Plain of Six Glaciers–When Moraine Lake parking lot was full

It’s not that I wasn’t aware that parking at Moraine Lake and Lake Louise is problematic. I just didn’t think that Moraine Lake parking lot would be full at 9:30 am on weekday. I was so wrong.

David and I originally planned to hike Eiffel Lake Trail in the Moraine Lake Area last week. As we approached the Moraine Lake Road junction around 9:30 am, we saw a sign that provided the status of parking availability that said “MORAINE LAKE PARKING LIMITED”. I thought we were lucky since it didn’t say that it was full. Turned out not to be the case. Park staff at the junction wouldn’t let us into Moraine Lake Road. He said it was full and if we wanted we could come back in about 30 minutes to check.

Disappointed, we resorted to a plan B, Plain of Six Glaciers in the Lake Louise Area. So we headed to Lake Louise parking area instead. It was nearly full too. I think if we were to arrive 30 minutes later, we wouldn’t have found a place to park at Lake Louise either.

Trail to Plain of Six Glaciers started with a walk along the north side of Lake Louise. For a more detail of this trail, you can check out this post on Banff and Beyond website. We hiked this trail in late June when there were still quite a few places with obstacles from avalanche debris.

First part of the trail was a walk along Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail. There were more people on the trail than this picture suggested, but it wasn’t too crowded.

Inlet of Lake Louise, away from the crowds

A waterfall just above the lakehead. Note the milky meltwater from the above glaciers. At this point, the crowds had thinned out. We still encountered hikers on the trail, but the trail wasn’t too busy.

At the end of Lakeshore Trail, we continued on Plain of Six Glaciers Trail and left Lake Louise behind. We started seeing evidence of avalanches in the valley. Unlike normal snow field, snow debris from avalanches was packed down very hard. We put microspikes over our boots to give us better traction. They worked really well on hard-packed snow. Nobody we saw on the trail had them on.

There were lots of debris from avalanches on the trail.

Our microspikes came in handy for crossing avalanche slopes.

This section of the trail hugged the side of the mountain above a moraine.

A hiker gingerly navigated a slippery slope.

Looking back at Lake Louise. This picture shows the size of the avalanche that the hiker in the above picture was trying to cross. Notice a line of people on the left.

The trail continued up the moraine. There was another avalanche to cross, just above David in the picture.

We arrived at the Tea House to find out that so many people were already there and were taking a break. After using a toilet near the Tea House, we continued on to the view point, another 1.3 km from the Tea House. The up-close view of glaciers was worth the extra distance and climb. We had lunch at the view point before returning.

The Tea House at Plain of Six Glaciers

From the Tea House, the trail continued to a view point.

Victoria Glacier hanging over a hiker at the view point. The Lower Victoria Glacier below was covered in snow, so we couldn’t see it’s crevasses.

From our lunch spot. We had a light jacket on as it was a little windy.

On our hike back, there were even more hikers heading in. I was glad we started the hike early in the day. At some point we heard a thunderous sound. We looked up and saw that it was an avalanche from Mount Lefroy hanging glacier. It was cool to have witnessed it.

An avalanche from the hanging glacier of Mount Lefroy

Passing streams of hikers on our way down

A less-often seen view of Lake Louise. This kid knew how to enjoy an afternoon.

By the time we were back at the parking lot, we were pretty much done. Hot coffee from a thermos that we brought with us was a welcome post-hike refreshment.

  • Date hiked: June 27, 2017
  • Hiking time: 5h 52m
  • Distance: Approx. 8.6 mi round-trip (out and back)
  • Elevation change: Approx. 1,500 ft gain

15 Comments

  1. We loved the Plain of Six Glaciers hike when we visited last August! We found that the magic time for avoiding overcrowded parking lots was getting in before 9:00 a.m. This mostly ensured that we could beat the big tour buses and the late starters. Sounds like you guys had a great time!

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    1. Thanks Brian. Since we aren’t early risers, we had been starting most of our hikes around 2-3 pm. In early summer when we were there this still gave us at least 6 hours of daylight. We had a wonderful time there. We ran out of our 2 months before we ran out of things to do.

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  2. I’m glad you found a parking spot at Lake Louise! Geez, midweek you’d think 9:30 would be early enough..

    Awesome shots of the trail and Lake Louise! And I agree with Ingrid – so cool to have captured the avalanche 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Ashley. We have been doing hikes later in the day since there is plenty of daylight. For most hike we could get to the trailhead at 2 pm and found that early hikers were pretty much gone.

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  3. Looks like an amazing hike. I walked along the shore of Lake Louise, but we didn’t hike any long trails in Banff. I’m jealous, wish I could’ve fit a few nice scenic hikes in. Great photos, too. I look forward to reading about what else you did in the Canadian Rockies.

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    1. You have to make another trip here, man. It’s a hiker’s heaven. Actually, it’s a day-hiker’s heaven. We are so busy hiking that I am far behind on blogging about the hikes we did.

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  4. Great shot of the both of you.. You look so happy and relaxed…

    I have not seen a glacier yet but it must be amazing, the entire landscape is so unique. I am bugging my wife to get in better shape and do more hikes now that she got the new knee so that we can do those hikes when we get to those places.

    Safe travels & and hiking thanks for the inspirations I always take notes of the places you go .

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    1. Thank you, Ralf. Since we left the Palm Spring Area in April, we didn’t do much hiking until we arrived in Canada. It took quite a bit of time to get back into our hiking shape. We are in a better shape now than a month ago. Gotta keep moving because we love hiking in places like this.

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    1. As much as I dislike dealing with crowds, the Canadian Rockies is worth the trouble. In late spring and summer, there is so much daylight, we found that we could start our hike at 2 or 3 pm when it’s easier to find parking space.

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