake Agnes would look more stunning but I was not impressed by Lake Agnes.

I would only recommend Lake Agnes if you are planning to continue onto Big Beehive or Little Beehive or if you are hiking with young kids and are looking for something short and kids-friendly.

I personally find Plain of Six Glaciers are much more worthwhile hike compare to Lake Agnes but it is a lot longer and more strenuous, but the view is very different.

Additional Banff Travel Guide

To help you plan your trip to Banff and the Canadian Rockies, I have a number of articles that you may find useful:

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Lake Agnes & Big Beehive Hiking Guide from Lake Louise