- Length: ~32km
- Ascent: ~1250m
- Run Type: Out and Back Loop
- Start/Finish Height: 1550m
- Highest Point: 2280m
Summer running in the Rockies is a joy to the senses. Lush green forests, sun-baked trails and a heap of elevation to get the muscles pumping. This was my first trip out to Banff National Park and what a trip. Running at the Nordic Center followed by this treat at Lake Louise, the Plain of Six Glaciers is a route that I had expected for us to be on our own for the majority, given it’s altitude and steepness in certain places. However, a cast of hundreds of people were on the trail that day, the majority were probably tempted to the mountains by the lure of teahouses and homemade lemonade at the top!! Yum!
Our route was simple as Caralyn was training for the Edmonton Marathon, to get a good long distance in, with the aim of around 32-35km. Strangely, after we’d finished, we managed near enough exactly 32, which was perfect!
The Start out of Lake Louise
We stayed in Lake Louise, so it was easy for a start/finish point and headed along the Bow River to add distance at the start rather than at the end (when I would have point blank refused to move another inch, Caralyn knows me best!).
After the short river loop where we saw a few fishermen, we headed up the Tramline Trail after trying our luck on the Louise Creek Trail, only to find that it was washed out in between the junction and the lake. Still, the Tramline trail was perfect; not too steep to stop running, but definitely a workout for the legs. The altitude to the ice cream shops and views of the alpine waters above.
After doing the u-bend on the Tramline trail and running another km or so, we reached our first destination, the Lake Louise lookout. We were taken aback by the size of both the carparking areas and the sheer number of people. It was crazy. Cars, tour busses, you name it, we saw it! Still, we weaved in and out of the selfie stick groups, kids and those holding their gopros in the air and made it to the edge. The view was incredible, a green colour against the vibrant blue of the sky.
Lake Louise to the Six Glaciers Lookout
Running along the edge of Lake Louise was beautiful, if not a little tough underfoot. Most of the trail along the waterfront is paved primarily for those visiting in the depths of winter and wheelchair access (I also assume that tarmac is easier to clear snow from than gravel trails). After the tarmac ended, the real trail started and started to climb up towards the 2000m mark. There were a lot of switchbacks, curves, rocky sections with some tree cover and some open hillside.
Suddenly, out the middle of nowhere at the 2100m mark, we hit the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. Incredible; a wooden hut from the 1800s with fully waited tables, food and fresh home-made lemonade. We stopped off for a well deserved break and then started back on the trail to complete the last section of the run, right up to the source of the Louise River.
The view at the top was incredible. Hanging glaciers above and fresh alpine water from the streams below. The sun was shining, a cool breeze in the air and you couldn’t really ask for a better viewpoint (although I was itching to get onto the glacier itself!).
Glacier Lookout to Lake Agnes
We then did a 180 degree turn and headed back downhill, but instead of following the trail back to the lake, we took the Big Beehive trail to the highest point on our run to 2300m. The climb was steep and we had a lot of moments of heavy breathing as we pushed to the summit. The water colour of Lake Louise looked so green from the top, it was practically unreal – something from a false colour composite.
We then looked down at Lake Agnes, and the same applied, but this time a deep blue and amazing contrast from the dusty rocks and peaks surrounding it. The descent from Lake Agnes consisted of what felt like a million switchbacks, but it was definitely beneficial over a straight vertical route (I don’t think our quads could have handled it).
Reaching the bottom and along the lakeshore, we were confronted by hundreds of people of all ages, sizes and fitnesses (to our surprise) at this epic alpine tea house, and our second drink stop of the day. We took a moment to capture the view and then carried on with the best part of the day – the descent back to the Lake Louise township.
Lake Agnes to Lake Louise Township
The descent was fun, twisting and at a nice angle to go full pelt all the way down. It took us no time to get back the The Chateau, but there were a lot of unhappy looking faces passing us on the way up as walkers were making their way up the 350m, 6km long climb to get to the Lake Agnes Tea House.
Crushing the downill we carried on all the way down the Tramline Trail and straight into the Bow River to cool our legs off before a celebratory wine at the Youth Hostel in the evening. Lake Louise; complete.