Yoho National Park
Named for a Cree expression of awe and wonder, Yoho lies on the western slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It is located along the Trans Canada Highway 208km (129 miles) from Calgary (just over two hours without traffic), 767km (477 miles) from Vancouver (about an 8 hour drive). The nearest city to the national park is Golden - 57km (34 miles) away. The real gem, however, is the village of Field which is located within the boundaries of Yoho National Park. This quaint mountain village captures my heart (and has me looking at real estate) with every visit. The streets are lined with small Guesthouses and Bed and Breakfasts and the only restaurant in town is arguably the best in the Canadian Rockies. I highly recommend a dinner at Truffle Pig's Bistro if you're ever in or around the area. For information about the town of Field as well as what to eat, where to sleep and things to do in the National Park check out the town's official website.
most iconic views
Unsurprising as it may be, the shoreline of Emerald Lake is one of my favourite places in the park to watch sunrise. Not only does it mean that you can sleep in, but the tall valley walls keep the water of Emerald Lake protected from wind and therefore calmer than most of the surrounding bodies of water. The location of the lodge on the peninsula also allows for the option of a comfortable night's sleep before sunrise and hot coffee afterwards. As a bonus, getting here early means that you beat the crowds!
For sunset the Opabin Prospect overlooking Mary Lakes and Lake O'Hara is a much less accessible but such a beautiful vantage. You can read all of my tips and tricks for visiting Lake O'Hara here.
beginner - Emerald Lake Shoreline Walk
Length: 5.2 km (3 miles) roundtrip
Hiking time: 2 hours
Trailhead: Emerald Lake parking area, 10 km west of Field, B.C. via the Trans-Canada Highway and Emerald Lake Road. (map)
Habitat: A typical, sunny Rocky Mountain forest on the west side of the lake, and a more moist Columbian forest with cedar and hemlock on the east side.
Most visitors to the area will only visit the small section of shoreline nearest to the boathouse. The 5.2km (3 mile) hike around lake in the summer and nordic ski in the winter is an easy way to get away from the crowds and enjoy the lake. There are also canoe rentals available at the boathouse for a fee substantially less than its neighbouring lakes in Banff National Park.
moderate - Wapta Falls
Length: 4.6km (2.9 miles) roundtrip
Hiking time: 1.5 hours
Elevation: 30m (98ft)
Trailhead: Wapta Falls parking area, 26 km west of Field, B.C. and 32 km east of Golden, B.C. on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway. Note: The trailhead is not marked for westbound traffic as there is no left turn lane here. Continue 3 km to the park west boundary, turn and come back. (map)
Habitat: With the ecologically important Leanchoil marsh nearby, watch for waterbirds, beavers and wolf tracks.
My first time visiting this lake was not intentional, highway maintenance had us stopped right at the trailhead for the falls and instead of waiting in the car we decided to get out and stretch our legs. It was one of the most opportune traffic stops to date. The trail the the waterfall overlook is a trial runner's dream - beautiful, flat with minimal elevation gain or loss. The trail to the bottom of the falls is slightly steeper and can often be slippery - watch your step!
challenging - Hidden Lake and Yoho lake
Length: 12.8km (8 miles) roundtrip
Hiking time: 5 hours
Elevation: 530m (1,729ft)
Trailhead: Emerald Lake parking lot, 10 km west of Field, B.C. via the Trans-Canada Highway and Emerald Lake Road -OR- Takakkaw Falls parking lot, 17 km east of Field, B.C. via the Trans-Canada Highway and Yoho Valley Road. Note: Yoho Valley Road is open mid-June through mid-October. RVs and Trailers are not permitted due to steep switchbacks. (map)
Habitat: Lush Columbian forest. Watch for goats on the Burgess Highline.
The biggest crux will be finding parking in the Takakkaw Falls parking lot. From there you will run into a fork in the trail at 2.3km after gaining most of your elevation in the initial switchbacks, take the left hand turn and make a 1km detour to visit Hidden Lakes. After enjoying the emerald green water and reflections of Cathedral Mountain return to the main trail, an additional 2.8km will bring you to the shoreline of Yoho Lake. From Yoho lake you have the option to complete the loop past the lake, turning back and going down the same route or if you have two vehicles and a little bit of extra time there is a trail that will take you down to Emerald Lake.
note: the ratings and estimated hiking times have been provided by Parks Canada, I have personally done all of these hikes. There is no technical sections of these hikes and no additional equipment outside of comfortable hiking shoes or boots, water and snacks should be required.
If you are looking to complete more challenging objectives in Yoho National Park I recommend this book - I have no vested interest in your purchase but personally utilize it for planning my trips.
- Located in Yoho National Park, the Burgess Shale is one of the most significant fossil areas in the world. Exquisitely preserved fossils record a diverse, abundant marine community dominated by soft-bodied organisms. Originating soon after the rapid unfolding of animal life about 540 million years ago, the Burgess Shale fossils provide key evidence of the history and early evolution of most animal groups known today, and yield a more complete view of life in the sea than any other site for that time period. Access by guided tour only.
Takakkaw Falls - Tumbling 254m (830 feet) in one stretch and 384m (1,260 feet) in total, these falls are among the highest in Canada and the gateway to some of Yoho’s most beautiful hiking. Feel the spray at the base of the falls, enjoy views from afar or a popular climbing route offers a hands on experience. Accessible mid-June until mid-October to small vehicles and bicycles only due to steep, tight switchbacks.
- Mount Goodsir 3,567 m (11,703 ft) is the tallest mountain in Yoho National Park.
Wildlife in the park is both abundant and observable including wolf packs, badger, moose, elk, mule deer, mountain goat, golden-mantled ground squirrel, rufous hummingbird, hoary marmot, wolverine, cougar, pika, lynx, grizzly bear, and American black bear. Certain parts of the Lake O'Hara area trails are subject to seasonal closures in order to protect grizzly bear habitat and reduce human/bear encounters so be aware and if concerns stop into the Warden's Station located in the village of Field to learn more about these animals and precautionary measures in place.
Yoho National Park is home to twenty-one major glacial lakes, numerous glaciers as well as portions of the the Wapta and Waputik Icefields.
passes and permits
note: all prices in CAD and include all taxes and fees
Adult - $ 9.80
Senior - $ 8.30
Youth - free
Family/Group - $ 19.60
Parks Canada Discovery Pass - these passes are valid for entry to all National Parks in Canada for a full year
Adult - $ 67.70
Senior - $ 57.90
Family/Group - $ 136.40
Hoodoo Creek (unserviced with washroom building having toilets only) - $ 15.70
Kicking Horse (unserviced with washroom building having toilets only) - $ 27.40
Takakkaw Falls, walk-in (primitive) - $ 17.60
Monarch, walk-in (primitive) - $ 17.60
Fire permit - $ 8.80
Campsite day use permit - $ 8.80
Dump station - $ 8.80
BACKCOUNTRY USE AND CAMPING*
Overnight, per person - $ 9.80
Reservation fee (per reservation)- $ 11.70
Camping and backpacking in Yoho National Park can be booked here. A map of the park is added below.
*all fees indicated are per night unless otherwise noted