Updated April 2019

If you want a short, easy – even family-friendly hike that rewards with incredible mountain scenery and a turquoise-coloured lake, look no further than the hike to Lake Oesa from Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park.

It’s a straight forward 6.6 kilometre (4.1 mile) round trip hike with only 240 metres of elevation gain – providing of course you start at Lake O’Hara and you haven’t had to walk in from the parking lot. But that’s another story.

The hike to Lake Oesa starts along Lake O'Hara

The hike to Lake Oesa starts along Lake O’Hara

"Looking across to the cabins on Lake O'Hara"

Looking across to the cabins on Lake O’Hara; the water really is this colour

Small turquoise coloured lake on the way up to Lake Oesa

Small turquoise coloured lake on the way up to Lake Oesa

Passing by a small waterfall en route to Lake Oesa

Passing by a small waterfall on route to Lake Oesa

"Looking down the valley from Lake Oesa towards Lake O'Hara"

Looking down the valley from Lake Oesa towards Lake O’Hara

Turquoise-coloured Lake Oesa

Turquoise-coloured Lake Oesa

Aggressive ground squirrels will try and steal your food

Aggressive ground squirrels will try and steal your food

All of Lake Oesa in one shot

All of Lake Oesa in one shot

The hike to Lake Oesa

The trail to Lake Oesa is very well signed. And the trail itself is beautifully constructed. In places, huge slabs of flat rock have been carefully laid to provide a fantastic surface for walking on. Despite it being one of those most beautiful hikes in the Rockies, you won’t find throngs of tourists. 

When you finish the hike pick up cold drinks, ice cream bars and other snack food items at a small concession where by the bus stop. Bring cash.

The crux of the Lake Oesa hike is getting there. Here’s what you have to do if you want to hike to the lake or on any of the other outstanding trails around Lake O’Hara.

  • If you have the money – and that’s only part of the equation – then try and snag a room or cabin at Lake O’Hara Lodge. It’s best if you’re very flexible. Request a booking six months out or phone them for a last minute cancellation.
  • Book a bunk at the Elizabeth Parker Hut. You are encouraged to apply by lottery beginning at the end of October for the following summer. In mid-December bookings that haven’t been confirmed are available on a first come first served basis. Get on the phone the second they’re open!
  • Try to get a campsite. You can book these 90 days out beginning at 8 AM on April 1st by calling 1-250-343-6433. A friend and I tried for 30 minutes on two different occasions last spring and never got through. Try for mid-week or for some time in September when it might be a little less busy. You can stay a maximum of three nights. Only one tent per campsite is permitted and you can book no more than two sites.

Here’s what the Parks Canada website has to say:

The 30 campground sites are usually fully booked by 10 a.m. MDT on the first day that reservations are accepted, three months ahead of your first night’s stay. All times are listed in Mountain Daylight Time; the same time as Calgary, Alberta and Golden, B.C. 

  • Your other alternative for a day hike is to try to book a seat on the bus. The first one leaves at 8:30 AM. Otherwise it’s a 12 kilometre walk up the road so hiking Lake Oesa becomes a little less easy. The round-trip fare for a bus trip is $14.70 for adult. If you’re just taking the bus out it’s $9.75 per adult. 

Other hikes in Yoho National Park you might enjoy:

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The hike to Lake Oesa in Yoho National park, BC

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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