There’s nothing devilish about the Devil’s Thumb hike in Banff Park. The trail offers exceptional views of Lake Agnes and the iconic Lake Louise, but only after a leg-burning workout. While you’ll hike most of the trail, there are some mild scrambles that require climbing up rock. If you’re looking for a more adventurous day, consider Devil’s Thumb. You won’t regret it.
Lake Louise is an incredibly scenic part of Banff National Park. And the Devil’s Thumb hike is perfect for Rocky Mountain adventure-seekers. Unsurprisingly, Lake Louise trails tend to be packed, and finding parking can be harder than reaching the summit. With this in mind, I left Calgary in the early morning to arrive at Lake Louise at 6:00am. It was 100% worth it!
About Devil’s Thumb Hike
Location: Lake Louise, Banff National Park
Distance: 13 km out and back (15 km with Big Beehive)
Elevation: 883 metre gain
Time: Approx. 4 – 5 hours
Dog-friendly: Yes, but must be kept on leash.
Features: Stunning views of Mirror Lake, Lake Agnes, and the iconic Lake Louise. The Lake Agnes Tea House boasts over 100 flavours of loose leaf tea—a nice rest stop for lunch. Add the hike to Little Beehive or return on the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail for a longer day.
Finding the Trailhead
The Devil’s Thumb trailhead is located at Lake Louise. During peak season (May to October), it’s not uncommon for both Lake Louise parking lots to fill up, requiring visitors to park in the Park and Ride about 10 km away. The Parks Canada Shuttle brings enthusiastic visitors to the Lake Louise entrance.
I didn’t want to do Park and Ride, and I wanted to ensure parking availability. So I travelled from Calgary to Lake Louise to arrive at 6:00am. Surprisingly (or not?), the main parking lot was already half full! I’ve been told that both parking lots can fill by 7:00am or earlier.
Once at Lake Louise, you won’t find signs for Devil’s Thumb. However, there’s ample signage for Lake Agnes and the Beehives. Head toward the west side of the lake to find the trailhead for Lake Agnes Trail. This is where the fun begins.
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).
Lake Louise to Lake Agnes Tea House
After leaving the paved trail for the gravel Lake Agnes Trail, it’s about 3.4 km to the Lake Agnes Tea House. Continue on the gentle grade until reaching Mirror Lake. The Stoney Nakoda First Nation dubbed this “Goat’s Looking Glass,” as legend tells of goats using this lake to comb their beards. Take a look! You’ll also see Big Beehive towering over Goat’s Looking Glass. The trail was quiet in the early morning, but very busy on the descent.
This part of the hike is easy compared to what’s ahead. Continue up toward Lake Agnes and don’t forget to check out the waterfall! Even if you’re just hiking to Lake Agnes, it’s important to bring essential hiking gear. I drank most of my 2 litres of water on this scorching hot day.
Detour to Big Beehive
If you’re planning the Devil’s Thumb hike, why not add the detour to Big Beehive? It’s only about 2 extra kilometres from the junction. The remarkable views of Lake Louise are worthwhile, and it’s a nice spot for a little break. If you don’t have enough time, Devil’s Thumb is also great on its own.
From the Lake Agnes Tea House, continue along the lakeside trail until you reach the switchbacks. This leads up to the junction. At the junction, go left for the Big Beehive or right over the log toward Devil’s Thumb. The short trip to Big Beehive is very easy, but watch your step near the edge. We witnessed a proposal (she said yes!) and my new friend Margaux was asked to take photos. You never know what will happen on the trail!
Heading Up To Devil’s Thumb
I met Lucas and Margaux on the trail. They were visiting from Ontario and had never explored the Canadian Rockies. We decided to hike together and extended the day with Devil’s Thumb. After Big Beehive, we retraced our steps back to the junction and continued straight over the log. There are no signs for Devil’s Thumb and it requires some route finding. There were far fewer people on this trail, too.
While the path to the Big Beehive is a moderate hike, the Devil’s Thumb trail involves mild scrambling (using hands to climb rocks) that might be difficult for some. There was a first-time hiker who couldn’t descend without support, so he used my poles and I showed him the route. Make sure you’re comfortable with the terrain before heading out. Also, good hiking boots and poles will make all the difference (especially on gravel trails with pebbles). There’s no need for a helmet.
The Devil’s Thumb hike, including the detour to Big Beehive (which I recommend!), is about 15 km and will take between 4 to 5 hours.
Read more: The Lake Minnewanka Hike in Banff, Alberta
Know Before You Go
I’m not a professional hiker, but I’m on the trails often enough. And I sometimes come across people who are miserable because they didn’t do enough research and didn’t bring the right gear. Before any hike, it’s important to do some research, know the terrain, and come prepared for anything.
I always bring along hiking essentials like water, food, first aid, water filter, rain shell, down jacket, shelter, knife, headlamp, navigation, and more. In the Rockies, bear spray is almost always essential (but forget the bells).
For hikes like Devil’s Thumb, I was happy to have trekking poles and sun protection. I could feel the heat getting to me (I’m somewhat prone to dehydration… and it was 30+ degrees). So I took a break on my way up the summit and felt better after a few minutes in the shade and some rehydration. Overall, it was a great hike, and I’d highly recommend it!
Have you hiked Devil’s Thumb? How was your experience? What other Lake Louise trails have you done? Leave a comment below!
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