The Mirror Lake snowshoe trail is one of the most popular short Lake Louise snowshoe trails in Banff National Park. A relatively easy winter trail up a mountain slope on the north side of Lake Louise, snowshoers will be rewarded with a visit to a frozen Mirror Lake.
Mirror Lake is a small Banff lake, but it’s beautiful location makes up for its small size. Resting at the base of a towering rocky cliff, Mirror Lake sits at the bottom of a massive, snow-covered rounded massif known as the Big Beehive.
The Mirror Lake snowshoe trail crosses avalanche terrain, always educate yourself about venturing out in the winter and check the avalanche forecast.
What You’ll Find in This Article on Mirror Lake Snowshoe:
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Mirror Lake Snowshoe – Quick Details
Trailhead: Lake Agnes trailhead (Mirror Lake starts at the same place)
Distance: 5.5 km loop
Elevation: 355 m elevation gain
Mirror Lake Snowshoe Trail Highlights
To find the Mirror Lake snowshoe trail, walk northwest along the frozen shoreline past the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel. Take a moment to pause and soak in the beauty of Lake Louise in the winter. With a frozen Banff lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains and glaciers, you won’t soon forget your visit.
You’ll pass several large avalanche warning signs on your way to the Mirror Lake snowshoe trail, but these ones are for the lower slopes of Fairview Mountain, on the opposite side of Lake Louise. Be patient – your avalanche warnings are still to come.
After you pass the Chateau Lake Louise, the winter trail splits in two at a Y junction. The lower trail to the left is the Lake Louise lakeshore trail, one of our favorite easy winter hikes in Banff. For the Mirror Lake trail, take the trail on the right which starts to gently climb uphill (this is the same trail as the Lake Agnes teahouse hike in the summer). Stay aware during this section as the small hill on your right is a popular place to go sledding in Banff in winter.
Approximately 100 m into your Lake Louise snowshoe adventure, you’ll reach another trail junction. The Upper Telemark cross-country ski trail (noted by a blue square sign with the number 5) is to the right, and a short trail back down to the Lake Louise Lakeshore trail to the left. Continue straight to snowshoe to Mirror Lake.
You’ll see your first avalanche warning sign for Mirror Lake just beyond the trail junction. According to the Parks Canada Lake Louise snowshoe trails page, the Mirror Lake winter trail crosses avalanche terrain. Looking at a satellite shot of the area between Lake Louise and Lake Agnes, you can see an old avalanche track about halfway up the trail to Mirror Lake. We’ll talk about the avalanche risk locations in more detail below.
As you enter the dense, snowy evergreen forest, the snowshoe trail to Mirror Lake begins with a moderate incline and remains this way throughout the entirety of this Lake Louise snowshoe. The piles of snow covering small trees and shrubs near the trail are so big and fluffy.
Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the whitebark pine trees which line the trail. Sadly, the whitebark pine tree is endangered, so please don’t touch and definitely don’t carve anything into the trunk.
The incline of the Mirror Lake snowshoe trail remains steady and you can expect to breathe a little heavy. If you aren’t in the best shape, take heart knowing that snowshoers of all abilities enjoy this beautiful Lake Louise snowshoe trail. While taking a break to catch your breath, take a moment to enjoy the views of Fairview Mountain across the lake.
Approximately 700 m into the Mirror Lake snowshoe trail you’ll be able to see Haddo Peak (3,070 m), Mount Aberdeen (3,152 m) and Mount Lefroy (3,423 m) ahead through the trees. In the summer, it’s easy to spot a large glacier atop Mount Aberdeen, but it disappears under the snow in the wintertime.
After 1.9 km of snowshoeing in a single direction, the snowshoe trail does a single switchback, taking snowshoers further up the mountain in the opposite direction. At the spot of the switchback, an opening in the trees allows for an amazing view of the frozen Lake Louise below.
While it’s tempting to stop and enjoy the views at the switchback clearing, don’t linger for too long. This clearing was created by the avalanche off Big Beehive we discussed earlier.
As you continue up the Mirror Lake snowshoe trail, the hillside to your left and right becomes very steep. Snowshoeing up a side slope such as this is very fun, as the fluffy snow is very close to your face on one side of the trail, while you can enjoy elevated views down on the other side of the trail.
At 2.3 km, you’ll arrive at a break in the forest which allows for amazing views of Fairview Mountain, which rises dramatically along the south shore of Lake Louise. You can clearly see the prohibited avalanche zone in the treeless area along the lower slopes of Fairview Mountain (as seen on the signs down around Lake Louise).
After another 200 m of snowshoeing the Mirror Lake trail, the trail turns left and leads hikers directly away from Lake Louise for the first time. Snowshoers who need a break can rest sitting on a huge fallen tree trunk near the trail side.
You’ll arrive at a trail junction after 2.6 km of snowshoeing. The trail to the right is the other half of the Mirror Lake snowshoe loop, so turn left to proceed to Mirror Lake.
Just 200 m later, you’ll arrive at Mirror Lake, sitting at the base of the majestic Big Beehive. Mirror Lake is a small Banff lake with a beautiful setting. The towering, rocky cliffs of Big Beehive are so beautiful when they are dusted with snow in the winter. As beautiful as the Mirror Lake area is, this is the other avalanche danger zone, so try and stay back from the Big Beehive cliffs and don’t linger too long.
Those who hike the popular Lake Agnes trail in the summer know that the trail continues to the teahouse from Mirror Lake. Do not snowshoe to Lake Agnes unless you have the proper avalanche training and avalanche equipment. To quote Parks Canada, “Beyond Mirror Lake, the trail is rated as Challenging Class 2 terrain for avalanche exposure and travel requires appropriate training and equipment.”
Once you are back at the junction before Mirror Lake, you have the choice to turn right and go back the way you came or continue straight to make the Mirror Lake snowshoe trail a loop. In the summer, the other half of the loop trail is for horses, so winter gives Lake Louise snowshoers a chance to enjoy this track without the horses present.
The next 800 m of the Mirror Lake snowshoe loop is a pleasant downhill. The evergreen forest here is blessed with lots of Old Man’s Beard lichen dangling from the tree branches. It adds a lot of atmosphere to a Banff forest in wintertime.
The forest along this stretch of snowshoeing trails is really beautiful, but there are no real Rocky Mountain views to speak of. The side slope isn’t too severe along this stretch of trail, so it’s no surprise that you’ll see more animal tracks in the snow here.
After 3.8 km of snowshoeing the Mirror Lake loop, you’ll be treated to a nice view of Armor Peak (2,850 m) through the trees. The trail starts to descend a bit steeper here, so you’ll be glad for the traction your snowshoes provide.
This marks the beginning of a super-fun stretch of Lake Louise snowshoeing. The trail is pretty steep with a series of short switchbacks. If the snow is soft, try taking large steps downhill and let the snow soften your step and slow you down. If you’re not having too much fun during this stretch, you’ll be able to see the ski trails from the Lake Louise Ski Resort across the valley.
The switchbacks end at the 4.5 km mark of the Mirror Lake winter loop. A few hundred meters later you’ll cross a charming snow-covered bridge. Being close to water, watch for the variety of animal tracks in the snow.
You’ll arrive at another trail junction at the 5 km mark. Follow the Green 26 sign to the right to continue back towards the Lake Louise lakeshore. As the trail turns slightly to the right, you’ll get a wonderful view of Fairview Mountain through the trees before the trail continues its moderate descent along some fun “S” shaped turns.
After 200 m of fun snowshoeing, you’ll see the frozen surface of Lake Louise really close through the trees. Less than 1 minute later, you’ll arrive at the original Mirror Lake snowshoe trail. Simply turn left here to finish the Mirror Lake snowshoe trail.
Mirror Lake Snowshoe Trailhead
The Lake Louise parking lot is 46 minutes from Banff and just over 2 hours from Calgary. Take the TransCanada Highway 1 west, then exit toward Lake Louise. Turn left towards the village of Lake Louise then continue on Lake Louise Drive until you reach the parking lot.
The Lake Louise parking lot will fill up fast on weekends and during the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival when people come to see the beautiful ice sculptures at Lake Louise. If you’d rather not contend with getting a parking spot, there are many alternate ways to get to Lake Louise.
As you walk from the Lake Louise parking lot, past the popular lakefront photo ops with Lake Louise in the background, you’ll find the Lake Agnes trailhead (which is the same for the Mirror Lake snowshoe) just past the Chateau Lake Louise hotel – one of the best hotels in Lake Louise. (Find out why in our review of the Fairmont Lake Louise hotel).
As the main walking trail forks, the Lake Louise Lakeshore is to the left, while the Mirror Lake trail is to the right.
You’ll be following the blue 18 trail marker on this Lake Louise snowshoe trail.
Mirror Lake Snowshoe Stats
How Long is the Mirror Lake Snowshoe?
The round-trip distance of the Mirror Lake snowshoe trail is 5.5 km from the Lake Agnes trailhead along the Lake Louise lakeshore. Just long enough to still leave some time for skating on Lake Louise – one of our favorite winter activities!
How Hard is it to Snowshoe to Mirror Lake?
Due to the length and incline, we rate the Mirror Lake as “easy”.
At only 5.5 km and 355 elevation gain, the Mirror Lake snowshoe is an easy Lake Louise snowshoeing trail that most anyone can do.
It is a consistent climb on the way up, so if you are a beginner snowshoer or don’t snowshoe frequently then this will probably feel much more like a moderate snowshoe. Just go slow and take breaks along the way.
How Long Does the Mirror Lake Snowshoe Take?
It should take a typical adult 1.5-2 hours to snowshoe to Mirror Lake. We snowshoed this trail recently and it took us just over 1.5 hours including time at Mirror Lake and stopping for pictures.
Mirror Lake Snowshoe Trail Map
The Mirror Lake trail is easy to follow and is well marked. Snowshoeing has the added benefit of making a very clear trail! If you are feeling uncertain, you can use the Alltrails app while snowshoeing to Mirror Lake, but the trail is popular enough that you’ll have either people to follow or a very defined trail.
To find the Mirror Lake trail map in Alltrails, simply search for “Snowshoe Loop: Lake Louise and Mirror Lake”. Just know that this map has an additional loop that takes you to past the Great Divide trail. Rather than continuing on this, you’ll follow the green 26 trail back to the Lake Louise Lakeshore. Be sure to download your hiking maps prior to leaving.
Enjoy map downloads and many more premium features with a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+!
A paper map isn’t required for this snowshoe trail, but if you prefer to hike with a paper map and compass as an additional safety layer, we highly recommend Gem Trek hiking maps. We own the entire set of these excellent Banff and Kananaskis hiking maps. They are exceptional 3D topographic maps which we love looking at for hiking inspiration.
The Mirror Lake trail map is found in the “Lake Louise & Yoho” map. You can order it before your trip, or you can pick it up here as they are widely available.
Snowshoeing Mirror Lake with Kids
Our kids (aged 8 & 6) are strong little hikers and snowshoers. We haven’t taken them on this snowshoe trail yet, but they’ve completed several Kananaskis snowshoe trails of similar length. We’d also make sure that any avalanche forecasts are extremely low before taking them along.
Our experience snowshoeing with kids is that they tend to get bored faster vs. summer hiking. This is likely because they can’t run wild and most of the things they find interesting on a hike (finding treasures etc.) are now buried under the snow.
If your kids are older and/or strong snowshoers who can keep themselves entertained, you’ll enjoy a great day of snowshoeing in Banff with your kids.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
Back down at Lake Louise is the best place for lunch or a snack! You can even reward yourself with a hot chocolate or coffee in the Chateau Lake Louise and warm up for a bit before continuing your day of adventuring in the snow!
Mirror Lake Snowshoe Trail Safety
In the dead of winter, the bears around Banff should be hibernating (be careful in early winter or early spring though!) But that’s not a reason to let your guard down as wolves, cougars, elk, etc. still provide a safety risk to Banff visitors. It only takes a few minutes to learn about wildlife safety in Banff National Park.
It’s always a good idea to check the Mirror Lake trail conditions (under Lake Louise Area Snowshoeing and Winter Hiking Trails) before you leave home.
The main reason to snowshoe to Mirror Lake is to see the lake with the Big Beehive looming behind. The flip-side though is avalanche danger. We highly recommend consulting the Banff Avalanche Bulletin published by Parks Canada before you go.
We are not avalanche experts, so please educate yourself and make smart decisions while enjoying the beauty of Banff in winter.
Mirror Lake Snowshoe Trail Logistics
- Snowshoe rentals are available in Lake Louise at Wilson Mountain Sports in the town of Lake Louise or at Chateau Ski and Snow Rentals in the Chateau Lake Louise.
- There are toilets located in the Lake Louise parking area.
- You can fill water bottles in the restrooms in the main Lake Louise parking lot. Drinks are available for purchase inside the Chateau Lake Louise.
- Dogs are allowed on-leash.
- The Mirror Lake snowshoe trail is not a Lake Louise fat bike trail. Fat biking is not allowed.
What to Bring for Snowshoeing in Banff
When snowshoeing in Banff, it’s essential to dress properly in layers. The uphill sections of the Mirror Lake snowshoe trail are hard enough that you’ll get hot and will start to sweat. A proper base layer needs to effectively wick that moisture away from your skin. If the sweat remains on your skin, the cold wind will evaporate it, cooling you quickly which could be dangerous.
You’ll probably start putting your layers back on very shortly after arriving at Mirror Lake. Your internal body heat will drop and you’ll start to feel cold fast.
In addition, the sun will be behind Fairview most of the day, keeping you in the shade.
Mirror Lake Foot Traction Recommendations
The uphill sections of the Mirror Lake snowshoe trail can be steep enough that you’ll slip. This trail is also popular enough that it can get icy in spots if there hasn’t been a recent snowfall.
While it’s possible to do without anything other than winter boots, you’ll enjoy it more with some form of traction device on your feet. If there’s been a recent snowfall, you’ll be glad to have snowshoes!
We almost always pack both our snowshoes and microspikes, which allows us to choose what will work best when we get to the trail. If you don’t have this luxury, snowshoes will always work even if the trail is packed down! Plus you can have some fun playing in the deep snow next to the trail.
Snowshoes for Mirror Lake
If you are going to snowshoe up to Mirror Lake, make sure you have multiple crampons underneath your snowshoes – some on the front toe and a pair under your heel. Also, if possible, look for a pair of snowshoes with double-ratchet bindings and avoid snowshoes with any form of buckle bindings – they tend to come undone, which gets annoying quickly.
Winter Hike Traction Devices
If you are going to winter hike to Mirror Lake you will need some form of traction device on your feet.
We own and highly recommend Kahtoola MICROspikes. Look at the steel spikes on the bottom of the Kahtoola MICROspikes and you’ll see why we love these winter traction devices so much. They are a scaled-down recreational version of the crampons you’ll see on mountain expeditions.
Yaktrax are another popular multi-purpose traction device used around Banff for winter walking or running. They are popular as they are very comfortable for walking on winter hikes or snow-covered walking trails in Canmore or Banff. The lack of spikes makes them comfortable to walk on, but they are not great for ice walking.
No matter which traction device you use for your feet, you should consider using trekking poles to help your balance. We’ve tried trekking poles and to be honest, we don’t like them nor use them, but we seem to be in the minority. Trekking poles are widely used around Banff and Kananaskis in winter.
It makes sense… winter hiking on snow or ice in the mountains is often very slippery and trekking poles add two more points of contact with the ground, thus greatly reducing your odds of slipping.
The Mirror Lake snowshoe trail is an easy snowshoe trail with an excellent reward. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Other Banff Winter Activities
Banff Trip Planning Resources
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Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.
As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.