Over the past six years in Alberta, I’ve done very little exploring around the Lake Louise area. So I thought it was about time to get out there! For spectacular views and a decent workout, the Big Beehive hike is one of the most popular trails around. Mountain-lovers near and far visit for phenomenal views of Lake Louise and Rocky Mountain landscape.

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Lake Louise from the Big Beehive.

“Lake Louise is going to be packed.” Not the first time I’ve heard that. It was running through my mind as I planned my Big Beehive hike. Of course, when friends visit from out of town, we’ll sometimes make the trip out to Lake Louise. But otherwise, I spend more time in Kananaskis and other less trafficked areas.

But if you’ve never visited Lake Louise, or if you’re looking for exceptional hiking, don’t let the crowds keep you away. I woke at 3:30am, left Calgary at 4:00am, and arrived in the Lake Louise parking lot by 6:00am. To my surprise, the main lot was nearly half full, so I guess many others wanted to experience this place on Canada Day, too.

About Big Beehive Hike

Big Beehive hike selter
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Shelter on top of Big Beehive.

Location: Lake Louise, Banff National Park
Distance: 13 km out and back
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Elevation: 720 metre gain
Time: Approx. 3 – 4 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes, but must be kept on leash.
Features: The stunning turquoise colour of Lake Agnes and Lake Louise alone is worth the hike. Grab lunch at the Lake Agnes Tea House or pack food to eat at the Big Beehive shelter.

Finding the Trailhead

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Stunning morning views of Lake Louise.

The Big Beehive trailhead is very easy to locate from the Lake Louise Parking Area. First, to get from Lake Louise to Calgary, drive west on the Trans-Canada Highway past Banff until the Lake Louise exit. The distance is about 182 km and will take about 2 hours.

Once you arrive, parking at Lake Louise may be more difficult than the hike itself (!). During peak season (May to October), get there early and even during the week for smaller crowds. From the parking lot, walk toward the west side of the lake for the trailhead. There are plenty of signs to follow.

Note: You’ll need to bring a Parks Canada Discovery Pass or pay the daily rate. The pass can be purchased at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre or online. Visitors must also pay a parking fee accessed in the parking lot ($11.70 per vehicle per day).

Read: 5 Easy Hikes for Rocky Mountain Rookies (Plus a Bonus!)

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There’s plenty of signage at Lake Louise.
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The paved trail leading to Lake Agnes Trail.

Hiking the Lake Agnes Trail

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The gravel trail begins in the forest.

Lake Agnes Trail is heavily trafficked and well-maintained. Depending on how early you arrive, you could have the trail to yourself—at least until later in the day. The hike begins on a gravel trail through the forest with periodic views of Lake Louise. I’d consider this portion a fairly moderate hike. Continue past Mirror Lake, then the waterfall, and finally up the stairs to reach Lake Agnes Tea House. If you’re a tea drinker like me, you’ll find over 100 different teas to try (drinking them all would be excellent hydration!).

Read more: The Lake Minnewanka Hike in Banff, Alberta

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Big Beehive above Mirror Lake/Goat’s Looking Glass.
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Rough section of trail after Mirror Lake.
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Don’t forget to look up for the views.
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Big Beehive from the trail. That’s the destination!
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Waterfall on the way to up Lake Agnes.
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Stairs leading up to the lake.
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Lake Agnes Tea House serves sandwiches, desserts, and tea (of course!).
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Benches outside of the tea house.
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Lake Agnes is quiet in the early morning.

Big Beehive Hike from Lake Agnes Tea House

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Margaux and Lucas on switchbacks up to Big Beehive.

It’s only a couple of kilometres from the Tea House to Big Beehive. After you finish admiring Lake Agnes, it’s time to hike around the lake where the views only get better on a sunny day. It’s about a half-kilometre of switchback to the junction. After reaching the top, head left for the gentle hike to the Big Beehive summit.

The trip to Big Beehive was about 13 km and can be done in 3 to 4 hours. New hiking friends, Margaux and Lucas convinced me to scramble up Devil’s Thumb as well (truthfully, it didn’t take much convincing!).

Read more: Devil’s Thumb Hike in Alberta (Wonderful Views!)

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Beautiful spot to relax by Lake Agnes.
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Hiking up the switchbacks beside Lake Agnes.
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Wear good footwear for the switchbacks.
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The shelter at Big Beehive.
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We witnessed a proposal (and Margaux captured it!).
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Views of Lake Louise from Big Beehive are spectacular.
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Gotta capture those Lake Louise views.
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The Fairmont Chateau Hotel.
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Clark’s nutcracker at Big Beehive.

The Return Hike

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There are several trail options at the junction.

There are several trail options from the junction. After Big Beehive, I scrambled up to Devil’s Thumb summit before returning along the same route.

On the other hand, you could also return on the Plain of Six Glaciers route, which includes a second Tea House. If you’re hiking from Big Beehive, head back to the junction and turn left. From Devil’s Thumb, turn right at the junction to enjoy different scenery on the way back to Lake Louise.

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Beginning of Plain of Six Glaciers trail.

Know Before You Go

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Wonderful view of Lake Louise.

Big Beehive is a moderate hike, but may be considered difficult for some. It’s a great option for new hikers who want to find stunning Rocky Mountain views. This isn’t a technical trail, but it’s still important to bring hiking essentials like water, snacks, good footwear, and more. You’ll have a much better time with some preparation.

If you’re not into hiking, you could explore Lake Agnes on horseback. There were horseback riders on the trail, and it looked like a fun option. When you’re finished on the trail, Lake Louise is a lovely spot for canoeing as well. There are canoe rentals available.

Remember: Parking can be challenging to find, so prepare to arrive early or during off-peak times. Since you’re taking the trip, you could also check out Moraine Lake, too.

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Horseback ride up to Lake Agnes.

Have you explored Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive? What was your experience like? Leave a comment below.

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Big Beehive Hike at Lake Louise—What You Should Know via @outandacross
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