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The Emerald Lake hike, one of the exceptionally beautiful ones in Yoho National Park is the perfect outing for a young family or – as in my case, for my visiting mother-in-law who turned 80 just days before we visited.
The Emerald Lake hike is also the base for a number of longer, harder hikes including the Emerald Basin Trail, the Yoho Pass Trail, the Hamilton Lake Trail and the famous Burgess Shale hike.
The Burgess Pass Trail takes you up to the UNESCO designated Burgess Shale – one of the world’s most significant fossil sites. It requires a reservation, a guide and stamina since you’ll be hiking for up to 10 hours.
Your 5.2 km loop hike around Emerald Lake will likely take an hour or two tops. This is a popular trail and you won’t be alone.
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Emerald Lake Hike Description
Starting from the parking lot, the hike is only 5.2 km (3.1 miles) long with an elevation gain of perhaps 15 m (50 feet). Despite the short distance the hike offers ever changing panoramas including majestic mountains, Emerald Glacier views and a section through the woods with hemlock, cedar and devil’s club.
The hike is especially beautiful in fall with loads of colourful leaves and berries adding to the drama in an area that already sees plenty of it.
If you are adverse to a lot of people on the trail, plan to hike the loop first thing in the morning or late in the day.
Canoeing on Emerald Lake
If you don’t want to hike you can rent canoes by the hour ($35/hour). Judging by the number we saw out on the lake, it’s a very popular activity.
The following photos takes you on a hike around Emerald Lake in a clockwise direction.
Birds to look for on your walk around Emerald Lake
Along the trail, you can see a variety of wildflowers and berries. When we did the hike salmonberries and black currants were still hanging onto the bushes. In June and July keep an eye out for wild orchids. And for all nature enthusiasts and wildflower lovers, I’d highly recommend a copy of the pocket-sized Popular Wildflowers of Alberta and the Canadian Rockies.
There are lots of birds around too including spruce grouse, grosbeaks, stellar and gray jays and of course, the noisy ravens.
How to get to the start of the hike
Emerald Lake is reached via Emerald Lake Road, located 1.6 km west of the Yoho Park Visitor Center in Field, BC. It’s also only about a 25 minute drive from Lake Louise. Make sure you have a valid Parks Canada permit. They can be bought at the Visitor Center. Parking is in a large lot at the end of the road.
Where you can eat?
If you get hungry and you haven’t brought food you can eat at Cilantro Café at the end of the bridge by Emerald Lake, at the Kicking Horse Lounge or in the Mount Burgess Dining room.
These are all part of Emerald Lake Lodge. There are a few places to get food in Field; otherwise plan ahead and bring from home.
Other hikes and things to do in the area
For a few more ideas of things to do in Yoho National Park, check out this blog.
If it’s hiking you’re after I highly recommend the full day hike on the fabulous Iceline Trail. The President Range hiking trails are superb too – but you’d need an extra long stay or an overnight. If you can possibly score a bus ride or a a camping spot up at Lake O’Hara then think about hiking the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit.
Where to stay near Emerald Lake
Right at Emerald Lake you can stay at Emerald Lake Lodge. Nearby is the equally lovely Cathedral Mountain Lodge – where you get your own log cabin. Or choose from one of the many B&B’s in nearby Field.
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