Yoho National Park is one of my favorite places to head in the Canadian Rockies. It’s an easy add on to any one visiting Banff, or near the town of Golden. It’s a key area to stop and explore when doing a Canadian road trip as well.
There are so many things to do in Yoho for all visitors. From visiting turquoise lakes to hiking with waterfall views it’s definitely an exciting park for exploring. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Yoho including campsite and hiking information.
- How to Visit Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park
- Guide to Front Country Camping in Yoho National Park
- 10 Valuable Emerald Lake Tips to Know Before Visiting Yoho
- The 10 Best Hikes in Yoho National Park
Things to do in Yoho National Park
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park is one of the Canadian Rockies’ finest lakes and a resplendent place to visit. It’s the largest lake in Yoho National Park and is surrounded by the President Range. Once you lay your eyes on the lake it’s pretty easy to figure out where Emerald Lake gets its name as the glacial waters refract light in a vibrant display of color. The color alone would be enough to move you, but the surrounding landscape leaves you speechless. The President Range mountains surround the lake and form a natural amphitheater of the grandest scale with towering peaks and forested banks.
I would say it’s not only a must-visit in Yoho, but actually for anyone visiting the Canadian Rockies and Banff. It’s not too far away from Lake Louise either, and in under 40 minutes, you can drive from Lake Louise and add on Emerald Lake.
I love going in the summer and taking the paddleboard or canoe out. However, it’s stunning in the winter too when the lake freezes over and the Emerald Lake Lodge is blanketed in snow. It’s seriously one of the most beautiful lakes in the entire world and the best thing to do in Yoho.
The Natural Bridge
If you’re heading to Emerald Lake you need to stop at the Natural Bridge on either your way in or out. The Natural Bridge is a stop off point on Emerald Lake Road. The turn off is easy to miss, so keep an eye out for it on your left as you head up to Emerald Lake.
The natural bridge is what it sounds like. A natural bridge made out of rock that was cut by the Kicking Horse River. It’s an unusual sight to see especially in the winter!
The stunning Lake O’ Hara may just be one of the prettiest places I have ever seen. Seriously, the first time I saw it I declared it the most beautiful place in the world. It’s that good! It’s one of the best places to visit in Yoho, however to get there is not an easy task.
Lake O’Hara and the surrounding valley are one of the most prized areas for natural beauty in the Canadian Rockies. At an elevation of 2,200 meters, the lake spends the majority of the year locked away in a sheet of ice. In the summer months, thousands of hopeful campers scramble to secure reservations at the much sought-after campsite located near the lake. Those lucky enough to sleep on the shores of Lake O’Hara are treated to a resplendent landscape full of wildlife, glaciers, larch trees, and alpine lakes.
However to score those campsites is quite some work and most visitors to Yoho probably won’t know about the system until already here (you can read all about that here). So if you don’t get a coveted campsite or seat on the bus into Lake O’Hara you’ll have to hike 11km in and 11km to see it, and don’t forget all the hiking you will want to do when you get there. So there’s certainly legwork required to see this destination, but it’s 100% worth it.
Takakkaw Falls is one of the best things to do in Yoho National Park. If you’re looking for something short and sweet it hits the spot just right.
Takakkaw Falls, or “Tak Falls” is spectacular and at a height of 373 meters, it’s one of the tallest single drop waterfalls in Canada. Its name even comes from the Cree word meaning “wonderful.” It’s a dizzying sight that can be seen throughout the valley. The best time to see it is in early June when the heavy snow begins to melt. Keep in mind to get there easily you’ll need to drive the Yoho Valley Road which is closed from October to June.
The Iceline Trail is one of the great hiking trails in Yoho National Park. You’ll need to plan a day to do tackle it, and a lot of people even complete it on an overnight trip. The whole 14.2 km trail is simply stunning offering waterfalls, glacier views, glacier lakes, and beautiful wildflowers if you hit it in the right season.
This trail is rated as difficult, but we found it very easy as there isn’t much elevation gained involved and no scrambling to overcome, but it is long. Expect the Iceline to take you anywhere from 6-8+ hours. Alternatively, if you don’t want to rush your time there are campsites along the trail, though they’ll have to be booked out in advance in the summer season.
The Iceline trail can be combined with Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake!
Paget Peak is often recommended to those that want to start scrambling in the Canadian Rockies. It’s an easy scramble, with nothing technical involved. It’s also one of the shorter scrambles you can complete in the Canadian Rockies, making it a great option for those who want to get out but don’t have an entire day.
Once at the summit scramblers are provided incredible views of Kicking Horse Pass and the Great Divide Glacier. Most notable is the hanging glacier on Cathedral Mountain across the valley. It’s a really phenomenal Yoho hike and one of our favorite bang for your buck hikes in the Rockies.
It’s located almost right after the “border” between Banff National Park and Yoho National Park and is easily accessible if you are staying in Banff, Field, or even Golden.
Sherbrooke Lake is a stunner that sees far fewer visitors compared Emerald Lake or Lake Louise. This is for the benefit of any hikers looking for a bit relaxation in the mountains. The trail moves through the woods for several kilometers until it reaches the lakeshore and views open up to views of Mount Ogden and Mount Niles.
You can hit Sherbrooke Lake on your way up Paget Peak, it’s a little bit of detour, but definitely worth it!
The Town of Field
The small hamlet of Field is the only town located in Yoho National Park. A small community of fewer than 200 people live here. There’s not a ton to do in Field, but it’s well worth a stop and walk around. During the summer you will find a few restaurants, cafes, and artisan shops. There are some cute historic heritage homes here and even a few accommodation options should you want to base yourself close to Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls. Make sure to stop at Truffle Pigs before you head out!
The spiral tunnels near Field are an example of great railway engineering. In the late 1800s when connecting British Columbia, navigating through the Rocky Mountains was proving difficult. Kicking Horse Pass was chosen because of its proximity to the US and Pacific Coast, but the steep grade was a challenge for the trains. So the Spiral Tunnels were born, and you can read all about how they work here.
Trails still pass through here to this day and visitors are welcome to visit one of the two viewpoints 7.4 km east of Field you can see the Lower Spiral Tunnel viewpoint and 2.3 km up the Yoho Valley Road you’ll find the Upper Spiral Tunnel lookout. 25-30 trains pass through a day, but there is no set schedule so you’ll just have to try your luck!
Wapta Falls is the largest waterfall of the Kicking Horse River and one of the best things to do in Yoho. It’s 18 meters high and a whopping 107 meters wide, making it one of the most impressive sights in the Canadian Rockies. I love visiting in the summer, but honestly think it is even more beautiful in the winter when the ice freezes over and the surrounding peaks are covered in snow.
When is the Best Time to Visit Yoho National Park?
The best time to visit the Canadian Rockies is between June and September when the weather is favorable and the days are long. Most of the locations I mentioned here aren’t easily accessible in the winter with the exception of Field, Wapta Falls, The Natural Bridge, and Emerald Lake.
July and August are easily the busiest months in the park, but nowhere near as busy as Banff. Emerald Lake is likely the only place you’ll notice severe crowding.
September, is my favorite month in the Canadian Rockies. It’s a beautiful time of year and crowds are much lower than they are peak summer.
How Long Do You Need in Yoho?
If you work fast you can hit most of the sites in a day, with the exceptions of the hikes (Paget Peak, The Iceline, and Lake O Hara). The good news is Emerald Lake, The Natural Bridge, Tak Falls, Field, and Spiral Tunnels are all super close to each other. The only outlier is Wapta Falls which is about 30 minutes further towards Golden.
If you want to see all the best things to do in Yoho plus do some hiking I would recommend three days for the area.
Can You Camp in Yoho National Park?
You sure can! There are front country and back country camp sites.
Front Country Campsites in Yoho National Park
- Kicking Horse Campground
- Monarch Campground
- Takakkaw Falls Campground
- Hoodoo Creek
Backcountry campsites in Yoho National Park
- Lake O’Hara Camping
- ACC Huts