Canada is cold, eh?
To survive a winter in the True North you need a decent base layer. This winter season I decided to conduct a very scientific experiment and put the much-heralded merino wool base layer to the type of cutting edge test that Einstein would be proud of – how long can you wear it until you become a social embarrassment, who can own a table in a packed après bar at fifty paces?
My first task was to find a willing subject who I could closely observe. Fortunately, I remembered I have a husband who likes to cut corners when it comes to washing his winter gear!
I decided to test the Men’s Icebreaker bodyfit 260 merino layer with a series of strenuous winter activities to examine the famed wool’s odour resistant claims. I mean, have you ever smelt a wet sheep?
To find out how the winter test went, click here.
With Valentine’s Day still lingering in the air, there can be no more romantic way to spend a couple of hours than being tucked up with your loved one in a cozy sled while being whisked through the Canadian Rockies by your new Alaskan Husky friends. Dog sledding, officially known as mushing, is a fantastic way to enjoy the scenic Canadian Rockies, and is much more exciting than a table for two at your local Italian. To learn more, click here
1.Lake Agnes Teahouse (10km return, 700m elevation gain)
Lake Louise has a deserved reputation for having the best hiking in the Canadian Rockies. This is due not only to the stunning alpine scenery but also because you can have a fresh cup of tea and a homemade slice of cake in the Lake Agnes Teahouse at the top of your trek! Just remember to bring cash to avoid disappointment. The hike offers fantastic add ons, our favourite being the Little Beehive for iconic Rockies views.
2.Bow Glacier Falls (9km, 155m)
This is an ROI hike –it offers great returns for relatively little effort! Starting from the turquoise waters of Bow Lake on the picturesque Icefields Parkway the hike makes its way through sub-alpine forest, alongside canyons and past glaciers before arriving at the dramatic Bow Glacier Falls, the source of the Bow River which flows all the way to Hudson Bay some 2,500 kms away!
3. Plain of Six Glaciers (14km, 645m)
This hike is perfect for those who want to get close to more glaciers than you can count on one hand. The hike starts by following the Lake Louise shoreline before climbing towards the famous Victoria Glacier. Acoustics are provided by the sound of sun-triggered avalanches, views of which can be safely enjoyed with a refreshment in hand courtesy of the local Teahouse. You can also bring your dog (must be kept on a lead though).
4.Sunshine Meadows (various trails, 150m)
If you want to hike among lush wildflowers and alpine lakes with minimal effort, then a shuttle ride up to Sunshine Meadows situated at 7,300 feet is perfect for you. Finish the day off at Trappers bar which serves hot food and importantly cool refreshments on the sun-baked patio with 360 degree mountain views.
5.The Larch Valley (12km, 725m)
Block off the last 2 weeks of September to enjoy one of the Canadian Rockies’ most treasured hikes – the Larch Valley. Starting at Moraine Lake and climbing through the sub-alpine forest, you will be rewarded with seeing the famous yellow larches against the snow-capped Ten Peaks.
There are two ways to get from Lake Louise Village to Lake Louise itself in winter – the fast way in a car or the better way on snowshoes!
With 30cm of fresh snow on the ground we chose the scenic Louise Creek route (no 14) as that sounded way more fun!
Starting at the Lake Louise Village car park we headed under the railway bridge and across the Bow River Bridge.
The start of the 2.8 km trail (one way) is on your left immediately after the bridge. Within a few meters the road is left behind and a Winter Wonderland awaits!
After a few hundred meters you meet the first of many Louise Creek crossings.
The trail then starts its 200m elevation, which when breaking trail in 30cm of fresh powder is certainly a great workout! Remember snacks!!
However, there are always good spots to take a rest and just capture the magic of a snowy day in the Canadian Rockies!.
Eventually the trail flattens as you reach an intersection with the Tramline cross country skill trail (no 3).
Then it’s time to find a cosy lunch spot by the creek! On a cold day nothing is better than warm soup!!
The trail gradually makes its way up to Lake Louise, a crown jewel in the Canadian Rockies.
The fun part is heading back downhill on your newly-made trail finding new spots you missed on the way up!
Best to be quick though as the sun goes down earlier in winter!
Lake Louise has a reputation for having some of the best hiking in the Canadian Rockies. This is due not only to the stunning alpine scenery but by the fact you can have a nice fresh cup of tea and a slice of cake served in an historic tea house at the top of your trek!
Things to know before you arrive
The Agnes Teahouse is only open for the summer, so it is worth checking when it opens. This year it opened in early June but timing largely depends on the seasonal snow pack melt.
If undertaking this hike on a warm summer weekend it’s best to get to the Lake Louise car park reasonably early, as it fills up quickly. Alternatively, if you don’t get a spot you can park along the access road but that will add some extra kilometers to your hike!
It’s also worth checking the weather – our top tip is to plan to go on a clear sky day as the views of the Rockies and Bow Valley are nothing short of breathtaking. No point putting all that effort in to see what clouds look like close up!
The Lakes Agnes Hike
The basic Lake Agnes hike is 10km round, with an elevation gain of 700m. The uphill is not strenuous but it is continuous for the 5km climb.
There are a number of spots where you might want to take a “strategic” break at on your way to the Lake Agnes Teahouse:
- First glimpse of Lake Louise – while the lake looks great from shore level its amazing turquoise colors really stand out as you gain altitude.
- View of the Bow Valley – as you gain more elevation stunning views of Bow Valley can be seen between the increasing breaks in the tree line.
- Mirror Lake – this is a beautiful lake that reflects the Big Beehive in its green tinged calm waters.
- Agnes Waterfall – as you climb up towards the Lake Agnes Teahouse, you will hear the sound of roaring water. A large waterfall soon comes into view as you climb the final Teahouse steps.
The Lake Agnes Teahouse
The highlight of the hike is the historic tea house, which sits at the edge of Lake Agnes at an altitude of 2135m. The Teahouse, which first opened in 1905, serves over 100 varieties of loose leaf tea, soups, sandwiches and welcome treats!
On a hot summer day, outside seating can be quite limited so you may have to wait a while. Also, the Teahouse only accepts cash.
Add On Hikes
From the Lake Agnes Teahouse, there are a number of additional hikes you can undertake:
- Big Beehive – follow the Lake Agnes shoreline to the other end of the lake. We were unable to continue up the switchbacks to the Big Beehive summit due to waist deep snow but still enjoyed some great views looking back across Lake Agnes to the Teahouse. Best to check the Parks Canada Trail Report for hiking conditions if going in early summer
- Little Beehive – this is a fantastic 3km round trip that provides quintessential views of the Canadian Rockies looking out over Lake Louise, Mt Victoria and the Victoria Glacier.
- Plain of the 6 Glaciers – although a separate hike in its own right, if you start early and have the legs for it you can add this onto your initial hike. Its worth it given you have worked for a lot of the elevation gain already!
- Bring cash for the Lake Agnes Teahouse.
- Start early to avoid crowds, be able to park and give yourself time to do the add on hikes.
- Pick a sunny day to guarantee amazing views.
- Bring your camera and plenty of space on your memory card – you will need it!