Lake Agnes and Beehives, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

We made sure to wake up early on Friday, as we planned to hike at Lake Louise, and also needed to be back at our hotel in Canmore in time to prepare for the Sabbath, which began at 8:40 p.m.

We drove to the Overflow Lot south of Lake Louise, and waited in line for one of the free shuttle buses. These appeared to be ordinary yellow school buses. Perhaps the buses serve students through the school year, and serve tourists at the national parks during the summer months.  The employee assisting us with boarding the bus offered a couple of jokes:

“Question: What do you call a bear without teeth?”
“Answer: A gummy bear.”

“Question: How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?”
“Answer: Ten tickles.”

The bus dropped us off in a parking lot adjacent to Lake Louise, and we soon  enjoyed the view, or as much of it as could be enjoyed through the smoky haze that was courtesy of the fires in British Columbia:

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise

Hundreds of tourists were circulating along the promenade adjacent to the northeastern end of lake, but the numbers dropped off as we began our hike to Lake Agnes.

This slightly out-of-focus Columbian ground squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus) was running around the lawn adjacent to the hotel:

Columbian ground squirrel, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Columbian ground squirrel

We hiked southwest along the western side of Lake Louise, and the trail soon entered the woods:

Trail to Lake Agnes, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Trail to Lake Agnes

The trail displayed some signs of erosion, and this dead tree looked as though it would soon be tumbling out of the eroded bank, hopefully not when anyone was walking past it.

Dead tree in eroded bank, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Dead tree in eroded bank

A golden-mantled ground squirrel:

Golden-mantled ground squirrel, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

After 2.6 km (1.6 miles) we reached Mirror Lake, which seemed more of a pond than a lake. I noted that the signage gave the distances in mileage, indicating that the sign predated the 1980 metrification of Canada.

Sign with imperial measurements, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Sign with imperial measurements

Mirror Lake with Big Beehive:

Mirror Lake with Big Beehive, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Mirror Lake with Big Beehive

We continued on the trail to Lake Agnes, enjoying a side view of the Big Beehive:.

Big Beehive, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Big Beehive

Horses also used part of the trail, and we saw a group of them:

Horses on Lake Agnes trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Horses on Lake Agnes trail

After another 0.8 km (0.5 miles) we reached Lake Agnes and the teahouse, where visitors can purchase meals and snacks:

Lake Agnes, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Lake Agnes

A pair of golden-mantled ground squirrels:

Golden-mantled ground squirrels, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Golden-mantled ground squirrels

We began climbing toward the Little Beehive, only about 0.8 km (0.5 miles) away, but gaining a bit of elevation.

We soon had a nice view of Mirror Lake and Lake Louise:

Mirror Lake and Lake Louise, from Little Beehive trail, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Mirror Lake and Lake Louise, from Little Beehive trail

Nearing the peak of the Little Beehive:

Nearing the peak of the Little Beehive, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Nearing the peak of the Little Beehive

Batya attracted a friendly butterfly:

Batya attracted a butterfly, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Batya attracted a butterfly

Here is a panoramic view from the top of the Little Beehive. Lake Louise is visible to the right, but the rest of the horizon only shows smoky skies, where there should be mountain ranges:

Panoramic view from Little Beehive, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Panoramic view from Little Beehive

As we sat down to eat our lunch at the top of Little Beehive, a bird flew nearby. It was a gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis), the “camp robber,” my old nemesis who I had last seen in Rocky Mountain National Park, where it stole a piece of my sandwich.

Gray jay, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Gray jay

We descended from Little Beehive back to Lake Agnes, and began hiking west along the lake’s northern side:

Trail on northern side of Lake Agnes, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Trail on northern side of Lake Agnes

Terrain adjacent to Lake Agnes:

Terrain adjacent to Lake Agnes, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Terrain adjacent to Lake Agnes

We soon reached the southwestern end of Lake Agnes:

View along the length of Lake Agnes, from the southwestern end, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

View along the length of Lake Agnes, from the southwestern end

The trail to the Big Beehive continued on the southern side of Lake Agnes, appearing as a narrow ribbon in the image below:

Trail to Big Beehive, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Trail to Big Beehive

The trail soon began to switchback, continually climbing the Big Beehive:

Switchback to Big Beehive, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Switchback to Big Beehive

Another switchback:

Switchback to Big Beehive, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Switchback to Big Beehive

I counted nine switchbacks, and they were a bit taxing, but we finally made it to the top of the Big Beehive, at 2270 m (7,448′). At the top, we followed a flat trail to a shelter constructed by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1916. The shelter was very simple, and I wondered how often it had been rebuilt over the intervening century. Perhaps it was like George Washington’s axe,  that was still called by that name despite the handle and head each having been replaced a few times.

Shelter on top of Big Beehive, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Shelter on top of Big Beehive

The shelter, and a ledge adjacent to it, provided a fine view of Lake Louise. Well, it should be a fine view, of a vivid turquoise lake, but . . .  again, the forest fires ruined it:

Lake Louise, from the top of the Big Beehive, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise, from the top of the Big Beehive

Another view:

Lake Louise, from the top of the Big Beehive, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise, from the top of the Big Beehive

We then retraced our steps down the switchbacks, around Lake Agnes, past Mirror Lake, and back to Lake Louise. This was about a 12.9 km (8 mile) hike, gaining 740 m (2,400′) in elevation. Considering our initial trepidation about long or steep hikes, after not having hiked in almost a year, we were doing well in Banff!

We boarded the shuttle bus around 5:00 p.m., with about a half hour to spare before the last bus. We were soon back at the Overflow Parking area and reunited with the rental car, and drove back to Canmore.

Next: Healey Pass and Simpson Pass!

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