Plain of the Six Glaciers {Banff National Park}

Plain of the Six Glaciers {Banff National Park}

Plain of the Six Glaciers

  • Distance – 10.6 km roundtrip to the teahouse / 13.6 km roundtrip to the Abbot Pass viewpoint
  • Elevation – 365 meters / 415 meters to Abbot Pass viewpoint
  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • TrailheadLake Louise shore
  • Logistics – Arrive early and pay for parking (May to October) or grab a shuttle from the Louise Park and Ride

Lake Louise is an extremely busy place, and for good reason, it is gorgeous! I don’t spend a lot of time there because it is usually overrun with people and parking is a bit of a nightmare. BUT, the Plain of the Six Glaciers is worth the chaos.

This year, Canada Day landed on Thursday and I was lucky to snag a cancellation for three nights in the Lake Louise campground, so we spent the whole four-day weekend enjoying this beautiful corner of the earth. As I had never done the Plain of the Six Glaciers before, I thought Friday would be the perfect day to hike this gem in Banff National Park as there might be fewer people swarming the lake since it wasn’t technically a holiday.

This is where the trail starts … not so bad, eh?

I was correct in my assumption. We were able to still park at 9:00 am and have a wonderful day while not tripping over people on the trail. If you plan to do this hike, arrive early and try to do it on a day that is not a holiday or weekend – it will be a much more enjoyable experience!

Getting to the Trailhead.

The trail to the Plain of the Six Glaciers starts from the shore of Lake Louise. If you are arriving early, you should be able to park right at the lake, but things get quite busy by 8:00 am. Things are slightly, and I mean only marginally, better since they implemented a daily parking fee at the lake. In 2021, it is $11.70 to park for the day (7:00 am – 7:oo pm). The parking lot is usually full by 8:00 / 8:30, so expect to be out of luck for parking and be ready to book a shuttle.

Parks Canada has a shuttle system that runs every 20 minutes from the Lake Louise Park and Ride. In 2021, the rate for the shuttle is $8 per person + a $3 processing fee for the transaction. The main benefit of the shuttle is that you also can go to Moraine Lake on the same ticket and see two amazing places on the same day.

Note: Unless the weather is terrible, Moraine Lake’s parking is usually full by 5:00 am and Lake Louise by 9:00 am, so the shuttle is your best bet to enjoy this area in beautiful weather.

Whether you arrive by car or shuttle, head down to the lake, this is where your hike starts!

Hiking Details.

Start at the lakeshore, which will most likely be full of people renting canoes and taking pictures. Expect a lot of families and people who are staying at the chateau to be enjoying the waterfront. Go counter-clockwise around the lake until you reach the end of the lake.

You will arrive at the end of the lake at about 2.0 km. If the lake is low, you can take the lower trail that skirts the lakeshore or if it is flooded like it was when we were there, you will be forced to go up a small incline (about 10 meters of elevation) and then continue straight towards the Plain of the Six Glaciers.

Plain of the Six Glaciers Hike
The views just keep getting better and better as you hike!

Expect rock climbers to be scaling the sheer cliffs on your right as you continue forward.

From here, the trail is straightforward, simply follow the signs.

As you hike straight towards the glaciers, you will encounter two junctions on your right that go to the Big Beehive and the Agnes Teahouse. These are great side trips if you are feeling fit on the way back and want to see more. The trail to the Big Beehive and the Agnes teahouse is mostly in the trees, but the views at Lake Agnes, Mirror Lake, and the Big Beehive are worth the journey. Unfortunately, when we were hiking, a massive thunderstorm rolled in so we had to cut the hike short and didn’t make it to the Big Beehive.

hike to the plain of the six glaciers
There are a few nice places to stop, take in the view, and have a snack!

Victoria Glacier, Mount Lefroy, the Mitre, and Mount Victoria and loom ahead of you as you hike.

At 5.3 km, you will reach an alpine teahouse, which is simply adorable. This is a great spot to rest on one of the many benches and look at the views. If you want a sweet treat, lunch, or a refreshing glass of rather expensive lemonade, make sure to bring cash with you! The surcharge for using a credit card is $4.00. Since we didn’t bring cash, we enjoyed the apple I had in my pack.

Teahouse at Plain of the Six Glaciers
A wonderful mountain oasis. They have sweet treats, sandwiches, and desserts – mmm!

At this point, you can continue forward for another 1.5 km along a moraine with 50 meters of elevation to end at the Abbot Pass viewpoint. It is worth the additional distance and elevation to get close up to the glacier field and see Abbot hut, a backcountry alpine hut used by hikers and climbers alike.

The Abbot Pass Hut is one of the most unique huts in North America. It was built in 1922 with the stones from the pass and has served as a base for mountaineers and as a destination for strong hikers since then. Sitting at 2,926 metres elevation, it is second only to the Neil Colgan Hut on the list of highest permanent structures in Canada. The hut is on the Continental Divide so the provincial and National Park borders run right down the middle of the hut.

~Alpine Club of Canada

Enjoy the views, have a sweet treat at the teahouse, and head back the way you came.

Abbot Pass Viewpoint
This is where the trail nearly ends – up on a moraine, looking out at Abbot Pass and Hut. Victoria Glacier looms over you … pretty spectacular if you ask me!

Have more energy and are feeling fit? Take one of the connector trails up to the Big Beehive and enjoy more of this wonderful place. If you have to choose the Abbot Pass viewpoint or the Big Beehive, I would suggest the Abbot Pass viewpoint, as you are nearly there and the views are sublime.

wildflowers on plain of the six glaciers
Oh … and the wildflowers are amazing! Just in case you were wondering!

This is a beautiful hike and should go on your ‘Hikes To Do’ list if you haven’t done it already.

I give it 8 stars for being beautiful the whole way up, having a teahouse, and being able to get so close to Victoria Glacier and Abbot Pass Hut.

What is your favourite hike out of Lake Louise? 

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