My Disappointing Hiking Trip in Lake Louise


I always believe the best part of a hiking trip is the rewarding view at the top. This certainly does not apply to Lake Louise. After two hours hiking in the rain, I was disappointed by what our “top” looked like.

Lake Louise is a glistening emerald and glacier lake surrounded by towering mountain peaks and the majestic Victoria Glacier. For decades, it has been known as a popular destination in the Canadian Rockies. There are trails for a good half-day hike around Lake Louise.

After speaking to a few individuals who have made the journey, I went on a day trip to Lake Louise to further understand what makes Lake Louise every Canada Rockies traveler’s destination.

Lake Louise hikes, Banff AB, Canada

My morning started with a 40-minute van ride to Lake Louise with other travelers. After our van pulled over in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise next to the lake, my driver handed me my lunch bag and told me she would be back after seven hours. She pointed out interesting spots and trails for me to check out. From there on, it would just be me and Lake Louise. She drove away with the remaining travelers to Jasper.

Hiking Uphill in the Rain

After walking around Lake Louise, I began my hike to Mirror Lake, a small lake resembling Lake Louise, which is recommended by others. I met a group of three Portuguese travelers and we decided to ascend together.

We entered the Lake Agnes trail and walked up through the forest. We hiked uphill for a few minutes and had a clear view of Lake Louise below. There were two travelers past us who told us that the Mirror Lake we wanted to see was 500-yards away.

Lake Louise Hikes, Banff, Alberta Canada

Shortly after, rainfall started and was a constant companion during our ascension. Apparently, none of us were impressed with this rainy and gloomy weather on the only day we had at Lake Louise. We walked on a switchback trail in the forest for a while. Lake Louise was still in sight and there were some beautiful places on the way up. We realized we were way past the 500-yards and Mirror Lake was nowhere close to us.

Another hiker passed us and we were told Mirror Lake was another hour’s walk.  By then we were exhausted, but we decided to keep walking because we believed the view of the lake would be worth the effort. Because of the rainy weather, the trail was quite slippery in parts, so we took it slowly. We started to breathe in the fresh air on the emerald trail while making jokes on how we were fooled by two other travelers – “500 yards? I think it is more than 5,000 yards”.

Eventually, our destination Mirror Lake came into view.

This is how Mirror Lake looked like after two hours of hiking in the rain.

By reaching this lake, we were only 20-minutes away from the tea house, which most travelers said was a place worth checking out. The Mirror Lake in front of us was about twofold smaller than Lake Louise and its lackluster surface during the rainfall was really not worth a two-hour hike. Perhaps this lake is beautiful during a sunny day, but the beauty of this lake in that moment was definitely far from that of Lake Louise’s.

The three Portuguese travelers took a few pictures with their point and shoot cameras. Other travelers looked at the lake deadpanned and did not even bother to take out their cameras. Not of us were in the mood to walk around the lake and get to know the beauty of it. We were all too exhausted and too disappointed to care about this place. We walked back to the trail and looked at the Tea House to the right of the rock face on the top, and agreed to hike down to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and have lunch to regain our energy.

Having hiked for two hours, we spent less than five minutes by the Mirror Lake because it was so not worth it. Then, we had to spend another two hours walking downhill in the rain.

Walking around Lake Louise

After lunch, I decided to walk around Lake Louise. It was still drizzling but it did not stand in the way of my exploration. Even on a rainy day, Lake Louise still showed beautiful colors with surrounding mountains.  I was addicted looking at this gorgeous lake and wished to spend more hours walking around it.

Lake Louise hikes, Banff AB, Canada

At the end of the loop, I spotted a traveler rock-climbing on the mountain. The rain made it difficult for him to continue climbing and he fell several times.

The rain finally stopped shortly before I left Lake Louise. After seven hours journeying around this glacier lake, I returned to Banff downtown under a sunny sky.

I chatted with other travelers in the van and they shared their amazing road trip to the Colombia Glaciers. When planning my travel to the Canadian Rockies, I had many dream places in mind. Among them, Lake Louise was the only destination I visited.

This is the reality of travel – you make plans but do not expect to keep up with them.

But I am happy I went, as Lake Louise is really a stunning lake worth exploring, and I also had fun meeting other travelers and exploring other parts of Banff.

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Why my Lake Louise hike is very disappointing

Julie Cao

Julie is the creator of Always On The Way. She lived in Hawaii and now resides in London (Ontario, Canada). In 2017, she went on an overland trip from Bogota Colombia to Puerto Williams, the southernmost city in the world. She believes travel is not only about visiting tourist attractions but more about getting to know the culture, people, and the place.

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