Lake Louise is located in Banff National Park and is home to stunning glacier-fed lakes, pristine mountain views, and some of the best hiking trails in Alberta. Banff National Park is not only Canada’s first National Park, but it is also part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The best time to hike the Plain of 6 Glaciers Trail is between late June and early to mid-September, as the lake doesn’t usually thaw until early June. Because Lake Louise sits at a relatively high altitude, much of the snow at the peaks won’t melt until at least July. This makes hiking the Plain of Six Glaciers far more challenging before early Banff summer.
Plain of Six Glaciers Trail
This is one of the most incredible trails you will find at Lake Louise. With gorgeous views of the lake, a visit to the historic Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, and an amazing finish at the Abbot Pass viewpoint, this hike really has everything you need to make your trip to Lake Louise memorable.
The Lakeshore Trail
Hiking the Plain of 6 Glaciers Trail to the Abbott Pass Viewpoint actually combines 3 connected trails, with the longest portion being rated as “moderate”.
The Plain of 6 Glaciers Trail begins in front of the Fairmont Hotel on the Lake Louise Lakeshore trail. This flat and groomed trail is 2 km one way, with no elevation gain.
2.7 km into the hike, the trail becomes a wooden boardwalk. If you look to the right of the trail, you will usually get a glimpse of rock climbers making their way up the cliffs.
Plain of 6 Glaciers Trail
Shortly after the boardwalk, you begin your ascent into the Plain of the Six Glaciers. At this point, the hiking trail becomes more rugged – watch your step since you’ll start encountering rocks and tree roots.
This portion of the Plain of Six Glaciers hike is approximately 3.5 km long, with a 365 m elevation gain. The estimated travel time is 2 hours to the top, where you will meet with the final leg of the journey.
The trail itself is challenging, with a pretty steady incline, but it doesn’t get too steep, At around the 4.9 km point, though, the trail becomes a narrow rocky path with pretty significant drop-offs to one side.
Just beyond the narrow path, the Plain of 6 Glaciers trail transitions to a rocky berm, heading straight towards the incredible Lake Louise glaciers. The 360-degree views at this point are fabulous.
By about the 5.5 km mark of the Plain of Six Glaciers hike, you’ll be huffing and puffing as the trail ascends more steeply. You will need to work your way through a series of switchbacks as you head up the trail.
This is another spot where you really need to watch your footing. At this point on the trail, the ground gets wet from streams running across it, so it gets pretty slippery.
The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House
One of the best parts about hiking Plain of 6 Glaciers is the Tea House found at the trail’s end. There, weary hikers will find benches to sit and rest while indulging in a good cup of tea and a decadent treat.
Built in 1927, the Plain of 6 Glaciers Tea House has been privately owned and operated by the same family since 1959. The Tea House is open seasonally and serves light lunches, desserts, and of course, hot tea.
Because there is no electricity, cash is preferred. A $4 charge will apply for credit cards, and debit is not accepted. And just a heads-up, you will also be expected to carry your own trash back down.
The Tea House also has two outhouses for the public to use.
The Abbott Pass Viewpoint
The Abbott Pass Viewpoint is a short trail that you can tack on to the Plain of Six Glaciers hike. At only 1.3 km, this short route has an elevation gain of 50 m and will take you about an hour round trip from the Tea House.
Keep in mind that this section of the Plain of Six Glaciers hike (6.3 km mark) is no longer maintained. The trail is challenging, with large sections where you are walking over tree roots, loose stones, and gravel, on narrow paths, and with steeper inclines and drop-offs.
Once you hit the 6.9 km mark, you will be met with a rocky clearing. The stunning views of Lake Louise and the glaciers are incredible at this point.
But don’t turn around just yet. The hike continues for another 500 m along a raised berm, which is pretty steep and narrow.
The End of the Trail
The Plain of Six Glaciers hike finished at the end of the berm. The path ends abruptly and without signage, but you’ll know the end when you see it. You definitely won’t miss the spectacular views of the glaciers.
If you are lucky enough to have a clear day and a good camera, you might be able to see the Abbot Pass Hut, perched above the glacier. Second only to the Neil Colgan Hut on the list of the highest permanent structures in Canada, the Abbot Pass Hut was constructed in 1922 and sits at 2,926 meters in elevation.
The Return Trip
The easiest way to return to Fairmont is to retrace your steps. The descent is pretty easy, taking less than 2 hours from the Abbot Pass Viewpoint down to Lake Louise Lakeshore.
Most reasonably fit and experienced hikers should have no problem completing the Plain of 6 Glaciers Trail in about 4 hours. Of course, do not forget to factor in extra time if you plan to stop at the Tea House for a treat.
Need to Know
Length: 14.6 km return (7.3 km one way)
Time: 3 – 5 hrs
Grade: Easy to Moderate / Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System).
Region: Lake Louise
Park: Banff National Park
Best time to go: June to October
Have you visited the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.