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October 2022

Yoho National Park

Guest Author: Cassie Markham

In the shadow of the Great Divide, Yoho’s towering rockwalls, spectacular waterfalls and soaring peaks reveal the secrets of ancient life, the power of ice and water and the stories of plants and animals that continue to evolve today.
Source: Parks Canada Website

Trails

Paget Lookout

Paget Lookout

The trail to Paget lookout takes you up through a lush forest rising into the subalpine. Once out of the forest you begin to climb a steep, rocky trail to views of the Bow, Cataract Book and Kicking Horse Valleys.

  • Distance: 7km roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 520m
  • Type: Out and back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Parking lot across from Wapta Lake, 11 km east of Field, B.C. or 15 km west of Lake Louise, on the north side of the Trans-Canada Highway. (map)
  • Access: Paved Road - 2WD

Insider Tip: Carry on beyond the lookout to Paget Peak for stunning 360’ views of the valley and Sherbrooke Lake below.

Lake Sherbrooke from Paget Peak

Paget Peak East Lookout

Hamilton Lake

Hamilton Lake Trail

The trail to Hamilton Lake starts from the lakeshore of Emerald Lake. taking you up through the forest (for what seems like an eternity), rising steeply into subalpine and rocky alpine habitats.

Most of the traffic stops at Hamilton Falls, from the falls you continue along the switchbacks for the majority of the trail before finally popping out onto a rocky talus slope, you traverse the slope and arrive on final portion of the trail which leads you to a classic, cliff-encircled turquoise blue alpine tarn.

The trail itself is rather uninteresting with limited views and steep switchbacks but the reward at the end is worth the climb.

Hamilton Lake

  • Distance: 11km roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 850m
  • Type: Out and back
  • Difficulty: Moderate - Difficult Hike
  • Location: Emerald Lake parking lot, 10 km west of Field, B.C. via the Trans-Canada Highway and Emerald Lake Road. (map)
  • Access: Paved Road - 2WD

Insider Tip: Carry on beyond Hamilton lake to Emerald Peak, once you gain the ridge you see a beautiful view of Hamilton from above. The lake takes on a heart shape nestled deep in the mountains.

If you continue to the summit of Emerald peak you will be treated to 360 views with Hamilton Lake on one side and Emerald Lake on the other

Hamilton Lake from Emerald Peak

Once you get back to the trailhead I highly recommend a dip in Emerald Lake. The water is much warmer than up at Hamilton and it’s the perfect end to a long day in the mountains!

Emerald Lake

Bonus: Natural Bridge and Canada’s Second Tallest Waterfall

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge is a quick roadside attraction on route to Emerald Lake. Pull over to see the Kicking Horse River as it cascades under a naturally formed stone bridge.

Insider Tip: Natural Bridge is stunning year-round, come back in the winter to see a stunning ice formation that takes you into the cave below the bridge.

Natural Bridge (March 2022)

Takakkaw Falls

Takakkaw Falls are located in the Yoho Valley, near Field, BC. The falls have a total height of 373m, making them the second tallest waterfall in Canada. The main drop of the waterfall has a height of 254m.

"Takakkaw" translates to "magnificent” in Cree. Wikipedia

Enjoy a scenic drive on the Yoho Valley Road. Then, cool off in the mist as you stand at the base of one of the highest waterfalls in Canada.

Where to Stay

Backcountry Camping

There are four backcountry campgrounds in the Yoho Valley. Or stay at the Alpine Club of Canada's Stanley Mitchell Hut in the Little Yoho Valley.

Frontcountry Camping

Monarch Campground - First come, first serve, this campground is easy to access right off the highway. We stayed here for 3 nights in 2020 and found it to be the perfect basecamp for our adventures. Each night the sun lit up the mountains with stunning alpenglow before dipping into the night.

Note: The site can get a little loud with the train traffic in the area, be sure to bring earplugs if you are a light sleeper.

Monarch Campground at sunset

Alternatively, spend the night at the Takakkaw Falls front-country campground just 300m from the falls parking lot or stay at the HI-Whiskey Jack Hostel, a short walk from the falls.

Hotels and Lodges

Emerald Lake Lodge - If you’re looking for more of a luxury experience Emerald Lake Lodge is our favourite spot for a night (or two) of luxury. There are rooms within the lodge itself as well as cabins along the lake shore.

Make sure to get out for a paddle on the lake and take a dip in the extra large stainless steel hot tub after a long day in the mountains.

Lake O’Hara:

Lake O’Hara is within Yoho National Park but I’ve separated it out for the purposes of this blog due to the level of planning required.

“This sensitive alpine environment is home to exquisite hanging valleys, jewel-blue lakes and breathtaking vistas. An excellent trail network for the region is maintained by the Lake O’Hara Trails Club and Parks Canada. Access to this area is limited to provide high-quality and meaningful experiences for visitors and maintain Lake O’Hara’s unique alpine environment.”
Source: Parks Canada Website

Opabin Lake

Access and Where to Stay

There are four ways to visit Lake O’Hara:

  1. Visit for the day. Operating from June 24 - October 2, 2022, the Lake O’Hara shuttle takes visitors 11 km up to Lake O’Hara. Advanced reservations are required. A random draw reservation system is used to assign day-use bus reservations. Applications for the random draw are available online using a computer through the Parks Canada Reservation Service between March 1, 2022 and March 30, 2022. Successful applicants for the random draw will be notified on April 1, 2022 at 6 am MT. The successful applicants will have from April 1 to April 15, 2022 to confirm their reservations. On April 20, 2022, any unconfirmed day use bus reservations will be released to the public.
  2. Camp for up to three nights. Reservations are required. Overnight camping reservations at Lake O’Hara will be offered on the Parks Canada Reservation Service from February 3, 2022 at 8 am MT. The Lake O’Hara campground will operate from June 24 to October 1, 2022. Camping reservations include the ability to reserve an ingoing bus ride.
    • The Lake O’Hara bus will run from June 24, 2022 to October 2, 2022.

  3. Stay at the Elizabeth Parker Hut, book with the Alpine Club of Canada.
  4. Stay at Lake O’Hara Lodge, book with Lake O'Hara Lodge.

I recommend setting up a Parks Canada account in advance (if you don’t already have one) and being logged in ready to go on opening morning as reservations book up within minutes.

If you are unable to secure a reservation through all of the above four options the last alternative is to hike the access road out and back as a day trip. If you plan to hike the road, be prepared for a 30+km day if you plan to hike to the lookout above Lake O’hara.

Note: Bicycles are not permitted on the Lake O’Hara access road.

Opabin Lake

Trails

Opabin Plateau Circuit

Opabin Plateau

Opabin Plateau is a beautiful hanging valley atop a rocky headband cliff above Lake O'Hara. West Opabin Trail and East Opabin Trail climb to the head of the valley from both sides of the cliff. By starting up either of these arms of the circuit and returning via the other, a tour of the valley can be made.

Opabin Lake

We chose to ascend the East Opabin trail, head out to Opabin Lake and rejoin the circuit descending down the West Opabin trail.

Opabin Plateau

Via West Opabin: A sign on the southwest end of Lake O'Hara marks the beginning of the west arm of Opabin Plateau Circuit. The trails climbs quickly to Mary Lake, follows the shore and then climbs steeply up an open talus slope for approximately 120 vertical metres until it mounts a grassy cleft onto the rolling terrain of Opabin Plateau.

Lake O'Hara Lookout

The Opabin Plateau Circuit continues into the little valley of Opabin Creek. It crosses a bridge over the creek and travels upstream, passing southwest of Hungabee Lake. Climbing over a knoll through more talus, the circuit arrives at Opabin Lake.

Opabin Plateau Highline connects East Opabin and West Opabin trails on the plateau.

Lake O'Hara West Lookout

The return arm of the circuit begins on the east shore of Opabin Lake. The trail descends back along the plateau past Hungabee Lake and follows the foot of the slope of Yukness Mountain, where the Yukness Ledge Alpine Route to Lake Oesa begins. Continue through grassy meadows back to the brink of the valley and a 0.8 km series of switchbacks that drop to the shores of Lake O'Hara.

  • Distance: 5.9km roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 250m
  • Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Insider Tip: There are a number of different spots from the Plateau to get a view of Lake O’Hara below, spend some time checking out the various look outs for different perspectives.

Lake O'Hara East Lookout

Gear List