Hiking in Yoho National Park
Canada is a huge country and it is impossible to hike every trail it has offer. So where are the best trails located in Canada? It is a very subjective opinion, but very few will object to the idea that the most beautiful mountains are the Canadian Rocky mountains located in the west of Canada. So it’s fair to say that most beautiful trails should be found there too, right?
The hike I had in Yoho national park in British Columbia was most impressive. There are over 400 km of hiking trails at Yoho NP, but you don’t need to go camping in the back country to enjoy all the spectacular scenery of the park. I would love to go there with a tent as there is so much to see, but you can still see a lot even if you have only one day.
Lake O’Hara is one of the most beautiful parts of Yoho NP. There are plenty of short trails around the lake from 1 to 8 km long with 90-300 meters elevation gain. Everybody can find the trail which fits their ability, it doesn’t matter if you are 20, 40 or 60 years old.
If you feel fit enough for a one day visit I suggest combining two trails – Lake Oesa Trail and Opabin Plateau Circuit. The combined trail length will be around 8-9km (5-6 miles) with a maximum 240-250 meters elevation gain. You will be able to see the O’Hara and Mary Lakes from above and visit Lake Oesa with the Rocky Mountains behind it. You can then visit Opabin Plateau with some smaller lakes and come back down to Lake O’Hara.
Before heading there you should know about important restrictions the park has in place and you must prepare for this visit in advance. I am not talking about physical training. At the moment only 42 day visitors are allowed to use the public bus service into Lake O’Hara. Though there is no limit how many people can get to the lake on foot from car parking to Lake O’Hara, I wouldn’t suggest hiking the 11 kilometers access road from car parking, as that road is not picturesque at all.
Visitor number restriction is the beauty of this park as you don’t see big crowds and the park is only around 210 km west of Calgary or a 30 km drive from very popular Lake Louise in Alberta. But these restrictions mean you need to make a reservation well in advance for a seat on the bus. On this page you can find information about bus seat reservations and other current information about access to the park. You can make reservations only by phone three calendar months in advance. You should start calling as soon as you know your trip dates. I myself called with no luck for a week before my arrival to Yoho national park. At that time you could show up before bus departure and get on the bus if there were any cancellations. I am not sure this still works the same, but it is very risky and one needs to arrive much earlier before bus departure, as there will be more people waiting for a lucky bus ticket.
P.S. I am an addicted hiker, but to be fair I must say Yoho national park is not limited to hiking. Depending on the season, you can do so many things -biking, canoeing, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, skiing, snowshoeing and much more.
Vi is traveler, blogger. After 10 years working in an office he quit his 9-5 job and went to volunteer in Africa, hiked the Himalayas in Nepal, went scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, swam with humpback whales in Tonga and up until today visited more than 50 countries. You can visit his travel tips blog or facebook page to read more stories.