Banff National Park has to be one of the most incredible places I have ever been. After visiting both Banff National Park and Glacier National Park our family was pretty torn on which is more impressive. You can’t go wrong with either but my personal vote is for Banff and a huge part of that is because of the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House hike. If you have already researched this hike you may doubt it is toddler friendly but I promise you want to hike the Plain of Six Glaciers with a toddler.
The Plain of Six Glaciers hike starts at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. An ideal destination if you are traveling with a group and some people aren’t interested in hiking. The lake itself offers a flat stroll, canoeing, and all of the amenities that come with a luxury hotel.
I was concerned we would be overwhelmed by tourists on the hike due to the sheer number of people who you will find congregated right by the hotel. However, the crowds really thinned out once we hit the trails. I can’t blame people for wanting to hang out by Lake Louise. I easily could have spent the whole day out on a canoe or on the terrace of one of the restaurants. But I sold my family on the idea of a hiking vacation and I had to come through on some actual hikes!
There are two tea house hikes that start right at the hotel. First, is the Lake Agnes Tea House hike that is more popular and much shorter (although I think that translates to steeper). We opted for the Plain of Six Glaciers hike because we wanted to be out the whole day and the VIEWS. Oh my gosh the views.
Round trip the hike is about 7 miles and depending on your fitness level, how often you break, etc. You should plan on it taking the better part of your day (4-6 hours). We did go all the way to the top and ate at the tea house. To be totally honest, the tea house is a bit of a tourist gimmick. The food was OK but it was so crowded right at the tea house and you give up the view while you eat. I would have been happier packing my own lunch.
We spent about five hours out on the trail and could have spent longer but a storm was rolling in and we didn’t want to get trapped on the uncovered portion of the trail with a toddler. Most of the trail is above the tree line so it would be relatively miserable in a hard rain. It was great for individuals really terrified of bears though! That’s all of us, right?
Side note: helicopters and honey pots
The closer we got to the tea house the more we started to hear the helicopters. After some hypothesizing we decided the most logical answer was that the helicopters were dropping off supplies. And we would have been right if it had been the beginning of the season. But it wasn’t. The helicopters were picking up the waste from the outhouse that is by the tea house. YUCK. I literally cringed every time I heard a helicopter over head! We also saw at least one group take the helicopter up to the tea house. I am assuming they then walked back down. That is definitely a fast way to do it!
Low to moderate. I was not in shape at the time of this hike and while I had to stop and rest occasionally it wasn’t until the end that I felt exhausted. I give it a do-able thumbs up for most fitness levels. My husband carried our then 22ish pound toddler and survived the hike without seeming overly exhausted. Hence, the recommendation for being a toddler friendly hike in Banff National Park.
We went in August and Banff as well as Glacier National Park were crowded. With that said, I felt I could ditch the crowds a bit better in Banff National Park without actually feeling so alone that I needed to really worry about bears. Meaning it wasn’t totally desolate but I wasn’t on top of other people.
Plain of Six Glaciers for a toddler
We kept our daughter in her hiking pack for the duration of the hike until we got out for lunch. In general she spent most of the time sleeping or eating snacks. It is a long day for a toddler so make sure you bring water, snacks, pacifiers, and toys if they will hold onto them. My biggest concern was actually carrying her up the trail but my husband handled it like a pro! At the end of the hike we went out onto the silt beach and let her run around by the lake. The views from the top of the hike are amazing but my favorite part was actually our time down by the water. We got just enough of a break from the storm clouds to see the lake in full sun and it was impressive!
10/10. Hands down one of the best hikes I have ever been on. The color of glacier water is just amazing.
Before planning our trip to Banff National Park I spent a lot of time on Banff and Beyond which is a great website if you are considering longer hikes or traveling further north towards Jasper.