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The Big Beehive Hike from Lake Louise near Banff 2023

The Big Beehive hike is a classic trail in the Canadian Rockies of moderate difficulty rewarding hikers with beautiful views of the unreal Lake Louise and it is great to make a stop at the renowned Lake Agnes teahouse. Big Beehive is a mountain that resembles a beehive located close to Lake Louise in Banff National Park. From the Lake Louise parking lot walk to the Mirror Lake, on to Lake Agnes teahouse, and on to the top of the Beehive with amazing views of Lake Louise and spectacular views of Lake Agnes on the way. Little Beehive and the Devil’s Thumb are some possible side trails or keep on walking to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse.

The Big beehive hike
View of the Big Beehive from the Lake Agnes trail hiking in September.

Hiking via Lake Agnes the trail takes around 4 hours to complete. The trailhead is at the spectacular Lake Louise, a turquoise, glacier-fed lake surrounded by high peaks with many hiking trails of varying difficulty starting here. Combine the Beehive trail with several other routes to create a trail with the best views, as long and hard as you want to hike.

Getting to the Trailhead at Lake Louise

Lake Louise is the starting point for several awesome hiking trails and can be reached from both towns located inside the Banff national park, the Town of Banff, and Lake Louise Village. These towns are 57 km apart by road with plenty of transport options between them. The Regional Service with Roam transit is convenient and cheap, in-season buses run 5 times per day, and the transfer from Banff to Lake Louise takes about 50 minutes.

Lake Louise
Lake Louise is the trailhead for the Big Beehive hiking trail.

See our detailed Guide to the Best Hikes in Banff National Park. Banff town itself also has some nice hikes like the Sulphur Mountain hike, Tunnel Mountain, and the Hoodoos trail.

In season Parks Canada offers shuttles to the Lake Louise lakeshore from Lake Louise town every 15 minutes from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Lake Louise is located 4km from the town of Lake Louise.

Best Time To Do the Big Beehive Hike

The best time of the year to hike from Lake Louise is late June to middle September. The lake starts to thaw middle of June for those awesome photos of the perfect glassy turquoise lake on this excellent hike. Snow on the peaks only melts in July. The Lake Agnes teahouse opens in early June, it is closed in the winter months with unfavorable weather conditions. We hiked the complete 19.5 km circuit in late September, it was beautiful with the golden larches, the trail, and the teahouse was still busy, but snow and frozen paths made some sections difficult. 

view of Lake Louise from Big Beehive Trail
View of Lake Louise from the Big Beehive trail in September with some snow, the lake is not frozen yet with some beautiful golden Larches.

The Big Beehive Hiking Trail

  • Trail Type – out and back
  • Distance – 10.5 km (6.5 mi)
  • Time – 3 to 4 hours
  • Elevation gain:  550 m (1800 ft)

The classic Big Beehive hike is an out-and-back trail starting at Chateau Lake Louise and turning around on the Big Beehive with some fantastic views of Lake Louise from the Big Beehive Lookout. On the trail, you walk past Lake Louise, Mirror Lake, Lake Agnes, and the Lake Agnes teahouse. The trail presents great views of Mount Whyte, the Devil’s Thumb, and Lake Agnes.

view of big beehive from the mirror lake
From the Mirror Lake you will get excellent views of the Big Beehive.

The trail offers a beautiful mix of forest, mountain, and lakeshore scenery, varying from easy walking to climbing the challenging switchbacks to the top of the Big Beehive.

Big Beehive Hiking Options

Shorter Hike – Lake Agnes Teahouse

If you want to do only a portion of the trail hiking to the Lake Agnes Tea House is a good option. This is a relatively easy hike, cutting out the steep switchbacks and you have views of the Big Beehive from the trail. Lake Agnes Teahouse is a small, rustic tea house on the shores of Lake Agnes, and is a nice stop at an elevation of 2,135 meters (7,005 feet) about an hour’s walk from Lake Louise for a cup of tea. The return trail is 7 km. 

lake agnes teahouse
Lake Agnes Teahouse, is busy with plenty of hikers stopping for tea on a chilly morning in late autumn.

Extend the Trail – Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House

Extend the trail by walking to the Little Beehive, the Devil’s Thumb, or continue to your second tea house of the day, Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. Walking to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse from the Big Beehive can be done with two possible routes. The Highline trail between the two teahouses is 14.6 km, or walking to both tea houses and back along Lake Louise Lakeshore is a 19.5-kilometer hike. Make sure you have enough time, this is a long hike and took me more than 6 hours, if conditions are not great with lots of snow and ice this can take up to 8 hours.

extended hiking route big beehive hike
Map of our 19.5 km hiking route from Lake Louise to Lake Agnes, the Big Beehive and the Plain of Six Glaciers including Lake Agnes teahouse and Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse.

The Big Beehive Hiking Trail

The Big Beehive trailhead – the Big Beehive hike starts at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, close to the large parking lot. The first Beehive trail sign is at Lake Louise.

Lake Agnes Teahouse trail 

Walk to Mirror Lake

From Lake Louise to the chateau is an easy, flat paved trail. After passing the Chateau follow the Lake Agnes trail to the right. The first 1.9 miles (3 km) of the hike is a steady climb for about an hour until you reach Mirror Lake reflecting the image of the Big Beehive towering above the lake. 

The Little Beehive Trail

From the mirror lake, just past the teahouse, there is a well-marked detour to the Little Beehive trail, it is a 0.5 mile (800m) detour to the Little Beehive, it is a great option to avoid large crowds. 

The trail keeps on climbing at a steady incline to Lake Agnes teahouse for another half a mile. Hiking to Lake Agnes is about 2.5 miles (4.1 km) The climb is not too steep with an elevation gain of about 1600 ft (500m).

Climbing to the Big Beehive 

Walk from the teahouse on the path next to the lake, and cross the large, flat rocks at the end of the path. Go up the scree-covered slope at the end of Lake Agnes. Look back for some amazing views of the valley. The hardest part of the big beehive hike is ascending with a series of switchbacks to the top.

The intersection – if you continue you will reach a 4-way intersection of trails just over a mile (1.8 km) after reaching Lake Agnes, 3.6 miles (5.9 km) from the start of the trail. Go right to go to the Devil’s Thumb, continue straight for the shortest path to the Highline Trail, and go left to the Big Beehive.

Lake Agnes early in Fall
Lake Agnes early in the fall heading to the Big Beehive.

Views from the Big Beehive – There are some nice spots from which Lake Louise can be seen on the top of the Big Beehive. The Beehive shelter at the end of the trail is a nice spot to have a break or something to eat, but it is not a great viewpoint.

The Return Hike

To hike back to the trailhead from Big Beehive you can do a round trip hike the same way down the switchbacks to Lake Agnes. Another option is from the Big Beehive to follow the moraine to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, with impressive views of the Victoria Glacier and Abbott Pass. From here you can return to the back of Lake Louise on the lakeshore trail, this loop hiking to all the stops on this trail is a 12.5 mile (20 kilometers) trail taking about 7 to 8 hours. This is a long hike back to the Lake Louise shoreline. 

lake louise lake shore
Hike the Big Beehive as a loop and finish the hike by returning to the back of Lake Louise on the lakeshore trail

Tips for the Big Beehive Hike

  • Bring micro spikes – if you are going to do this trial early or late in the season. With icy sections the trail becomes very slippery, I was so happy that I had micro spikes in my backpack.
  • Bring cash – the teahouse sells soup and sandwiches but only accepts cash.
  • Buy a Coffee before the hike – the Lake Agnes teahouse served about a hundred kinds of tea which were great but had not coffee when I was there, tip for other caffeine junkies.

Accommodation in Lake Louise

Budget Accommodation – HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre – the only budget option in Lake Louise, I enjoyed staying here. Good facilities for a hostel, cafe, good wifi even a sauna! walking distance to the mall and bus pick-up.

Mid Range – Mountaineer Lodge – well rated, nice location, good value.

Treat yourself – Fairmont Château Lake Louise, stay in luxury, only accommodation located on Lake Louise (not the town, but at the lake) panoramic views of Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier, a 4-star resort. Gym, fine dining, the location right on the lake!

The Fairmont Château Lake Louise
The Fairmont Château Lake Louise is only accommodation located on Lake Louise, luxury accommodation with spectacular views of the lake.

Amazing Hikes in Canada

British Columbia offers some great hiking check out these amazing hikes in Vancouver.  Hiking Grouse Mountain was a fun challenge. At Squamish climb the 3 peaks of The Stawamus Chief or go hiking in Garibaldi National Park near Whistler. The Garibaldi Lake hike, the Panorama Route, and the strenuous Black Tusk were three fantastic trails. On Vancouver Island, the grueling West Coast Trail is a fantastic trail along the coast, camping on the beach. In the opposite direction, The Juan de Fuca trail is a bit shorter and more flexible, but still a spectacular hike and a fantastic accomplishment to complete.

Packing to hike around Banff

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Ice crampons/cleats for walking on ice without slipping.

My Garmin Fenix 5 GPS Watch was magic for hiking around Banff; measuring speed, elevation, heart rate, mapping, and more.

If you are going to hike trails in the snow, waterproof gaiters are excellent to keep snow and mud out of your boots!

My Salomon X Ultra Prime gortex boots are an amazing pair of boots, for winter, summer, mud, snow, and rain comfortable, light, and completely waterproof.

Ladies model, Alya loves her Ladies Salomon X Ultra boots.

I always carry a light rain jacket in my daypack, the North Face for ladies or North Face Resolve for men

I always pack a BUFF Multifunctional Headwear – for sun and wind protection (doubles as a face mask).

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