Lake Louise is one of the most popular lakes to visit in Banff National Park. But many people make the mistake of only seeing it from the lakeshore. For the most epic views of this gorgeous Gatorade-blue lake, you’ll need to do a bit of hiking.
There are several hikes you can do around Lake Louise, but the Big Beehive hike via the Highline Trail is the perfect, moderately-difficult trail when visiting Banff in the summer.
It will reward you with jaw-dropping views of Lake Louise from above, plus incredible views of Mount Victoria, Mount Collier, and Popes Peak.
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On your way back to the lakeshore, you’ll pass by Mirror Lake — an emerald green lake — and enjoy a breezy descent back to the lakeshore and parking lot.
The lake’s vivid turquoise color peaks as soon as the sun is directly over it, around late morning/noon in the summer months, so if you want to see it in all its milky, electric blue glory from above, you’ll need to start hiking the Big Beehive trail early (7 am – 8 am).
Hiking around Lake Louise is a must-do, especially in the summer. Here are 25 more things to do in Banff in the summer.
Read more below for trail details and what you should know before you set out to hike the Big Beehive (or any hike at Lake Louise).
Hiking to the Big Beehive in Lake Louise
Big Beehive Hike via Highline Trail – Overview:
🥾 About 10.2km (6.4 miles) roundtrip
⏰ Plan at least 4-6 hours, start early!
🐻 Carry bear spray! Grizzly bears are in the area
🌲 Leave No Trace, pack out all trash you pack in
🚘 Paid parking usually full by 8 am, take Roam Transit
First, how do you get to Lake Louise from Banff? The easiest, and most sustainable, way to get there is to reserve a seat on the earliest Roam 8X shuttle from downtown Banff (the stop is called Banff High School Transit Hub). The earliest departure is at 7:00 am, and you will need to show proof of reservation as walk-ons are last to be served.
Second, make sure you go prepared for a challenging but rewarding hike in grizzly bear country.
- Carry bear spray and know how to use it
- Wear comfortable hiking shoes or boots (I wore my Danner boots)
- Take lots of water and a snack
- Plan your hiking route
- Pack layers; the weather can change sour and suddenly, even in summer
- Reserve your Roam 8x Transit shuttles online in advance (reservations required at a specific time required)
- Trekking poles are not an absolute must, but I would’ve appreciated them on the way down from Big Beehive!
Thirdly, there are several ways to reach the Big Beehive viewpoint in Lake Louise.
The most popular hiking route to reach the Big Beehive is via the Lake Agnes Teahouse trail (2.2 miles to reach Lake Agnes from the lakeshore trailhead).
However, the more scenic (and I think rewarding) option is to do a circuit — follow the lakeshore toward the Plain of Six Glaciers and then make a sharp right on the Highline Connector Trail before beginning your ascent through the forest up to Big Beehive.
In total, this will be about 6.4 miles roundtrip, about the same roundtrip mileage if you do the Lake Agnes Trail out-and-back.
Lastly, have fun! The Big Beehive hike is seriously one of the most scenic hiking trails in Banff National Park.
Read more below for both trail details! 🥾
Big Beehive via the Highline Connector Trail
Like most hiking trails around Lake Louise, the Big Beehive hike will start out following the Lake Louise lakeshore. The Lakeshore Trail is wide, family-friendly, and ADA-accessible.
The flat Lakeshore Trail skirts the eastern side of Lake Louise for about 2km (1.2 miles, one-way) until it reaches a sandy beach area and the start of the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail, which connects to the Highline Trail. It takes one hour roundtrip to walk the length of the lakeshore.
Note: If you are following the more popular Lake Agnes Teahouse trail, you’ll reach the fork along the lakeshore trail about 0.2 miles in. The Lake Agnes Teahouse gets extremely crowded, which is why hiking the Big Beehive on this alternative route (via the Highline Trail) is great for getting a bit off-the-beaten track.
At the end of the lakeshore, continue toward the Plain of Six Glaciers. The Big Beehive is not indicated on the trail signs, but keep following this route anyway.
You will pass a boardwalk and continue around the rock face.
The next trail sign you’ll see will indeed indicate the Big Beehive — yay! From this point to Big Beehive, it’s about 3km one-way. The last 1km up through the forest is steep, rocky, and has lots of felled trees. A bit of a scramble, but nothing too bad!
Once at the top, take a right to meander and explore the viewpoints overlooking Lake Louise. There are several scenic openings for taking photos and enjoying your picnic lunch.
If you continue toward the furthest edge, you’ll reach the 1916 Canadian Pacific Railway shelter.
To get back down from Big Beehive, you have two options:
- Descend back through the forest from which you came (ideal if Lake Agnes is still snowy, as it was for us mid-June), and then continue on the Highline Trail to Mirror Lake, on down to the parking lot.
- Head down the steep slope to Lake Agnes (visible just below), and then rejoin Mirror Lake, on down to the parking lot.
Big Beehive via the Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail
If you do the Lake Agnes Teahouse trail (6.8 miles roundtrip), you’ll reach the Big Beehive counterclockwise. You can preview what this looks like on All Trails.
I think the alternative route, via the Highline Connector trail, is more rewarding and dynamic (so you’re not revisiting sections of the trail you’ve already done).
The Highline Connector trail really opens out to the mountains and the glacier in the distance. During our hike, we even heard a rumbling, thundering avalanche!
Better yet? Combine both trails and make it your own.
Having done sections of both trails, if I was setting out on this hike for the first time again, I’d start out with the Highline Connector trail to Big Beehive, and then return via Lake Agnes Teahouse trail. Both routes pass by Mirror Lake, but with the first you get glacier views and the second you get the chance to see the ever-famous teahouse.
As the Lake Agnes trail was covered in snow, we didn’t descend that way and instead hiked back down the forest which felt safer and simpler. Somehow, folks without microspikes were still risking it for the views and heading up the steep ascent via Lake Agnes.
Always check trail conditions before heading out!
Not knowing these options when first visiting Lake Louise makes it hard to decide which hike to do and how much time it’ll take!
(Hey, Parks Canada! You should update those signs at the end of the lakeshore.)
I hope this Big Beehive trail guide helps you plan your visit!
Please remember to Leave No Trace and to recreate responsibly. Drop a comment below if you have a question or enjoyed this post!
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