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12 Things to KNOW Before Hiking Lake Agnes Tea House

12 Things to KNOW Before Hiking Lake Agnes Tea House

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The Lake Agnes Tea House hike is easily one of the most popular trails in Lake Louise. For one, the hike is only moderately difficult, and two, the views along the way and at Lake Agnes are absolutely stunning!

From staring down at Lake Louise to sipping tea with mirror-like reflections, Lake Agnes Tea House is truly one of the most beautiful places in Banff National Park.

If this hasn’t already got you excited, then I’m sure that reading the rest of this blog sure will!

In it, I’ll explain everything you need to know before you hike to Lake Agnes Tea House and what to expect on the trail. I’ll also share some tips on hiking Lake Agnes Trail and how to stay safe doing so.

1. Lake Agnes Tea House Trail Overview

Distance: 3.6 kilometers (2.2 miles) one way, 7.2 kilometers (4.5 miles) return

Elevation gain: 400 meters (1312 feet)

Difficulty: Medium

Time needed: 4 to 5 hours

Lake Agnes Tea House is a historic tea house in Banff National Park that was named after the wife of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Lady Agnes MacDonald. It was built in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the tea house was created as a refuge for hikers and began serving delicious teas in 1905. Today, visiting is one of the best things to do in Lake Louise!

The tea house is one of two in Lake Louise with the other being the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. These days, Lake Louise isn’t as remote as it once was and the tea house now acts as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Banff.

The trail to Lake Agnes Tea House from Lake Louise isn’t overly difficult and the terrain in summer is not technical. With that said, there is a hefty elevation gain that will catch some hikers by surprise.

2. Lake Agnes Hike FAQs

Views of the mountains on the first half of the Lake Agnes Tea House hike
The views on the first half of the trail!
Bailey poses for a photo on the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail

3. What to Pack to Hike to Lake Agnes

A dog poses for a photo at Lake Agnes on a sunny summers day in Banff National Park
Don’t forget to bring your best friend
Sitting back and watching time go by at Lake Agnes

Cash – Lake Agnes Tea House prefers cash. So, if you want to enjoy a nice cup of tea and maybe even dessert, be sure to bring some along otherwise it’s a $1 CAD fee if you use a card. For reference, a cup of tea is around $4 CAD and a dessert is around $5 CAD. There is a photo below of the full menu.

Water bottle – A 1-liter water bottle should suffice as there are places to fill at Lake Agnes.

Bear Spray – Yep, you’re in bear country so bear spray is something all hikers should carry on the trail to Lake Agnes.

Warm clothes – Lake Agnes is much higher than Lake Louise and can be exposed to the winds. Be prepared and bring extra layers.

Canada Parks Pass – You’ll need this displayed in your car to park at the parking lot and to enter Banff National Park for that matter. No need to bring it on the trail though!

Good shoes – In June when the tea house opens the trail is covered in snow. Hiking boots are the suggested footwear, so if you have them, bring them. If you don’t, runners will suffice but be careful.

4. Lake Agnes Tea House Menu

Lake Agnes Tea House Menu

Lake Agnes Tea House’s menu will change from year to year, however, the above menu gives you a rough idea of what they have on offer! This was their exact menu in June 2020.

Since it is a tea house you would expect there to be a lot of tea flavors. Well, they definitely deliver with their tea list being compromised of over 100 loose-leaf tea flavors!

The food at the Lake Agnes Tea House is actually really good and earns it a top spot as one of the best restaurants in Lake Louise.

Menu standouts are their homemade soups and freshly baked bread! I mean those two items combined together are the perfect pairing if you ask me!

Note: Visiting the teahouse is one of the best free things to do in Banff National Park, however, if you want to enjoy any of their yummy treats or a cup of tea I recommend coming prepared with some cash to avoid a $1 CAD fee for credit and debit cards (it used to be cash only). Lake Agnes T-shirts and loose-leaf tea gift bags can also be purchased from the kitchen so you might want to bring extra cash if these items pique your interest.

5. Parking and the Lake Agnes Tea House Trailhead

Starting the Lake Agnes Tea House hike from Chateau Lake Louise
Starting the trail!

Lake Agnes Tea House Trail starts from the Lake Louise foreshore just in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel. Unfortunately, getting a parking spot at Lake Louise in the summer can be nearly impossible unless you arrive at around 8 am.

I’d also advise you on planning to do the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail on a weekday versus a weekend if plans allow. Along with getting to the parking lot early, this will definitely increase your odds of findings a spot.

However, if you are just not a morning person (I don’t blame you) it might be best to take one of the shuttles provided by Parks Canada or tour companies.

Here is a brief overview of the different options:

  • Parks Canada Park and Ride Shuttle – These shuttles are cheap (adults $8 CAD; seniors, $4 CAD, and youth 17 and under are free) and start running as early as 6:30 am and depart from the Lake Louise Ski Resort parking lot
  • ROAM Public Transit If you’re coming from Banff to Lake Louise, it’s $10 CAD per adult each way, $5 CAD for seniors and youth, and free for kids 12 and under. It MUST BE BOOKED IN ADVANCE which means getting tickets can be difficult. Departure is from the Banff High School.
  • Hop-on-hop-off bus – a more expensive option at $80 CAD for the entire day but a good backup if the Park and Ride is full. The first departure for the hop-on-hop-off bus is at 7:45 am from Banff at Moose Hotel and Suite but you can just wait and join the bus when it reaches the Lake Louise Ski Resort parking lot at 9:10 am. The other departure times from the ski resort are 10:50 am, 1:25 pm, and 4:20 pm but it is important to note that the LAST departure back from Lake Louise is at 4:35 pm. Make sure to check the official schedule for the most accurate times.

You can read all about the different shuttles available on the Parks Canada website or in our blog on parking alternatives at Lake Louise.

Once you’ve worked this out getting to the trailhead is easy. Simply walk to the far end (from the parking lot side) of the boardwalk of Lake Louise. There, you’ll see a sign with Lake Agnes Tea House on it. It’s really easy to find and if you can’t, just ask!

Related Read: Heading to Banff next? Read about the best stops on the drive from Lake Louise to Banff!

6. Hiking to Big Beehive and Mirror Lakes

Once on the trail, you’re in for a bit of a slog before you get any views. This first part of the trail (and the rest) is straight-up at a steady incline. It eventually turns into a large switchback and as you get higher, the views get much better.

The first place Bailey and I stopped was at the first switchback. Here, if you look through the trees you get views of Lake Louise. I know this may sound crazy, but from above Lake Louise is even bluer!  

Looking down at a canoe on Lake Louise from the Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
Look at that water!

Shortly after you’ll head inland to an area that (even in June) will be covered in snow. On my last visit, this section was completely under snow and I really regretted wearing my runners and not my hiking boots!

Finally, you’ll come to the Big Beehive. This large mountain sits above Mirror Lakes and it only takes one look to see how it got its name – it literally looks like a beehive!

7. Onto Lake Agnes Tea House

The Lake Agnes Tea House taken from a seating area at the lake
A tea house in pure heaven!
A lady stands on a rock in Lake Agnes and poses for a photo while staring out at the mountains on a sunny day in Banff National Park
We couldn’t stop staring!

After the Big Beehive, the trail gets narrow and with the snow, it was actually really slippery and hard to get past hikers coming the other way! Let’s hope you have warmer weather!

It only took another 15 minutes to reach Lake Agnes from the Big Beehive but first, you’ll come to a stunning waterfall! Here is a great place to fill your water bottle with running water before you take a set of stairs to Lake Agnes Tea House.

If you plan on getting some tea or food, I’d line up straight away at the tea house. In the summer months, those who don’t arrive early are often greeted with a huge line out the door and down the trail. If this is your case, it may be better to skip the tea and just enjoy the views.

Now that you’ve made it the hard part is over and by now you should be getting some great photos of Lake Agnes. However, for those who want to go further, you can hike down the valley along Lake Agnes…

8. Hiking Further Through the Valley

A panoramic view of the ice and snow on the trail that leads past the Lake Agnes Tea house to a viewpoint
There was lots of snow so it was hard to go further! You can see the trail that I talk about below to your right along the frozen part of the lake.

Hiking further along Lake Agnes is a popular thing to do especially once most of the snow has melted. This short trail leads you along the edge of Lake Agnes just past the toilet. I personally hiked on further, however, after a few hundred meters the snow became too difficult to navigate in just runners.

If you want to do this plan accordingly wear hiking boots with crampons for additional traction and bring trekking poles for stability.

If you do choose to keep going, there is a viewpoint to check out. From the tea house, it’s around 500 meters away. Without lots of snow, it’s only a short detour.

9. Add a Visit to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House

views on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail
Views along the trail!

If you’re a keen hiker and want to turn your day into an even more epic adventure then consider hiking the loop to the Plain of Six Glaciers.

The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House is a much less popular tea house but it’s just as beautiful. From Lake Agnes, you can hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House simply by crossing the small wooden bridge in front of Lake Agnes Tea House and following the trail signs. The trail then loops back to Lake Louise via another trail. This is a popular route and is sign-posted so you won’t get lost.

The total loop is 14.6 kilometers (9 miles) and this hike ends back at Lake Louise via the Lake Louise Shoreline Trail. You’ll need at least 6 to 7 hours to complete the loop with stops. Also, this trail is much more remote so be sure to pack accordingly and bring your bear spray!

10. Horsebacking ride to get to the tea house

An option that may come up when researching the Lake Agnes Tea House hike is a horseback trail ride. Now, at first thought, this sounds like it really could be an exciting, relaxing, and scenic way to get up to Mirror Lake.

While we have never done this tour ourselves I have to point out that the reviews from other travelers are pretty brutal. They mention minimal views on the route used for horses along with misbehaving/unresponsive horses, and not enough time allotted at the top to wait in line for the teahouse let alone enjoy it along with the amazing views of the lake. Plus, when you add in the $180 CAD it really doesn’t seem like it’s worth it.

However, some of the other reviews on the other trail ride experiences with Brewster Adventures like the Destination Trail Head and the Full Day Expedition were much more positive so perhaps it’s only the Lake Agnes Tea House Ride that isn’t so great of an experience. You’ll have to be the judge on this one!

11. Learn about the area with an audio tour

To make your time spent hiking the tea house trail a bit more interesting you can actually pay just $7 CAD to download a narrated audio guide to your phone!

It works by connecting with the GPS on your phone and as you walk, the app will give you directions on where to go. It will also automatically play commentary once you reach the corresponding areas.

By the time you’ve completed your hike, you’ll have learned all about Victoria Glacier, Lake Louise, Mirror Lake, Lake Agnes Tea House, and more!

You can purchase this audio tour here and get it downloaded before you start hiking!

12. Essential Info You Need to Know

Views of the valley from the Lake Agnes Tea House hike
The views from the trail!

Lake Agnes Tea House is busy

In summer, hundreds of people hike to Lake Agnes Tea House hoping to have warm tea in a magical setting. Unfortunately, this means huge lines and wait times.

My advice? Get to the tea house early by leaving at around 8 am (or sooner if you can bare it). This will not only make getting a parking spot at Lake Louise easier but you may be able to skip the lines completely at the tea house too.

You’re in bear country

On the Lake Agnes Trail, it’s possible to encounter a bear. Always make noise, hike in groups, and carry bear spray. If you plan on hiking the Plain of Six Glaciers then this is even more important.

Parks Canada Pass

When parking at Lake Louise be sure to have your Parks Canada Pass displayed on your dash or window. Without it, you will be fined. You don’t need to carry it on you when you go hiking, just leave it in the car.

Dress for all weather

Even on a hot summer’s day, cool winds can drop temperatures dramatically at Lake Agnes. Be sure to bring some warm clothes no matter the weather forecast.

Watch for horse poop

Given that the tour horses use part of the trail this is something to note if you are bringing your dog, hiking with kids, or simply want to save yourself from having to clean horse poop off of your shoes. Yuck!

Other Things to do in Banff National Park

Scenic road down the Icefields Parkway in Canada
The Icefields Parkway!
A grizzly Bear on the Icefields Parkway duirng a wildlife tour in Banff
Imagine spotting a grizzly bear!

Hiking to the Lake Louise Tea House is just one of the many awesome things you can do in Alberta! If you’re staying in or near Banff, there are lots to explore. To give you an idea, here are some of the other things you can do while you’re in Banff National Park:

  • Cruise on Lake Minnewanka – the largest lake in Banff National Park is Lake Minnewanka! Out on this scenic boat cruise, you’ll learn about the legend of the lake, its history, and its importance today! You’ll also see beautiful mountain views and have lots of opportunities for photos. It only costs $64 CAD per adult and $32 CAD per child.
  • Icefield Parkway – The Icefields Parkway is considered one of the top 10 most scenic drives in the world by National Geographic! You can drive the 230-kilometer (143-mile) long highway for free but it is very remote so joining a full-day Icefields Parkway Tour like this one is the most popular way to see the highlights without having to drive. The tour costs $180 CAD per person and lasts for the whole day.
  • Look for wildlife – Banff is home to some pretty incredible wildlife. You might just spot elk, bears, deer, foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and more! The best chance you have of seeing the most critters is on a wildlife tour in Banff. We really liked this small group tour where the guides tailor the itinerary to recent wildlife spottings and you get to see highlights of the national park along the way.

Where to Stay in Lake Louise

Fairmont Springs Hotel in Banff
Photo credit – Banff & Lake Louise Tourism Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

Of course, with being such a small village, there are limited places to stay in Lake Louise, so you should book online well in advance. Additionally, if you want to stay right on the lake’s edge, The Fairmont is your best choice. It’s pricey, but super luxurious and the views really can’t be beat!

HI Lake Louise Alpine Center ($)

For budget travelers, the Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center is the best option in Lake Louise Village. The location is right in town, they have a shared kitchen, basic but comfortable rooms, and friendly staff. You can choose between dorm rooms or private rooms. It is by far the cheapest place to stay in Lake Louise, and honestly, it’s a nice hostel and we’ve actually stayed there a few times. You can book it online with Hostelworld.com or Booking.com!

Lake Louise Inn ($$)

The Lake Louise Inn is still a budget-friendly option but a little fancier than the above hostel. The hotel features an indoor pool, an onsite restaurant and bar, modern rooms, and even apartments for larger groups. It basically has all the comforts you’d expect at a standard hotel and the reviews are really good. Its location is also ideal, right in the heart of Lake Louise Village. You can book the Lake Louise Inn online here!

Fairmont Château Lake Louise ($$$)

For those with a bigger budget, you can’t look past the Fairmont Château Lake Louise. The hotel sits on the shoreline of Lake Louise with epic views in the most stunning of locations. I’ve added spending a night or two here to my personal bucket list! There are also a few restaurants in the hotel that are only available to hotel guests, not to mention the onsite spa! You can book the Fairmont online here!

Canada Travel Essentials

Bailey stands on a mountain in essential gear for the Canadian Rockies
A windproof jacket and Buff will save you in the mountains!

Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.

Crampons: In winter, crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $37 CAD and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!

Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part, though? It comes in pink!

Bear bells: These are a must, and for the price, you shouldn’t hike without them. The bear bells I use are only $3.99 CAD and they come with a silencer (a must) so you can easily travel with them.

Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.

Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.

Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment, so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.

Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in handy so many times, especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $28 CAD and they serve my basic needs without any issues!

Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!

We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.

They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!

Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie on the Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
Thanks for reading!

Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is without a doubt one of the most beautiful hikes in Banff National Park. Personally, I’d say it’s my favorite short hike in the park and if you only have one day to spend in Lake Louise, then this is it! The best part is that with an early wakeup, you can enjoy the tea house without the crowds!

Thanks so much for reading! If you loved this blog then I’m almost certain you’ll love our other Canada blogs or these related blogs below!

Grassi Lakes Trail guide

Icefields Parkway road trip guide

3 day Banff itinerary