I made it to Lake Louise late yesterday afternoon. As I had done in Banff I wanted to take a hike today that would provide good views of Lake Louise and the surrounding mountains. In looking at the map of Banff NP and doing some reading on line I decided to do a hike just up from the lake. Although I knew it would probably be crowded from what I could see it looked like a great place to see the area….and it sure was!
The trail I chose for this morning was called the Little Beehive. The trailhead was located on the shore of Lake Louise. So I should probably take a minute and describe the area first. Lake Louise village is located just off the Trans-Canada Hwy 1. The village consists of a couple of gas stations, a few restaurants, an outdoor sports store, a small, very expensive grocery, a couple of other shops and 3 hotels. Nothing like Banff. The actual lake is about 3 miles drive up a mountain. When you get to the lake there is a large parking area and a very nice, very expensive resort called the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (website, images). Needless to say, “Homie Don’t Play That” (ha ha)…
….but I did park in their lot. (it’s actually a public lot for those going to Lake Louise).
When I got to the parking lot my “fears” were realized when I saw all the cars and people. Oh well, I knew this area was going to crowded so I just laced up my boots (actually I just used my day hikers for this one), grabbed my pack and off I went into the shopping mall like crowd. 🙂
I walked about 1/4 of a mile over a small hill and there it was, Lake Louise with some magnificent mountains in the background and I have to say, I immediately knew what all the hubbub was about….WOW!
I had to wait in line to get to a place where I could take the pictures without having someone in them (seriously) so after just a couple of pictures I took off for the trailhead. Although the trail was not long (2.5 miles) it was steep in places, which was good because it helped to thin out the crowds. As I climbed higher I could see the turquoise colored water of Lake Louise glistening below me and someone standing on the peak where I was heading high above me.
As I hiked on I came to a couple of junctions. As I continued on toward Little Beehive it got a little steeper but still not too bad. In 10 minutes or so I came to the first lookout area (the one where the person is standing in the picture above) but there were a few people there so I kept going hoping to find an area that I could have for myself. I hiked about 5 more minutes and came to the end of the trail and what an ending it was! I could see that although the “official” trail ended here you could easily go a little further to get closer to the edge so of course I had to do it. 🙂 As I walked down I found a concrete floor with about a 3′ high block wall of a building that once stood it. It was a curious structure at that spot but there were no signs saying what it had been. Anyway, it turned out that standing on the wall was a great place to take my pictures AND I had the whole place to myself….it was great!!!
I spent probably an hour at this spot just sitting and taking it all in. In that time I was amazed, and happy, that I only saw about 4-6 people so it was actually very peaceful…..compared to mob scene down at the lake. After an hour or so I reluctantly (hey, I haven’t done anything reluctantly in a few posts 🙂 ) pulled myself away and started back down. I decided to take a different route down to pass by Lake Agnes (images, AllTrails). When I got to the lake I quickly discovered that this is where all the people coming up the trail (who I didn’t see at the top) were going. They have a coffee/snack shop with a really nice deck and picnic tables beside the lake. They call it a “Tea House” (images). While it wasn’t nearly as crowded as the Lake Louise shoreline there were quite a few people there. I walked by and stopped at the bottom of the lake to take a few pictures. It was a very beautiful alpine lake…..
From here I descended pretty quickly and was back on the shores of Lake Louise in about 10-15 minutes. When I reached the view point….the very crowded view point, I decided I would take my obligatory “I’ve been to Lake Louise and here’s the picture to prove it” picture, with my standard “pose” of course. 😉
I navigated my way through the crowds and back to the parking area. I made a quick sandwich and headed out. I briefly stopped at the Lake Louise visitors centre to speak with them about some potential hikes for tomorrow. I met a very nice lady there (I’m beginning to see a pattern with Canadian rangers) who was very helpful. I told her what I wanted (a long hike, with great scenery/views and AWAY FROM THE CROWDS). She told me about a hike that she had done just a couple of weeks before that sounded ideal! She gave me a map and all the info I needed. She was wonderful!
After that I took a few minutes to look around the centre and came across something that I thought was really cool and picture worthy. It was a model of 6 high peaks around the world that provided a visual comparison for scale. And the really cool thing (for a boy from North Carolina) was that the first mountain listed was little ole’ Mt. Mitchell in Western North Carolina (keep in mind I am in a park in Alberta Canada). I just thought that was pretty cool.
Now, there is a second very popular lake in the area called Moraine Lake (summer images, winter images). To reach it by car you have to take a 6 mile spur road. What I didn’t know, but found out today, is that the parking area for Moraine Lake is quite small so unless you are at the lake by 7-8 in the morning you have to take a shuttle as they close the road. While I didn’t like the idea of having to take the extra time to take a shuttle I had dedicated today to seeing the “popular/crowded” Lake Louise sites….so I decided I’d bite the bullet and take the shuttle. To get to the shuttle area you have to get back on the Trans-Canada Hwy and drive about 4 miles to a large parking area. From there you catch a shuttle bus (they run every 15 minutes or so) and then it’s about a 30 minute ride to get to Lake Moraine. All-in-all it wasn’t that bad as I just put in my earbuds, put on some good music and watched the scenery go by. To be honest, it was actually nice to be going somewhere without having to drive for a change. 🙂
I had already decided on a short hike to another, slightly more remote, lake in the Moraine Lake area. So as soon as the bus stopped I unloaded and hit the trail as I had less than 2 hours until the last bus left for the day.
The trail I chose was the Consolation Lakes trail (images, AllTrails). There was a bear warning sign at the beginning of the trail. It had two check boxes…..one that said 4 or more hikers in a group is mandatory and the other that strongly suggested 4 or more in a group but it was not mandatory. It was not mandatory today, but strongly recommended. I hesitated for a minute but figured it was a short and relatively highly used trail, so I double checked to make sure I had my bear spray and I continued on.It was a relatively easy trail but it was very rocky, with some big boulders at the beginning and some climbing.
It was a nice hike through mostly thick forest but every now and then you get a glimpse of the canyon that you are walking through. It took about 25 minutes to reach the lake and it was incredibly beautiful!
I spent probably 20 minutes or more just looking around and taking it all in. Unfortunately however, I had to leave rather quickly as I could not miss the last bus of the day (this is the biggest issue with taking a shuttle) so reluctantly 🙂 I started back. On my way back I took a quick picture of the rocky trail with the beautiful snow capped mountains in the background…..
As I was leaving this area and heading to the shuttle I saw this little guy and just had to stop and take a picture. He was so cute with his little pack and bedroll on his back. He was just sitting peacefully on a rock, looking out at the lake, and pretty much oblivious to all the people around him. I loved it!!!
After that I said goodbye to Moraine Lake, jumped on the shuttle and made my way back to the parking area. In spite of the crowds and throngs of people it was a good day in the Lake Louise area with a couple of short, but nice, hikes and some incredible views!