If you’re thinking of heading to the Stanley Mitchell Hut in Yoho National Park – the gateway to some fabulous backcountry hiking, then the easiest way to get there is by hiking the Yoho Valley Trail.
The Yoho Valley Trail
The Yoho Valley Trail is not the most interesting trail and it’s not one would do if I wasn’t planning to spend the night at the hut or camp out at the Little Yoho Campground. But it’s a far easier to hike into the hut on this trail than via the Iceline Trail. If you can, do a loop – and hike out on the truly spectacular Iceline Trail.
Begin the hike on the Yoho Valley Trail at the Takakkaw Falls parking lot. The falls themselves are fantastic – and the second largest in western Canada. There’s a very pretty backcountry campground within 10 minutes of the trailhead. Pushcarts are provided so you don’t even have to carry your gear. Then it’s a mostly unremarkable walk along an old fire (?) road to Laughing Falls. There are a few short side-trips you can do along the way – Angel’s Staircase, Point Lace Falls and Duchesnay Lake. Most of the walking is easy except for one steep but short section. Look for an assortment of wildflowers along the way – they sure make the hike more interesting.
When you reach Laughing Falls – at the confluence of the Yoho and Little Yoho Rivers there’s another pretty campground. About 100 metres past the campground you arrive at a junction. Head right for Twin Falls BUT stay left to continue to the hut. From here the going gets tougher. The topography steepens until you reach the turnoff for Marpole Lake, 1.6 kilometres ahead. Then it’s another 0.6 kilometres to reach the turnoff to the Whaleback Trail and from there it’s a gentle 2.9 kilometres to the Stanley Mitchell Hut through beautiful forest as shown in the photo below.
Here’s a sampling of the wildflowers seen along the Yoho Valley Trail.
The Stanley Mitchell Hut
The Stanley Mitchell hut gets busy on summer weekends. Last weekend the Alpine Club had booked 25 people into the place – and let me tell you – that makes it packed to the brim. Kitchen space is at a premium and so is the sleeping space. It’s dorm style – with 19 people sleeping together upstairs and 6 downstairs. My husband and I were so packed together on 1.5 mattresses instead of two that you didn’t dare roll over. But it does give you a roof over your head if it storms – which it did on the Friday night. Your other option – and one I would consider on another trip – is to pack in a tent and camp at the Little Yoho Campground – just 200 metres further along the trail.
Hiking options from the Stanley Mitchell Hut
The views are truly stupendous from this hut and there are loads of day hiking options including climbs of The President and The Vice President, a hike to Kiwetinok Lake or exploring the waterfalls and glaciers just an hour from the hut.
Getting to the Takakkaw Falls Trailhead
Turn north onto Yoho Valley Road from the Trans Canada Highway. The turnoff is 7.8 miles from the Alberta – BC boundary and 2.3 miles from the visitor’s center in Field. Follow the Yoho Valley Road for 8.2 miles to the Takakkaw Falls parking lot. Make sure you have a valid National Park’s pass. In the summer months they are sold about a mile up the Yoho Valley Road and in fact the park people won’t let you continue without the proper pass.
Booking the Stanley Mitchell Hut
You need to email or phone the people at the Alpine Club of Canada. They can be reached at 403-678-3200 ext. 0. It may be worth joining the club to get a discounted rate.
Stats for the Yoho Valley Trail Hike
- Total one way mileage – 10.2 kilometres
- Vertical gain – 545 metres or 1,788 feet
- It took us 3.25 hours with two stops at a moderate pace.
- The trail has only been open for a few weeks. Be sure to check with Yoho National Park if you’ve booked the hut for late June or early July – before you go.
- There are people in the winter who take two days and ski into the hut – basically from the highway. You need to be in great shape and have the right winter touring skill-set to consider that trip.