Lake Louise and the Plain of Six Glaciers

July 06, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

About two-thirds of the time we were in Alberta we stayed in the town of Lake Louise. This post is not about the town (there's not much to say about it) but about the lake from which the town gets its name. Our hotel was only four kilometers (about two and a half miles) from the lake, around a five minute drive, so we made a number of visits to the lake. We went there the first day we were in Canada just to check things out. We went back once for sunset, which turned out rather dull (but the moonrise was much better). And we went early one morning to hike the Plain of Six Glaciers trail.


As mentioned, the evening we went for the sunset turned out to be rather unexciting, likely because there is no view of the horizon from the shores of Lake Louise as there are mountains all around. I was hoping that maybe we would see some clouds lit up by the setting sun, which we did see, but it was pretty insignificant. As we were leaving, we noticed the moon in the southwest sky, just peaking through the trees. It was a couple of days before the full moon, so I wasn't expecting much. We moved around to the other side of the lake to get a better view of it, and this is what we saw. There were some faint clouds in front of the moon, so it appears a little hazy, but I still like this image. If you'll notice, the cloud formation under the moon and above the trees looks like a bear about to eat a fish (with its mouth wide open).


Moonrise Over Lake LouiseMoonrise Over Lake Louise


Several days later we were back in Lake Louise and we started to get some good weather. Things were warming up and the snow on some of the trails was starting to melt. We decided we'd hike one of the most popular trails in Banff National Park and start early in the morning (but nothing ridiculous) to avoid some of the crowds. We actually wanted other people on the trail to help scare any bears away.


We arrived to an almost empty parking lot, so we were able to get a great parking space. We started down the trail and saw a signpost saying which way to go (several trails start from the parking lot) and the distance to the end of the trail (which was more than what we had read on the internet). We got to the shore of the lake and I had to stop and make a photo.


Early Morning Light on Lake Louise BoathouseEarly Morning Light on Lake Louise BoathouseLake Louise


We made our way around the bottom end of the lake to the start of the trail. We knew this would be the easiest section of the trail. This part of the trail is called the Lakeshore Trail and a lot of people walk this trail. It's nice and flat and provides nice views of the lake. The Plain of Six Glaciers trail only goes up from here.


Start of the TrailStart of the TrailPlain of Six Glaciers Trail


The trail was in pretty good shape for most of the way, except for a couple of places where it was covered by snow. We tried to follow other people's footprints; otherwise, it would have been tough trying to figure out how to continue.


The Path Crosses SnowThe Path Crosses SnowPlain of Six Glaciers Trail


Here's a view looking back at the lake.


Looking Down the Valley Toward Lake LouiseLooking Down the Valley Toward Lake LouisePlain of Six Glaciers Trail


Our ultimate destination, and the end of the trail, was the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. Several of the trails in Banff end at a teahouse. The teahouses were built in the early 1900s by the Canadian Pacific Railway. At one time they served as a place to spend the night for people trying to climb Mount Victoria and Mount LeFroy.


Plain of Six Glaciers TeahousePlain of Six Glaciers TeahousePlain of Six Glaciers Trail


Once reaching the teahouse, we enjoyed a peanut butter sandwich we packed for the hike. We sat a while on some benches there. When we got up to go, Denise said, "You want to keep going up the trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers Viewpoint? It's not much further." I was shocked. "OK, if you want," I responded. Off we went. After about a half hour, we came to a cairn, which we thought might be the end of the trail. The small rock at the top was added by me.


Cairn Near End of TrailCairn Near End of TrailPlain of Six Glaciers Trail


But we looked ahead, and the trail kept going, so we did too. Not many people must go to where we went because the trail got narrower along a narrow ridge. That's me in the distance. Notice the shadow in the snow from the mountain on the left. Looks kind of like a bear, doesn't it? He looks like he's smiling because he's found lunch.


Near the End of the TrailNear the End of the TrailPlain of Six Glaciers Trail


As you can see, the trail continued on from where I was standing. Denise didn't want to go on, but I just had to press on a little further. At the end of the trail, there was a small wisp of a waterfall.


Waterfall at the End of the TrailWaterfall at the End of the TrailPlain of Six Glaciers Trail


I'm not sure if the mountain in the center of this photo has a name (it may be a flank of Mount LeFroy), but where you see snow on the right, at the very top of the snow is the Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin, if you can believe it. It's just above that rock that's just below the small patch of blue sky. (I know, if you say so, Dan.) Sometimes called the Abbot Pass hut, it sits at a height of 9,598 feet, and was originally built in 1922. 


Abbot Pass Hut at Top of SnowAbbot Pass Hut at Top of SnowPlain of Six Glaciers Trail


Here's a panorama of that side of the valley. There are two glaciers. There's another to the right on Mount Victoria. I don't know where the other three are. They may be gone by now.


Panorama of Two GlaciersPanorama of Two GlaciersPlain of Six Glaciers Trail


When I came down from the waterfall, Denise was ready to go. I think the path got narrower on the way down.


Narrow Path on a RidgeNarrow Path on a RidgePlain of Six Glaciers Trail


Here are some people heading back down. I don't remember them up where I was. They must have seen enough and started back down before us. You can see the path winding its way back down the mountain.


Looking Back Toward Lake LouiseLooking Back Toward Lake LouisePlain of Six Glaciers Trail


We saw people carrying babies on the trail, and people with their dogs (here they carry the dog across the snow on the path). 


Trail Over the SnowTrail Over the SnowPlain of Six Glaciers Trail


As we went past the teahouse on the way down, we encountered a steady stream of people coming up. The temperature had warmed up nicely. We even saw people hiking in flip-flops (not sure how far they made it). We were glad we started early, because now it was getting really warm. While the way back was downhill, it sure seemed longer than the way up. We got back to the car, safe and sound, each in one piece. By then the parking lot was packed. Even more surprising was the line of cars parked on the side of the road to the parking lot. For people who were hiking that afternoon, some of them had hikes that were two miles longer than ours, accounting for the distance between where they parked their car and the start of the trail. We were really glad we started early in the morning.


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