The Tea House At The Top Of The World

Achievement: #34. Banff Teahouse Hike

We are generally not summer vacationers. We like to go in the early spring (California, before it’s too hot), or in the fall (bike trips, The Finger Lakes, and Ohiopyle, for lovely fall foliage). But this year, we joined my parents on an amazing journey north, to an area that can really only be enjoyed for a short 8-12 week summer stretch: Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
Banff in general is GORGEOUS. It’s amazing and the weather in the summer is lovely, and there’s so much to see, we could probably have done like 5 different Achievements covering all the cool things we saw there. But while we went into the week with very little solid plans otherwise, the one thing we were just dying to check out was the Lake Agnes Tea House.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
Lake Agnes is a lake located above the larger Lake Louise, an area in the northern part of Banff National Park. The tea house itself has been there since 1901, with tea service beginning in 1905. But what makes the tea house *truly* special is that you can only reach it via a several mile, 1,200-ft hike from Lake Louise.

Delicious tea and snacks, accessible only via a feat of fitness?? SIGN US UP!

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
So the four of us set off from the base of Lake Louise to attempt this journey.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
Make no mistake, this trail is STEEP. It is very well-maintained, but the climb is legit. The total climb is just over 1,200 feet, across a distance of about 2.75 miles (an 8.27% grade).

A little ways up the hill, my parents decided to bail out. I’m pretty much in denial about the fact that they are senior citizens, so I was super bummed, but I couldn’t blame them. This was uphill and nothing else. So, husband and I continued on by ourselves.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
It was just barely warm enough to feel like springtime, let alone summer (61 degrees in the middle of July), but the wildflowers were blooming and lovely along the hike.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
Lots of beautiful trees along the hike, as well. You are in the shade the majority of the climb.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
There are lots of nice signs along the route to let you know just how much longer you have to be hiking uphill.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
The first scenic stopping point on the trail is Mirror Lake. It’s a significant distance up the hill, and it is truly beautiful. However, the bugs were NO JOKE at Mirror Lake. The mosquitoes and gnats were pretty much a pain the whole hike, but there seemed to be the biggest group of them at Mirror Lake.

PRO-TIP: DO NOT HIKE AT LAKE LOUISE WITHOUT LOTS OF BUG SPRAY!!!!

(Filed under: we got eaten alive by mosquitoes so you don’t have to.)

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
We met some friendly little chipmunks along the way who were hoping we would share some snacks with them.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
We also saw some horses traversing the rocky, steep trail. This made me a little nervous, but they seemed to be very used to the trip and they did it like pros.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
And at last, just when you think you can’t possibly climb any higher, you see this waterfall in front of you, and just around the corner and up one last staircase is the tea house!!

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
There is no electricity at the Lake Agnes Tea House, so you MUST bring cash. There is no coffee or anything that requires an electrical connection, so the menu is a bit limited. Once a year, a helicopter brings in their dry goods, but anything else that comes up (fresh food, for example) or goes down (garbage at the end of the day) during the season must be brought in on foot by the employees. The employees will work in several-day shifts and stay in the loft inside the tea house, or in the cabins just behind it, so they don’t have to run up and down the hill as much.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
But despite these limitations, there is still a huge amount of snacks and tea to choose from! We were starving after the long, sweaty hike, so we wanted to try a number of different treats.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
We ordered chips with hummus and salsa, and a basket of their fresh, warm tea biscuits and jelly. Lovely!

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
And of course, we had tea!!!

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
We drank the Japanese sencha, which is one of my favorite green teas. It was very good. Hot tea after a big hike seems a bit weird, but it was wonderful.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
We were just finishing up and getting ready to head to the next part of the hike (the place gets very crowded, so the more prompt you are with turnover at your table, the better for the other guests), when husband suddenly stopped in his tracks. He had glanced out the window, and saw someone who looked a LOT like my mum!!

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
IT WAS HER!!!! Believe it or not, she was determined to get to the top and see the tea house, and she stuck with it at her own pace and made it! It was the best moment, knowing that my mum had made it to see the magical tea house at the top of the world. So proud of her!!

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
She stayed at the tea house to enjoy her well-deserved tea and snacks, and husband and I took off to complete the next part of the hike. From the tea house, you can continue up ANOTHER 600+ feet over a mile and a half to the top of Big Beehive, where there are some incredible views of Lake Louise and the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
This hike was somehow even more strenuous, and there wasn’t even tea at the top of it.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
(There *was* snow along the trail, though!)

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
After taking some photos at the top of Big Beehive, we headed back down the mountain (our maximum elevation at the top of Big Beehive was 7,515 feet above sea level!!!).

The Lake Agnes Tea House Hike is unlike any other hike we have ever completed. It is an experience I will never forget.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
But the best part of the hike for me was definitely the moment I realized that my badass old mum had toughed it out and made the hike as well. I was so happy we got to share this one-of-a-kind journey with her.

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
If you find yourself in Banff, please make a day to visit Lake Louise and the tea house. Here are some important points to note if you decide to do this journey:

  • Get there EARLY. We recommend arriving at Lake Louise no later than 8 – 8:30am to ensure you can get nearby parking.
  • Bring lots of bug spray, and reapply as the hike goes on.
  • Cash only; bring more than you think you need. They accept Canadian or American dollars. Teas and snacks range from about $6.50 – $14.50 Canadian, plus you can buy bags of loose leaf tea to take home, or t-shirts and travel mugs.
  • Take your time and pace yourself. Plan for this hike to take your full morning. That way, if you get tired on the trail, you can slow down until you feel better. Don’t expect to ‘beat the clock’ by hiking faster because it is strenuous. Plus you’re going to want to take ten billion photos.
  • Wear sturdy shoes and watch for slippery spots of loose gravel and sand on the trail. Also watch for horse poo.
  • Dress in layers. You will be warm from hiking, but there was snow at the top of the mountain when we visited in July.
  • Be prepared to wait. It gets crowded, and there are only so many tables. The wait will be worth it! You might want to look over the menu before you go up so that you don’t have to keep your server waiting once you are seated.
  • Take your time going back down the mountain. Trust us – this part is WAY harder than coming up in a lot of ways, so take your time and go slowly.
  • Drink lots of water!

2 Comments

Filed under #34, 34-17, banff, canada, hiking, mountains, tea, tea house

2 Responses to The Tea House At The Top Of The World

  1. Conte

    Banff National Park in Canada is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth! I wish we could go back and see everything again.

  2. Woubbie

    Nevertheless, she persisted! Go Mum!!!!
    So, was there honey in the tea for your little furry companion?

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