Located next to the famous Banff National Park, Yoho National Park is without a doubt a must-see while visiting the Canadian Rockies mountains. Indeed, the park is filled with turquoise lakes, glaciers, and beautiful waterfalls. In addition, Yoho National Park has also one of the most complete hikes in terms of landscapes called the Iceline trail. In this blog post, I share with you a 3-day itinerary through Yoho National Park, Canada that will allow you to visit the most beautiful places of the park.
Important note: Yoho National Park is home to the famous mountain lake called O’Hara. To visit this place, reservations are required 3 months in advance to take the shuttle to Lake O’Hara, either for a day use or camping. Click here to book your spot now. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get a pass to visit this marvel. However, if this happens to you too, don’t hesitate to check every day on the reservation site for a cancellation.
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How to get to Yoho National Park?
- Golden BC (45 minutes)
- Lake Louise Village (20 minutes)
“None of these roads require the mandatory use of a 4×4 during summer months. However, starting from October to April, winter tires and chains are mandatory.”
How to move around Yoho National Park?
Although Yoho National Park is home to some of Canada’s most iconic places such as Emerald Lake and O’Hara Lake, there are no public buses in place per se.
Consequently, and as per my own experience, having your means of transport is essential if you want to discover the Canadian Rockies in depth. Moreover, on a side note, hitchhiking is illegal in Canada. Therefore, you could have a hard time finding a kind soul who wants to help you.
In other words, in my opinion, you have three different options to move around Yoho National Park:
- by car
- by camping cars or van
- by electric bike or classic bike (it may surprise you but we met so many of them along the roads!)
“If you decide to rent your vehicle, always make sure you have enough gasoline because sometimes you can’t find a gas station for hundred kilometers. On top of that, phone signals are non-existent in most places of the Canadian Rockies.”
How long to stay in Yoho National Park?
Yoho National Park offers dozens of day hikes for all levels, including multi-day hikes (mostly two-day hikes). As a result, the more time you have available, the better. According to my itinerary below, you will need at least 3 full days.
In my view, 3 days is the minimum time to spend in Yoho National Park to get a good overview. Of course, if you plan to do multi-day hikes, I would go for a minimum of 5 days to visit the park. Ditto in case you are one of the lucky ones who get a pass to visit Lake O’Hara.
In case your time is very limited, I highly recommend that you devote your only available day to the Iceline trail (see below for all the details).
Where to stay in Yoho National Park?
- if you’re visiting the Canadian Rockies by staying in hotels/B&B, you can’t go wrong if you decide to stay either in Golden BC, or in Lake Louise Village. Indeed, those two towns are the perfect hub to visit the different places in Yoho National Park (between 20 minutes and 45 minutes drive from all the major points of interest). Moreover, this will also allow you to visit either Banff National Park (my full guide here) or Glacier National Park (my complete guide here).
- if you’re visiting the Canadian Rockies by staying in campings, Yoho National Park offers different campgrounds with notably four front-country campings and five backcountry campings. Click here for more info.
“If you are hesitating between lake Louise village and golden, I would prefer golden which has more food supermarket options, theater, and restaurants.”
Things to know before visiting Yoho National Park
- Access to Lake O’Hara is very limited. Therefore, it’s required to have a day pass or a camping pass to be able to take the bus that takes you to Lake O’Hara. Reservations are made 3 months in advance.
- As with any mountain environment, there is a risk of avalanches. It may surprise you, but avalanche warnings can still be on until the end of the summer (August). It’s therefore essential to check the condition of the trail before each hike. To do so, click here.
- Trails are not maintained between October and May. In other words, trails are most likely not in good condition or even not practicable with fallen trees, avalanche debris, etc.
- Frontcountry and backcountry campings operate from mid-May to early October only.
- If you want to camp in a backcountry campground, you need to book your spot way in advance to avoid any disappointment. Usually, the spots are open on a 3-month advance window. To book, go to the government website, create an account with your data and that’s it. Check it out here.
- Wild camping is prohibited in Canada. You must camp only in a designated area with a valid pass, always.
- As its name indicates, Yoho is a National Park. As a result, you must use a pass to enter the park. The price for a day pass is CAD 10,50 per adult, free for youth until 12 years old, and CAD 21 for a family in the same vehicle (up to 7 people). Therefore, if you plan to visit the Rockies mountains and its National Parks, I highly suggest you buy an annual pass (also called a “discovery pass”). The discovery pass will be paid off after 7 days of use in any Canadian national park. This pass gives you access for a full year to all the National Parks and historical sites of Canada. You can either buy a family pass, which works for 7 people in the same vehicle (CAD 145,25), or an individual pass (CAD 72,25). The pass needs to be displayed in front of the windshield at all times. In addition to saving money, you will save time at the park entrances by using the fast line.
- Most of the parking at the trailheads is small. Thus, I can recommend you enough to start hiking early as possible. As per my experience, the parking lots get full starting from 10:00 am.
- Wildlife is everywhere in Canada. While encountering a wild animal, always keep a safe distance. Remember you are in their home, you are only a visitor.
- Remember you are hiking in a bear country. So always make noise while hiking and have your bear spray with you at all times. You can find bear spray at the MEC store (around CAD 50). If you don’t want to buy bear spray, you can rent one in some tourist places like Banff or Lake Louise Visitor Center.
- Mosquitos are terrible during the summer months throughout the Rockies. Wear long sleeves and pants and put on mosquito spray.
- water is drinkable everywhere in dedicated points (unless it’s written the opposite). Even though they will continue to bite you anyway.
What to do in Yoho National Park?
Now that you know everything about Yoho National Park, it’s time to share with you my 3-day itinerary through Yoho National Park. As suggested before, if you have less time, don’t worry, just select the hike that interests you the most. But, again, in case you only have one day to spare at Yoho National Park, I would highly recommend you focus on the Iceline trail which has the most beautiful landscapes.
Please always check the trail conditions here before going on a hike.
You will start your first day in Yoho National Park by discovering the Takakkaw falls which are of rare beauty. In addition, you can observe them directly from the parking lot. There is no real hike per se to see the waterfalls closer. However, you can move forward to get closer as much as you can and even be able to feel the power of the water. Can you imagine that in some winters, the Takakkaw falls are completely frozen? Incredible!
“In addition to being a very popular place, Takakkaw falls parking is also the trailhead for many day hikes such as the Iceline and other multi-day tours. As a result, the parking lot fills up super quickly. So I recommend you to visit the waterfall at the end of the day (around 4:00 pm) to avoid the crowd and to have the sunlight on the waterfall.”
Takakkaw falls parking lot
5 minutes from the parking lot
Emerald Lake - Emerald Loop trail
Emerald Lake is one of the most iconic places in Yoho National Park. Directly accessible from the parking lot, Emerald lake can be easily observed by all. Consequently, the place is very popular and crowded. If you want to discover the lake in greater depth, I strongly recommend you hike the Emerald Lake Loop trail. With almost no elevation, this 5,2 km hiking loop will allow you to observe this emerald blue lake from different perspectives.
“Another way to enjoy this magical place is to rent kayaks. Price is 90 CAD (tax not included) for 3 people for an hour (minimum time).”
Emerald Lake parking lot
5,2 km (loop) - no elevation gain
Emerald lake basin trail
For travelers who want to hike a little bit more, I suggest you follow the Emerald Lake Basin trail. This one also includes the hiking loop of the lake but it takes you before in Emerald basin. You will be able to observe notably the glacier and its river. The difficulty of the hike is considered as moderate with some sections with a lot of bush.
“For information, the official parking of the lake has only twenty parking spots or so. Thus, you have to get up very early to get one. However, we went there many times, and we noticed that travelers park their cars along the road once the parking is full. There are no signs saying that it is forbidden.”
Emerald Lake parking lot
10,8 km (loop) - 380 m elevation gain
On your way back from Emerald lake, stop for a moment at the Natural bridge. This place is ideal to get a postcard landscape of Canada.
“This stop is located 5 minutes drive away from Emerald lake. since it is more of a place for a quick stop, many fewer people will be there. So if you need to go to the bathroom, don’t hesitate to beat the crowd by coming here instead of the ones on the Emerald Lake parking lot.”
for this second day in Yoho National Park, it will be a bit more sportive than the previous one. Indeed, you’re going to climb a mountain to get to Paget’s lookout. Although the trail is well maintained and partially covered in forest, the 520 meters elevation gain requires a relatively good physical condition.
Since the trailhead is meant to be for several different trails, don’t forget to follow the “paget lookout” signs. On the way back to the parking lot, you will come across the same intersection as on your way up. This time, turn right and follow the sign “Sherbrooke lake” to go and observe this natural beauty.
The combination of the Paget Lookout and Sherbrooke Lake trail is about 13 km in total, including the walk to the end of Sherbrooke lake. Check below to have all the details!
“Of course, if you are not in the mood to hike, you can only walk to Sherbrooke Lake, without going up to the Paget lookout, which requires a significant effort.”
7 km (return) - 520m elevation gain
Sherbrooke lake trail
“In case you want to enjoy the water by your kayak, paddle, or whatever. Just be aware that you cannot leave foods out of your side because of bears frequenting the region. We need to protect them because a bear who eats human foods, it’s considered a trash bear and has to be killed…”
6,2 km (return) - 165 m elevation gain
Iceline trail via Celeste Lake
“Keep in mind that the majority of the hike is exposed to the sun. Indeed, when you reach the ridge, there are no trees to shade you. Therefore, I strongly recommend that you start the hike between 7:00 and 8:00 am at the latest during summer.”
Takakkaw Falls parking lot
17 km (loop) - 920 m elevation gain
To sum up, Yoho National Park offers sublime landscapes, worthy of Canadian postcards. Moreover, in addition, to being easily accessible by car, the park is suitable for everyone with notably different levels of hikes.
I sincerely hope I have inspired you to add Yoho National Park to your bucket list next time you visit Canada. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I would love to share more with you.
Anyway, don’t forget to check out all my posts related to Canada here to get more inspiration!
Sending you lots of love,