The beginning of the year we went to Banff, Alberta, Canada as our first trip to our northern neighbor. While we got amazing weather, it was unfortunate that the lakes were still frozen. No, we did not get the chance to see the turquoise water. I was determined to feast my eyes on those amazing water colors so I decided to plan another trip during labor day weekend for another trip back up north. I got lucky and nabbed some cheaper tickets ($320 RT). September and October are generally their off season, but also warm enough where the lakes aren’t frozen over yet. Trails are also usually still open in September but closed off by mid October so tickets tends to be even cheaper ($200ish).
This time we had to be more careful on watching the weather because a few weeks before our trip we were notified that there was going to be rain and snow. We thought, shouldn’t be too bad since last time the sun came out later in the afternoon and we had remaining beautiful weather. Unfortunately, this time we weren’t as lucky. When we landed in Calgary we were told a snow storm was approaching. It was anxiety inducing and equally thrilling since I’ve never been or witnessed a snow storm before. Heading out to Canmore, Kananakis, everything was still in their dry state but by the time we were headed out to our first destination at night, Banff Hot Springs, the storm had landed and the town was covered in the most gorgeous layer of snow (albeit a wee bit terrifying as well because of the sheer wind power and snowfall made for little visibility on the road).
Thankfully, we got really lucky and the storm tapered off and missed Banff for the weekend. We got decent weather (partly cloudy) that made for a great day of hiking the next day. After missing out on Moraine Lake (then it was closed off due to max capacity) we landed ourselves at Lake Louise to which I finally made my way to Lake Agnes trail. A simple 4.5 mile hike (7km), the only strenuous part is that the continuous incline, all uphill climb took a bit of energy (especially carrying a backpack full of camera gear). There’s a few trails that branches off to different paths and lakes like Mirror Lake and Highline Trail. But we continued northwest towards Lake Agnes and the tea house that’s situated at the top. The trail climbs with extraordinary views of Lake Louise next to you like a silent hiking partner and what made it even more amazing was the light dust of snow on the trees and mountains making the contrast of colors even more stunning.
You’ll be peaking at about 8,300 feet elevation (7005 ft from Lake Louise). At the arrival of the tea house you are greeted with a waterfall that’s being emptied out from Lake Agnes as you approach a winding staircase. During the winter, there are signs to step carefully on these stairs as black ice is very prevalent (slipped four times myself), be especially careful when you’re making your way up to their porta potties, it’s extra steep and slippery, I fell three times making my way up their restrooms. Once past the staircase you are will arrive at Lake Agnes Tea House, a little cabin sitting next to the most gorgeous of mountains and lake. The hushing sounds of wind and water pleasantly whistled by as we stood and admired our final destination. The chill and brisk air filled my lungs, but I felt amazing being able to stand there to witness such amazing natural beauty. After a while it did get really cold (hiking up kept me warm) and opted to grab a seat. Please be warned, even in the brazing cold weather, the tea house was poppin’ still. Added to the fact that it’s a small cabin, it only sat about 20 people inside so seats were hard to come by. They do have outside seating for those that have puppers with them, but in the cold, it’s definitely hard to keep warm in the patio. We waited about 20 minutes and I was able to grab an inside seat when a group left. Success!
Lake Agnes Tea House is special in the sense that everything up there is very limited. Before technology was more accessible, food ingredients and tea leaves were carried up by mule/walked up and down the trail (as well as trash). There were even stories of how when the family (who owned the tea house) lived up there, the kids would hike the trail up and down to go to school. Nowadays, there’s a helicopter trip once a month that brings in the food and supplies. Albeit there’s still no cell service up there, which was something I appreciated. Be disconnected from the internet to enjoy the beauty around us. LATH tea list included a plethora of delicious sounding teas (check here for their list of teas). I opted for their Formosa Oolong as I prefer Asian teas that are more floral, smooth, and lighter in flavor (as opposed to English teas that are stronger and more robust– I do love a English Breakfast in the morning though). They do not take credit cards up here because there’s no internet connection so it’s cash only.
It took us a little over an hour to get up to Lake Agnes Tea House (with stops along the way for photos), spent about another hour at the tea house and an hour to hike down. Roughly spent 3.5 hours total for this trip (could easily spend 4 to 5 hours if you plan to eat at the tea house). It’s an experience that’s worth checking out if you’re ever in Banff, Canada!