There’s a bit of conflicting information out there about the Highline Trail in Banff National Park. So hopefully we’ll be able to clear some of that up today! The route we ended up going through only took parts of the Highline Trail, but on the whole, it was a much better day.
From what I can tell the ‘real’ Highline Trail starts at the little lake called Mirror Lake just below Lake Agnes, and cuts across to the Plain of 6 Glaciers trail. However we were told it starts just after the teahouse at Lake Agnes. This turns out to be the Big Beehive Trail, and on the other side of that it connects back into the Highline Trail, taking you to the Plain of 6 Glaciers.
I’m really glad we didn’t quite have the right information when we started out because we ended up with the more scenic route. The best part about this route is you can visit both teahouses in one day as well as checking off 2 hikes, (3 if you’re extra ambitious, which I’ll describe below).
You can hike this route either way as it’s a loop that begins and ends at Lake Louise. We decided to start the day by hiking into the Plain of 6 Glaciers first. You begin by walking around Lake Louise before you start to gain any elevation.
Once you reach the Plain of 6 Glaciers, it’s a great place to stop for lunch. You can pack your own, or you can head back down to the teahouse after you’ve admired the most impressive views, (pictured above).
Once you’re headed back down, you want to start looking closely for the trail that breaks off. And when you’re on that you’ll start to gain elevation steadily up towards what’s known as the Big Beehive.
At the top of the Big Beehive, the views are incredible with Lake Louise on your right, (see above photo) and Lake Agnes on your left, (see photo below).
You can’t see both lakes at the same time, but by wandering around the trails at the top of the beehive, you can see both, (Lake Agnes pictured above).
We had heard about a most magnificent view where you could see both lakes at once, but this one involve a scramble up what’s called Devil’s Thumb. You can see Tyler pictured above enjoying this view. And if you look barely to the right of his head, you can see the switchbacks below which are what leads from Lake Agnes up to the Big Beehive.
We ended up doing all 3 of these in 1 day, and I don’t recommend it unless you’re in really good shape, and know how to route find for Devil’s Thumb as it isn’t an actual trail. However it was a super spectacular day all in all with the Plain of 6 Glaciers, the Highline Trail, the Big Beehive, Devil’s Thumb, and ending it all by hiking around Lake Agnes and back down to Lake Louise.
After we enjoyed short time on top of Devil’s Thumb, we beat a hasty retreat as a thunderstorm began to roll in. The last place you want to be when lightening is predicted for later in the day is in the mountains!
Once you’ve made you way back down the switchbacks, you get to walk around Lake Agnes which is the most stunning blue/green.
Once you’re around the lake, you’ll come to the 2nd teahouse of the day where they offer drinks and snacks. From there the trail descends through the woods and back to Lake Louise where you started out at the crack of dawn. It’s definitely possible to do all 3 in a full day if you start early. But it’s a lot more reasonable to just hike the 2 teahouses.
Also based on where we saw the true Highline Trail come up below Lake Agnes, I highly recommend doing this loop hike using just parts of the Highline Trail combined with hiking the Big Beehive between the Plain of 6 Glaciers and Lake Agnes.
Trail maps are available at the different stores around the Lake Louise area to help you get a feel for the interconnecting nature of the trails I’m describing today. Even though we didn’t do the ‘true’ Highline Trail in it’s entirety, I wanted to write about our experience because it’s still one of the best hikes we’ve ever done. And we’re sure glad that the people who told us that our route was the Highline Trail were misinformed because it made for the best scenery day possible!