Yoho National Park extends over part of the Rocky Mountains, bordering Banff and Kootenay National Parks. It includes some beautiful and very varied mountain landscapes, with snow-capped peaks, beautiful lakes, thundering rivers and waterfalls. In 1985, Yoho was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The park’s two main areas of interest are the Yoho Valley and the Kicking Horse River Valley. The Trans-Canada Highway runs through the park and provides easy access, with viewpoints at scenic spots and side streets that branch off the highway to major attractions.
Official site: https://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/bc/yoho/index.aspx
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Perhaps the most stunning sight in Yoho is the turquoise colored Lake O’Hara. The mountains surrounding the lake are home to some fantastic hiking trails that lead high above the lake and offer beautiful views. It is located on the shore of the lake Lake O’Hara Lodge and a campsite, but access to the area is limited.
A bus runs to the lake, but there is a quota limiting the number of passengers allowed into the area daily. Reservations in advance are required. Visitors can also choose to walk the eight-mile path to the lake, and there is no limit on access for those approaching on foot. Cycling is not allowed. Limited campsites are available at the lake; Reservations must be made in advance through the park office. Reservations for the lodge must also be made well in advance; generally one year from the time of arrival.
Hiking at Lake O’Hara
Most people come to Lake O’Hara for the hiking. There are numerous trails ranging from a simple 1.7-mile trail around the lake’s shoreline to alpine trails that require more skill and a full day of hiking. Some of the most popular routes are the Lake Oesa Trail, Opabin Plateau Circuit, MacArthur Passand the Linda Lake Circuit and Morning Glory Lakes, all of which are moderate to easy hikes. Some of the highlights of hiking in this area include waterfalls, high mountain lakes, and a great sense of solitude due to the limited number of visitors allowed at Lake O’Hara. Trails are sometimes closed due to grizzly bears in the area or other hazards.
Takakkaw Falls is one of North America’s tallest waterfalls, rising dramatically 800 feet (254 meters) above a cliff face. Visitors can stand at the base of the falls and look straight up, feeling the spray of the spray as it hits the bottom. The waterfall is fed by the Daly Glacierportion of the Waputik Icefield.
Takakkaw Falls can be reached by taking the TransCanada’s Yoho Valley Road to the parking lot at the base of the falls. The views from the parking lot are spectacular, but visitors can easily walk to the stream at the base for a full view of the water cascading from above. Alternatively, for a higher perspective, the Iceline hiking trail leads to the mountainside opposite the falls for spectacular views over the falls and beyond to the glacier. This is a fairly strenuous day hike, but worth it for the views.
Emerald Lake, as the name suggests, is a beautiful emerald green mountain lake at the foot of the glacier-covered mountains of the President Range. A beautiful resort is located on the coast with a restaurant open to guests and visitors. Several beautiful hikes start at Emerald Lake, among the most attractive are the Lake circuitthe climbs to Yoho and Burgess passes, and the Hamilton Lake Trail.
Emerald Lake can be reached by taking a five-mile road that starts about two miles south of town Field. A little further along the road is a remarkable natural bridge, where the river squeezes through extremely resistant rock.
Burgess Shale fossil beds
The Burgess Shale Fossil Beds east of Field have proven to be extremely important in the field of paleontology. Fossils over 530 million years old (Cambrian, especially trilobites) recovered from these unique, undisturbed beds have provided important insights into the development of life on Earth. The Burgess Shale Fossil Beds were discovered by Charles Walcott in 1909 and are today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fossil beds reveal a time period when this area was near the equator.
It is possible to hike to Burgess Shale as part of a guided tour. Visit the Yoho National Park office for information on guided walks and to inquire about restricted areas.
Kicking Horse Pass and the Spiral Tunnels
Kicking Horse Pass crosses the continental divide and is known for the Spiral Tunnels created for the Canadian Pacific Railway Line. The original line was over what was called ‘The Big Hill’ and was at one time known as the steepest grade of any railway line in North America. As a result, accidents were a problem. Ultimately, spiral tunnels were created to reduce gradients. There are plaques along the highway discussing the engineering involved in building the railroad.
An observation area about nine kilometers west of the 1,625-meter summit of Kicking Horse Pass offers a good view of the challengingly constructed stretch of track with its two spiral tunnels (modeled after the St. Gotthard railway tunnels in Switzerland). There is also a viewpoint on the upper spiral tunnel with beautiful views of the railway tunnels.
The old bridge on the ” BigHill” was once part of the original CPR track over Kicking Horse Pass. Today the bridge is simply a tourist attraction. The climb to Kicking Horse Pass from the east begins at the border between the two provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.
Before the western entrance to Yoho National Park, a side road branches off and ends after five kilometers at a dead-end road. From here a trail leads to the beautiful and roaring Wapta Falls where the Kicking Horse River falls over a wide rock step.