Distance: 5.5 km to the tea house, 1 km to lookout. Allow for about 1.5 hours to the tea house.
Access: Follow the paved shoreline trail at Lake Louise north until you see hiking signs for Plain of Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes, follow the lake shore.
Tips: Sunscreen, water, camera. Bring cash if you plan on eating at the tea house.
The Plain of Six Glaciers trail has been on my list for three years. Why it took me this long to get out there and experience it for myself I do not know. I suppose reading about it was half the issue. Everyone noted the undeniable crowds and exposed steepness of the trail and I think it kept me from really wanting to do it when there was so much else to see.
I’m glad I finally took the plunge. Everything everyone told me about this trail was accurate. The trail was crowded and at times slow because of the sheer volume of people clogging the way. The trail is steep at times and quite exposed to the winds off the glaciers. It was also a steaming hot day and the temperature did not do anything good for me other than provide a bit of a tan on any skin that was exposed.
The beginning of the trail is simple and easy; you follow the shore of Lake Louise for 2 kilometers until reaching the gravel flats at the back of the lake. This part of the trail is always busy since people of all abilities can access it. After the shoreline trail the route passes by some great cliffs for climbing. You’ll often see lots of climbers on the rocks on a nice day.
The trail then begins to climb steadily through subalpine forest and past several avalanche chutes. Views are afforded throughout this area once you’ve climbed a bit. After leaving the thick forest the route ascends along old moraines. The views from here are fantastic but it’s quite exposed and in the afternoon the sun is beating right down on you. Some more steep switchbacks finally lead up to the tea house.
There are plenty of benches and tables at the tea house and below it for you to rest after a hefty climb. I lucked out by finding an empty table for one and getting my food almost instantly. It’s usually packed in there and don’t be surprised at having to spend a good amount of cash for a sandwich and drink. The food is great so I had no inhibitions about splurging especially after working hard to get up there.
From the tea house you can continue on and up to another moraine that affords even better views of Mount Lafroy and Victoria. The real treat is the view of the Death Trap, a snow covered couloir that leads steeply to the pass. Only experienced mountaineers can traverse this bit so don’t even think about it. If you’ve got decent zoom capacity on your camera or good binoculars you should be able to see Abbott Pass Hut which sits at the top of the Death Trap. The hut can be accessed by the Death Trap or via the other side from Lake Oesa and Lake O’Hara.
If you’re lucky you might see an avalanche off Mount Victoria, at the very least you’ll probably hear ice cracking. The glacier is always shifting around and likes to put on a show for its viewers.