Plain of Six Glaciers Trail – Best Canadian Rockies Day Hikes

#15 – Canadian Rockies Day Hikes: Plain of Six Glaciers Trail

Plain of Six Glaciers Trail
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  • Location: Banff National Park
  • Trailhead: Lake Louise
  • Type: Out-n-Back
  • Rating: Difficult
  • Total Distance: 9.4 miles
  • Trailhead Elevation: 5,780′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 1,850′
  • Recommended Time: Half-day
  • Recommended Season: Mid-June to Late-September

Experiencing Nature

Avalanche
Spotting an avalanche like this one can be difficult but the sound permeates the trail when the wall of snow gives way. It is terrifying but exhilarating.

The Plain of Six Glaciers trail is a gorgeous journey through the mountainous terrain above Lake Louise in Canada’s Banff National Park. It leads along the rich turquoise waters of Lake Louise and ascends high into the mountains. The final destination is to an overlook of the narrow valley cut deep into the terrain by the receding glaciers. From this vantage point, six glaciers can still be seen clinging to the jagged mountain peaks. Throughout much of the summer, especially in June and July, these behemoths of ice can be heard cracking, a boom that echoes through the valley all the way to Lake Louise. The occasional small avalanche breaks away in dramatic fashion. This is a scene that is exhilarating and intoxicating to watch up close from the viewpoint at the end of the Plain of Six Glacier Trail.

The Plain of Six Glaciers Trail

Lake Louise Trail Map
A map of the best trails in the Lake Louis Area of Banff National Park.

The trail starts out by traversing the full length of the gorgeous but crowded Lake Louise lakeshore. As the trail reaches the Lake Louise Delta at the far end of the lake, it begins a moderately steep incline where much of the crowds start to fall way. The trail pitch steepens as it traverses the wooded terrain beyond with glimpses of the glacier-fed cascading creek rushing down toward Lake Louise. The trail eventually reaches a rocky cliffside dripping with water from the saturated terrain. This area can be slippery but gorgeous. Next the trail ascends a rocky moraine as the climb continues high into the mountain. The path then briefly enters another wooded area before emerging at one of the famous Lake Louise Tea Houses. Although steep, the path is well defined and the footing is easy throughout the journey, at least until arriving at the tea house.

Fairmont on Lake Louise
This image shows the trail leading up the ridge of the moraine with the Fairmont Hotel sitting on the shore of Lake Louise below.

The Tea House

Six Glacier Tea House
The Tea House near the top of the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail is a very popular spot in the Lake Louise area.

The tea house is like a small backcountry restaurant where tea and other snacks can be purchased. There is also a set of outhouses located here and the lines get very long. While the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail is less crowded then Lake Louise, a lot of people take on this amazing journey.

Beyond the Tea House

Falling Cloud
The clouds in the Canadian Rockies can add even more wonder to this dynamic landscape.

For many, the end of the journey stops at the tea house but this is a mistake. The best view lies beyond the tea house. The trail makes its way through the meadow in which the tea house sits and then continues to climb along the edge of the glacial moraine to an overlook of the six glaciers. There are many cliffside views along this last mile of the narrow rocky path. The final viewpoint sits below a thin but high waterfall with unobstructed views of the glacial cut valley leading all the way back down to Lake Louise.

Worth the Crowds

Lake Louise in the Clouds
Looking back down at Lake Louise through the clouds from the terminus of the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.

The higher someone treks on the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail the better the views of the glaciated mountainous terrain and the turquoise waters of Lake Louise far below. This is a crowded trail by Canadian Rocky standards but the popularity is well deserved as it is stunningly beautiful at almost every turn. The experience of hearing the glaciers calve and echo through the valley, along with the sheer beauty enveloping the entire path, makes the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail one of the best day hikes in the Canadian Rockies.

Glaciers in the Clouds
The landscape of the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.

Add-on the Big Beehive

The elevation gain and distance found on the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail for most people will be enough for one day but if you have the energy we highly recommend taking the Highline Trail back and looping over the Big Beehive. This makes for an incredibly long day with about 14-miles of hiking and doubling the elevation gain but it is an epic journey full of amazing beauty. Plus you only have to park at Lake Louise once instead of doing the two hikes on different days.

Plain of Six Glaciers
The view of the jagged Canadian Rocky Peaks above Lake Louise from the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.

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