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Yoho National Park

Hiking and Walking

Emerald Lake early in the morning © Parks Canada
Emerald Lake

Yoho offers spectacular scenery and over 400 km of hiking trails. Many higher elevation trails are snow-bound and muddy until well into July, making them highly susceptible to erosion. Hikers can help prevent trail damage by staying on the trail and obeying closure signs. Many of Yoho's trails also offer overnight backcountry opportunities.

Where to Go | What to BringRules and Regulations | Safety | Trail Report

Exploring Lake O'Hara

Where to Go

Short Hikes (1 to 2 hours)

Wapta Falls (elevation loss 30 m) - 2.3 km trail, each way
The 2 km gravel road skirts Leanchoil marsh. From the end of the road follow the level trail to where the Kicking Horse River drops 30 m. * Note : The trailhead is not marked on the TCH for westbound traffic as there is no left turn lane here. Continue 3 km to the west entrance of the park, turn and come back.

Emerald Lake (minor elevation gain and loss) - 5.2 km circuit
A self-guided nature trail, this scenic hike is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers from the parking area to the bridge at the back of the lake (4.6 km return).

Hamilton Falls (minor elevation gain) - 1.6 km return
The trail starts at the entrance to Emerald Lake parking area.

Centennial Trail (minor elevation gain and loss) - 2.5 km circuit
Begins at the bridge by Kicking Horse Campground on the Yoho Valley Road.

Walk-in-the-Past (elevation gain 90 m) - 4 km return
From the trailer circle in Kicking Horse Campground, cross the Yoho Valley Road and follow the trail to an abandoned, narrow-gauge locomotive used to build the Spiral Tunnels.

Point Lace Falls and Angel's Staircase - 4.4 km return
Starts at Takakkaw Falls campground. minor elevation gain

Half Day Hikes (3 to 4 hours)

Mt. Hunter Lookout (elevation gain 400 m) - 7.2 km return
to Upper Lookout - 12 km return
Park at the Wapta Falls turn-off on the Trans-Canada Highway, and carefully cross the highway. The trail climbs steadily through montane forest to two former fire lookouts.

Hoodoos (elevation gain 455 m) - 3.2 km return
A steep, dry trail to capped pillars of glacial debris starts at the creek, between loops F and T in Hoodoo Creek Campground. Signs advise on the hazard of falling trees due to a 2005 prescribed burn.

Emerald Basin (elevation gain 225 m) - 9.2 km return
Walk to the far end of Emerald Lake for the turn-off to Emerald Basin. After a short, steep section the trail levels. It ends in a natural amphitheatre of hanging glaciers and avalanche paths.

Sherbrooke Lake (elevation gain 165 m) - 6.2 km return
From the Wapta Lake picnic shelter, the trail climbs moderately to a lake surrounded by steep slopes.

Great Divide (elevation gain minimal) - 6 km return
Bike or walk to the Great Divide on the original road through Kicking Horse Pass. (no longer open to vehicles)

Ross Lake (elevation gain 100 m) - 3.2 km one way
Watch for the Ross Lake junction at 1.9 km on the Great Divide route. Turn right for a gentle climb to a tiny rockbound lake.

Paget Lookout (elevation gain 520 m) - 7 km return
Follow the trail to Sherbrooke Lake for 1.4 km. Take the right hand fork at the junction for Paget Lookout.

Full Day Hikes (5 to 8 hours)

The main trailheads for day hikes and backcountry camping are located at Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls Campground and Whiskey Jack Hostel. Many trails connect, giving numerous options for starting and finishing points, and circuit hikes.

Hamilton Lake (elevation gain 850 m) - 11 km return
From the entrance at Emerald Lake parking area, follow the trail past Hamilton Falls on a steady climb to a classic alpine lake.

Yoho Pass (elevation gain 530 m) - 12 km one way
Follow the Emerald Lake trail around the lake to the Yoho Pass junction. The trail traverses a gravel outwash plain, climbs through the pass to Yoho Lake and descends to Whiskey Jack Hostel near Takakkaw Falls.

Emerald Triangle (elevation gain 880 m) - 19.7 km circuit
Follow the Yoho Pass trail to Yoho Pass, then travel south along the Wapta Highline trail to Burgess Pass. Descend the switchbacks to Emerald Lake and your starting point.

Iceline (elevation gain 695 m)
via Little Yoho - 20.8 km circuit
via Celeste Lake - 17.5 km circuit
The trail starts at Whiskey Jack Hostel and climbs through a large avalanche path onto a bench. Hikers descend to the Yoho Valley by taking the Celeste Lake trail, or follow the trail signs to the Little Yoho Valley.

Wapta Highline (elevation gain 660 m)
to Field - 18.5 km one way
to Emerald Lake - 19 km one way
Start as for the Iceline, but take the fork to Yoho Lake and Yoho Pass. In Yoho Pass, take the left fork along the flank of Wapta Mountain to Burgess Pass, then down the switchbacks to Emerald Lake or the town of Field.

Yoho Valley
to Laughing Falls (elevation gain 60 m) - 3.9 km one way 
to Twin Falls
(elevation gain 300 m) to chalet - 7.9 km one way
to Yoho Glacier Moraine
(elevation gain 250 m) - 8.4 km one way
Laughing Falls is passed en route to Twin Falls. Strong parties can continue to the top of Twin Falls and over the Whaleback trail for incredible views. Ask staff at the Yoho Visitor Centre if the bridge is in before you take this route . Returning to Takakkaw Falls via the Whaleback and Laughing Falls is a 20.1 km circuit.

Little Yoho Valley (elevation gain 520 m) - 9.3 km one way
Follow the Yoho Valley trail to Laughing Falls, turn north at the junction and ascend the switchbacks.

Lake O'Hara (elevation gain 400 m) - 11 km one way
A quota limits the number of visitors using the public bus service into Lake O'Hara; there are no restrictions on the number of people who wish to hike the 11 km access road (bikes not permitted). Reservations are required to take the bus to Lake O'Hara for day use and camping. The bus operates from mid-June to early October. Advanced reservations are required.

Ottertail Valley
to McArthur Creek Campground (elevation gain 285 m) - 14.9 km one way
to Ottertail Falls - 17.7 km one way
to Goodsir Pass
(elevation gain 1015 m) - 23.9 km one way
Trailhead is located on the Trans-Canada Highway 8.4 km west of Field. This trail links with The Rockwall in Kootenay National Park.

What to bring

A day of hiking in the Rockies requires preparation. Conditions can change rapidly in the mountains and higher elevations increase your exposure to the sun and stormy weather. To have a safe and fun time outdoors you will need to bring:

  • Warm clothes (no cotton), rain jacket and pants, winter gloves, and toque
  • Hearty lunch, snack & drinking water (at least 2 litres)
  • Hiking boots and hiking poles, extra socks
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hat
  • Personal blister kit and medical supplies (just in case)
  • Camera!