What do you get when you combine freezing temps, blue skies, silky white snow, and alpine lakes in the Canadian Rockies? A fantastic and rejuvenating day of hiking.

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Starting out at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, we grabbed a cup of hot coffee to watch the sun rise over the frozen lake and illuminate the surrounding rocky cliffs before setting out on the snow-packed trail up to Lake Agnes. Known for a historic tea house cabin perched on the lake’s shore and open during the summer months, Lake Agnes is a short, easy hike that remains quiet and pristine for much of winter. Gaining 1260 feet over 2 miles, the trail weaves into the trees lining Lake Louise then climbs up and around the near peaks. Passing by Mirror Lake, the trail then heads deeper into the woods and continues upward for remarkable views of the Bow Valley and the ski resort across the way.

Check avalanche conditions and marked signs before hiking pass Mirror Lake as the mountains above feature steep cliffs and natural cut snow shoots. The last stretch up to Lake Agnes takes you through patchy trees and past cliff overlooks before climbing up a set of double wooden stairs to the tea house above and lake’s banks.

Reaching the Lake Agnes and pausing to take in its beauty, we instantly felt a heavy chill in the air from the dampness of the water and lack of sunshine. Over the short winter days, its unlikely that the lake receives an ounce of sunlight keeping it cold, frozen, quiet, and oh-so-lovely.

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On the way back down from Lake Agnes, we stopped for lunch by the shores of Lake Mirror (where it was a tad bit warmer). Setting our gear on the ground and opening up PB&J sandwiches, we enjoy the serenity of the mountain views and powder covered lake. Hanging about, a Clark’s Nutcracker came and joined us for lunch perching itself on top of my hiking pole. Fluffing out its feathers, it waited for us to finish (barely) before jumping out for any crumbs left behind.

A mixture of weather, wildlife, and water, the hike to Lake Agnes was a wonderful way to take advantage of quiet trails of winter in Banff National Park and get away from the busy slopes of the ski resorts.

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