Plain of Six Glaciers
Distance: 13km, 5hrs (return)
Elevation Gain: 350m
You will see people with flip flops and no supplies, you will see people with hiking boots, poles, and packs. You will see people wearing jeans, carrying no water, you will see people with bear spray and prepared for different weather conditions. It’s a tourist hike.
The first 2 kilometres of the Plain of Six Glaciers hike follows the north shoreline of Lake Louise. It’s flat, it’s easy, it’s a good warmup.
At the end of the lake, you’ll start to enter the valley that will lead you to the Plain of Six Glaciers.
Here is where a number of rock walls are popular with climbers. We saw a few setting out for a morning climb, on the way back there were many more climbing the ropes and rocks with the walkers craning their necks to watch.
Just past the rock climbers is a section where you need to tip toe on some rocks to cross a stream of water. It’s easy enough in the morning, but with a day’s worth of melt, many of the rocks were buried by the afternoon. Z got a soaker, and others just started with shoes off and waded, calf deep, across the 30m or so.
The next kilometre or so is through a forested area alongside the glacial run-off that feeds Lake Louise.
Then you kick out of the river and start climbing a little more into the scree left behind by the glaciers.
The final section is a few switchbacks to kick you up to the meadow where you will find the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House.
The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1924. Edward Feuz, a CPR Swiss Guide, suggested the structures as a rest stop for guests on their way to the Abbot Pass Hut. It was run by his wife, Martha, who slept on the floor to save room for paying guests.
When the CPR began to sell or demolish all of their backcountry lodges in the 1950s they hung on to the tea house until 1959, when it was sold to the Kimball family. Joy Kimball ran the tea house for 45 years, raising 2 daughters in the mountain meadows. The Kimball family still operates the tea house to this day.
We had a generous slice of chocolate cake, a quinoa sald (with black beans and olives – yummy), some chips and house made hummus (chunky good). We also sipped on some raspberryade (I thought this would be a raspberry lemonade, it tasted like fruit bunch and was nowhere near worth the $3 a glass), and a gorgeous Banff Tea Co. maple tea.
All in all it came to $26. Sure, it’s a little expensive, but remember – they haul all that stuff up and down the mountain. It’s a wonderful treat to have at the end of a 6 kilometre hike in an alpine meadow and was orth every penny (well, except the raspberryade).
If you want to continue on another kilometre and a half, you can go to the Plain of Six Glaciers viewpoint.
I saw 4 and 5 year olds on the hike. I saw 70+ year olds on the hike. I saw bare chested frat boys, I saw veteran mountaineers. It’s a tourist hike. That said, I would hedge on being prepared. By the time we had come down, clouds had surrounded Victoria Glacier with the threat of afternoon thundershowers.
At least 3/4 of the people who passed us going up as we came down would not be prepared for that weather change. It’s an alpine hike that is a challenge because of it’s length. The grade is gradual enough that you’re working out on the way up, but not so exhausted you want to quit. If you need to bait the kids to continue along, save the promise of a piece of chocolate cake to get them up the final kilometer.
I could not stop looking around in awe the entire way up (and down). I have been coming to Lake Louise for more than 30 years and have never made it to the back until this hike. It was gorgeous. We heard the thunder of the glacier calve, we got close to ground squirrels at the top, and we dipped our toes in Lake Louise when we finished. It’s an easy, achievable, epic hike that is a must for any bucket list.