The Plain of Six Glaciers hike is a pretty amazing alpine walk that leads up from the super instagrammable Lake Louise, to some gorgeous glacial views and a pretty teahouse. I found quite a few blogs that say this is a very challenging walk, but to be honest, if you go at your own pace, I am sure anyone with reasonable fitness will be able to manage this. We had so much fun that we extended the walk into a longer day hike, but I’ll list the easy option below so newbie mountain lovers can follow it too.
I should probably admit, I had actually planned for a different hike from Lake Moraine. But as the car park was completely full (we arrived a bit late – just before 9am), we kept going to Lake Louise; And I made a new plan on the fly. Luckily I’d bought the Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies book and a map of the area…so I had plenty of possible epic hike options! The Plain of Six Glaciers is listed as a good option during the shoulder season, so we figured it was worth a peek!
Plain of Six Glaciers Map
Plain of Six Glaciers – The basics
Distance: 13.8km (or 11.2km to the teahouse)
Elevation gain: 464m (or 359m to the teahouse)
Highest Point: 2195m
Time: It took us 2.5 hours (one way) to the Plain of Six Glaciers viewpoint. We took a longer way back.
What to bring:
Walking boots. If you want to go to the glacier viewpoint in winter, bring micro spikes for your shoes.
Also, bring warm clothes whatever time of year it is.
The ten essentials (as always)
There is a teahouse at the top of the trail! You can stop for a three course meal, or just some tea and cake.
There are loos in the car park and up near the teahouse.
Yes, but keep them on a lead.
How hard is it?
If you go hiking regularly, then this is a pretty easy trail. There was a huge range of ages and levels of fitness heading to the teahouse.
However it can be icy and has some steep moments, so if you are a newbie hiker, you might find this a challenge.
– As this walk is not particularly difficult, and the views are truly spectacular it’ll be busy! Start early, or go in the late afternoon.
– Bring cash for the teahouse
Start at Lake Louise
This hike has to have one of the best possible views for the start of a walk! I mean, without any effort at all, you will be rewarded with the view above! It was a bit misty when we arrived, so we couldn’t quite see towards the glaciers. Still, I was instantly in love with the gorgeous blue waters of Lake Louise.
The Lakeshore Trail
The walk begins with the easy lakeshore trail for 2km. This is where you’ll be treated to some stunning views of the sheer cliffs on Fairview Mountain.
There were quite large crowds at the edge of the lake, close to the car park. However, for some reason, only a fraction of Lake Louise’s visitors bother to walk around the lake. Around 1km into our walk, the path was already far quieter and we started to hear the sounds of nature, rather than the chatter of multiple languages.
Lake Louise Views
This is the view from the opposite side of the lake, looking back to Fairmont Chateau.
I loved this view over to the Slate Mountain range with the reflection of trees on Lake Louise.
Plain of Six Glaciers trail
The main trail starts south side of Lake Louise. There is a sign, so you can easily find the path! Almost straight away, you’ll find yourself looking up at massive rockfaces and glaciers in all directions.
The path goes through pretty woodland while it is still at low elevation. But you get plenty of glimpses up through the trees to the surrounding peaks.
So many peaks!
You can see the back of Fairmont Mountain, then Sheol Mountain & Haddo Peak, as well as Mount Aberdeen and Mount Lefroy. While we did this walk, the mountains peeked in and out of the mist.
Almost above the treeline
Quite soon, you gain enough elevation to find yourself above the treeline. We found this area much colder, with frozen waterfalls and cliffs covered in picturesque icicles. We had to be quite careful on this part of the walk, as the path was really icy and slippery.
On the way down a couple of hours later, most of these icicles were starting to melt and drop down with big smashing sounds. This is also where we saw three grizzly bears(!)
Climb up the moraine
There are several different switch-back filled paths up the moraine. Some are meant for horses, and some for humans. This is the part of the walk that will get your heart going. It is also where I saw the golden larches up close for the first time. They can be really bright!
In no time at all, you’ll find yourself at a junction. Lots of people turn straight to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse here. However it’s only an extra 1.3 km to the amaaazing Plain of Six Glaciers viewpoint; If you have energy left, you should keep going! We celebrated with a jumping photo, and then kept walking.
Aren’t those golden larches beautiful!?
The path beyond the teahouse is not maintained, so it was a little rougher than the route so far. It is incredibly pretty though!
The path soon became covered in snow. We always carry micro spikes (you can see the post when we first used them here) in our bags, so we slipped them on and kept walking normally. We saw a LOT of people struggling with non-grippy shoes (and even a few people on the snow in plimsolls.) So, you can do this hike without sensible footwear, but it’ll make it harder for you.
This is the view at the end of the path. You can see so many glaciers! The cliffs on Mount Victoria are spectacular.
Abbot Pass View
That tiny mountain hut at the top of Abbot Pass is the oldest mountain hut in the Rockies. It is closed at the moment due to dangerous looking erosion. I would LOVE to stay up there one day though!! The scary glacier leading up to the pass is called the death trap. That was the historical route up to the mountain hut, but it is not recommended now!
We made it!
This is us chilling at the end of the hike. There were quite a few other hikers that arrived around the same time, so we all had a good chat. Marc and I both really love looking at glaciers, so we stayed longer than almost everyone. We had this amazing view to ourselves for about 10 minutes before another group of hikers arrived. We even saw (and heard) an avalanche that puffed its way down the Victoria Glacier.
This is my happy jump shot!
Views back to Lake Louise
Once you turn around, this is the spectacular view back down to Lake Louise where we had started. As you can see, it’s not a bad little walk!
Heading to the Teahouse
Now we’d taken in the epic views, we walked back to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. The mist kept descending and hiding the tops of the surrounding peaks, so we took this as a sign that it was probably time for some tea and cake.
Loos with views!
A while ago I wrote a post about toilets with amazing views, and well, I think I may have to add one more to my list! Isn’t this a pretty place to pee!?
Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse
We made it! This is the pretty teahouse that sits above the clouds. People have been stopping here for a cuppa since 1927! Since 1958, it has been owned by the same family. The lady who bought it, Joy, brought up two daughters here (with no electricity!) One of them, Susanne, still runs the place now. I had a walnut truffle tea, and Marc tried a maple tea. They were both truly tasty… so much so that we later went to find the shop in Banff that sells this tea so we could try more!
We also shared a perfect apple cake. Om nom nom…
Now, my original plan was to just do this walk; However, while we sat in the tea house, I spotted a much more fun looking loop for our return journey. This post is already a bit too long, and the next section of the walk was also fantastic (it includes meeting a family of grizzly bears!) so I’ll stop this post here and write about our afternoon (to Lake Agnes and the Big Beehive) separately.