Escape the crowds at the mega-popular Lake Louise in Banff National Park and try Mount Saint Piran Hike to see the lake from above. The 13 km trail is quite easy and you’ll leave behind other hikers from popular routes.
Some lakes are pretty just to look at from the shore, such as Moraine Lake, but Lake Louise doesn’t fall in this category in my opinion. Even though it’s nice and blue with a glacier above, the horrendous amounts of tourists and fighting selfie sticks always ruin the fun.
Luckily, there are a number of hikes in the area which offer even better views of the lake from above. And the best part is, I think we found the winner of the least crowded hike in the Lake Louise area.
Both Lake Agnes Tea House and Plain of Six Glaciers are incredibly crowded in summer. The trail empties quite a bit when you hike to Big Beehive, Little Beehive or Devil’s Thumb. Based on our experience in the area, the quietest trail is on the Mount Saint Piran Hike.
For more amazing trips in the Banff National Park, read these:
- Aylmer Lookout Bike & Hike Trip
- Johnston Canyon Hike to Ink Pots
- Rockbound Lake Hike
- Sulphur Mountain Hike
- Glacier Lake Trail
- Healy Pass with Egypt Lake
- Boom Lake
Especially in summer when the crowds are unbearable, I highly recommend checking out this “secret” hike. When we hiked in September, we’ve met a total of 2 other hikers.
Sounds good? Let’s go over the essential information about the hike.
Pros & cons of the Mount Saint Piran Hike
- Quiet and uncrowded trail unlike other hikes in the area
- Easy trail with no scrambling required
- Bird’s eye view of Lake Louise, Bow Valley & Lake Agnes
- Stunning view for the most part of the hike
- Optional lake (ice) dip
- Optional visit to Lake Agnes Tea House for a snack (recommended only in offseason)
- Overflow camping nearby to start the hike early in the morning
- Finding parking might be difficult in summer
- The first few kilometres might be a bit crowded as the trail leads also to Lake Agnes Tea House
Where is Mount Saint Piran
Mount Saint Piran is located north-west of the famous Lake Louise in Banff National Park. The parking lot at Lake Louise is about 45 minutes away from Banff. You can also stay in Lake Louise campground instead of Banff.
How to get to Mount Saint Piran Hike
The easiest option would be to stay in Lake Louise, especially during the summer when the huge parking lot is usually full by 8 am. There is a Lake Louise campground and also overflow campground along the Trans-Canada Highway just a few kilometres from Lake Louise.
Once you get to the Lake Louise parking lot (with big washrooms) and walk to the lake, the trailhead is on the far right side as you walk along the shore (and past the hotel).
Mount Saint Piran Hike, Banff National Park
- Distance: 13 km return (took us 3,5 hours in deep snow on top just few hundred meters from the top)
- Elevation gain: 950 m
- Maximum elevation: 2649 m
- Difficulty: easy trail with some loose rocks on top
- Best time to go: June to September (the snow at the end of September was knee high)
- Gear: water bottle with filter (you can fill up at Lake Agnes), windproof jacket, running shoes (the trail is easy), bear spray
The first few kilometres might be a bit crowed as the same trail also leads to Lake Agnes Tea House. But don’t worry, not for long.
When you reach the lake and head to your right along the lake, you will find a sign for Lake Agnes Tea House. It ascends slightly and follows the lake. The trail is wide and well trodden. You hike through the forest with occasional glimpses of the insane blue Lake Louise.
After about 2,5 km you will reach small Mirror Lake and continue to the right on Lake Agnes Trail. You will turn right shortly onto the marked Little Beehive Trail. This is where you leave the crowds behind.
Before you reach Little Beehive, you will see a sign for St. Piran. The narrower trail goes left to the trees (about 4km from the start of the Lake Agnes Trail).
Because we hiked in September, the yellow larch trees were accompanying us as we made our way up. When you leave the trees behind and enter the alpine terrain, stunning views of Lake Louise open right in front of you.
The trail continues up slightly ascending on the many switchbacks. We tried our luck following footsteps of previous hikers but soon they stopped and the knee deep snow didn’t allow us to reach the peak.
Even though our first attempt at reaching the peak was unsuccessful, the panoramic views made up for it.
I can’t wait to go back and enjoy summiting Mount Saint Piran.
On our way back, we stopped at Lake Agnes to rest and have a snack before continuing back to the parking lot. The tea house is enjoyable in September when you don’t have to stand in line. Make sure you bring cash if you’re craving a cake and tea with a view.
Know before you go
- National park entrance
When you enter Banff National Park, you’re required to pay an entrance fee. You have a choice of either a daily pass or a yearly pass.
As of 2020, the fees are:
- 10 CAD per person for a daily pass, 20 CAD for a group/family
- 69.19 CAD per person for a yearly pass, 139.40 CAD for a group/family
The yearly Discovery Pass is valid for all National Parks in Canada. You can purchase it at the gate when you enter the national park, in the Visitor’s Centre or online here.
Read our recommendation: Hiking packing list for summer in the mountains
- Staying in Banff National Park
To have the most freedom and enjoy nature to the fullest while staying on a budget, we always recommend staying in the campgrounds. Banff National Park has many with picturesque scenery. Read our comprehensive guide about camping in Banff National Park for all camping info and lots of pictures of the campgrounds.
- Road closure
For trail closures due to wildlife presence or avalanche dangers in Banff National Park, check out the report from Parks Canada.
Accurate road conditions can be checked here.
- Trail report
Before you head out, check current trail conditions on Trail Report from Parks Canada (you will only find conditions for Lake Agnes trail here).
- Bear country
As always in the Canadian Rockies, you are in bear habitat. You should always carry a bear spray (can be purchased at Visitor’s Centre or outdoor stores), know when and how to use it and make noise while hiking and running (so you don’ surprise any bears)! Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around them.
Additional reading about the Canadian Rockies
More hiking ideas:
- 20 best hikes in Banff National Park
- Hiking in Jasper National Park: 17 best hikes for all levels
- Hiking in Yoho National Park
Plan your trip to the Rockies:
- Epic travel guide to the Canadian Rockies
- 100 things to do in Banff National Park
- Adventure travel guide to Banff National Park
- Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park
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