A Rewarding Hike To The Plain Of Six Glaciers And Teahouse
This is a moderate hike that gains about 400 meters in elevation. It is approximately 14km’s round trip. Give yourself between 3 to 4 hours. Much of the hike is in the open, it can get quite hot during a summer day. Bring lots of water and appropriate clothing and sunscreen. Hiking shoes are recommended.
There are two ways to get to the Plain Of Six Glaciers. You can go and return on the same route or do a loop. One way is to follow the trail that goes to the Lake Agnes Teahouse and then continue on along the high line trail. The other way is to take the trail down the right hand side of the lake all the way to the back and then continue onwards into a narrow valley. The first few kilometers of the trail that go along the lake are very flat. Where it reaches the end of the lake you will see the delta where the melt water deposits glacier silt into the lake. The trail then starts to climb up into the forest. We took the trail that begins along the lake.
As you continue to hike you can look back and get views of the lake and the Chateau Lake Louise. During summer season you will likely share the beginning part of the trail with people that have booked the horse tour to get to the teahouse. The views of Mount Lefory and Mount Victoria are amazing. You really don’t get an appreciation of Victoria Glacier until you start to get up close to it.
The name Plain of Six Glaciers comes from the hanging glaciers of Mount Aberdeen, Lefroy and Victoria, as well as the Lower Victoria and Lefroy glaciers and the hanging glacier on Popes Peak.
Some animals you might encounter on the hike are hoary marmots, ground squirrels, chipmunks and pikas. Closer to the Plain Of Six Glaciers there are often white mountain goats hanging out on the rugged mountains. We saw a grizzly on a distant grassy slope. Some hikers coming past us in the opposite direction said they saw one cross over the stream not too far from the back of the lake.
There is nothing particularly difficult about this trail. It does climb in elevation, but it is through a series of switchbacks. It can get tiring, but if you take your time you’ll be fine. There are a few sections where a steel cable is attached to the rock face along a cliff edge where it is a bit narrow and uneven, but it is not anything to fear. After this point the switchbacks start that will take you up to to the tea house.
It did get rather comical as we were passing people coming back from the teahouse who kept saying, “you’re almost there.” We had been hearing this for over half an hour!
The teahouse was originally built in 1927 by two Swiss guides for the CP Rail. It served as a rest stop for climbers on their way to Abbots Hut. Sitting in the teahouse is a nice break after the long hike. They do not have electricity so everything is made fresh on site and heated by propane stoves. Supplies such as flour and sugar are brought in by helicopter at the start of the season. Additional supplies are brought in by horses or packed in by the teahouse employees during the summer. The staff live in cabins surrounding the teahouse. They hike in and spend 5 days at a time working there.
The Best Of The Scenery Is On The Trail Beyond The Teahouse
Near the teahouse there is another trail that continues for 1.3 km’s towards a lookout on top of a lateral moraine. There are views looking back to Lake Louise and the hanging glaciers on top of Mount Victoria. You can look down at the glacier into all the crevices.
You can look up to Abbot Pass where you will see the Abbot Hut. This hut is used by climbers going through the pass. It is known as the deathtrap due to avalanches, falling rock and ice. There are also many dangerous hidden crevices.
You can keep hiking further along the moraine and get even closer to the glacier but at this point it starts to become quite steep and there is a lot of loose rock. Neither one of us felt comfortable to keep going, one slip and it could become very dangerous.
We took seven hours from start to finish to do this hike, but we are slow pokes. We stopped countless times to take pictures along the way. We took our time enjoying our food and tea at the teahouse. We spent at least an hour or more doing the extended trail to get closer to the glaciers. We left at around 2pm. We were just starting to loose some sunlight as we reached the back of the lake on the way down.
Be Bear Smart
It is not as much of a worry when the trails are busy with people, but this is grizzly territory. It is better to be safe than sorry, carry bear spray with you. We have seen grizzlies in the distance feeding on the grass slopes of the mountains. We have come across other hikers who said they saw one crossing the river near the part of the trail closer to the lake. Keep alert and make noise as you hike.