Updated April 2019
The exceptionally beautiful Emerald Lake hike 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. It’s 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.
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. It’s 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.
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 around Emerald Lake in a clockwise direction.
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 some ravens.
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 either before or after your Emerald Lake hike
If you get hungry and you haven’t brought food you can eat at Cilantro Cafe at the end of the bridge, 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.
Is a trip to Emerald Lake to go hiking on your wish list?
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