Lake Louise, Lake Agnes, & Plain of Six Glaciers
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"Lake Louise" is a name that refers to a beautiful glacial lake, a village, and a ski destination. All of these places are in close proximity but I'll always be using the term to describe the lake itself. I've been to Lake Louise several dozen times and don't think I"ll ever tire of visiting. If there's one slide show in my blog I think you might enjoy watching in full, this is it.
Lake Louise is named in honor of Princess Louise Alberta, one of Queen Victoria's daughters. Except for the Banff town-site, this is the most visited destination in Banff National Park and it is one of the most photographed lakes in the world, with good reason. Situated only a few miles off the Trans-Canada Highway, with a steep short drive to reach it, Lake Louise is one of the world's most scenic destinations
Situated on the eastern shore of the lake, near the point where you access the shoreline, is the Chateau Lake Louise, one of the grand Canadian Pacific railroad hotels now owned by the Fairmont chain; it's a great (and expensive) place to stay. The east shore of the lake will be very crowded in the summer, especially in the afternoon, but few people do more than wander about for a few hundred feet, take a few photos and perhaps rent a canoe to paddle the cold waters of the Lake before returning to their cars and continuing on their journey.
Those with a greater sense of adventure should wander to some of the more distant places of the valley. Two classic hikes in the Lake Louise area, the Plain of Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes trails both end at teahouses where you can buy freshly baked pastries, soups, sandwiches and, of course, tea or coffee
2) Plain of the Six Glaciers:
This is one of the best hikes in Banff National Park and one of the greatest trails I've ever had the pleasure of walking! Almost every step of the way you'll be rewarded with wonderful views of snow-capped, glacier-draped mountains, a turquoise lake, glacial moraines and rapidly flowing creeks. There's enough trees to add character and there are few other trails I know of that offer the constant dramatic views with so (relatively) little work.
The day we hiked this trail (I was with colleagues Leland and Ethan) the weather was near perfect and despite an early start, there were already lots of people about
At the end of the lake the trail continues along Louise Creek. From here you begin to gradually climb and this is where the crowd starts thinning out. You'll pass the terminal moraine left by the last advance of the Victoria Glacier during the Little Ice Age (mid 1800s) and be rewarded with ever changing views of several steep, jagged peaks and their glaciers (Mts. Aberdeen, LeFroy, Victoria, the Mitre). Popes Peak can be seen to the north but is hard to appreciate until you get to the teahouse.
A great end destination to this hike is the quaint Six Glaciers teahouse, another remnant of the CP Rail travel days, about 5.5 km from the trailhead with an elevation gain of 370 m (1215 ft). Even if you don't want to patronize the teahouse, this is a great place to stop and rest as there are many comfortable benches open to all, each offering among the most terrific views in the Rockies
3) Lake Agnes:
Another beautiful hike takes you to a rustic teahouse that overlooks Lake Agnes, a small but pleasing glacial lake with an elevation gain of over 400 meters. There are several approaches, though most people come directly from the Chateau. The walk to Lake Agnes from the Chateau Lake Louise is mostly on a densely forested trail with few scenic viewpoints, and for this reason I'm less fond of it that of the Plain of the Six Glaciers trail (but it does offer a nice loop if you've already visited the Plain of Six Glaciers and approach the teahouse from the west). As you near Lake Agnes you pass picturesque Mirror Lake, behind which cascades the creek draining Lake Agnes. Mirror Lake is overshadowed by a massive rock formation known as the "Beehive" (because of it's shape and layering). You can relax at the teahouse, hike along the shore of the lake or use it to gain access to the Beehives (there are 2) or to the Six Glaciers teahouse.
Any hiker, no matter how experienced, will enjoy exploring the Lake Louise area. I give it my highest possible recommendation, but always be prepared for the extremes of a mountainous climate.
If you would like to see high resolution images of the following photos, please to to this link: http://drfumblefinger.com/wrdprs/?p=1328 . For full screen views, click on the right sided icon of the slideshow's toolbar.