When the sun shines, Lake Louise, the starting point of Alberta’s exciting Icefield Parkway, turns a stunning turquoise and at other times an alluring blue. Whatever the colour, in Spring and Summer adoring masses crowd her shores. After paying homage it’s time to admire Louise from afar by finding a Lake Louise Viewpoint and a Teahouse Hike.
This seat at the far end of the lake is a great place to pose for photographs.
Fortunately both the Gondola and the Tea House hike, which I’d coveted since seeing it on television years previously, offer great views over the lake and from opposite ends. These two experiences are the perfect addition to an early and leisurely lakeside stroll – camera in hand of course.
Lake Louise Viewpoint
Lake Louise Gondola is the most well known viewpoint.
The gondola is located at Lake Louise Ski Resort. Closed or open carriages ascend Mount Whitehorn to 6800 ft.
- Address: 1 Whitehorn Road
- Round Trip Adult $34.95 Child $16.95 Family 2 x 2 $99 under 5 free
- 8 am – 5 pm closing Oct 8th 2017
- Hike further from the Top terminal
- Fabulous views over Lake/Glacier/valley
- Grizzly Bear Viewing
- Wildlife Interpretive Centre
Dark, Stormy, Beautiful – Lake Louise from Mt. Whitehorn.
At times it is possible to view wild grizzly bears from the Gondolas. In early June however, bears are not long out of hibernation and are down in the valleys not on the slopes. They are busy eating green grass and looking for avalanche kill, to fill their bellies. We didn’t see any in early June but they are very common a little later in the season.
Take the Gondola to 6800 ft. and visit the Wildlife Interpretive Centre. The ranger there helped identify some of the animals we’d photographed. The idea behind having visitors off the mountain early in the day, is to give the animals time to act normally and teach their young without a human presence.
Naturally the views from up there are panoramic.
Lake Louise Hikes
Lake Louise area is known as the hiking capital of Canada and although there are many more hikes, the ones listed below all leave from the Lake itself. Lake Louise elevation is 1600 m.
Lake Louise Lakeshore
Meet the camouflaged Hoary Marmots.
A pleasant walk, with views across the lake to the mountains, leads from the hotel on the opposite side from the boathouse. The glacial stream that gives Lake Louise it’s colour, enters the lake from the far end of the lake. A must for everyone.
- Length: 2km (one way)
- Rated: Easy All Abilities
- Elevation gain: Minimal
- Time Required: 1 hour total
- Always Open
- Starts lakeside in front of Fairmont Lake Louise
Short uphill hike offering a different view over the lake and the historic Fairmont Lake Louise.
- Length: 1 km (one way)
- Elevation gain: 100 m
- Time Required: 45 minutes
- Starts: Boathouse
A Tea House Hike is an adventurous way to a different Lake Louise Viewpoint.
There are tea houses on two hiking trails starting from Lake Louise. Whoever thought of this concept is either brilliant or sneaky or both. I’m not that into hiking mountains, but throw in great views of Lake Louise and a visit to a teahouse and I’m in.
Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House*
The hike to this Lake Louise tea house includes the lakeshore trail. At the far end of the lake the trail ascends, featuring awe-inspiring rock faces, sometime waterfalls and of course glaciers and views back to Lake Louise.
- Length: 5.3 km one way
- Rated: Moderate
- Elevation gain: 365 m.
- Time Required: 4 hours round trip
- Time Taken: 5 hours round trip, including time for photographs and a quick break at the tea house.
- Add On: Short Trail to Abbot Point Viewpoint overlooking Lake Victoria Glacier crevasses.
- Starts: Fairmont Lake Louise
- Trail Opens: mid June to Late July
- Trail Closes: mid October depending on weather.
See the park bench?
This Swiss-built, Tibetan style tea house (1924) is a double storey log cabin with verandah. It is rustic in every sense of the word. Food and drinks are helicoptered in at the beginning of the season and thereafter on horse-back or staff-back. We were one of the first people through on the trail on 6 June and hiked in behind some backpackers who were the spring/summer staff.
We did check with Parks Canada in Banff who said this trail was open. We did come across an avalanche across the trail and had to divert down and around it.
After wading through the snow – Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House.
On arrival the tea house they had just closed for the day but let us in for a quick but welcome hot chocolate and scone on the verandah. I am forever thankful for that kindness.
Lake Agnes Tea House*
This is the tea house (1901) we were meant to visit, but the trail was still impassable. It leaves from beside Fairmont Lake Louise progressing on a wide uphill forest trail, passing Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes waterfall to Lake Agnes itself. Next time we’ll arrive later in the season and do this hike. Supplies are delivered in the same manner as Six Glaciers Tea House.
- Length: 3.6 km
- Elevation gain: 385 m.
- Rated: Moderate
- Time Required: 3 hours return.
Of the two tea house hikes this is considered the most civilised (easy) so consider adding on one or both of the following:
Little Beehive Lake Louise* This ex fire lookout has great views of the Bow Valley.
- 1 km one way;
- 105 m elevation gain from Lake Agnes.
Big Beehive Lake Louise* Switchbacks continue to a stunning Lake Louise Panorama.
- 1.6 km one way;
- 135 m elevation gain from Lake Agnes.
Connect the two tea houses hike*
There is a highline trail connecting Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers, forming a 14.6 km loop in total.
Required time for the whole loop: Minimum 5 hours. For average fitness people like me I’d suggest longer.
Read more at Parks Canada.
- *= Avalanche risk Mid-October to Mid-June
Lake Louise Canoe Hire
Canoe hire on the lake is operated by Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The public can hire canoes but guests have priority and only guests can pre-book.
PRICE FOR HOTEL GUESTS: $65 per hour | $55 per half hour
PRICE FOR NON-HOTEL GUESTS: $105 per hour | $95 per half hour
Each canoe holds 3 adults or 2 adults and two children under 25 kg.
Hiring a canoe is a great way to escape the crowds and have a completely different experience.
Lake Louise Campground
Parks Canada operates two campgrounds 4km from the Lake and 1km from the Village. One caters for tents and soft-sided vehicles (surrounded by an electric fence because of bear activity), the other for hard sided RV’s.
- RV Campground Site for 6 people and 2 vehicles. Motorhomes and trailers under 22 m. $32.30
- Tent/Soft sided trailers best for tents, motorhomes, trailers under 6m. $27.40 plus $8.80 for fire pit.
Lake Louise Hotels
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Budget Travel Tips.
A stay in this gorgeous hotel is on many a bucket list. There are however quite a few other options out there. The Gondola website has a comprehensive accommodation list.
Some visitors choose to book in for afternoon tea at the Chateau to experience a little extravagance. If this sounds like you, confirm when booking that your table will have a view of the lake.
Lake Louise Village
In case you’re wondering why there are no signs of buildings apart from the hotel and boat house on the lake, it’s because the actual village is located 4km away. Samson Mall in the village has a small collection of shops catering to most needs. Laggans Mountain Bakery at Building B Samson Mall has a large array of baked items. We devoured a yummy Jamaican Patty and Sausage Roll. There is also a supermarket and Liquor store, gifts, books. etc.
Lake Louise Swimming
The lake is glacial fed and not usually associated with swimming. It freezes over in winter and melts sometime in early to mid June. The highest temperature it reaches is 10 degrees.
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