Lake Louise is a popular destination for international tourists and Albertans alike, but many visitors do not stray from the shoreline. If you are looking to visit the lake, and make your visit more worthwhile, there are plenty of hikes in the area to explore. This is also a popular area for outdoor climbing and horseback riding, and some visitors even rent canoes to paddle around the lake, but hiking is definitely the most affordable option.
This post is specifically about the Big Beehive hike, a trail that brings you above the lake to a glorious viewpoint. This is a 10.9 km trail with 776 m of elevation gain. I would consider this trail to be moderate, a good hike for an intermediate level hiker. There are a couple steep sections, but do to the high traffic in the area, the trails are well maintained and the grade is relatively moderate. I completed this hike in the middle of last summer, July 2020. It was very warm and sunny that day, so lots of water and sun protection (hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen) were imperative.
The trail begins along the right side of Lake Louise, quickly dipping into the trees. There are many trails in the area, so be sure to read the signs. The trail gains altitude as you travel through the trees to the second lake on the hike: Mirror Lake. This small, glassy lake is a great spot to take some pictures of the Beehive itself. The formation of rock from this angle is how the hike received its name. The peak of the hike ends at this top of the Beehive, but don’t worry, the path goes around and follows the more gradual route along the back of the Beehive.
Check the signs before leaving Mirror Lake. The most direct route turns left from mirror lake, although Lake Agnes Trail also joins with the Big Beehive trail at the Lake Agnes Teahouse. Lake Agnes is the last lake on the hike, significantly larger than Mirror lake. The trail wraps around the right side of Lake Agnes before ascending the final section of elevation to the top of the Big Beehive. This is a good spot for photos and to rest and snack. We chose a spot on the far side of the lake to refuel before the last climb.
The final ascent follows some steep switchbacks to the top of the trail. This is the most physically demanding section of the hike, but you are rewarded with views of Lake Agnes all the way up. The water turned a beautiful blue-green as we gained elevation and viewed it from above.
We reached the top of the Big Beehive and immediately made our way to the opposite side, where we had a view of Lake Louise. The famous lake was a powder blue, almost glowing against the surrounding trees. We ate our lunch atop the Beehive before heading back down. The trail branches off at the top of the Big Beehive, with one trail down towards Lake Agnes (the trail we took to the top), and the other heading towards the Plain of Six Glaciers. We decided to take this trail in order to walk back along Lake Louise, but this extra distance certainly isn’t necessary. One of the benefits of hiking around the Lake Louise area is the number of trails around, intersecting here and there. This allows you to add hikes together, or change loops to add or subject distance. If you are going to stray from the loop, just ensure you have a good map and decent knowledge of the area. Happy Hiking!