It is time to talk about Yoho National Park.
Now, I know some of you are like, “Uhh, what is this Yoho you speak of?” Well, my friends, Yoho National Park is the neighbor of Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. Most of Yoho National Park is actually in British Columbia! It is right on the Alberta-British Columbia border. And in my opinion, it is the hidden gem of the area. It baffles me how many people don’t know of Yoho because it is B-E-A-Utiful.
Banff and Jasper are absolutely beautiful but can be very touristy. Yoho National Park, on the other hand, is much less crowded. Yoho doesn’t have many easily accessible attractions, so it is usually a day trip for most people. And I think the lack of accessibility deters people from visiting. But hey, that’s okay with me! I love being able to experience the beauty of nature in peace!
1. Takakkaw Falls
The first one our list to see in Yoho National Park was Takakkaw Falls. At 833 feet tall, it is the second tallest waterfall in Canada! “Takakkaw” means magnificent and boy was this waterfall magnificent!
The drive to the falls is an easy one and pretty self-explanatory as long as you follow the signs. It is about a 30-minute drive from the Trans-Canada Hwy. The road to Takakkaw Falls can get very steep at times and has a few switchbacks, so make sure you take your time driving on it! Once you get to the parking lot, it is a short hike to the base of the waterfall.
From afar, Takakkaw Falls looks thin, but as you get closer, you can see and feel the intensity of it. The cool thing is you can walk right up to the waterfall! And you can rock climb here. We saw a few people rock climbing right next to Takakkaw Falls which was fun to watch. We arrived here early in the day, so we were one of the only people here which was a nice change of pace from Banff!
If you want to hike, this is a great area for it! A park ranger told us there are MANY hikes to mountains, lakes, and other beautiful areas. There are a few trails leading to lakes high up in the mountains. We saw pictures, and dang, the views are absolutely beautiful! A great hike to a beautiful lake is the hike to Yoho Lake! It is about a 6-mile round trip hike with around 1,000 feet of elevation gain. There is a point on the trail where you are higher than Takakkaw Falls! This allows for a beautiful view of the falls and the Daly Glacier toe of the Waputik Icefield.
Unfortunately, the air quality was poor due to the smoke from the fires, so we didn’t do too much exploring here. When we come back, I would love to do some hiking here!
2. Emerald Lake
Only a short distance further on the Trans-Canada Hwy is the road to Emerald Lake! I am sure you have heard of this beautiful lake because it is another iconic blue/green lake! Emerald Lake is the largest lake in Yoho National Park.
There is so much to do at Emerald Lake, so make some time to be here! There is a short 3.5-mile hike that brings you around the entire lake. It’s a great way to see wildlife since animals are drawn to this source of water. You’ll pass through an avalanche slope where moose tend to graze. You will also see Burgess Shale. Burgess Shale is one of the only locations in the world contain both fossilized soft tissues and hard body parts. It’s pretty cool! There are plenty of trails off this one as well if you are looking for more of a challenge.
If you would rather not hike an hour around the like, don’t fret! There are plenty of other ways to explore Emerald Lake. You can rent rowboats and canoes from the boathouse to explore the beautiful lake! Or if you want to really experience the lake, take a dip in it! BUT it is COLD. Two words - glacier water. Like many of the other lakes in the area, Emerald Lake is glacier fed, so only the adventurous of people will jump into the water.
3. Wapta Falls
In the most western parts of Yoho National Park lies Wapta Falls. Wapta Falls is on Kicking Horse River and comes in at 100 feet tall and 490 feet wide. Since Kicking Horse River is a big river, you will never be disappointed with the power of this waterfall. In terms of water volume, it is the largest waterfall in Yoho National Park.
Wapta Falls can be reached by a short 3-mile hike if the gate to the recreation center is open. If it is closed, it becomes a 5-mile hike. Either way, it is a very easy, straightforward hike, and it allows you to get up close and personal with this big waterfall. After the first mile, you will be brought to a viewpoint above Wapta Falls. If you venture further along the trail, you will be able to get right up to the bottom of the waterfall. Talk about an epic view! But with the epicness comes A LOT of mist which on sunny days creates rainbows around the falls! However, it makes for a wet situation for your camera gear. Make sure to protect it!
We actually didn’t get the chance to head to Wapta Falls because most of the fires were coming from the west, so the smoke was awful. It was on our list to see, so I wanted to still mention it!
4. Lake O’Hara
I’m saving Lake O’Hara for last because it deserves the most of your attention. This is the true hidden gem of all the parks in this area. Once you have visited everything else, you can head to Lake O’Hara. I would give yourself at least a half day to spend here. You can also book an overnight stay, which is awesome if you want more time at this beautiful lake!
NOTE: You HAVE to have a reservation to visit this beautiful place, so make sure to do that ahead of time! The more in advance you can book your bus spot, the better. You can book up to three months in advance. We didn’t know how crazy the ticket sales would be, so we thought we would be able to book our bus trip when we were there, but NOPE. We learned that tickets sell out as soon as they go on sale for the season. You could also walk down the road to Lake O’Hara, but it is about 14 miles ONE WAY.
If you are among the lucky individuals who get a reservation, then you are in for an AMAZING time. Lake O’Hara is home to some of the most beautiful photography spots and awesome hikes.
The Lake Oesa Trail is one of the easier trails that leads you to some of the most beautiful views. It is about 4 miles round trip and has a gradual ascent. A more strenuous version of this hike is the trail to the Wiwaxy Gap and Huber Ledges. You gain elevation quicker with this hike, but the views are well worth it. The Wiwaxy Gap is the highest point of the Alpine Circuit, so you know you are getting some amazing views!
If you are looking for an easy hike, you are in luck! The easiest hike at Lake O’Hara is the one that follows the lake around its base. The path has minimal elevation and takes about 1-2 hours to complete. Even though you won’t experience the same views high above the lake from the hikes previously mentioned, you still get breathtaking views of Lake O’Hara with the Rockies in the background.
As I mentioned earlier if you want to make a trip here, book your tickets as soon as they go on sale. You must be on your A-game to get them. About 17,000 people enter into the parks here and only 1,000 of them get to venture to Lake O’Hara. Yup, it’s that competitive. But well worth it to view this amazing place!
Have you been to Yoho National Park? What was your favorite thing to see? Were you one of the lucky few to experience Lake O’Hara?!
Don’t forget to check out my Jasper National Park post!