The hike to magnificent Lake Oesa from Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park is short, easy and family-friendly. It rewards with incredible mountain scenery and a turquoise-coloured lake in a spectacular mountain setting.
It’s a straight forward 6.6 km (4.1 mile) round trip hike to Lake Oesa with only 240 m 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.
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Lake Oesa hike summary
Distance: 6.6 km or 4.1 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 240 m or 787 feet
Time needed: 2 – 3 hours, more on a nice day so you can hang around the lake
Leve of difficulty: Easy
Dogs allowed: Only if you’ve walked into Lake O’Hara. They are not allowed on the shuttle bus.
Backcountry camping: No, but you can try and reserve a spot at the main campground near Lake O’Hara.
The trail to Lake Oesa is very well-signed. And the trail to the lake 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
The crux of the hike is getting to the trailhead. 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!
Otherwise you’re going to have to try and land a seat on the bus.
How to get a seat on the bus to Lake O’Hara (no overnight)
The bus travels 11 km up the road from the parking lot to the Lake O’Hara trailheads. You can walk the road but that adds a lot of mileage to your day.
Doing any hike at all in the Lake O’Hara region takes some planning. If you’re planning to camp the following is important as the rules changed in 2020 .
On January 25, 2024 beginning at 8:00 a.m. MT all Lake O’Hara camping reservations are now offered on the Parks Canada Reservation Service. It’s a first come, first served basis. Camping is possible from June 21 – October 51, 2024 but you are only allowed to camp for three nights.