Coronavirus (COVID-19): Some Parks Canada places have begun a safe, gradual reopening of some outdoor areas and services, including camping. Visitors are encouraged to plan ahead and be well-prepared for their visit. Details here.

Yoho’s most spectacular backpacking begins in the Yoho Valley. Takakkaw Falls is only the beginning! Journey from here to Laughing Falls, Twin Falls, Yoho Pass, the Iceline, or the Little Yoho Valley. Strong hikers may access the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park via Goodsir Pass in Yoho. Alternatively, head west for unmaintained trails in the Amiskwi or Ice River valleys.


Safety

Safety is your responsibility. There are always hazards associated with outdoor recreation. Even short trips can have serious consequences. Minimize your risk by planning ahead.

  • Check the weather forecast, current trail conditions, warnings and closures or visit a Parks Canada visitor centre.
  • Be prepared for emergencies and changes in weather. Mountain weather changes quickly and it can snow any month of the year. Dress in layers, bring extra food and warm clothing.
  • Study descriptions and maps before heading out. Always choose a trail suitable for the least experienced member in your group.
  • Bring your own water. Surface water may be contaminated and unsafe for drinking.
  • Carry a first aid kit and bear spray.
  • Tell a reliable person where you are going, when you will be back, and who to call if you do not return: Parks Canada Dispatch – 403-762-1470.
  • Ticks carrying Lyme disease may be present in the park. It is important to check yourself and your pet after hiking.
  • Avoid wearing earbuds or headphones. Be alert at all times.
  • In case of EMERGENCY, call 911 or satellite phone: 403-762-4506. Cell phone coverage is not reliable throughout the national park.

Snowy trails

Snow can remain on some trails well into the summer. When trails are snow covered, route finding can be difficult and travel through deep snow or on hard snow and ice can be unsafe. Be prepared and check trail conditions before heading out.

Seasonal avalanche risk

Trails above tree line (2,000 m) may be exposed to avalanche hazard at any time of the year and especially from November through June. Steep slopes that are snow covered have the potential to avalanche. For more information on the avalanche hazard, visit a Parks Canada visitor centre or check the Mountain Safety section.


Recommended Packing List

This is a list of items common to many backcountry packing lists. It takes time to learn what works best for you.

Shelter

  • tent, lightweight with groundsheet and fly 
  • sleeping pad 
  • sleeping bag 
  • repair kit

Clothing 

  • hiking boots and camp shoes 
  • socks and underwear 
  • pants and/or shorts 
  • short and long-sleeved shirt 
  • insulating base-layer and outer layer 
  • rainwear or shell, and gators 
  • hat and gloves (in the summer) 
  • basic toiletries & toilet paper

Dry clothes go a long way to making you feel comfortable. Pack light but bring something dry to change into when you reach camp.

Food and cooking

  • water treatment or filter  
  • water bottle or camelback, 1L minimum 
  • food and beverages 
  • stove and fuel, with waterproof matches or a lighter 
  • cooking and eating utensils 
  • water storage container 
  • garbage bags and baggies 
  • sturdy food sack

For your safety and that of wildlife, your food must be suspended from the food storage cables in your campground. Ensure you have a sturdy food sack that will stand up to wind and the elements. To stay safe and protect wilderness, manage your food, food smells and garbage.

Safety essentials

  • bear spray
  • sunglasses & sunscreen 
  • headlamp or flashlight 
  • pocketknife or multi-tool 
  • rope & carabiner (enough to hang a food sack – approx 40 m) 
  • trip plan (left with a friend or family member) 
  • insect repellent 
  • map & compass 
  • first aid and blister kits 
  • whistle

It is recommended that you carry bear spray and know how to use it.

Other items you may find helpful...

  • camera with charged batteries and an empty memory card 
  • notebook and pencil 
  • deck of cards 
  • fishing permit 
  • binoculars 
  • biodegradable soap 
  • camp towel 
  • watch or alarm clock 
  • change of clothes and sandals for the drive home
Trail Etiquette

Show courtesy to fellow trail users!

  • Leave what you find —it is the law. Natural and cultural resources such as rocks, fossils, artifacts, horns, antlers, wildflowers and nests are protected by law and must be left undisturbed for others to discover and enjoy. 
  • Dispose of human waste at least 100 m from any water source. Bury solid human waste in a hole 15 cm deep. Pack out your toilet paper. 
  • To prevent damage to vegetation, stay on designated trails at all times. 
  • Trails are used by a variety of outdoor enthusiasts. Be sure to yield to others. 
  • Leave no trace. Pack out everything you pack in.
Wildlife and people

Yoho National Park is home to wildlife including elk, wolves, cougars, grizzly bears and black bears. To successfully raise their young and sustain a healthy population, wildlife need access to as much quality habitat with as few human surprises as possible.

Be aware of possible encounters with wildlife in all areas of the park, including paved trails and roads.

Tips

  • Always carry bear spray, ensure it is accessible, and know how to use it before heading out.
  • Make noise. Being quiet puts you at risk for sudden wildlife encounters. Be alert through shrubby areas and when approaching blind corners. Travel in tight groups and always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Report bear, cougar, wolf and coyote sightings and encounters to Parks Canada Dispatch when it is safe to do so: 403-762-1470.
  • Keep dogs on leash and under control at all times.

More information

Trail Ratings

Trail rating = easy

Easy

  • Suitable for those with little or no trail experience.
  • Flat to gently rolling with no obstacles.
  • Little or no elevation gain or loss.

trail rating = moderate

Moderate

  • Suitable for those with basic trail experience.
  • Gently rolling with short, steep sections and infrequent obstacles.
  • Moderate elevation gain or loss.

trail rating = difficult

Difficult

  • Suitable only for those with trail experience.
  • Long, steep sections with frequent obstacles.
  • Major elevation gain or loss.
Estimated time to complete these trails ranges depending on trail distances, fitness levels, weather and trail conditions.
Map: Yoho National Park trail map
Yoho National Park Trail map

 


Backcountry campgrounds

There are five backcountry campgrounds in Yoho. Yoho Lake, Laughing Falls, Twin Falls and Little Yoho campgrounds are in the Yoho Valley, accessed from the Takakkaw Falls trailhead. The fifth campground, McArthur Creek, is on the Ottertail River, which connects to the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park via Goodsir Pass. Fires are not permitted. All campgrounds are equipped with:

  • tent pads 
  • dry toilets 
  • communal picnic tables 
  • food storage cables or lockers

Looking for an early start? Spend the night at the Takakkaw Falls front-country campground just 300 m from the parking lot. Alternatively, stay at the HI -Whiskey Jack Hostel, a short walk from the falls.


Backcountry camping reservations

Reservations for the 2020 summer season begin on January 23, 2020 at 8 am Mountain Time.

Any dates for the entire hiking season may be made, there will no longer be a 3 month limit window. Maximum group size is 10 people, including guides and leaders. Demand is highest in July and August, book early to avoid disappointment. Reservations or same day permits will also be available at Parks Canada Visitor Centres

Reservations for overnight stays in the backcountry that are not entirely at designated campgrounds must still be made by contacting a Parks Canada Visitor Centre. (This includes but is not limited to random camping, bivouacing, Alpine Club huts, and nights outside the national park boundaries etc...)

Wilderness Pass requirements

A Wilderness Pass is required for overnight trips in the backcountry at any time of year. 

Quick facts about Wilderness Passes:  

  • Making a reservation in advance, as opposed to same day permits, are recommended to avoid disappointment.
  • Daily wilderness passes may be purchased and fees may be paid at reservation.pc.gc.ca.
  • Your fees support the ongoing maintenance of campgrounds, trails and other backcountry facilities.

See a complete list of fees 

To book or learn more, call 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783), or Reserve online

Huts

Stay at an Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) backcountry hut and leave your tent and stove at home! The ACC operates three backcountry huts in Yoho National Park: 

Advanced reservations are required. Contact the Alpine Club of Canada to plan your adventure.

Where to go

Backpacking trails in Yoho National Park
Trail Distance (round-trip) Time Elevation
Trail rating = easy Laughing Falls 8.8 km 2 days 125
trail rating = moderate Yoho Pass 12.8 km 2 days 530
trail rating = moderate Twin Falls 16.4 km 2 days 300
trail rating = moderate Ottertail Valley to McArthur Creek 32.4 km 2 days 285
trail rating = difficult Iceline via Little Yoho 20.8 km 2 days 710
trail rating = difficult Whaleback 21.3 km 2 days 700
trail rating = difficult Little Yoho Valley 18.6 km 2 days 520
trail rating = difficult Goodsir Pass 25 km 2-3 days 910

Trail descriptions

Trail rating = easy Easy trails

Trail rating = easy Laughing Falls

This trail leads to the Laughing Falls backcountry campground and is an access point for popular multiday backpacking routes.

Length: 8.8 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 125 m
Trailhead: Takakkaw Falls parking lot, 17 km east of Field via the Trans-Canada Highway and Yoho Valley Road. Note: Yoho Valley Road is open seasonally from mid-June through mid-October. Due to tight switchbacks, RVs and trailers are not permitted.

Habitat: Typical Yoho forest with moist groundcover. Watch for the very large fallen tree en route.
Description: A forested trail to a waterfall at the confluence of the Yoho and Little Yoho Rivers.  

trail rating = moderate Moderate trails

trail rating = moderate Yoho Pass

There is a backcountry campground at Yoho Pass. This trail links the Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls areas.

Length: 12.8 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 530 m
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.

Habitat: Lush Columbian forest. Watch for goats on the Burgess Highline.
Description: A lakeshore stroll to an alluvial fan, followed by switchbacks and waterfalls. Shuttle recommended. This trail joins with others in the Takakkaw Falls area.

trail rating = moderate Twin Falls

This trail leads to the Laughing Falls and Twin Falls backcountry campgrounds.

Length: 16.4 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 300 m
Trailhead: Takakkaw Falls parking lot, 17 km northeast of Field 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.

Habitat: Drier, Rocky Mountain forest. Watch for goats above the falls.
Description: This forested trail passes Laughing Falls and carries on along the Yoho River to a spectacular double cascade and Twin Falls Tea House National Historic Site. 

trail rating = moderate Ottertail Valley to McArthur Creek

This trail leads to the McArthur Creek backcountry campground.

Length: 32.4 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 285 m
Trailhead: Ottertail Parking lot, 8.3 km west of Field, B.C. on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway.  

Habitat: Sensitive and important wildlife habitat. Watch for bears, wolves, and goats.
Description: Walk or cycle up the Ottertail River to its confluence with McArthur Creek. 

trail rating = difficult Difficult trails

trail rating = difficult Iceline via Little Yoho

This trail passes the Little Yoho and Laughing Falls backcountry campgrounds.

Length: 20.8 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 710 m
Trailhead: 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. 

Habitat: Glacial moraines in the high alpine. Watch for small mammals in subalpine rockpiles.
Description: A signature circuit climbing to a high bench with spectacular glacier views, descending to meadows in the Little Yoho Valley and returning past Laughing Falls in the Yoho Valley. 

trail rating = difficult Whaleback

This trail leads to Twin Falls backcountry campground.

Length: 21.3 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 520 m
Trailhead: Takakkaw Falls parking lot, 17 km east of Field, B.C. via the Trans-Canada Highway and Yoho Valley Road.  

Habitat: Sensitive alpine vegetation and good goat habitat. Watch for goat hair on the trees in the spring.
Description: A classic circuit taking in the Yoho Valley and Twin Falls from both above and below. Seasonal suspension bridge – check the trail report to ensure it is in. 

trail rating = difficult Little Yoho Valley

This trail includes the Laughing Falls and Little Yoho backcountry campgrounds, as well as Stanley Mitchell Hut. Reservations for the hut are required and can be made in advance through the Alpine Club of Canada.

Length: 18.6 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 520 m
Trailhead: Takakkaw Falls parking lot, 17 km east of Field, B.C. via the Trans-Canada Highway and Yoho Valley Road.  

Habitat: Subalpine hanging valley. Good place to watch small mammals.
Description: A moderate to steep forested hike into a scenic hanging valley on the doorstep of many alpine climbs. 

trail rating = difficult Goodsir Pass

This trail leads to the McArthur Creek backcountry campground and continues to the Helmet Falls backcountry campground in Kootenay National Park.

Length: 25 km (one-way)
Hiking time: 2-3 days
Elevation: 915 m
Trailhead: Ottertail Parking lot, 8.3 km west of Field, B.C. on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Habitat: A thick forest leading to sub-alpine larch meadows and alpine slopes above. Watch for marmots at the pass.
Description: A steep climb to a larch-laden pass with excellent views of the Goodsir peaks. Connects with Kootenay National Park’s classic Rockwall Trail multi-day route.