The Plain of Six Glaciers trail is another extremely popular trail at Lake Louise. We usually hike up to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive and follow the trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers from there. The Plain of Six Glaciers hike can also be done if you follow the Lake Lousie shoreline. This trail has such beautiful scenery not to mention the greenery in the middle of the summer. Everything looks so lush and almost tropical. It is one of our favorite trails to do no matter which way you come from!
The Tea House at the Plain of Six Glaciers was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) as well but it was not built until 1924. The Tea House is surrounded by verandas that provide a pretty view of the glaciers, although you cannot see all six glaciers from the Tea House. You have to walk a bit further out to get the entire view and it can get chilly! From the actual viewpoint you can see the six glaciers that are nestled on the surrounding mountains. It's amazing to see such a cluster of glaciers!
From the Plain of Six Glaciers viewpoint, you can also make out the Abbot Pass Hut. A Swiss guide employed by CPR by the name of Edward Feux was initially the one that suggested that a Tea House be built in the area. He thought it would be a good resting spot for those making their way to the Abbot Pass Hut. 3 additional cabins were built in 1927 that let hikers stay overnight. The cabins are now just used to house the staff that serve at the Tea House. The Feuz family were licensed to operate the cabins and Tea House until 1960, long after the CPR began to sell or in some cases demolish backcountry lodges. The Tea House is currently run by Joy Kimball.
Plain of Six Glaciers Trip Log
From the parking area, head towards Lake Louise. This is a very popular area and generally bustling with tourists. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the prominent building as it stands at the foot of Lake Louise. The majority of any photos you have seen published on Lake Louise are generally from this shore line. You will want to continue along the paved path as it makes its way to the west side of the lake.
The trail itself is fairly level at this point. It is wide enough to walk side by side in a reasonably large group. The trail stays wide and compacted for the length of its trip on this side of the lake.
After about 2.3km, as you near the end of the Lake Louise itself, there is a tiny hill to overcome. On your right hand side you can see the cliffs scattered with rock climbing routes, on summer days you can usually see them filled up with climbers. On your left you can see the glacier water running off into the lake. The amazing thing is watching the heavy mineralized water mix with the lake water. It looks like a milky soup being blended together.
At this point the leisurely stroll is over. From this point on, the trail will climb steadily upwards. The various tributaries that we saw exiting into the lake all converge and turn into a fierce river. There are a few single track trails that you come across which give you a good view of the river, it is only about 10-20 meters from the main trail.
As you make your way along the trail, you emerge out of the trees and are greeted with stunning views of the numerous glaciers and panoramic vistas. You are not above the tree line yet, just through some treeless pockets. When you reach a fork in the road, keep right to stay on hiking path. The trail to the left is for the horses, the junction is well marked with a sign.
About 500 meters from the tea house you come across something you haven't seen since leaving the Chateau ... A switchback! As the trail starts to make up for all that level terrain, one long and one short switchback help ease you up to a higher level. You are almost at the tea house and thoughts of homemade chocolate cake fill your mind and tickle your taste buds, ours sure did!
When you reach the tea house area, there is a small clearing with interpretive signs and benches scattered around. The tea house is on your right hand side, washrooms are also available just a little further.
Stopping at the tea house is a must if you made it this far, while the prices are a bit more than you would normally pay for something, it does take considerable amount of more work to create all these foods and drinks in the bush. All the food is made fresh daily on propane stoves and with the exception of one helicopter lift a season, all the food and supplies are brought in by pack-horse or carried by staff.
There is no electricity so it is cash only, we learned our lesson the first time and brought up considerably more money the last time to load up on chocolate cake, some fresh apple pie and some tea. To give you an idea of the prices, at our last visit in the summer of 2012 ...
- Various lemonades were about $2.95
- Tea and coffee ranged $2.95 - $4.10
- Chips and Salsa $6.50
- Soup of the Day $6.75
- Sandwiches $7.95 - $8.95
- Soup and Salad/Sandwich $10.50 - $12.25
- Fresh Apple Pie $5.50
- Homemade Chocolate Cake with Rich Chocolate Icing $6.25
There were about 28 different food and drink choices combined so you have a large amount to choose from. About 7 food items were labeled gluten-free. A percentage of the sales are also donated to the David Suzuki Foundation, the percentage amount was not disclosed though.
Once you have gotten your fill of chocolate cake, it's time to experience the finale. If the tea house was the dinner of your hike, getting to the end and seeing the glaciers up close is the equivalent of dessert.
Follow the trail west; it quickly turns into a compact single track trail. The going on this trail is a little rougher then the trail to the tea house as only a small percentage of those that reach the tea house seem to continue. It is about 1.1km and 129 meters to the end of the viewpoint. You will pass a sign that tells you the trail is not maintained past the tea house. It is not difficult by any measure but the view is very rewarding.
When you reach the end the view is breath taking, each time it has been very windy so be sure to pack a wind breaker. The floor to this valley seems to just be scree at first glance, but if you look closely you can see small crevasses opening throughout, this would actually be the Victoria Glacier. It continues up the narrow pass between Mount Victoria (the big mountain on your right) and Mount Lefroy (the big mountain that appears to stand on its own in the middle). The narrow pass is also called “The Death Trap”, Abbot Pass Hut sits at the top. Most of the visible glaciers are considerably smaller but none the less impressive to behold.
GPS Plotted Route
The trail itself is pretty straight forward, literally. From the Lake Louise Chateau the only big change of direction is a couple switchbacks close to the tea house so nothing special to report here.
For elevation, essentially all of it is gain in the last half of the hike. The first half is along the Lake Louise shoreline which is fairly level, the last half is all uphill. The large red T on the graph is the Tea House.
What were your experiences hiking Plain of Six Glaciers?
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