If you’re looking for the best view of Lake Louise in Banff National Park, you absolutely have to complete the Big Beehive hike. The moderate 7-mile hike up to Big Beehive brings you to easily the best view overlooking the teal-colored lake. While many people never leave the lakeshore, we strongly recommend hiking to Big Beehive for the best views. In the article below, we’ll give you all the details you need to plan for your Big Beehive hike!
About Banff National Park
Established in 1885, Banff National Park is Canada’s first national park and remains the most visited to this day. Banff National Park is located in Alberta, Canada, about 2 hours from Calgary and just minutes from Canmore. The small town of Banff is located inside the park, and is another popular home base for exploring the area.
Spanning over 6,600 square kilometers, Banff National Park is home to some of the most stunning sections of the Canadian Rockies. Beautiful alpine lakes, teal rivers, snow-capped mountains, and expansive glaciers punctuate the scenery in Banff and make for jaw-dropping views and an impressive list of incredible hikes.
Entrance to Banff National Park costs $10.50 per person per day. Unlike in the United States, entrance fees are paid per person, rather than per vehicle. Alternatively, you can purchase a Parks Canada Discovery Pass for $72.25 per person, which grants you access to all Canadian National Parks for one year.
About Lake Louise
While Banff is the most visited national park in Canada, Lake Louise is definitely the most visited spot within Banff National Park.
But don’t let the large crowds and parking challenges deter you – Lake Louise is super popular for a reason! The teal blue waters, colored by sediments carried into the lake from glacial runoff, form the perfect foreground for the towering rocky mountains in the distance. Despite the crowds and generally touristy nature of the area, it really is one of the most beautiful lakes we’ve ever seen!
If you’re looking for the best view of Lake Louise, then you need to hike to Big Beehive, which provides unmatched views of the lake below. Keep on reading to get all the info you need to complete the hike to Big Beehive!
Overview | Big Beehive from Lake Louise
- Hiking distance | 6.8 miles
- Elevation gain | 2,545 feet
- Epic-ness rating | 7.5
- Difficulty | Moderate
- Dogs allowed? | Yes
Find this hike on AllTrails: The Big Beehive
With teal waters stretching out in front of majestic, glacier-capped mountains, Lake Louise is one of the most magnificent and iconic viewpoints in Canada. Located in the heart of Banff National Park, and just a few hours from Calgary, Lake Louise should be on any adventurer’s bucket list.
While most people enjoy the lake from its shores, if you want to get some exercise and to escape some (but not all…) of the crowds, you should head out on one of the many hiking trails leaving from the Lake Louise shoreline.
With so many trails leaving from Lake Louise, you have plenty of great options, but one of our favorite hikes is the trail up to Big Beehive, which provides an epic bird’s-eye views of the teal-colored water below. We think the lake is even more impressive from above!
The Big Beehive hike itself is moderately difficult, covering just under 7 miles and almost 2,500 feet of elevation gain. This isn’t any old walk in the park! But with plenty of places to stop and views to distract you, we think the Big Beehive hike is well worth the effort!
- Unbelievable views of Lake Louise and the surrounding mountains you can’t get from below.
- Opportunity to escape some of the crowds at Lake Louise.
- Stop at an historic tea house right on the trail!
- Trail will be very busy.
- Getting to Lake Louise is logistically challenging and parking is limited.
Always remember to leave no trace!
Please do your part to help preserve the beautiful landscapes and fragile ecosystems found in Idaho for generations to come. A few key things to remember include:
- Always stay on the trail. Going off-trail damages the plants and accelerates erosion.
- Store your food properly – this is bear country! Never leave food unattended and avoid leaving behind crumbs or food waste.
- Additionally, never feed the animals, no matter how cute… this includes squirrels, marmots, pikas, chipmunks etc. You may think you’re doing them a favor, but human food is dangerous for wild animals and can shorten their lifespan.
- Pack out all trash and waste. Be respectful of the area and others. Don’t leave behind your food or trash.
- Be considerate of others. That means keeping your dog on leash and your noise levels low.
- Be prepared and do your research. Some of the hikes on this list are quite challenging. Know what you’re getting into and don’t attempt a hike you aren’t prepared. Remember that most areas don’t have cell service, so you are responsible for your own safety.
Remember to Leave No Trace. Pack out what you pack in, stay on trail, be well-prepared, leave nothing behind, take only photos and memories with you, treat the area with respect and help preserve this beautiful spot for generations to come.
When is the best time to hike to Big Beehive?
Lake Louise Village and the Lake Louise lakeshore area are open year round. However, as you can imagine, the winter months will be brutally cold and the trail is closed from November through mid-May due to avalanche hazards. The exact dates for the trail opening/closing will vary each year depending on conditions.
The teahouse at Lake Agnes is typically open from mid-May through Canadian Thanksgiving in mid-October.
How difficult is the Big Beehive hike?
We think this hike is moderately difficult. Of course, this largely depends on your physical fitness and what you’re comfortable with, but we found the hike to be a good workout, without being overly strenuous.
Covering just under 7 miles with about 2,500 feet of elevation gain, it’s neither particularly short nor flat. It’s a legit hike with some steep sections and shouldn’t be attempted without the proper gear and preparation.
How to get to Lake Louise
Okay, truth be told, the hardest part of the Big Beehive hike is just getting to Lake Louise. It can be a real headache!
Parking your car
Parking at Lake Louise is extremely limited and the lot fills up during the summer by 8:00 AM at the latest. It’s a bit better than the parking situation at Moraine Lake but still a pain. To ensure you’ll secure a parking spot, you should plan to arrive before 7:00 AM. We arrived around 6:45 AM after visiting Moraine Lake for sunrise, and just barely managed to snag a spot.
Once the lot is full, parking attendants will start directing traffic and divert people away from the area. This means that you can’t just circle the lot until someone pulls out. This is done to avoid traffic jams and even more chaos than already exists.
If you do snag a spot at the Lake Louise parking lot, you will need to pay at one of the self-serve kiosks. The parking fee is $12.25 CAD per vehicle per day. Payment is only required during the peak season (typically May through October) and from 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM.
There is no overnight parking at Lake Louise.
To avoid the chaos and risk of securing (or not securing…) a parking spot, you also have a few shuttle options that can get you to Lake Louise.
- The Roam shuttle leaves from the town of Banff. To get to Lake Louise, you can take Route 8X, which is a direct route from Banff to Lake Louise, or Route 8S, which is more scenic and includes stops at other locations in the park.
- During the summer, the first bus leaves Banff at 7:00 and takes about 1 hour to get to Lake Louise. Route 8S will take a bit longer.
- Tickets for adults cost $10 CAD each way. Kids and seniors are $5.
- You can also purchase a Super Pass, giving you access to the Parks Canada Lake Connector, which runs between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
- Read more about the Roam shuttle and make reservations here.
Parks Canada Shuttle:
Below, we’ve highlighted a few important details about the Lake Louise/Moraine Lake shuttle. You can also find more information online here.
- Shuttle leaves from the Lake Louise Village in the park.
- Reservations must be made online in advance. Walk up tickets are not available.
- Tickets cost $8 CAD per adult and $2 per child for a roundtrip fare. There is also a $3 per order processing fee on the Parks Canada website.
- Tickets for the Lake Louise/Moraine Lake shuttles are released during the spring (check Park’s Canada website for the exact dates each year). A small portion of tickets are reserved for last minute bookings, and are released at 8:00am MDT two days in advance.
- Tickets sell out well in advance, so be sure to plan ahead to avoid scrambling for tickets at the last minute.
- The first shuttle departs at 6:30am from the park & ride at the Lake Louise Ski Area.
- A connector shuttle is available for no extra charge between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
- Book your tickets online at Parks Canada.
Lake Louise to Big Beehive Hike Details
Now that we have all the boring logistical details out of the way, let’s get into the hike itself!
Starting from Lake Louise Lake Shore
Once you arrive at Lake Louise, first, pause for a moment to take a deep breath, the most stressful part of your day is behind you. It’s all uphill from here!
Spend some time admiring the iconic views of Lake Louise, the Chateau Fairmont, and Mount Victoria. The area around the lake shore is pretty chaotic so we found ourselves ready to start hiking fairly quickly.
The hike to Big Beehive begins from the north west side of the lake. Put more simply, if you’re looking at the lake with the Chateau Fairmont at your back, it is to the right. It’s pretty easy to find the trail.
Once you find the trail, you’ll walk along the banks of Lake Louise for a bit before you start a slow, methodical incline up. Cutting across the side of the mountain in one gigantic switchback, the elevation gain doesn’t stop.
After about 1.4 miles, you hit the turn at the switchback and continue up the mountain towards Mirror Lake.
Soon thereafter, you’ll face a short section that traverses more directly up to Mirror Lake.
After about 1.9 miles, you’ll reach the quaint Mirror Lake. This tiny little alpine lake is a great place to stop and take a quick break.
But don’t get too comfortable because you still have work to do!
Upon leaving Mirror Lake, you’ll soon arrive at Lake Agnes and the tea house with just a short but steep 0.4 mile push.
Lake Agnes is much larger and more beautiful than Mirror Lake, but isn’t quite on the same level as Lake Louise. Nonetheless, the views are epic!
Lake Agnes Tea House
To be honest, when we hiked to Big Beehive, we didn’t really know what to expect from the tea house. But to clear up any confusion, check out some helpful hints below:
- The tea house is a locally owned business that has been serving tea since 1905.
- They really do serve just tea and a few small snacks. Don’t expect to get a coffee here!
- The tea house is cash only.
- Lines during the peak season can be very long so expect to wait.
- The tea house is open 8 am – 5 pm during the peak season.
Final climb to Big Beehive
After leaving Lake Agnes, you only have a single mile to go before you reach the Big Beehive. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy!
From the Lake Agnes Tea House area, you’ll first walk along the right side of the lake before going around the far side of the lake.
You’ll then start going up, and it’ll be steep! The seemingly endless switchbacks slowly bring you closer and closer to the top of Big Beehive, making this easily the hardest part of the hike.
Once the trail flattens out, you still have a little ways to go. Big Beehive is essentially a large ridge that stretches out from the mountains towards Lake Agnes and Lake Louise. So once you reach the top, you can still hike down the ridge for the most epic views of both lakes below.
Along both sides of the ridge, there are countless view points, each more beautiful than the last. With sweeping views of Mount Victoria, Lake Louise, Lake Agnes, and the surrounding area, you will be left speechless in awe of their sheer beauty.
There is a small wooden hut at the end of Big Beehive that is a good place to rest. Along the top of the Big Beehive is a great place to eat lunch as you enjoy the views of the Canadian rockies in all directions.
The return hike
Once you’ve soaked up all the views you can from Big Beehive, it’s time to head back. Most people just follow the same trail back that they used to hike up to Big Beehive.
However, if you want to extend your hike you have a few alternative options.
There are tons of trails that leave from the Lake Louise area so its super easy to add on a few extra miles to experience even more magical beauty.
Here are a few potential hike alterations:
- Tack on Little Beehive | The trail to Little Beehive is the same as the path to Big Beehive until you reach Mirror Lake, where the two paths diverge. Including the spur trail to Little Beehive will add about 2 miles onto you total mileage for the day.
- Climb up to Devil’s Thumb | If you want an even bigger challenge leading to even better views, consider adding on the sometimes narrow, often steep, and frequently unmarked trail up to Devil’s Thumb. Be aware that this trail is a serious challenge and features a few sections that are incredibly steep climbs of loose dirt and rocks. Only attempt this hike if you are full prepared and physically fit. The climb up to Devil’s Thumb is about .6 mile each way but includes about 600 feet of elevation gain.
- Hike out through the Plain of Six Glaciers | This is another very popular hike in the area that takes you through the heart valley leading up to Mount Victoria from Lake Louise. There is a trail that connects the hike to Big Beehive to the trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers. Adding on the hike through the Plain of Six Glaciers is a little out of the way and will add on anywhere from 4-6 miles depending on how far you go.
Other useful resources
Planning a trip to Banff?! You may also be interested in the following resources:
- Banff | How to See an Amazing Sunrise at Moraine Lake
- Banff | 16 Best Hikes in Banff & Yoho
- Banff | How to Spend 4 Days in Banff: Complete Itinerary
- Banff | Cirque Peak & Helen Lake in Banff: Ultimate Trail Guide
- Yoho | Iceline Trail, Little Yoho Valley & Yoho Valley Loop Trail Guide
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For all things Canada: Canada Travel Guide
Still have questions about the Big Beehive hike at Lake Louise? Drop us a comment below and we’ll be happy to help!