Summer is all about getting back to nature. After our camping in Banff National Park experience, I was keen to keep the momentum going, so I decided to take kiddo on a quick hike in Lake Louise. One of my favourite, easy day hikes for families is up to the Lake Agnes Tea House.
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What’s great about the hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House is that it starts from Lake Louise – the actual lake. And in case of inclement weather and you feel the need to bail, it’s a cinch to sneak inside Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to dry off.
The Chateau is always busy, but their infamous afternoon tea is well worth it. Forget that though. Let’s get into what you need to know for the Lake Agnes Tea House hike!
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Lake Agnes Hike
The trail is the same – whether you’re wanting to hike to Lake Agnes or to the Tea House. The hike begins from the paved pathway that winds its along Lake Louise. It’s well signed and the trail itself is wide and smooth enough for strollers.
With lots of room to spread out, kids can walk four-abreast, jump off roots and rocks and adults can walk and talk at the same time.
With the scent of evergreens wafting in the air, you’ll meander past towering spruce trees, wild strawberry plants and tons of wildflowers. I’m no pro, but I spotted Indian paintbrushes and yellow arnica. (But not in the picture below, I have no idea what those are:)
Our day was overcast with the occasional drizzle, which was awesome because the trail goes straight up, up, up for 3.4 km. You’ll hike to an elevation of 7000 feet, gaining 1205 feet during the hour-long trek.
Once you get to Mirror Lake, you’re almost there! Majestic Beehive Mountain shoots up directly behind this lake and you’ll want to stop for a photo opp. Expect to hike another 10-15 more minutes from Mirror Lake before reaching the tea house.
It took us 45 minutes from trailhead to finish, with no stopping. (Trust me, I wanted there to be stopping!)
Lake Agnes Tea House
Lake Agnes Tea House – the super cute wooden log house you see in the picture below, is the oldest teahouse in Canada! Lake Agnes Tea House was originally built in 1905 by the Canadian Pacific Railway.
It’s rustic, but in the charming, not dust mite sense of the word. There’s no electricity and fresh supplies come in daily from Calgary, before being hiked up by staff. If that doesn’t guilt you into tipping 20%, I don’t know what does…
Dotted with wooden tables and chairs, expect you might share a table with strangers, as space is limited. This makes for a jovial atmosphere, which is helpful as there are plenty of line ups if you arrive around lunchtime.
Families with young children ought to pack in some tasty provisions to avoid disappointment, and we all now know how irate folks can get when cranky kids dine out, don’t we?
Lake Louise Tea House
The menu at this Lake Louise Tea House is cash only, but it’s so worth it, you’ll want to pack plenty of bills. From-scratch baked goods include: cookies, banana bread, tea biscuits with jam, granola bars, and my favourite, a mound of apple crisp.
Daily soup and sandwiches are thick and filling. Warm up with a pot of tea, organic coffee, chai latte or hot chocolate with marshmallows. You will for sure have the energy to hike back down to Lake Louise after eating in this charming tea house.
Lake Agnes doesn’t always have that brilliant turquoise hue Lake Louise sports, but it’s pretty nevertheless. After fuelling up, stroll around the lake and see if you can’t find five things to be grateful for.
For me, Lake Agnes was a hike with no whinging (I was on my best behaviour), meadows filled with all-colours-of-the-rainbow wildflowers, turquoise lakes, a steaming mug of tea, the privilege of living so close to Banff National Park and hot, buttery apple crisp.
OK, that’s six things, but trust me, I could rattle off more. Having a happy hike with kids will do that to you.
Where to stay in Lake Louise?
If you want to stay overnight in Banff National Park, it makes sense to bed down at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. That way you’ll be able make first tracks on the Lake Agnes hike in the morning. The hotel exudes charm, but can get quite busy during the summer months. They sell out quickly, so you’ll definitely need to make a reservation in advance.