Devil’s Thumb via Lake Agnes

August 25, 2020

Devil’s Thumb is an outcrop sandwiched between the Big Beehive and Mount Whyte in the Lake Louise area. The main benefit of hiking up here is the amazing views of both Lake Agnes and Lake Louise. This is such an iconic view, that it was featured on the front cover of National Geographic Canada magazine. Ever since I saw that photo, I wanted to go.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Covid means a drastic decrease in the number of international tourists, which allows locals to finally have access to the Gem of the Rockies.

Parking

If you are staying in Banff or Canmore, PLEASE take the shuttle from your hotel to Lake Louise, or take the Roam Transit bus. If you drove from Calgary, you can park in Banff and then take Roam to Lake Louise.

In the winter, almost all our ski guests take the shuttle, but in summer people insist on driving. There is VERY limited parking at Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. If you take the shuttle, you are dropped right at the front of the line and are guaranteed to see the sights. You can also take the shuttle from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake to see them both in one day. If you drive, you will only be able to park in one lot (not both) and will have to choose which lake to visit.

Gear

This is a summit, so think of it more as a scramble than a hike. Bring hiking boots, poles, and your usual day pack kit. With so many people on the trail, we were concerned about the overhead environment and falling rocks. We chose to wear our scrambling helmets to be safe instead of sorry. While I did see a lot of people up there with nothing more than running shoes, this is not recommended.

Overview

From Lake Louise, hike up to Lake Agnes. Hike to the back of the lake to the Big Beehive pass. At the pass, turn right and head uphill. Follow the trail around to the left (south) side of the mountain. At the base of the col, head straight up until you reach the Whyte/Devi’s Thumb Col. Turn right and continue to the summit.

Trail Head

Start from the Lake Louise parking lot, or where the shuttle drops you off. Make your way to the Lake Agnes trail head, which is located at the far, north end of of the Chateau Lake Louise hotel.

The view of Lake Agnes. On the left is the Big Beehive. The middle tower is the Devil’s Thumb. Behind that on the right is Mount Whyte, which is a scramble accessed from the scree slope at the back of the lake.

For a detailed description of hiking to Lake Agnes, please click here.

Main Trail

Once at Lake Agnes, take the switchbacks to the Big Beehive pass. Again, for a detailed description to hike to the Big Beehive, click here.

The Big Beehive pass as seen from the back of Lake Agnes. Once at the pass, the Big Beehive look out is to the left, and the Devil’s Thumb trail is on the right.

Once at the Big Beehive pass, turn right (roughly south west), and head into the forest. There is no signage, and you will see several large logs placed over this very obvious trail. This is to keep the causal tourist from continuing up. I do not ever want to discourage anyone from hiking in the mountains, however I did see a few people who were ill equipped mentally and physically to head up to this summit. The Parks Search and Rescue must have had one too many rescues.

At the Big Beehive Pass. The Beehive outlook is behind me. This is the trail to Devil’s Thumb, seen through the trees. The trail is blocked in two places by large trees. There is no signage.

After hiking short ways, start following the obvious flagging to stay on the correct trail.

Shortly after we started on the trail, we saw the flagging. This is just to get you up and over the scrambly sections.

Shortly above this is a small scramble section, which is just enough to deter the super casual tourist.

This is looking back at the short scramble section.

Follow the trail along to the left of the mountain.

The trail goes to the left of the mountain, and around the corner. Mike, a recovering climber, is admiring the quartzite rock above him.

This is by far the best part because of the absolutely stunning views of Mount Victoria and the glaciers.

This absolutely stunning view stayed with us as we curved around the side of the Devil’s Thumb. The pointy mountain straight ahead is Mount Lefroy. The long mountain on the right is Mount Victoria. Left of Lefroy is Mount Aberdeen.
To the left of Mount Aberdeen is Fairview Mountain. Fairview is a very accessible summit, accessed from Lake Louise but from the other side. Click here for the details on how to ascend.

At the end of the trail, we turned the corner to start looking straight up the mountain. This was our first view of the Whyte/Devil’s Thumb col.

This is our first look at the col between Mount Whyte and Devil’s Thumb. It was here that we put on our scrambling helmets because of the narrow trail, and the number of other people on the trail. Damage from falling rocks is no joke.

We basically hiked straight up this section. The trail is getting pretty beat up here, and it’s more or less a steep and slippery dirt track.

The trail curves around, and then starts ascending more or less straight up. This dirt section is steep and slippery. This is also the choke point with other hikers.

Above this section, the trail angles off to the right to the top of the col, which is the base of the Devil’s Thumb final ascent.

Above the dirt section, the trail again improves. It is a nice diagonal traverse up to the col on the right.

At the col, we stopped to admire the views.

At the col, this is the lowest portion of Mount Whyte. If you use your imagination, you can see a face in this rock. Thanks go to Annette for finding this.
This is the trail to the summit of Devil’s Thumb. It looks benign from here, but soon we got into the large boulders.

At the col, we turned right and had some more fun. I absolutely love these large quartzite boulders. We strayed from the main path just to be able to clamber over the solid rocks.

Quartzite rock is very rare in the Rockies. It is found at the far end of Lake Louise, and I absolutely love it. After spending so much time on limestone, the hard metamorphic rock is an absolute joy.

The summit of Devil’s Thumb is a flat expanse of cracked quartzite rock. This is very similar to the summit of The Tower of Babel, located above Moraine Lake.

The summit is a flat expanse of cracked quartzite covered in lichen. The views across the valley are amazing, but I was here for a very specific view…

This is where I finally had the big view payoff! Lake Agnes glittered to the left, while the stunning turquoise waters of Lake Louise did not disappoint. It was a cloudy day, so we sat up there and ate our lunch, hoping for the sun to pop out. It did short little appearances, but not enough to light up the entire lake.

Finally!!! This is the view I was dreaming about. Ever since I saw this on the cover of National Geographic Canada, I knew I needed to get up here. 2020 was the year to do it.

Time to the summit of Devil’s Thumb was exactly 2 hours and 30 minutes. Distance is 6.7 km. Elevation gain is 738 m.

Devil’s Thumb Return

Return the way you came, back to the Big Beehive pass. From here, we extended our day by heading out to the Big Beehive outlook. We were still not done though, so decided to head across to the Little Beehive. This provided great views back towards what we had just hiked, and was well worth the effort.

Here is a panorama of Lake Louise, Fairview Mountain (left), the Big Beehive (middle), Devil’s Thumb above, and Lake Agnes on the right. Shot taken from the Little Beehive.
A short video of this amazing view. It’s always nice to look back at the mountain you just climbed.

To see a detailed description of hiking to the Little Beehive, click here.

If you found this post useful, please do me a huge favour and click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, follow me on Instagram, or join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers.

Alisen

Totals – Tracked on Strava

Date: August 25th, 2020
Group:  Three (Alisen, Mike and Annette)
Distance:  13.4 km
Elevation:  738 m (2,435′)
Time:  4 hours 30 minutes
(time is estimate as we continued to the Big and Little Beehives after Devil’s Thumb)

This is the entire map for our trip. We went straight up to the Devil’s Thumb, but extended our trip on the way back. We continued on to the Big Beehive over look, and then over to the Little Beehive. We took an alternate route back to Lake Louise.
This is the elevation profile for Devil’s Thumb. The high point on the left is the summit. The middle point is the Big Beehive overlook. The double-bump on the right is the Little Beehive. To hike the Big and Little Beehives, click here.
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Posted in Adventures, Hiking
30 comments on “Devil’s Thumb via Lake Agnes
  1. bballscholar says:

    Beautiful pictures.

  2. I went to Banff last summer and hiked to Lake Agnes and Big Beehive. We contemplated hiking Devil’s Thumb, but I forgot to bring my hiking poles. So we decided to hike to the second tea house at Plain of the Six Glaciers instead. Glad we did that as I’m not sure I could have survived this hike without them. Especially the downhill portion. Those views from the top look amazing.

    • alisendopf says:

      You can never go wrong by visiting the Plain of the Six Glaciers! Indeed, you would have the same view as us of Mount Victoria and the glaciers as we did. I am glad you got to visit both tea houses!
      In 2009, my husband and I went up to Abbot Hut and attempted Mount Victoria. Unfortunately, an electrical storm kicked off, and we were the highest things on the highest mountain. We had to retreat. Shortly afterwards, the rain turned to snow. The entire mountain was encrusted in ice. So, no attempt the next day. I always thought I would be back, but with Abbot Hut in jeopardy, I may have been wrong.

  3. One to add to our list. Great description and beautiful pics.

  4. Mishkat Al Moumin says:

    Great images! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Craig White says:

    Awesome 😁🙏👌💙

  6. Amit Kumar says:

    I think so.That moment will be amazing when you recording a short video [that level]. Phenomenal views![ pics] and also a short video [capturing moment]!!

  7. bhaatdal says:

    Wow such pretty shots

  8. nitinsingh says:

    Awesome pictures n lovely post thnx to share this lovely post

  9. asthaisha says:

    Beautiful picture ❤️ peace 🌼

  10. Those photographs look gorgeous! ❤️✨

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