Cross-country skiing is a wonderful way to enjoy Yoho National Park in winter. Draped in snow and ice, the Rockies form a dramatic backdrop to the pleasures of travelling over crisp snow through Yoho's valleys.
Anyone planning an overnight trip into a hut, shelter or campground must have a Wilderness Pass. You can get a Wilderness Pass from Parks Canada visitor centres in Field and Lake Louise, or Parks Canada's office in downtown Calgary. Pets must be on a leash and under control at all times.
Winter Trail Etiquette
To help ensure everyone has a pleasant time:
- Treat other trail users with courtesy. People going uphill should yield to downhill skiers.
- When overtaking others, slow down and call out to make them aware of your intentions.
- Walk or snowshoe beside the ski tracks, not on them
- On trackset trails, fill in any holes you make after a fall and stay clear of the trail during rest stops.
- If you see someone in need of assistance, take the time to stop and help.
- Pack out all garbage.
- Dogs not permitted on groomed track set ski trails.
Play it Safe . . .
Yoho offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing for every level of ability. The park is a natural area, and hazards are part of the wilderness environment. Safety is your responsibility; you venture out at your own risk.
Be prepared for emergencies on the trail. Carry a pack with a map, compass, first-aid kit, extra food, extra clothes, waterproof matches or lighter and fire starter, and an equipment repair kit.
Know how to recognize avalanche terrain. If you plan to cross avalanche areas, each member of your party should carry a shovel, a transceiver and a probe, and know how to use them. Contact Yoho National Park for up-to-date avalanche and weather information. The Canadian Avalanche Association Rocky Mountain Forecast is available by phone: 1-800-667-1105 and internet www.avalanche.ca .
Travel with others, and choose a trail suitable for the least experienced member in your party. Tell friends or family where you're going and when you plan to return. You can also register your trip with Parks Canada by completing a Voluntary Safety Registration; by law you must register back in upon your return to prevent a costly and unnecessary search.
Huts and Shelters
The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) operates four huts in Yoho National Park:
- Stanley Mitchell Hut in the Little Yoho Valley
- Scott Duncan Memorial Hut on Mt. Daly
- Elizabeth Parker Hut at Lake O'Hara, and
- Abbott Hut on the col between Mt. Victoria and Mt. Lefroy
Contact the Canmore office at 1-403-678-3200 for information and reservations.
Amiskwi Lodge, located just outside the park boundary at Amiskwi Pass, can be reached by helicopter. For more information or directions, please call 1-403-678-1800 or write to Amiskwi Lodge Inc., Box 8126, Canmore, Alberta T1W 2T8.
The picnic shelters at Takakkaw Falls and Lake O'Hara are usually stocked with firewood and offer a protected resting place for lunch.
Yoho Winter Trails Brochure (PDF, 1.9 MB)
Suitable for inexperienced skiers. Trails are flat and may have short, wide downhill runs. Avalanche hazards exist on the Emerald Lake trail and the Tally Ho trail.
Wapta Falls . . . 8.6 km return
The trail starts from the Trans-Canada Highway in the park's west end. The first 1.6 km are along the summer access road before joining the hiking trail. There are a few rolling hills but the effort is rewarded with a spectacular view of frozen Wapta Falls. The trail continues to a lower viewpoint down river from the falls; take your skis off and walk as mist makes this lower section icy.
Chancellor Peak Road . . . 4.0 km return
From the Trans-Canada Highway, the summer access road to Chancellor Peak Campground parallels the Kicking Horse River and offers great views of the Ottertail and Beaverfoot ranges. Study the animal tracks that dot the trail.
Field Visitor Centre to Natural Bridge, on the Tally Ho Trail . . . 7.0 km return
From the Visitor Centre, the trail follows the Kicking Horse River downstream for 0.5 km then crosses the Trans-Canada Highway to join the Tally Ho trail. The trail climbs gradually for about 1.5 km then descends to a junction; this section of the trail crosses an avalanche area. The left trail descends to the Natural Bridge, where it links to the Kicking Horse Trail; the trail on the right is the Emerald Lake Connector trail.
Natural Bridge to Otterhead River on the Kicking Horse Trail . . . 14.0 km return
From the Natural Bridge, ski 2.4 km along the road down a gradual hill, past the Emerald River to the Amiskwi River bridge. Cross the bridge and continue left along this abandoned fire road for 4.1 km to the Otterhead River.
Emerald Lake Horse Trail . . . 4.6 km return
This trail follows the western side of the lake, connecting the parking area with the Emerald Alluvial Fan Loop. Please follow the groomed trail and directional signs.
Emerald Alluvial Fan Loop Trail . . . 4.3 km circuit
For skiers who want a longer ski, take the left fork along the Emerald Basin trail on a loop around the alluvial fan, through trees and glades back to the Emerald Lake Horse Trail.
Emerald Lake Loop . . 5.3 km circuit
This trail begins by the lodge and follows the perimiter of the lake. Once a groomed trail has been established on the lake ice, please follow this route and avoid the avalanche path section.
Great Divide Trail (1A) . . . 11 km return
From the Lake O'Hara parking lot, just east of Wapta Lake, ski along the road to the picnic shelter and interpretive display. For other options, continue east along the road to Lake Louise (7.5 km one way, the trail is track set in Banff National Park), or take a side trip to Ross Lake (1.3 km one way).
Longer trails requiring more stamina, or trails with downhill stretches that require some ability to turn and make quick stops. The Emerald Connector trail, the Yoho Valley Road and Lake O'Hara Fire Road cross the bottom of avalanche paths. Travellers must be able to recognize avalanche zones and are reminded not to stop in these areas.
Ottertail Trail . . . 28 km return
From the Trans-Canada Highway, 7.8 km west of Field, the trail climbs moderately for the first few kilometres then becomes more gradual for the remainder of the trip.
Emerald Lake Connector Trail . . . 22 km return
The south end of the Connector Trail beginning at the junction with the Natural Bridge/Kicking Horse trail will not be trackset in 2011-12 due to avalanche hazard. The north end of the Connector Trail will be groomed from Emerald Lake southward for a distance of approximately 5km. This 10km round trip through rolling terrain provides a good opportunity for skiers to work on their technique.
Yoho Valley Road to Takakkaw Falls . . . 26 km return
In winter, the Yoho Valley Road is not maintained for vehicle traffic beyond Monarch Campground, but it is track set to the base of the switchbacks (7 km). On the way, you pass the Upper Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint and the Meeting of the Waters, where the Yoho River flows into the Kicking Horse River. Skiers continuing beyond the switchbacks to Mt. Field, Takakkaw Falls and the upper Yoho and Little Yoho Valleys (see Little Yoho Valley) should be equipped for backcountry travel. This trail travels through significant avalanche terrain and crosses several avalanche paths on the east slopes of Mt. Wapta and Mt. Field. Do not stop in the avalanche zones. Winter camping is available at Takakkaw Falls campground; a Wilderness Pass is required.
Sherbrooke Lake . . . 6.2 km return
From the parking lot behind West Louise Lodge on Wapta Lake, the trail climbs steadily for 2 km, levelling off before reaching the lake at kilometre 3.1. The lake sits in a narrow valley surrounded by steep avalanche slopes. If you continue to the back of the lake, 1.4 km, you will be in avalanche terrain. NOTE: Skiers exit the Wapta Traverse on this trail.
Ross Lake Circuit . . . 9.5 km circuit
From the Lake O'Hara parking lot, follow Highway 1A until you reach the Ross Lake trail head sign on your right. The trail climbs gradually for 1.3 km to this small lake bounded by a great rock wall. Turn west at the lake and continue for 3.2 km to the Lake O'Hara fire road. Turn north (right) at the fire road to return to the parking lot. There are some narrow and fast sections on this circuit.
Emerald River Trail . . . 15.4 km return
The trail starts at the left of the entrance to the Emerald Lake Parking Lot, the Hamilton Falls trail. Turn left at the .4 km junction and follow the trail as it travels along the Emerald River. The trail is narrow and steep in sections.
Lake O'Hara Fire Road . . . 22 km return
From the Lake O'Hara parking lot located near the junction of the TransCanada and 1A Highways, the trail climbs moderately to the shores of Lake O'Hara. The trail crosses several avalanche paths. At km 10.0 strong skiers can take the trail to Linda Lake, 2.0 km one way and Duchesnay Basin, 5.0 km one way. Detailed maps of the Lake O'Hara area can be purchased at the Field Visitor Centre, or at Lake O'Hara Lodge. Lunch is available at the lodge from February to April. The day-use cabin, Le Relais, is open on weekends for shelter only; no services are offered here in the winter. Check with the Field Visitor Centre for details.
More extended trips where strong skiing ability and more experience in assessing hazards are required. The trail is on avalanche slopes in some places. Climbing skins may be necessary for skiers.
Hoodoo Creek Campground to the Lower Ice River Warden Cabin ........ 32 km return
From Hoodoo Creek campground follow the road for 1 km to the gate at the beginning of the Ice River trail. The trail is a former fire road which ascends gradually over slightly rolling terrain, with some moderately steep hills, to the lower Ice River warden cabin.
Amiskwi Trail to Amiskwi Pass . . . 75.8 km return
The trail starts at the Natural Bridge, and follows part of an old First Nations trade route which traversed Amiskwi Pass. After crossing the bridge over the Amiskwi River, turn north along the Amiskwi trail for another 35.5 km.
Little Yoho Valley . . . 44.4 km return
From the trail head on the Yoho Valley Road, ski 13.0 km to Takakkaw Falls (see Yoho Valley to Takakkaw Falls ) and continue another 3.8 km up the Yoho Valley to Laughing Falls. This last stretch is a gradual climb except for a steep section on Hollingsworth Hill. Follow the summer trail from Laughing Falls into the Little Yoho Valley. After a series of switchbacks, the climb moderates to an easy grade until the ACC's Stanley Mitchell Hut.
No cell phone coverage in Yoho National Park.
Yoho National Park Visitor Centre: 1-250-343-6783
Field Cross-country Ski Club: 1-250-343-6000
Parks Canada Calgary Office 1-403-292-4401
Public Safety Warden: 1-403-762-1470
Avalanche Information for Western Canada:
Environment Canada Weather for Yoho National Park:
Community of Field
Contact Yoho National Park
Maps and Recommended Reading
Available from the Friends of Yoho 1-250-343-6393
- Yoho National Park Topographic Map 1:50,000
- Lake Louise and Yoho Recreation Map 1:50,000
- Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies, Chic Scott
- Summits and Icefields, Chic Scott