The President Range and TransCanada Highway, Yoho National Park © Parks Canada
Yoho, named for a Cree word expressing awe, is a park of rock walls, waterfalls and glacial lakes. It's a park with snow-topped mountain peaks, roaring rivers and silent forests. It's a park whose history is bound up with a railroad: spiral tunnels inside mountains and stories of runaway trains.
Established in 1886, the park currently spans 1,310 square kilometres (507 square miles) on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia, and borders Banff National Park to the east and Kootenay National Park to the south.
Yoho's craggy peaks and steep rock faces posed an enormous challenge for Canada's early explorers. The mountains that were the curse of railway builders are responsible for the park's many waterfalls including Laughing Falls, Twin Falls, Wapta Falls and one of Canada's highest at 254 m (833 ft.), Takakkaw Falls. Silt carried by streams from melting glaciers high on the mountains is responsible for the deep, rich turquoise colour of Emerald Lake and Lake O'Hara.
Water is responsible for creating a natural rock bridge over the Kicking Horse River. Torrents have worn through a solid rockbed leaving a flat-rock bridge. Water erosion has also formed another Yoho marvel: balanced boulders on tall pillars of glacial till, called Hoodoos, found in the western end of the park.
Many of British Columbia's plants and animals reach their eastern extension in Yoho. The high peaks of the Continental Divide wring out the precipitation remaining in clouds moving eastward from the Pacific Ocean. This creates pockets of wet belt forest where coastal species such as devil's club, western red cedar and western hemlock thrive.
One of the world's most important fossil finds, the Burgess Shale, is located in Yoho. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1981, the Burgess Shale Formation contains the fossilized remains of more than 120 marine animal species dating back 515 million years. The Burgess Shale World Heritage Site is now incorporated into the larger Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site with Yoho, Kootenay, Banff and Jasper National Parks and Mt. Assiniboine, Mt. Robson and Hamber Provincial Parks.
Some Yoho Facts
- 28 mountain peaks more than 3000 m in height
- Takakkaw Falls, with a free fall of 254 m, is the third highest in Canada
- over 400 km of hiking trails
- most abundant large mammal in the park: mountain goat
Points of Interest
Wapta Falls (24 km west of Field)
In 1858, near Wapta Falls, a pack horse kicked explorer James Hector in the chest, and the Kicking Horse River got its name. Wapta Falls is the full width of the river and drops 30m (100'). A short drive off the TransCanada Highway takes you to the start of an easy 2.4 km trail to the falls.
Hoodoos (22 km west of Field, in Hoodoo Creek Campground)
It's worth the steep hike to see these capped pillars of glacial debris. The 1.6 km trail starts in Hoodoo Creek Campground.
Natural Bridge (3 km west of Field, on the the Emerald Lake Road)
The Kicking Horse River has carved a natural bridge through solid rock, 1.6 km from the Trans-Canada highway on the Emerald Lake Road.
Emerald Lake (11 km west and north of Field, on the Emerald Lake Road)
Emerald Lake is popular for sightseeing, canoeing and hiking.
Yoho Valley Road (3 km east of Field)
Travel 13 km on this narrow, steep road beside the Yoho River to see Takakkaw Falls. Leave trailers at the parking lot across from Monarch Campground. Facilities on the Yoho Valley Road include Monarch and Kicking Horse Campgrounds, seasonal accommodation and viewpoints. The road is snowbound from mid-October to mid-June; it is used by cross country skiers in the winter.
Takakkaw Falls (13 km north of the TransCanada Highway, at the end of the Yoho Valley Road)
With a free-fall of 254 metres, Takakkaw Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in Canada.
Lower Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint (8 km east of Field)
A fascinating display explains the history and operation of the spiral tunnels. From the platform, visitors have a spectacular view of the Yoho Valley, Yoho Glacier and the lower spiral tunnel portals in Mt. Ogden.