Lake Louise is beautiful from any vantage point, whether you are wandering the shoreline, canoeing it’s waterways or taking in panoramic views from a mountain top. The Big Beehive hike is one of the most popular trails in Banff and features some of the best views of Lake Louise.
Exploring the shoreline is a great way to experience Lake Louise, but for those looking for an adventure, the views from the Big Beehive hike are worth the effort.
If you choose to embark on one hike during your time in Lake Louise, make it the Big Beehive. This hike takes you high into the mountains and few people decide to head this way, so you’ll have a viewpoint all to yourself! Along the trail you’ll encounter a waterfall, several lakes and a tea house set in a cute rustic cabin.
I’d dreamt of this view for so long and it did not disappoint. It’s incredibly beautiful, it’s almost unreal. If you are an avid hiker and of the correct fitness level, add this hike to your Banff bucket list!
The Big Beehive Hike Stats
Round Trip Time: 5-6 hours
Elevation Gain: 776 metres
Dog Friendly: No
Public Transport: Yes
Location: Lake Louise
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- 16 Best Hikes In Banff National Park For Breathtaking Views
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How To Get To Lake Louise
From the town of Banff take the Highway 1 West and drive 57kms until you reach signs for Lake Louise, continue until you reach the parking lot. If taking public transit from Banff, take the Roam 8X bus.
We started the hike at 8am and were done by 2pm – this included many stops for photos and tea. Getting to Lake Louise early has many benefits.
You’ll get a great parking spot near the lake (which means a shorter walk when hiking back) and it means cooler temperatures for your hike. Not to mention that early mornings at Lake Louise are so serene with very few visitors and a lake that’s calmer with less traffic.
If you need a pick me up before starting your hike, or get hangry mid-trail (raises hand) then the coffees and croissants at the Fairmont Lake Louise (Nutella croissant is to die for) will do the trick.
Tips For Hiking The Big Beehive
- Start your hike early – Starting early means cooler temps and less people! And you’ll have the whole afternoon to explore Lake Louise
- Bring Hiking Poles – There are some steep sections on this hike, bringing hiking poles helps ease any pressure on the knees.
- Good Hiking Shoes are a must on this hike, the switchbacks are full of loose gravel. My Salomon X-Ultra were amazing for grip on this hike with lots of ankle support.
- Bring Cash – If planning to stop by the Lake Agnes Tea House bring cash. They do have a card machine but better to be prepared.
- Wear Layers – Temperatures at the viewpoint can get pretty cold, and it can get windy at the top.
The Big Beehive Trailhead
The trailhead for the big beehive can be found on the right side of the lake just a short walk from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The start of the trail is paved and you’ll notice a few sign posts at the entrance pointing to various hikes such as Lake Agnes Tea House and the Plain of Six Glaciers.
As you walk away from the Fairmont Chateau and towards the north end of the lake, you’ll start to encounter less people. The walk to the trailhead alone is so beautiful, make sure to take in the spectacular views of Victoria Glacier sitting between two mountains. Once you reach the signpost pointing towards Lake Agnes, take the route vexing off to the right.
The first few minutes of the hike are fairly easy with a minimal incline and the trail is wide with lots of room. As you begin to climb, the trail gradually becomes steeper and turns into a dirt trail rather than the paved walkway you started on. As you get higher you will start to get glimpses of the lake below. Eventually you’ll reach a switchback and the trail enters a dense forest.
Take A Pit Stop At Mirror Lake
The first point of interest on this hike is Mirror Lake. This is a great area to take a rest and have a snack (you’ll notice this hike is very snack oriented). Mirror Lake is a striking green colour and aptly named because it features beautiful reflections of its surroundings.
Being situated in a forested area means its surface is almost always smooth and calm, and hence always showing a mirror-like reflection. Towering just above mirror lake is the famous Big Beehive, this lookout point is your end goal – yep, you’ll be climbing all the way up there! Don’t worry it’s not as scary as it looks.
From Mirror Lake there are several hiking routes you can take – going left will take you to the Plain of Six Glaciers, the route to the right of the lake will take you Lake Agnes, Little Beehive and Big Beehive. Although you can take the left trail too – I recommend taking the route to the right as it’s easier to follow.
Lake Agnes & The Lake Agnes Tea House
Just before you reach the Lake Agnes Tea House you will spot a small waterfall – many people stop and take photos here. It’s a nice photo spot but there are better views ahead. The last climb to the tea house is an old wooden set of stairs. Sitting just above them you’ll see your first glimpse of the rustic log cabin that houses the tea house.
Make your way up the wooden stairs and you’ll be greeted with spectacular views of Lake Agnes and the steep mountains that tower over it. If you need to stop to take another rest, the area surrounding the lake a is great place to do so. There are a few benches to sit at and enjoy the views of the lake.
The best time to visit the tea house is in the morning but depending on the time of year you might be able to visit during the day and still enjoy. I’d suggest heading straight to the Big Beehive and grabbing something for lunch on the way down.
Final Ascent To The Big Beehive Hike Viewpoint
After taking in the views of Lake Agnes, take the trail to the right of the lake, just in front of the cabin. This trail will take you to the very end of Lake Agnes and loops around the back of the lake. This part of the trail is mostly flat until you reach the end of the lake where it starts to get rocky. Once you reach the other side of the lake you will start the hardest part of this hike – the switchbacks.
The switchbacks are the steepest part of the hike. This section of the trail contains a lot of loose rock and is quite narrow. You’ll may encounter hikers coming down from the hike and in certain areas need to move aside. Be sure to take care during this section of the trail.
Once you reach the top of the switchbacks the trail starts to level out again. You will come to a wide open area with several routes to take. Take the path to the left, this is where the area gets rocky however the trail from here on is really wide. Continue hiking and eventually you will start to see peeks of that turquoise blue colour of Lake Louise.
This is the most exciting part of the Big Beehive hike in my opinion. You will be tempted to stop at every clearing in the trees ,and as you get closer every view gets better the further you go. Continue until you get to the wooden lookout hut. The lookout tower is another great spot to sit and take a rest, all with the spectacular views of the lake and valley below. You’ll probably encounter a few friendly squirrels while you are here too!
Hike Back Down To Lake Louise
It’s time to head back down to Lake Louise. If you started the hike earlier in the day you’ll probably encounter a bit of traffic on the way down. Take the steep switchbacks carefully, ensuring you let people pass where necessary. This area can get very narrow and only accommodates one person at a time.
If you didn’t stop by the Lake Agnes Tea House on the way up, now is the time to do so. Finding a seat may be more difficult as it will no doubt be busy, but you can find a spot to sit by the lake. Now is also the time to use the bathroom if you need.
Where To Stay In Lake Louise
We stayed in Lake Louise during our Canadian Rockies road trip and I honestly loved every minute of it. Many people stay in Banff and travel to Lake Louise via shuttle, bus or car. I knew I’d have a few early mornings in Lake Louise and therefore wanted to make the most of my time.
- Lake Louise Inn – The Lake Louise Inn is one of the most affordable places to stay in Lake Louise and features some great affordable restaurants (their pizza is seriously good) This hotel is located closer to the Highway but still far out enough that it is quiet. It is within walking distance to gift shops, deli’s and a gas stations. The shuttle bus is just a few minutes walk away.
- Mountaineer Lodge – The Mountaineer Lodge is a moderate resort in the Lake Louise area and situated in a quieter location than that of the Lake Louise Inn. It is within walking distance to the shuttle bus station and shops and is also pet-friendly.
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – If you want the ultimate luxury in Lake Louise, the Fairmont is the way to go. Staying here alone is a bucket-list experience. Just steps from the Lake, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is one of the most famous hotels in Canada.
The Big Beehive is one of the top hikes in Banff National Park and it’s clear to see why. The great thing about the Big Beehive is that there isn’t just the one lookout point – there are tons!
With so many great viewpoints on this hike you’re sure to have one of them all to yourself – and who doesn’t love having these views all to themselves? The Big Beehive can be combined with other hikes in the area including the Little Beehive and the Devil’s Thumb if you’re up for the challenge.
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