Hiking in and around the Lake Louise part of Banff is a treat that most visitors of Banff National Park make sure to include in their itinerary. In fact, many come from all over the world just to see this lake in person. When you glimpse the turquoise water, caused by rock flour from the many glaciers carving the mountains above the lake, it’s easy to see why.
Lake Agnes and the backcountry teahouse sitting along her shores offer an excellent side trip next to Lake Louise, and the few hikes that continue on past the lake offer some of the best views of Lake Louise itself from above. This adventure chronicles the hike to Devils Thumb above Lake Agnes, and it builds off of the main trip to Big Beehive.
After ascending the steep switchbacks behind Lake Agnes, turn right at the four-way junction to continue onward toward Devils Thumb. After this turn you can expect the crowds to which you’ve grown accustomed to subside. Several portions of the hike are exposed, and there is a short scramble to get to the saddle behind Devils Thumb, so plan to complete this hike in good weather and use careful footing when attempting this hike.
From the junction the trail quickly becomes a grand balcony overlooking the Plain of the Six Glaciers, with Mount Aberdeen prominently displayed across the gorge. Once the trail veers upward it becomes clear that the scramble is near; head for the low point at the top of the debris field. After making the low point, turn right on the ridge and ascend along the highest line until you reach a flat outcropping: This is Devils Thumb, and you will be rewarded with a grand panorama of the Bow Valley, Lake Louise, Lake Agnes, and the surrounding Rockies from above. From the heights of Devils Thumb you can barely make out the black specks on Lake Louise that represent the many kayakers enjoying the cold and crisp breeze across the lake.
Return the way you came, and at the junction you can continue back toward the teahouse for a just reward for your efforts or take the faster descent on the Lake Louise side of the ridge to finish the hike back to your vehicle.