You may not have considered Yoho National Park as a must-see destination. But with its natural wonders and historic sites, there are so many things to do in Yoho that you don’t want to miss.
Often overshadowed by its more famous brethren, Banff and Jasper, Yoho National Park packs a punch with its own natural wonders and historic sites. With its scenic panoramas and adventurous terrain, there are so many things to do in Yoho. The park is infused with snow-capped mountain peaks, gushing waterfalls, imposing icefields, sparkling lakes, and wildlife at every turn.
Nature lovers will step into nirvana while exploring every inch of Yoho’s epic backcountry. Yoho is easily accessible from Calgary. It is only a 2.5-hour drive along the Trans-Canada Highway to reach this stretch of the Canadian Rockies.
Buckle up and get ready to see why Yoho National Park should be your next trip into the great outdoors. Our guide will cover Yoho’s iconic sights, hiking trails, and places to stay that bring Mother Nature to your doorstep.
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Best Things to Do in Yoho National Park
Lake O’Hara is the crown jewel of Yoho National Park and reaching this hiker’s paradise feels like winning the lottery. Parks Canada goes to tremendous lengths to protect the pristine wilderness around the turquoise lake. A quota system has been used over the years to limit the number of bus riders to the area.
Normally, tickets would sell out just minutes after becoming available online, leaving lots of visitors in angst each season. A new lottery system is being introduced in 2020 to make the process more bearable for those coveted bus seats to reach the majestic area capped with steep valleys, rugged peaks, and cascading waterfalls. So look out for it this season!
Intrepid explorers can hike the 11-km access road to reach the network of hiking trails around Lake O’Hara if unable to secure a bus ticket. Just make sure you have enough energy to climb high above the lake for a mind-blowing vista of the alpine forest.
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Emerald Lake is the largest lake in Yoho National Park and greets visitors with a stunning backdrop of snowy mountaintops and pine forests. The lake’s emerald-green colours shine during the summer with blooming wildflowers along its shores. This is one of the best attractions in Yoho National Park and offers some great things to do.
A circuit allows hikers to walk around the lake and capture incredible vistas from every angle. Several exhilarating hikes begin at Emerald Lake and you can reach nearby wonders like the Yoho Pass and Hamilton Lake. Kayak rentals are available inside the souvenir shop, but make sure you account for the steep price.
To reach Emerald Lake, drive the Trans-Canada Highway until you reach the charming town of Field. Make a pitstop at the Yoho National Park Visitor Center and reach the lake in roughly 15 minutes.
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Standing at 254 meters, Takakkaw Falls is the second tallest waterfall in Canada and one of Yoho’s most awe-inspiring sights. Glacial meltwater tumbles over the cliff face and engulfs spectators in a cooling mist. Visting Takakkaw Falls is one of the best things to do in Yoho National Park.
Drive down the winding Yoho Valley Road to reach the parking lot near the base of the falls, but the road is only open from late June until mid-October. The paved trail presents incredible angles to view the falls as it courses through the alpine forest.
Staring up at the cliffside from the base puts into perspective the raw beauty of this mighty waterfall as it plunges into the rocky basin below.
Wapta Falls may not overwhelm you with its height, but the elegance of its 30-meter cascade makes it one of Yoho’s gems and the tallest waterfall of the Kicking Horse River. It’s easy to miss the turnoff on the Trans-Canada Highway since there is no signage for westbound travellers.
The 4.6-km trail to reach the waterfall weaves through an enchanting forest and is straightforward for most due to minimal elevation gain. Wear shoes you don’t mind getting dirty as the trail can become muddy at times. This trail is exciting and one of the best things to do in Yoho National Park.
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White-Water Rafting on the Kicking Horse River
Kicking Horse River is the premier white-water rafting location in the Canadian Rockies. Thrill-seekers will love steering through class 4 rapids, while families with younger children can coast on gentle class 1 rapids.
The river is divided into three sections – the upper, middle, and lower canyon – and your rafting trip will be tailored to the level of thrills you’re after. Fed by glacial meltwater, Kicking Horse revs up during the peak of summer for an unbelievable ride.
Numerous rafting companies operate along Kicking Horse River and its tributaries, and you’ll see soaring peaks, enormous icefields, rocky canyons, and other jaw-dropping landscapes on your journey.
Kicking Horse Pass
This death-defying mountain pass holds a special place in the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The original train route coursed through the continental divide, and its steep incline caused tremendous difficulties for engines in its early development.
To overcome this barrier, the railway built spiral tunnels to decrease the ruling grade. The Trans-Canada Highway reaches its highest point of 1,643 meters when snaking through the pass, and an observation area lets you observe the engineering feat in action.
Burgess Shale Fossil Beds
This UNESCO World Heritage Site gives scientists a glimpse of the prehistoric past and the types of animals that once roamed the planet. The fossil beds discovered here are over 500 million years old and provide valuable insight into a plethora of ancient species and the Earth’s development.
To reach the preserved site, you must book a guided tour that requires a strenuous hike that may not be suitable for novices.
Hiking Trails in Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park was made for avid hiking and there’s no shortage of trails for hikers of all skill levels. Experienced mountaineers and first-time trekkers will each find an abundance of trails to discover the wealth of natural beauty inside this gem of the Canadian Rockies.
Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit
Distance = 10.6 km
Elevation Gain = 886 m
Route Type = Loop
This exciting hiking trail offers visitors some boulder scrambling and a sturdy climb. At the top of the climb, there are rewarding views of turquoise lakes, soaring peaks, peaceful meadows and untamed forests. If you love hiking then this is one of the things to do in Yoho National Park that should not be missed.
Distance = 14.2 km
Elevation Gain = 864 m
Route Type = Out & Back
Starting at the end of Yoho Valley Road, this gruelling trail challenges you with steep switchbacks and offers miraculous views of glaciers and waterfalls. This one is not for the faint of heart and you will need some hiking skill to complete it.
Hamilton Lake Trail
Distance = 9.3 km
Elevation Gain = 863 m
Route Type = Out & Back
This steep climb from Emerald Lake wanders deep into an alpine forest and ends with an incredible view of a lesser-visited turquoise lake entrenched in a hanging valley. You don’t want to miss this attraction.
Distance = 5.1 km
Elevation Gain = 248 m
Route Type = Out & Back
Enjoy this peaceful trek through dense forest and spot blooming wildflowers and craggy peaks soaring high above a shimmering lake. This is the perfect relaxing activity that can be enjoyed by almost anyone. This is one of the best things to do in Yoho National Park if you are visiting with a family or are not looking for anything too strenuous.
Distance = 9.5 km
Elevation Gain = 962 m
Route Type = Out & Back
This steady uphill climb tackles several switchbacks and a rock scramble to reach a lookout with heart-racing views above Wapta and Sherbrooke Lake.
Where to Stay in Yoho National Park
You may be vacationing in the rugged Canadian Rockies, but that doesn’t mean your accommodations have to fit the same persona. Yoho National Park redefines mountain retreat with its opulent lodges and cabins that expertly portray Canada’s pioneering spirit. Enjoy sumptuous dining rooms, comfy sleeping quarters, impeccable service, and modern amenities at Yoho’s finest places to stay.
Lodges in Yoho National Park
Top Pick: Emerald Lake Lodge
Nestled along the shores of Emerald Lake, this luxurious mountain resort engulfs you with 24/7 views of snow-capped peaks and pristine forest. Feel like one of the explorers who first stumbled upon the sparkling lake by snuggling up next to rustic fireplaces during a star-filled night.
The Emerald Lake Lodge features an exquisite dining room with lavish culinary offerings, a revitalizing outdoor hot tub, and balconies for daily mountain vistas. With hiking and cross country skiing trails at your doorstep, Emerald Lake Lodge lets you unwind in comfort after an exciting day in the Canadian wilderness.
Top Pick: Cathedral Mountain Lodge
A dramatic mountain backdrop awaits you with a stay in the spacious log cabins of Cathedral Mountain Lodge. Whether you’re planning a romantic escape or family getaway, the authentic design of each cabin will treat you to a cosy visit inside Yoho National Park.
Cabins include a stone fireplace, authentic Canadian décor, and private decks with astonishing views of rising peaks in your backyard. With Kicking Horse River just minutes away by foot and the Yoho National Park Visitor Center only a five-minute drive along the Trans-Canada Highway, it’s one of the most convenient lodging locations in the park.
Top Pick: Lake Louise Inn
Offering beautiful and comfortable accommodation, the Lake Louise Inn offers guests a heated indoor pool and hot tubs. There are 2 onsite restaurants and a lounge that guests can relax in. Guests can enjoy wonderful views of the surrounding mountains from their rooms which are also equipped with coffee machines. All suites and apartments include a balcony and a fireplace.
The property also offers ski storage, a ski tune-up centre, a fitness centre and free private parking for your convenience.
Campgrounds in Yoho National Park
Yoho is blessed with many of Canada’s most picturesque campgrounds. Several of them are easily accessible by car or RV. If you’re looking to completely disconnect from society, there are numerous backcountry campsites where you can unplug from the modern world.
Kicking Horse Campground
Featuring a beautiful riverfront setting and 88 campsites, Kicking Horse is the largest. And it is one of the most scenic campsites in Yoho National Park. The grounds are close to several of the park’s beloved attractions, and you’ll be able to stock up on all your camping supplies with a five-minute car ride to Field.
Takakkaw Falls Campground
This walk-in only campsite puts you face to face with the grandeur of Takakkaw Falls. The campground is only open from June to October on a first-come, first-serve basis. The lucky travellers who get to sleep listening to the roar of the falls have access to several exhilarating trailheads.
Hoodoo Creek Campground
Although Hoodoo offers only 30 campsites, it stands as the most economical front-country campground at roughly $16/night. The campsite presents breathtaking vistas of Mount Hunter. And a challenging trek to the hoodoos, one of Yoho’s more bizarre geological wonders.
Lake O’Hara Campground
Backcountry camping in Yoho National Park doesn’t get any more exciting than the untouched wilderness around Lake O’Hara. Special arrangements must be made months in advance to secure a reservation at this magical location to sleep underneath the stars.
Insider Tip: You’re only allowed to book up to three nights at the campsite, so use your time wisely when exploring its network of unbelievable hiking trails.
Other Backcountry Campgrounds
Lake O’Hara is the grand prize of Yoho National Park if you can score a chance to camp beside the immaculate lake. But there are five other backcountry campgrounds inside the park.
Yoho Lake, Laughing Falls, Twin Falls, Little Yoho, and McArthur Creek are the other designated backcountry campgrounds. You’ll need a Parks Canada wilderness pass to reserve a stay at one of these sites.
How to Get to Yoho National Park
Calgary and Vancouver Airports are the closest to Yoho National Park. Calgary is 213km from Yoho National Park and Vancouver is 760km from Yoho. The nearest town to Yoho is Fields. It can be reached by bus and train but viewing of the park with public transport is limited.
The most popular way to experience the best of Yoho National Park is by personal vehicle. You can rent a vehicle in most major towns and at airports.
If your visiting Canada and looking for something new to do then make sure to visit Yoho National Park. There are so many things to do that you will want to extend your stay.
Dushan Dimushevski, one of the founders of Spottico is dedicated to bringing travellers closer together in today’s technology-driven world. Every place has something special to offer and many times the best local spots go undiscovered.