The 10 Best Hikes in Yoho National Park

Looking for the best hikes in Yoho National Park? We share some of our favorite hikes around Yoho National Park and share all of the details in this guide to experience the best in the park. You’ll find on these hikes in Yoho high alpine passes lined with wildflowers, jagged peaks topped by glaciers, and a healthy dose of turquoise blue lakes.

The Canadian Rockies is home to pristine wilderness and jaw-dropping mountain views. None of this is more evident than in Yoho National Park. If you’re visiting neighboring Banff National Park Yoho is well worth a visit for some variety. Further west in the mountains means the Yoho receives more precipitation which results in a greater variety of vegetation and some fantastic waterfalls.


Best Hikes in Yoho National Park


All Souls Lake O’Hara

There are few areas of the Canadian Rockies as photogenic or head-turning as the Lake O’Hara region in Yoho National Park. It’s probably one of the most spectacular areas of the world and due to a bus system to limit numbers only a lucky few each day get to visit this region of the park.

If you aren’t lucky enough to score a ticket through the permit system that sells out months in advance you’re left with walking a 10km service road that the buses drive down. When you add 20km on top of your hike it’s enough to deter all but the most dedicated.

The hike goes along the base of Yukness Mountain and opens up to jaw dropping vantage points back out over the valley, Lake O’hara, and Mount Odaray. A true highlight is to witness this area in September during the larch season.

  • Length: 9.5 km
  • Duration: 5- 7 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 794 meters
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Lake O’hara Bus Parking Lot

Iceline Trail

Iceline Trail

The Iceline Trail is one of the great hiking trails in Yoho National Park. 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.

  • Length: 14.2 km
  • Duration: 6 – 8 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 864 meters
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Takakkaw Falls

Wapta Falls

Wapta Falls

Yoho is blessed with some of the best waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies and its tough to pick the most impressive. However, for the sheer width and amount of water, we’ll have to give it to Wapta Falls. The waterfall is the full width of the Kicking Horse River and the rushing water often produces rainbows when the sun is shining.

To reach the waterfall is an easy walk through the woods with only a small amount of elevation gain so it should be appropriate for most hikers. It’s one of our favorite Yoho hikes if we want to add on a bit of scenery when we’re in the park. It’s also a great spot after a morning hike to relax in the afternoon/evening.

  • Length: 4.7 km
  • Duration: 1 – 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 126 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: Year-Round
  • Parking: Wapta Falls Parking Lot

Emerald Basin

This is a very popular hike as it’s easily accessible and does have too much elevation gain so it’s good for beginner to intermediate hikers. Personally found the trail a little on the boring side, more enjoyment from Takakkaw Falls and Wapta Falls.

The highlight of the trail is toward the end as you reach the alpine meadow flanked by massive craggy cliffs, rushing waterfalls, and glaciers. It’s a quiet area of wilderness away from the crowds that are often found around Emerald Lake.

  • Length: 10.8 km
  • Duration: 2 -4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 242 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: June – October
  • Parking: Emerald Lake Parking Lot

Paget Peak

Banff-Hike-Paget-Peak

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.

  • Length: 9.5 km
  • Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1000 metes
  • Difficulty: Easy Scramble / Difficult Hike
  • Best Time To Go: June – September
  • Parking: Wapta Lake Picnic Area

Emerald Lake Circuit

Emerald Lake Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake is a stunning lake in the Yoho and makes for a great family-friendly hike. It’s the largest lake in Yoho National Park and when you see the color of the water it’s easy to see where the lake received its name. The sparkling emerald color lake is a stunning sight and one of the premier attractions in Yoho National Park.

A walk around the lake is fantastic as you view the lake from different angles with a background of various mountains. The trail follows along the lakeshore and moves in and out of the forest.

  • Length: 5.1 km
  • Duration: 1 -2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 50 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: May – October
  • Parking: Emerald Lake Parking

Yoho Valley Circuit

This is our kind of hike and the route we actually took when we checked off a lot of the Yoho hikes on this list in the Yoho Valley. The massive circuit is a long day and requires an early start as you’ll cover over 28km.

It follows along the Iceline trail at its onset and then continues on to the Twin Falls, Whaleback, and crosses by the Stand Mitchell Hut. Of course, if you don’t have the legs to cover this kind of ground the hut and nearby campground is a great place to get into the wilderness for some camping.

  • Length: 28.5 km
  • Duration: 8 – 11 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,395 meters
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: June – September
  • Parking: Takakkaw Falls

Twin Falls and Whaleback

Twin Falls is a popular moderate hike in Yoho and takes you through some pleasant forests and meadows before you reach Laughing Falls. Not long after you’ll come across the more impressive Twin Falls. Most impressive is the trail leads close to the top of the falls for a wild view.

To add more of a challenge for more a day out in the mountains continue up the Whaleback. This is the highlight of the trail as you hikers are rewarded with magnificent views of Yoho Valley and the surrounding glaciated peaks. The hike is never too steep or requires anything technical so if your legs are up for it, pack a lunch and enjoy a great day in the mountains.

  • Length: 19.8 km
  • Duration: 6 – 8 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 950 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: June – September
  • Parking: Takakkaw Falls Campground

Takakkaw Falls

Takakkaw Falls Yoho Hike

Takakkaw Falls is not much of a hike for most, but if you’re looking for something short and sweet it hits the spot. Many of the best hikes in Yoho also leave from the parking lot and provide views of the falls.

The waterfall is spectacular and at a height to 373 meters it’s the second tallest waterfall in Canada. Its name even comes from the Cree word meaning “wonderful.” It’s a dizzying sight that can be sen throughout the valley and it reaches the peak in the early spring/summer when the heavy snow begins to melt.

  • Length: 1.4 km
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Elevation Gain: 36 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: May – June
  • Parking: Takakkaw Falls Parking Lot

Sherbrooke Lake

Sherbrooke Lake

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.

  • Length: 5.1 km
  • Duration: 1 – 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 248 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Time To Go: May – September
  • Parking: Wapta Falls Picnic Spot

Wildlife Awareness in Yoho National Park

If you’re on any hikes in the Canadian Rockies you should practice proper wildlife awareness. In the region, there are frequent sightings of black bears, grizzly bears, moose, coyotes, and cougars. They all a potential threat to humans and we should reduce our impact on their natural lives.

Before any hike or walk-in the Canadian Rockies, you need to have bear spray. Remember that the bear spray is worthless if it’s in your pack, you’ll need to be able to grab this in two seconds or less in an emergency. We wear our bear sprays on our hip.

The likeliness of seeing wildlife on this trail is high. It is a moderately trafficked trail, but bear sightings have occurred. The meadow and valley is prime grizzly habitat and the trail has been closed in the past due to bear activity. We saw a male grizzly near the saddle of this hike. Thankfully he was fairly far away and we had a large group.

Always check the park websites for wildlife information (Parks Canada) and then check again for notices at the trailhead. 

When you’re on the trail make noise by banging hiking poles, talking, whistling, clapping, or singing. This is particularly important around blind bends and corners. You’re through the deep woods during these times, and it’s prime time to sneak up on a bear. Once you’re at the summit, you’re safer as you can see wildlife from afar, but still, don’t let your guard down and keep the bear spray on you just in case.

As always while hiking, you need to stay alert, travel in a group, mind children and pets, and finally carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. If you’ve come to the park without bear spray Valhalla Pure Outfitters in town sells spray and holders with employees who will demonstrate how to use properly. 

Besides bears, it’s common to see hoary marmots and pika. We asked a marmot for directions, but they only gave us a whistle.


Advice on Hikes in the Canadian Rockies

If this is your first time hiking in the Rockies take a conservative approach. Pick an adequate hike for your fitness, plan for plenty of time, pack water and food, and don’t be afraid to turn around. If you want to learn more about what to wear hiking we have a great post.

For long hikes, set a turn around time at the departure. Any time we set out for an objective I determine a time at which we need to turn around in order to arrive at the parking lot or campsite by dark. I would recommend not hiking in the dark as it’s easy to get lost and it’s not fun in bear country.

On that note, always carry bear spray if you plan to hike in the park. We carry ours in the neighborhood and bears have been known to stroll through town and busy parking lots. Always practice wildlife awareness when you’re on a trail, and please give animals space.

In regards to times keep in mind your mountain fitness — different than the gym. The low end of the times in this post is a constant fast pace uphill with little to no breaks and a brisk pace downhill. Most hikers should plan for a middle of the road time with the estimated duration.

It’s also super important to know that there are limitations and to come prepared. These are very serious mountains and it easy to get in well over your head with life-threatening consequences.

Lastly, a GPS tracker could save your life – it’s one of those backpacking essentials I like to have on me just in case I need to hit SOS.

Alltrails is our favorite app to have on a hike. It shows the correct trail way, elevation, and other hiker reviews. We paid the subscription fee so that we could download all the data we need to our phones. Best $2.50 (per month) ever spent!


What to Wear On a Hike?

The most basic principle of what to wear hiking is layering. Anyone that has spent time in wilderness or mountains can speak to the fact your temperature can fluctuate a lot on a hike. You can easily start off cool at the base of the mountain and get hot as soon as you begin moving.

The goal of hiking clothes is to help regulate your body temperature, element protection, and moisture management. Temperature management is best done through a layering system if you want to learn more about what to pack for a day hike or what to wear on a hike, you can see our full post!  Here are the best hiking clothes for men and the best hiking clothes for women.


Banff National Park Hikes

Of course, there are so many more hikes in Banff and tons of exploring. Looking for the best Banff hikes? We rank our favorite hikes around the park and share all of the details in this guide to experience the best in the park. You’ll find on these hikes in Banff high alpine passes lined with wildflowers, jagged peaks topped by glaciers, and a healthy dose of turquoise blue lakes.

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