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.
“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
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
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!)
Hiking the Lake Agnes Trail
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
Big Beehive Hike from Lake Agnes Tea House
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!)
The Return Hike
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.
Know Before You Go
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.
Have you explored Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive? What was your experience like? Leave a comment below.
Want to save this for later? Hover over the image to add to Pinterest!