13 Best Yoho National Park Hikes

Looking for the best hikes in Yoho National Park? We share some of our favorite Yoho National Park hikes 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 are 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, resulting in a greater variety of vegetation and some fantastic waterfalls. Heading here is the perfect addition to any Banff itinerary or for those driving between Vancouver and Calgary on an epic Western Canada road trip.


Do You Need a Parks Pass for Yoho National Park?

You need a National Parks Pass to visit Yoho National Park. You can purchase a Parks Canada pass at any park gate. Yes, Parks Canada employees do check, and you can get a ticket if you don’t have one. You’ll hit a Parks Canada gate right after Canmore along the Trans-Canada Highway if coming from Calgary before entering Banff. Parks Canada pass prices are as follows:

  • Adult: $10.50
  • Senior: $9.00
  • Youth (up to 17): Free
  • Family/group of 7 people: $21.00
  • Day passes expire at 4 pm the following day.

Or you can buy them from Parks Canada in advance online. If you’re staying in the Rockies for more than a few days, I highly recommend a Discovery Pass. A Parks Canada Discovery Pass, which gets you entrance to all Parks Canada destinations for the year, is only $145.25 for a family.

Again, day passes are $10.50 per person, so depending on how many days you are staying and if you have plans to go elsewhere like Banff, Waterton, or Jasper, you may want to consider the Discover Pass. Discovery Pass fees are as follows:

  • Adult: $72.25
  • Senior: $61.75
  • Family: $145.25

Best Yoho National Park Hikes


All Souls Lake O’Hara

Lake-O-Hara
  • 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

There are few Canadian Rockies lakes 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 high demand for camping reservation and a bus system to limit numbers only a lucky few each day get to visit this region of the park.

Lake-O-Hara

If you aren’t lucky enough to score a ticket through the permit and lottery system that sells out months in advance, you’re left with walking a 11km service road (one way) that the buses drive down. When you add 20km on top of your hike, it’s enough to deter all but the most dedicated.

This Yoho National Park hike goes along the base of Yukness Mountain and opens up to a jaw-dropping vantage point 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.

Lake O Hara: Ultimate Camping and Hiking Guide for 2022

Lake McArthur

mcarthur lake yoho
  • Length: 7.1 km (from Lake O’Hara)
  • Duration: 3-4 hours (from Lake O’Hara)
  • Elevation Gain: 369 m (from Lake O’Hara)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time To Go: July – September
  • Parking: Lake O’Hara Bus Lost

Lake McArthur is a beautiful lake in the Lake O Hara area of Yoho. If you are already spending a few days hiking around Lake O Hara we highly recommend spending a day hiking McArthur Pass to this lake. Once back here, it’s unlikely you’ll see other people. This hike is 7km round trip from Lake O Hara and well worth the effort.


Iceline Trail

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

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.

How to Hike the Stunning Iceline Trail in Yoho

Wapta Falls

wapta-falls
  • 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

Yoho is blessed with some of the best waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies, and it is tough to pick the most impressive. However, we’ll have to give it to Wapta Falls for the sheer width and amount of water. 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 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. If you are staying near the town of Golden, it’s one of the best hikes and things to do in Golden!


Emerald Basin

Visiting 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

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

The trail’s highlight 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 often found around Emerald Lake.


Paget Peak

Banff-Hike-Paget-Peak
  • 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

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 an excellent 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.


Emerald Lake Circuit

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

Emerald Lake is a stunning lake in 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.


Yoho Valley Circuit

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

This is our kind of hike and the route we took when we checked off many 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 and quite a bit of elevation gain. However, you can easily shorten your distance by planning and choosing your trail and route.

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

The most challenging part of this is the scree slog up Whaleback Mountain. This is one of the easier scrambles in the area, but its long approach means it’s not as easy as you may expect, and if you want to shorten your hike through the Yoho Valley you can omit Whaleback mountain and enjoy the Iceline, Little Yoho Valley and Yoho Valley Trail Loop at 21.7 kilometers.


Laughing Falls and Twin Falls

Laughing Falls
  • Length: 15 km
  • Duration: 3-6 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 750 meters
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: June – September
  • Parking: Takakkaw Falls Campground

Laughing Falls is a popular moderate hike in Yoho and takes you through some pleasant forests and meadows before reaching Twin Falls(depending on which way you tackle this trail). Most impressive is the trail leads close to the top of the falls for a wild view.

The hike to Laughing Falls is an easy hike that starts at the same parking area as Tak Falls. The trail to Laughing Falls is a 7.8km round trip trail with an easy 128 meters of elevation gain. The trail ends at the base of Laughing Falls, which is an impressive sight. There’s also a Yoho backcountry campground here. If you want more of a day, then continue to…

Twin Falls! The trail to Twin Falls via Laughing Falls is a gorgeous one, and if you like big impressive waterfalls, you’ll want to continue hiking. From Laughing Falls, you’ll have to continue around 6.5 km to Twin Falls on simple terrain.

Twin-Falls-in-Yoho
Twin Falls

As you may have guessed, Twin Falls are two rushing 80-meter waterfalls – side by side twins, as you can say! If you get to see both, consider yourself lucky. When we visited in mid-September, only the right fall was flowing (see photo).

If you want to see both falls, it’s best to do this hike as a loop so that you can also stop at Marpole Lake; however if you do the loop, be prepared for a moderate boulder field to hike.

If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can continue up to summit Whaleback Mountain, an easy scramble and the easiest summit in Little Yoho Valley. (Big day that requires experience hiking in the Rockies)


Takakkaw Falls

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

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

This Canadian Rockies waterfall is spectacular, and at the height of 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 seen throughout the valley, and it reaches its peak in the early spring/summer when the heavy snow begins to melt.


Sherbrooke Lake

Sherbrooke Lake
  • 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

Sherbrooke Lake is a stunner that sees far fewer visitors compared to Emerald Lake or Lake Louise. This is for the benefit of any hikers looking for a bit of 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. For a more extended day add Sherbrooke Lake to Paget Peak or Paget Lookout mentioned above.


Burgess Shale Fossil Hike

  • Length: Varies
  • Duration: Varies
  • Elevation Gain: Varies
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
  • Best Time To Go: June – September
  • Parking: Varies

High in the mountains of Yoho the Burgess Shale fossils are some of the oldest evidence of complex life on Earth. These fossils are over 500 million years old!

There are a few different hike options including the Stanley Glacier, Walcott Quarry, and Mount Stephen. You must go on a guided hike to see the fossils and must be paid for. See more information here.


Gear We Recommend

Women's Merrell Moab II

Merrell Moab II

Many hikers will enjoy the security, comfort, and value in the Merrell Moab II. It’s a great beginner hiking boot.

Arc'teryx Cerium Hoody

Arc’teryx Cerium

Arc’teryx Cerium is our pick for the best down jacket. It’s incredibly light, and we bring it on almost every hike in the Rockies.

Peak Design Capture Clip

PD Capture Clip

This nifty clip from Peak Design secures a camera to my backpack strap for easy reach. No more digging in the backpack!

Hiking Poles

Hiking Poles

A pair of durable and lightweight hiking poles are a great asset on the hiking trail. 

Gregory Nano Backpack

Gregory Nano 20L

20L feels like the ideal size for quick hikes and scrambles. We love the Nano from Gregory with a hydration reservoir.

Garmin Inreach Mini

Garmin Inreach Mini

There is not much cell service in the Canadian Rockies. In case of emergencies, we carry an emergency beacon with GPS.


Wildlife Awareness in Yoho National Park

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

Before hiking or walking in the Canadian Rockies, you must 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 hips. Always check the park websites for wildlife information (Parks Canada) and check again for notices at the trailhead. 

When 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 any 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. If you’d like to learn more we have a post on bear safety.

12 Bear Safety Tips • How To Hike In Bear Country

Advice on Hiking in the Canadian Rockies

emerald lake in yoho
  • If this is your first time hiking in the Rockies, take a conservative approach – read our post for beginner hikers in Banff too. Pick an adequate hike for your fitness, plan for plenty of time, pack water and food, and don’t be afraid to turn around.
  • For long Yoho 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.
  • 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 — it’s much 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.
  • A Garmin In-Reach can save your life as most of these hikes are in areas with no cell service. We’ve thankfully never had to use ours, but it gives us peace of mind having it on a hike in case something ever goes wrong and I have to call Search and Rescue.

What to Wear On a Hike?

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

What To Wear Hiking in The Canadian Rockies

Nearby 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.


Hopefully, this helped you determine which Yoho National Park hikes to check out!

If you have any other questions leave a comment or see our Canadian Rockies travel guide for more articles about photography spots, lakes, hikes, and everything else.


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The Banff Blog Facebook Group is your headquarters for the Canadian Rockies travel advice and information. Including hike info and off-season travel information. This is also a place where you can meet one another when you need adventure buddies. 

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

About Cameron

Cameron is a resident of Canmore, Alberta. After traveling the world for six years, he settled down in the beautiful Bow Valley with Natasha. He has been featured as a travel expert with numerous publications worldwide and has spoken on several occasions about the power of travel. He has a passion for all things in the Canadian Rockies and loves to spend his time snowboarding, scrambling, camping, biking, and trail running. Conservation is a deep fundamental in his life, and he aims to inspire others to care about our natural world. You can learn more on the about us page.

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