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The Beautiful Family-Friendly Emerald Lake Hike

The Beautiful Family-Friendly Emerald Lake Hike

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 Pass Trail.

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. 

Looking through the trees to the cabins at Emerald Lake Lodge

Looking through the trees to the cabins at Emerald Lake Lodge

The hiking trail around Emerald Lake

Starting from the parking lot, the hike is only 5.2 kilometres (3.1 miles) long with an elevation gain of perhaps fifty 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.

You might be more inclined to lounge beside Emerald Lake when you see this guy

You might be more inclined to lounge beside Emerald Lake when you see this guy

Extraordinary views right from the start of the hike

Extraordinary views right from the start of the hike

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.

Enjoy the sight of canoeists in bright red canoes on the lake

Enjoy the sight of canoeists in bright red canoes on the lake

The following photos takes you around Emerald Lake in a clockwise direction.

Trail along the west side of Emerald Lake

Trail along the west side of Emerald Lake

Mountain views from the far end of Emerald Lake; the Burgess Shales are up in the mountains in this photo

Mountain views from the far end of Emerald Lake; the Burgess Shales are up in the mountains in this photo

Lots of red berries in the fall beside the path

Lots of red berries in the fall beside the path

Views at the end of Emerald Lake

Views at the end of Emerald Lake

Looking down the length of Emerald Lake

Looking down the length of Emerald Lake

Looking at the mountains in Emerald Basin -accessed via a very pleasant hiking trail

It’s a very pleasant hike up to Emerald Basin – accessed from the loop trail around Emerald Lake

Thick vegetation in early fall as you complete the loop at Emerald Lake Lodge

Thick vegetation in early fall as you complete the loop at Emerald Lake Lodge

Birds to look for on your walk around Emerald Lake

Along the trail you can see a variety of wild flowers and berries with salmonberries and black currants still hanging onto the bushes. In June and July keep an eye out for wild orchids.

There are lots of birds around too including spruce grouse, grosbeaks, stellar and gray jays as well as ravens.

Complete the Emerald lake loop by walking past some of the cabins you can rent at Emerald Lake Lodge

Complete the Emerald lake loop by walking past some of the cabins you can rent at Emerald Lake Lodge

Canoeing in a red canoe down the length of Emerald Lake

Kind of makes you want to rent a canoe doesn’t it

How to get to the start of the Emerald Lake hike

Emerald Lake is reached via Emerald Lake Road, located 1.6 kilometres 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 Cafe 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.

Map of the Emerald Lake loop hiking trail

Map of the Emerald Lake loop hiking trail

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

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. I really appreciate your support.

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 – like Charlie’s Guesthouse

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A loop hike around the exceptionally beautiful Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

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

This Post Has 46 Comments
  1. Beautiful! And your photography is amazing – thank you for sharing these photos. I’ll be in Banff the last week of September – wish Emerald Lake was a little closer. That means I need to plan a special trip to Yoho National Park.

  2. Beautiful! And your photography is amazing – thank you for sharing these photos. I’ll be in Banff the last week of September – wish Emerald Lake was a little closer. That means I need to plan a special trip to Yoho National Park.

  3. I second that notion Roberta, amazing photos of a wonderful location – I definitely need to make it back to Canada soon. 🙂

  4. So enjoyed checking in with you today and finding this. Such a beautiful spot, isn’t it? That whole area is wonderful. We have been to the area once, and I hope we’ll have a chance to visit again.

  5. Susan -What a treat to find you visiting. It was my mother-in-laws 80th birthday so we celebrated it by taking her to Yoho Nat’l park for the weekend. She pronounced it a lovely walk with something new around every corner.

  6. Leigh, I feel like I’m in your photos – they are so vivid and realistic. Wish I was, in fact! This looks like an amazing place. Need to visit, need to visit, need to visit…my new mantra!

    Bob and I purchasing kayaks this fall for home and Canada summers. Perhaps you’ll join us on the Upper French one of these years. Miss you guys. xoxox

  7. Leigh, I feel like I’m in your photos – they are so vivid and realistic. Wish I was, in fact! This looks like an amazing place. Need to visit, need to visit, need to visit…my new mantra!

    Bob and I purchasing kayaks this fall for home and Canada summers. Perhaps you’ll join us on the Upper French one of these years. Miss you guys. xoxox

  8. Wow! This looks like a paradise on earth. Such a spectacular place and what breathtaking pictures! How I wish I can get there one day. Many thanks for sharing.

  9. I love your pictures you took. Emerald lake looks so precious and beautiful with your photos. I think I need to make a visit there, have a camping with my family.

  10. I love your pictures you took. Emerald lake looks so precious and beautiful with your photos. I think I need to make a visit there, have a camping with my family.

  11. What a gorgeous hike and pictures! I love that there are varying sceneries, wildlife and foliage. That lake just looks so inviting and perfect for canoeing. If we ever make it up to your area, this would be a perfect family hike for my little ones.

  12. The lake is not so big but beautiful! I feel the fresh air and the sounds of the forest only looking at your photos 🙂

  13. Everything that is in there is really beautiful.
    The place is so tempting and the crystal clear lake water is so magnificent!
    Thanks for sharing these photos!

  14. Everything that is in there is really beautiful.
    The place is so tempting and the crystal clear lake water is so magnificent!
    Thanks for sharing these photos!

  15. You live in an exceptionally beautiful country. That first picture reminded me so much of Alta Lake in Whistler. I hope my next big trip is BC and Alberta, and hiking around all those fab lakes!!

  16. […] things to do outdoors if you can drag yourself away from your cabin. In summer I recommend the easy walk around Emerald Lake. In winter snowshoe down to the Kicking Horse River and watch the icy waters flow through the […]

  17. […] things to do outdoors if you can drag yourself away from your cabin. In summer I recommend the easy walk around Emerald Lake. In winter snowshoe down to the Kicking Horse River and watch the icy waters flow through the […]

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