Mount St. Piran is a beautiful hike, taking you high above Lake Louise with spectacular views of nature below. Experienced hikers can choose an optional descent off-trail along the backside of the peak – providing an abundant sense of tranquil remoteness on the steep, rugged terrain.
Drive up the hill towards Chateau Lake Louise and park in one of the lots to the left of the Chateau. PARKING IS LIMITED and is often full by 8am. Parks Canada offers shuttles from the Lake Louise Overflow Parking Lot.
Total Gain: 970m
|Type of Hike||Out and Back|
|When to Do||June through October|
Make sure to get to the main Lake Louise (not the ski hill, the actual lake) parking lot early, as it fills up, even midweek. From the parking lot, go in the direction of the lake. Follow along the right side of the water, passing the beautiful Chateau Lake Louise. Continue on this route for a short while until signs emerge indicating the path to Lake Agnes. This popular path through the forest rises steadily uphill. You’ll see plenty of people huffing and puffing, as this may be their one hike of the year.
During the ascent, enjoy glimpses of Lake Louise through the trees, however your first main viewpoint will be Mirror Lake (2,025m), which comes at roughly 2.7km, having gained 275m of elevation. This is a lovely little lake, but a mere appetizer for what will come later. Once you arrive at the lake, you can also opt for a less demanding route to the Plain of Six Glaciers by heading to the left. To continue on the Mount St. Piran hike, however, head to the right, following the signposts to “Lake Agnes”.
After a further 1.0 km, you will arrive at Lake Agnes, a beautiful mountain lake with a lovely little Tea House. The Tea House operates 9am – 6pm in the summer, and 10am – 5.30pm in September and October. If you arrive here after 10am, expect it to be jammed with other vacationers. However, if you manage to get there early, you may have the place to yourself! If time permits, it’s recommended to take a break here. The tea and breads they offer will provide the energy you need for the rest of the hike.
From the lake, take the trail leading up to the washrooms and Little Beehive, leaving from the left-hand side of the Tea House. This is a well-marked trail, though it is noticeably smaller than the route up to the Tea House. After roughly 500m, there is a faint trail to your left with a “Parks Canada” sign. The sign may be hard to read, however, turn left here. You will now be on a much smaller path that will take you through the trees up to the peak.
Continue through the trees and come out among shrubs with a view up towards Mount St Piran. If there are others above, you will see them moving along the switchbacks. This part doesn’t seem too steep, but you may need to take frequent rests heading up. One word of advice – turn around during rests and gaze over the beauty that lies beneath.
Thirteen switchbacks will take you to a small saddle before the final push to the summit. Once arriving, you’ll find a wide area that you can explore. A few windbreaks have been built, to provide refuge from the gusts common here.
From the summit, choose to return the way you came, or else make a circuit back to Lake Agnes and travel off-trail down. The off-trail route is steep, requires route finding, and could be dangerous to those without the necessary experience and an adequate safety background.
For those wishing to make the circuit, continue past the summit along a faint ridge. Take care not to get off the ridge, as there are some dangerous drops on each side that should not be taken lightly. You will be unable to see your route, however at times you will see a lower saddle up ahead to aim for. Take care on loose rocks, as an injury here could be quite serious. Upon descent, enjoy tremendous views of Mount Niblock to your right and the enormous vertical face.
Once you reach the saddle at 2,440m there is a multitude of scree and dirt trails heading directly downhill on your left. Follow these, but expect that there may be a very steep descent and you will have to climb down over larger boulders. Each path has its own pros and cons, with no definite best path down. Take your time and only do what you feel comfortable with. Also, remember to make a lot of noise to alert any bears that may be resting in the shrubs.
As you drop down to 2,225m near the bottom of the valley, a definite path will emerge and contour to the left just below the trees and shrubs. Follow this and you will soon see a stream on your right. Continue on the path as long as possible, crossing the stream where required. Don’t worry too much about finding a path here, as the stream feeds into Lake Agnes, where you rejoin the main trail. You will see a defined switch back that climbs the other side of the valley towards Big Beehive.
As you get closer to Lake Agnes there are some large boulders to pick your way across, as well as potentially marshy conditions. Once you pass this area, you have finally arrived at the opposite end of Lake Agnes from the Tea House. If you haven’t done so before – or maybe if you have already – stop and enjoy a snack, rewarding your body for the exertion you just put it through.
From here, you can continue to the right towards Big Beehive, or take the more conventional route to the left back to Lake Agnes. From Lake Agnes, return the way you came to Lake Louise, first to Mirror Lake and then down to Lake Louise.
- Try to start before 9am or after 4pm for fewer crowds and better access to parking.
- If the Tea House is too busy, then walk to the end of the lake and you can usually have the place to yourself.
- Celebrate your day at the incredible Lakeview Lounge in Chateau Lake Louise, perhaps with their signature Lakeview Classic Martini and some delicious snacks. Make sure you clean up a bit, as no jeans or ripped clothing allowed.