The Big Beehive hike is a classic trail in the Canadian Rockies of moderate difficulty rewarding hikers with beautiful views of the unreal Lake Louise and it is great to make a stop at the renowned Lake Agnes teahouse. Big Beehive is a mountain that resembles a beehive located close to Lake Louise in Banff National Park.
Hiking via Lake Agnes the trail takes around 4 hours to complete. The trailhead is at the spectacular Lake Louise, a turquoise, glacier-fed lake surrounded by high peaks with many hiking trails of varying difficulty starting here. Combine the Beehive trail with several other routes to create a trail as long and hard as you want to hike.
Getting to the Trailhead at Lake Louise
Lake Louise is the trailhead for several awesome hiking trails and can be reached from both towns located inside the Banff national park, the Town of Banff and the village of Lake Louise. These towns are 57 km apart by road with plenty of transport options between them. The Regional Service is convenient and cheap, in season buses run 5 times per day, the transfer from Banff to Lake Louise takes about 50 minutes for $CAD6 one way.
See our detailed Guide to the Best Hikes in Banff National Park.
In season Parks Canada offer shuttles to the Lake Louise lakeshore from Lake Louise town every 15 minutes from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Lake Louise is located 4km from the town Lake Louise.
Best Time To Do the Big Beehive Hike
The best time of the year to hike from Lake Louise is late June to middle September. The lake starts to thaw middle June for those awesome photos of the perfect glassy turquoise lake. Snow on the peaks only melts in July. The Lake Agnes teahouse opens early June. We hiked the complete 19.5 km circuit late September, it was beautiful with the golden larches, the trail and the teahouse was still busy, but snow and frozen paths made some section difficult.
The Big Beehive Hiking Trail
- Trail Type – out and back
- Distance – 10.5 km (6.5 mi)
- Time – 3 to 4 hours
- Elevation gain: 550 m (1800 ft)
The classic Big Beehive hike is an out and back trail starting at Chateau Lake Louise and turning around on the Big Beehive with some fantastic views of Lake Louise. On the trail you walk past Lake Louise, the Mirror Lake, Lake Agnes and the Lake Agnes teahouse. The trail presents great views of Mount Whyte, the Devil’s Thumb and Lake Agnes.
The trail offers a beautiful mix of forest, mountain and lakeshore scenery, varying from easy walking to climbing the challenging switchbacks to the top of the Big Beehive.
Big Beehive Hiking Options
Shorter Hike – Lake Agnes Teahouse
If you want to do only a portion of the trail hiking to the Lake Agnes Tea House is a good option. This is a relatively easy hike, cutting out the steep switchbacks and you have views of the Big Beehive from the trail. Lake Agnes Teahouse is a small, rustic tea house on the shores of Lake Agnes, and is a nice stop at an elevation of 2,135 meters (7,005 feet) about an hours walk from Lake Louise for a cup of tea. The return trail is 7 km.
Extend the Trail – Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House
Extend the trail by walking to the Little Beehive, the Devil’s Thumb or continue to your second tea house of the day, Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. Walking to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse from the Big Beehive can be done with two possible routes. The highline trail between the two teahouses is 14.6 km, or walking to both tea houses and back along Lake Louise Lakeshore is a 19.5 kilometer hike. Make sure you have enough time, this is a long hike and took me more than 6 hours, if conditions are not great with lots of snow and ice this can take up to 8 hours.
The Big Beehive Hiking Trail
The trailhead – the Big Beehive hike starts at Chateau Lake Louise, close to the parking lot. The first Beehive trail sign is at Lake Louise.
Lake Agnes teahouse trail – From Lake Louise to the chateau is an easy, flat paved trail. After passing the Chateau follow the Lake Agnes trail to the right. The first 1.9 miles (3 km) of the hike is a steady climb for about an hour until you reach the Mirror lake reflecting the image of the Big Beehive towering above the lake. From the mirror lake there is a well marked detour to the Little Beehive, it is 0.5 mile (800m) detour. The trail keeps on climbing at a steady incline to Lake Agnes teahouse for another half a mile. Hiking to Lake Agnes is about 2.5 miles (4.1 km) The climb is not too steep with an elevation gain of about 1600 ft (500m).
Climbing to the Big Beehive – Walk from the teahouse on the path next to the lake, cross the large, flat rocks at the end of the path. Go up the scree covered slope at the end of Lake Agnes. Look back for some amazing views of the valley. The most challenging part of the hike is ascending with a series of switchbacks to the top.
The intersection – if you continue you will reach a 4-way intersection of trails just over a mile (1.8 km) after reaching Lake Agnes, 3.6 miles (5.9 km) from the start of the trail. Go right to go to the Devil’s Thumb, continue straight for the shortest path to the Highline Trail, go left to to the Big Beehive.
Views from the Big Beehive – There are some nice spots from which Lake Louise can be seen on the top of the Big Beehive. The Beehive shelter at the end of the trail is a nice spot to have a break or something to eat, but it is not a great viewpoint.
The Return Hike – To hike back to the trailhead from Big Beehive you can either walk follow the same way down the switchbacks to Lake Agnes. Another option is from the Big Beehive to follow the moraine to the Plain of Six Glaciers’ historic teahouse, with impressive views of the Victoria Glacier and Abbott Pass. From here you can return to the back of Lake Louise on the lakeshore trail, this loop hiking to all the stops on this trail is a 12.5 mile (20 kilometer) trail taking about 7 to 8 hours.
Tips for the Big Beehive Hike
- Bring micro spikes – if you are going to do this trail early or late in the season. With icy sections the trail becomes very slippery, I was so happy that I had micro spikes in my backpack.
- Bring cash – the teahouse sells soup and sandwiches, but only accept cash.
- Buy a Coffee before the hike – the Lake Agnes teahouse served about a hundred kinds of tea which was great, but had not coffee when I was there, tip for other caffeine junkies.
Accommodation in Lake Louise
Budget Accommodation – HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre – the only budget option in Lake Louise, I enjoyed staying here. Good facilities for a hostel, cafe, good wifi even a sauna! walking distance to the mall and bus pick up.
Mid Range – Mountaineer Lodge – well rated, nice location, good value.
Treat yourself – Fairmont Château Lake Louise, stay in luxury, only accommodation located on Lake Louise (not the town, but at the lake) panoramic views of Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier, 4-star resort. Gym, fine dining, location right on the lake!