Plain of Six Glaciers Trail is one of the best Lake Louise hikes to escape the crowds. This stunning hike first takes you along the shores of Lake Louise with its shimmering turquoise waters deeper into the valley to a breathtaking viewpoint surrounded by six glaciers. The mountain scenery throughout the hike is just incredible and therefore the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail easily became one of our favorite hikes in Banff National Park. Read in our complete guide everything you need to know about the Plain of Six Glaciers hike.
How to get to Plain of Six Glaciers?
The trailhead of the Plain of Six Glaciers is at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. You can either get there by car or with the Parks Canada shuttle. So unlike Moraine Lake which is not accessible for personal cars anymore, you can still get to Lake Louise with your own vehicle. The Lake Louise parking lot fills up quickly though, so you have to get here early to grab a parking spot.
The fee for parking at Lake Louise is CAD 21 for a daily rate. So whether you’ll be there for an hour or 9 hours, it’s the same price. You’ll need to input your license plate number at the pay kiosk where you can pay with a credit card. From the parking, it’s only a few minutes walk to the lake shore where the several trailheads for the Lake Louise hikes are.
Where is the Plain of Six Glaciers Trailhead?
If you’re a first-time visitor to Lake Louise Village it might feel a bit overwhelming to get there. First the parking situation, second the amount people and the huge area. Regardless of the day, Lake Louise is often fully packed with people. But luckily you will soon leave all these people behind you when hiking the Plain of Six Glaciers trail.
To get to the Plain of Six Glaciers trailhead, walk to the famous Lake Louise Hotel Fairmont. From here, you just follow the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail which takes you to the back of the lake. Here you’ll join the well-marked Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.
Plain of Six Glaciers Trail key facts
There are several ways to hike the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. This means you can customize the hike according to your fitness level and the time you have.
The official, out and back route for the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail goes from Lake Louise viewpoint to the Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse. This is a total of 11 km. However, you can continue 1.5km beyond the Six Glaciers teahouse to Abbot Pass viewpoint. This is without a doubt one of the best views you can get along the trail. It feels as if you’re in an amphitheater with the best glacier views! However, this last part of the hiking trail is mostly still snow-covered with avalanche danger in June. Therefore you can only attempt hiking to Abbot Pass viewpoint in the (late) summer months and autumn. Including Abbot Pass viewpoint to the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail makes it 14 km in length in total.
After this stunning glacier viewpoint, you can decide to either hike the same way back to the Lake Louise parking, or extend your hike into a loop. You can then add the Top of the Big Beehive Trail, or Lake Louise Highline Trail which will take you along Lake Agnes Tea house and Mirror Lake. This will bring the total amount to 20 kilometers or more, instead of the 11 or 14-kilometer return journey for the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.
Lake Louise to Plain of Six Glaciers tea house
Distance: 11 km / 6.8 miles return
Time: 4 – 5 hours
Elevation gain: 420m / 1377 ft
Lake Louise to Abbot Pass viewpoint
Distance: 14 km / 8.6 miles return
Time: 5 – 6 hours
Elevation gain: 520m / 1706 ft
Why is it called Plain of Six Glaciers trail?
The Plain of Six Glaciers in Banff is named after the stunning view of six glaciers on the mountains around it. At the end of the valley, you’ll see these six hanging glaciers on the mountains, known as Mount Victoria, Mount Lefroy, Pope’s Peak, Lower Victoria, Lefroy Glacier and Mount Aberdeen.
How hard is the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail?
I rate the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail as moderate, because the difficult part only comes towards Abbots Pass Viewpoint. The first part of the trail heads towards the end of Lake Louise which is a flat paved path until you get to the end of the lake. Here you start to gradually climb further into the valley along a rocky path. The further you get, the rockier the terrain gets, especially at the end of the trail where you enter the amphitheater of glaciers. This part consists of large avalanche paths with loose rocks, so caution is necessary. I also advise bringing hiking poles to give you that extra support along the hike.
How long is Plain of Six Glaciers hike?
The total hike time for Plain of Six Glaciers trail is between 4 to 6 hours, depending on your pace and the amount of time you take at the several viewpoints or relaxing at the Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse.
How high is the Plain of Six Glaciers?
The Plain of Six Glaciers Trail in Banff reaches an elevation of 2,195 meters (7,200 feet) at the end of the valley where you’re at the glaciers’ viewpoint. This viewpoint is called Abbot Pass viewpoint which is the highest point that you can get to along this trail.
Lake Louise sits at an altitude of 1,730 meters above sea level which means that you gain about 460 meters of elevation along the trail.
What is the best time to do the Plain of Six Glaciers hike?
Because the Plain of the Six Glaciers is located at a height of 2,195 meters (7,200 feet), snow melt along the trail only occurs in the summer months. Therefore the best season to hike the Plain of Six Glaciers trail is from late June until the first snowfall at the end of September or early October.
At the beginning of the season, you might still encounter snow along the path, especially after the Plain of Six Glaciers tea house. If you have alpine experience and the right gear such as spikes, you will be able to tackle the trail in snow conditions as well. However, avalanche danger becomes real at the Abbot Pass viewpoint.
Regarding the best time of the day to hike Plain of Six Glaciers trail, an early start is your best bet. Especially if you plan to do the loop to Lake Agnes Teahouse instead of the out-and-back trail, you will need a full day to complete the hike.
Enjoy the comfort of a guided hike including pick up and drop off from your Banff hotel. This 7-hour hiking tour including lunch is the perfect Banff activity in a small group with a certified guide.
→ Check here current prices and availability for the guided Plain of Six Glaciers hike
Plain of Six Glaciers trail description
Lace up your hiking shoes for an epic adventure in the Canadian Rockies with easy access from Lake Louise. Your journey to the Plain of Six Glaciers starts from the Fairmont hotel where you’ll follow the trail along the shore of Lake Louise for the first 3 km. This is a very easy part with no incline and along a very well-maintained path. Take in the stunning views of Lake Louise with its mesmerizing turquoise water which is a stunning contrast to the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. On your left hand is Fairview Mountain which you can also hike up, but let’s leave that for another day.
Along the lakeshore trail, you’ll pass a cliff face on the right side where you might see rock climbers at work. I’m always amazed by their ability and bravery! At the back of the lake you will also see a sandy delta which is a nice spot for a short break. After this, the path changes into a boardwalk.
From here on you will walk over the glacial meltwater as you make your way up into the valley. It’s incredible to realize that the rushing water beneath the boardwalk comes from the Lake Louise glaciers you are hiking toward. This is also the reason why Lake Louise has its distinctive turquoise color.
The elevation gain begins
Shortly after the boardwalk, you will get to a forested area where the trail begins to ascend. From this point on it starts to feel like a real hike with uneven parts over rocky terrain and tree roots. The forest part doesn’t take long, so you will soon rise above the treeline where you will see the first glimpses of the stunning snowcapped peaks. Make sure to take a moment to enjoy the stunning views of the upper Victoria glacier ahead of you.
At the 5 km, 3.1 mile mark, the trail changes and gets a bit challenging because you need to navigate along a narrow rocky path along the side of a cliff. While the path is about a meter wide, the drop-off is significant, so it might trigger a nervous feeling with some people having a fear of heights.
After this rocky ledge, there are a few intersections along the path, but all of them are well-signposted. Some sections of the path are shared by horse riders and hikers, but most of them are separated. Just make sure you don’t end up on the horse trail.
Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House
As soon as you approach the historic teahouse you will notice that the trail becomes a well-maintained footpath of patio stones. At the last turn, you’ll see the charming Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. Located on a small meadow, there are plenty of benches thoughtfully placed next to a small creek. It is the perfect place to relax for a bit and take in the amazing views of the surrounding Lake Louise glaciers.
Inside the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse you can order coffee, tea and their delicious chocolate cake. Take note that only cash is accepted. It’s the perfect place for a rest stop before the final push to Abbot Pass viewpoint for even better views! The tea house is only open from mid-June, depending on weather conditions, until mid-October.
Some fun facts about the teahouse. It was built in 1924 by Swiss guides who were employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway and used as a base for mountain climbers on the way to Abbot Pass.
The final part to Abbot Pass viewpoint
If the weather conditions are good, I highly recommend continuing beyond the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. As you follow the trail past the treehouse, you will first walk through a forest of larch trees that turn orange in the fall. If you happen to hike this trail in the autumn months you’ll be in for a treat! As soon as you make it out of the larch tree forest, you will enter an incredible open area that feels like a natural amphitheater.
Continue further along the raised rocky berm, because the Abbot Pass viewpoint is at the end of the hike. Here you’ll stand at the base of the glaciers on an elevated berm of large rocks. It provides the best views of the entire hike, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and hanging glaciers. This is a very rocky area, so it’s prone to hazards. Therefore you should only attempt this part with good weather conditions and not much snow on the trail.
Standing at the base of these massive glaciers feels otherworldly. It’s such a high reward for this relatively short hike. Where else in the world can you stand amongst six glaciers after only 7 km hiking?!
With direct views on the base of Victoria Glacier, Upper Lefroy Glacier and the so called death trap glacier, the views are absolutely impressive. It is so humbling standing amongst these giants, in the face of nature’s raw power.
Is there wildlife along the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail?
Banff National Park is prime bear territory, with black bears and grizzly bears calling this park and in particular the Lake Louise area their home. Don’t let this scare you away from this area or particular trail. But make sure to educate yourself on bear safety by reading or watching videos about this.
You should always be bear aware and always carry bear spray with you on hikes in BC and Alberta. Educate yourself on how to use bear spray and of course do your own research on what to do in case of a bear encounter.
While bears are mostly in a calm state of mind, they will feel easier threatened by humans if they have cubs around. Or when a human comes too close, either to their food source or accidentally startles them. Therefore you should always be aware of your surroundings. Make noise so bears, and any other animal can hear you coming.
Other wildlife you might encounter along the Plain of Six Glaciers trail are innocent animals such as mountain goats, marmots, squirrels and the occasional porcupine.
Do you need a National Park Pass to hike the Plain of the Six Glaciers Trail?
Because the Plain of the Six Glaciers Trail is located inside Banff National Park, you’ll need a Parks Canada Pass to enter. Depending on the number of days you plan to visit the Canadian National Parks, you can either buy single daily admission tickets or the Parks Canada Discovery Pass which is a multi-park entry pass for 365 days. You can purchase the different Parks Canada Passes online at the Parks Canada website, at the National Park Visitor Centres or at booths upon entering the many national parks. See all the options and prices below.
Single daily admission pass
This entrance fee ticket is sold per person, per day, per National Park. It is only the best option if you are solo traveling and just visiting one or two national parks for a couple of days.
- $10.50 CAD for an adult (from 18-64 years)
- $9.00 CAD for Senior (65+)
- FREE entrance for kids younger than 17 years
Group daily admission pass
For the ones traveling with 2 or more people in one car, you can buy a single-day group admission pass. This pass gives entrance for up to 7 people in one vehicle.
- $21.00 CAD for one vehicle entry for one full day (maximum 7 people)
Parks Canada Discovery Pass
The “Discovery Pass” is the best option for travelers who plan to visit multiple National Parks. Basically if you’re spending more than 7 days in the Canadian National Parks, you’ll have a much better deal buying the Discovery Pass. This multi-park entry pass is valid for 365 days to access all participating national parks in Canada. These include Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and much more.
- $72.25 CAD for one Adult (age 18-64)
- $61.75 CAD for one Senior (64+)
- $145.25 CAD for a couple or group/family up to 7 people in one vehicle
More Canada travel inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail in Banff National Park. For more travel inspiration of British Columbia and Alberta, head over to our other Canada travel guides. See below our Canada guides per National Park and area for more travel inspiration.