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Emerald Lake In Summer

Things to Do in Yoho National Park, BC

Interested in what things you can do in Yoho National Park? This Canadian Rocky Mountain Park is one of the four contiguous national parks in the Rockies that received UNESCO status in 1984. Yoho National Park is located between Golden, British Columbia and Lake Louise, Alberta. The park which has been around since 1886, sits entirely in British Columbia, with a visitor centre located just outside the pretty town of Field.

Yoho National Park is famous for its high impact scenery. Stunning hiking trails – 400 km of them, can keep you busy for weeks. Throw in 28 peaks over 3,000 m and one of the highest waterfalls in Canada – Takakkaw Falls and you can see why it’s worth a visit. And if you’re into mountain goats, you’ll find them here.

Include some of these sights and the following things to do in Yoho National Park.

The pretty town of Field, BC in Yoho National Park
The pretty town of Field, BC in Yoho National Park

Hike or canoe around Emerald Lake

Take a two hour hike on the trail around Emerald Lake. Rent a canoe and explore the lake. Better yet, stay at the Emerald Lake Lodge and enjoy the mountain scenery for a few days.

There’s another hike you can do from the far end of Emerald Lake called Emerald Basin. It’s an easy one that you can knock off in a few hours.

Highlights of a Trip to Yoho National Park
The exceptionally beautiful Emerald Lake with its iconic lodge
The Emerald Basin hike in Yoho National Park
The Emerald Basin hike in Yoho National Park

Check out Takkakaw Falls

Take the short hike to Takakkaw Falls (in Cree Takakkaw means “wonderful”) and stand in awe of water cascading 254 m (833 feet). It’s the second highest waterfall in Canada! There is a walk-in campground where you might score a campsite with a view, especially as it is first come, first served.

Takkakaw Falls in context of the bigger landscape
Takkakaw Falls in context of the bigger landscape
Our walk-in campsite near Takakkaw Falls
Takakkaw Falls seen from our walk-in campsite

Do a full day hike in Yoho National Park

Do one of the outstanding full day hikes. You can’t miss with the Iceline Trail (8 miles to 13.1 miles round trip) or any of the hikes that make up the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit. There’s a week’s worth of hiking in the Lake O’Hara area alone. The only problem with the Lake O’Hara hikes is that everyone else wants to do them too. In theory you could book the bus up and go for a day hike but it’s really hard to score a reservation. Also try calling 1-877-737-3783.

You have two other options if you want to hike in the Lake O’Hara area – and you’re going to need Lady Luck on your side. Book a few nights at the Elizabeth Parker Hut or try and get a cancellation at Lake O’Hara Lodge. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to score a room there in the summer. Still it’s worth a try. 

Other worthwhile hikes in Yoho National Park include Sherbrooke Lake/Niles Meadow, Kiwetinok Pass/Whaleback, Emerald River, Goodsir Pass and Paget Lookout and Peak.

You might enjoy: 10 of the Best Yoho National Park Hikes 

Highlights of a Trip to Yoho National Park
Gorgeous Lake O’Hara
Views of Sherbrook Lake near Paget Peak
Looking down to Sherbrook Lake just below Paget Peak

Hike to the Burgess Shale Beds

Another hike worth doing – and it’s a long one – is to the Burgess Shale Beds – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’re only able to visit with a guided group so you must reserve beforehand. The Wolcott Quarry overlooks Emerald Lake and is located above tree line.

It’s a 22 km, 10 hour round trip hike. A shorter version to the Mt. Stephan Fossil Bed takes seven hours to complete. You can now reserve the Burgess Shale hike online or call 1-877-737-3783.

Looking for fossils at the Walcott Quarry
Looking for fossils at the Walcott Quarry
Beautiful hiking on the Wapta-Highline Trail
Beautiful hiking on the Wapta-Highline Trail to the Burgess Shale

Visit Wapta Falls

Check out Wapta Falls, located 22 km west of Field. Its a short 1.9 km hike to the Kicking Horse River. While there is a lookout at the top of the falls, you need to get to the base of the falls to see the rainbow. 

Wapta Falls- Photo credit: Bob the Lomond on Flickr
Wapta Falls- Photo credit: Bob the Lomond on Flickr

Visit the Natural Bridge

Don’t miss a stop to see both the Natural Bridge and the Kicking Horse River. The river is an unusual shade of blue caused by light reflecting on the rock flour. The rock flour is basically very finely ground particles of rock held in suspension by the river. 

The Natural Bridge is made of limestone sedimentary rock that has been eroded over the years by the Kicking Horse River. It’s not a very big bridge and in fact more block than bridge like but it’s definitely worth visiting. 

There are viewing platforms to get up close to the spectacle but still exercise caution. Photographers will be in their element here.

The Natural Bridge is a short drive from Field – accessed off the Emerald Lake Road. You only need between 15 minutes and an hour.

The Natural Bridge is one of the things to do in Yoho National Park
Be very careful around the fast flowing Kicking Horse River
Looking south down the Kicking Horse River from the Natural Bridge
Looking south down the Kicking Horse River from the Natural Bridge

Check out the Spiral Tunnels

There are two viewpoints where it’s possible to safely watch trains. One on the Trans-Canada Highway is located 7.4 km east of Field. There’s a big parking lot and lots of signage explaining about the Spiral Tunnels and Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site of Canada. From this vantage point you can see the Lower Spiral Tunnel.

Look for the other viewpoint at a pull-off 2.3 km up the Yoho Valley Road. You’ll see the Upper Spiral Tunnel in Cathedral Mountain.

Reportedly there are between 25 – 30 trains a day that use the Spiral Tunnels – but they aren’t on a schedule. But if you’re patient, chances are you’ll see one.

You can read about the history of the Spiral Tunnels here.

Looking at a train going through one of the Spiral Tunnels from the highway viewpoint in Yoho
Looking at a train going through the Lower Spiral Tunnel from the highway viewpoint
Coming out of one of the Spiral Tunnels on the Rocky Mountaineer
Coming out of one of the Spiral Tunnels on the Rocky Mountaineer

Places to stay in Yoho National Park

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.

If you need somewhere to stay or something to eat you’ll find a few places in Field. I love this little town full of quaint houses with good mountain views. There are loads of B&B’s – which you can’t miss as you drive in on the main street. Plus there’s a small hotel – the Kicking Horse Lodge. Adjacent to it is the Truffle Pigs Bistro where you’ll find a friendly atmosphere, very good food and BC beer.

Another lodge worth a visit is the Cathedral Mountain Lodge; it sits on the Kicking Horse River and is just minutes from the town of Field and Lake Louise. And of course there is Emerald Lake Lodge, always a favourite.

Beautiful Cathedral Mountain Lodge
Beautiful Cathedral Mountain Lodge

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Things to do in Yoho National Park, BC

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 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 23 Comments

  1. Leigh, your pictures are so go, it makes me want to go visit wherever you’ve been.
    How about some pictures of a steakhouse?

  2. I’m sure it’s not how it’s pronounced but I read the title and the song, “yo ho yo ho a pirate’s life for me” popped to mind… It looks like a beautiful place…having nothing to do with pirates!

  3. What a stunning scenery! I definitely have to come and visit Canada, and its beautiful mountains and lakes.
    Hopefully next year!

  4. Love Yoho National Park! The Burgess Shale hike is definitely on my list. We hiked the Iceline Trail, which I loved -great views and face-face with glaciers.

  5. Once I finish my tour of the American National Parks, I think I’m going to start on Canada’s. First stop: the parks of the Canadian Rockies.

  6. Great photos! It is interesting to compare them to 33-year-old Kodachromes I just scanned for a coincidental post I wrote last week on a climbing trip to Lake O’Hara and surrounding peaks.

    It remains my favourite place in the Rockies.

  7. Superb pictures! Especially the one with the lodge, I can easily imagine myself staying there couple of weeks and just reading and sipping wine maybe 🙂

    1. @Marysia I stayed at Cathedral Mountain Lodge in September and it was really lovely – as is Lake O’Hara Lodge. The whole park is fantastic and one of my favourites in Canada.

  8. Very stunning birds eye view photos! Who knew that Canada has such beautiful niches tucked away 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing, and good luck with your future travels.

  9. @Lauren I’m actually off to Yoho again tomorrow for some of the prettiest Rocky Mountain hiking I’ve ever done in the Lake O’Hara region. There are loads of great places all over Canada that I am endeavoring to visit.

    1. Hi Fereshteh,

      I have done it. The first part of the trail is steep – aerobic but not hard per se. Once you’re up with the views its easy going with minimal elevation gain. Go for as far as you want, retrace your steps or do a loop.

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