How to Spend One FULL Day in Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park neighbors the beautiful Banff, but it’s far less thought about when visitors plan their Canadian Rockies trip. Boasting similar views of the Canadian Rockies, Yoho is well worth at least a day of exploring. We recommend at least two days so that you can enjoy an epic day out on the Iceline Trail.

That being said, we know many are scrunched for a time in the Canadian Rockies, so we wanted to put together a one-day Yoho itinerary that makes complete logistical sense. You can make this day as long or short as you want, but we have added a few options at the end for those who don’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn and staying out late into the evening!


Drive to Emerald Lake

emerald lake in yoho national park

Wake up early and start your day driving to Emerald Lake, or better yet, book a night at Emerald Lake Lodge so that you can stay right on the lake and be one of the first to wake up there.

Emerald Lake is one of the finest lakes in the Canadian Rockies and, in our eyes, the most beautiful of the famous lakes. Like Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, it’s popular but not nearly as busy as Banff’s famous lakes. Because of its popularity and limited parking, we highly recommend arriving before 8 a.m. so that you can enjoy the lake without all the crowds and have an overall quiet time.

Once you see Emerald Lake, it’s easy to figure out where It gets its name. The glacial waters refract light in a vibrant display of color between June and October. If you visit Emerald Lake in the summer, you can enjoy a nice patio experience at Cilantro Cafe, but be warned that tables are a hot commodity around lunchtime.


Canoe on Emerald Lake

canoes at emerald lake

One of the best things to do while at Emerald Lake is take a canoe out on the water. Especially because canoeing on Emerald Lake is a much cheaper experience than canoeing on Moraine Lake or Lake Louise. You can rent a canoe right from the Emerald Lake Boathouse for under $100 for an hour, and three people can fit in a canoe.


Free Option: Hike Emerald Lake Loop

walking-around-emerald-lake

If you don’t feel like spending the money on a canoe rental, a nice free option is to enjoy a walk around the lake. The Emerald Lake Loop is a moderate 5.2 km hike that takes hikers around the entire Emerald Lake, giving views from every angle. The trail is nearly flat and will take 1 to 1.5 hours to complete, leaving plenty of time for other activities.


Stop at the Natural Bridge

The-Natural-Bridge is something everyone should hit on their yoho itinerary

If you’re heading to Emerald Lake anyway, a stop at The Natural Bridge is a must. On your way to or from Emerald Lake, you’ll see a turn-off for The Natural Bridge. It is easy to miss, so watch it on your left as you head up to Emerald Lake, or on your right when leaving Emerald Lake.

The natural bridge is exactly what it sounds like—a natural bridge made out of rock cut by the Kicking Horse River. It’s a unique sight to see during all seasons. Just a short walk from the parking area will get you a great view, and the best part is that this short stop will take you just under 20 minutes to enjoy.


Stop in Field for Brunch

Field - best small towns in BC
The small town of Field

Once you finish at the Natural Bridge and continue back to the Trans Canada from Emerald Lake Road, you’ll see a small town. This is the tiny hamlet of Field, which is the only town in Yoho National Park, with less than 200 people living here. There’s not a ton to do in Field, but it’s well worth stopping and walking around.

If you’re hungry, we highly recommend stopping at Truffle Pigs. It’s recently been named the best restaurant in the mountains and a true gem near Emerald Lake. Their menu has some absolute delights, like Slow and Low Lamb Shank and the Galbi Korean Ribs.


Drive Yoho Valley Road

yoho valley road

After lunch, hop back in the car and get on the Yoho Valley Road. The Yoho Valley Road is located 5 km east of Field and is a stunning drive in the Canadian Rockies. Due to avalanche dangers, it’s only open seasonally from late June until mid-October, weather permitting. It takes you to the famous Tak Falls as well as the trailhead for the stunning Iceline Trail hike (a full-day hike).


Tak Falls

takakkaw falls

Takakkaw Falls is at the end of the Yoho Valley Road. At 373 meters, it is the highest waterfall in the area, and one of the Rockies is one of the tallest in all of Canada. Unlike many amazing sights in the Rockies, this one requires very little effort to see.

Just a 5-minute walk from the parking area, you can get up close and personal with Tak Falls. Multiple picnic benches and chairs surround the area, allowing you to take in the scenery of the Yoho Valley. We recommend spending 30 minutes to one hour here.


Short Hike to Laughing Falls

laughing falls

If you’re up for a bit more of a walk, there’s a great one to another waterfall. Look for the trail to Laughing Falls from the Tak Falls parking lot. This 8km (round trip) hike will lead you to Laughing Falls, a much quieter, albeit not as impressive, waterfall. With minimal elevation gain, it should take less than 1 hour to reach the falls, but will be a nice way to get some walking in and say you went for a hike in Yoho!


Off Season Option/Additional option: Wapta Falls or Sherbrooke Lake

Some people may leave the Tak Falls area and realize they have had a fulfilling day already, while others may want a bit more! For those who want a bit more in their Yoho itinerary, keep reading! Also, if you’re visiting Yoho between mid-October and mid-June while Yoho Valley Road is closed, these are also alternatives to Tak Falls!

Wapta Falls

wapta falls in yoho national park

Wapta Falls is another impressive waterfall in Yoho located about 40 minutes and 40 km from the Town of Field. It’s the largest waterfall of the Kicking Horse River at 18 meters high and a whopping 107 meters wide. It requires a 5km (round trip) hike to reach, which should take you 1-2 hours to complete. If you’re visiting in the summer, it’s an impressive sight, but I think it’s even more incredible in the winter as the falls freeze and create a natural winter wonderland.

Sherbrooke Lake

sherbrooke lake in yoho

If you’re driving back to Lake Louise or Banff from Yoho, stop at Sherbrooke Lake, as it’s a great lake to add to your Yoho itinerary. It’s just as bright blue as the famous Lake Louise or Moraine Lake but sees far fewer visitors.

To reach this lake, you will need to hike 6 km (round trip), with 150 meters of elevation gain. Although it may be a bit of work, it’s well worth the effort when you reach the lakeshore and the views open up to Mount Ogden and Mount Niles.


Hiking Addition – Iceline Trail

natasha on the iceline trail

The Iceline Trail is one of the best hiking trails in the Canadian Rockies. It’s been left separate on this itinerary as it’s a full-day outing, and many do it as an overnight backpacking trip. The 14.2 km trail is simply stunning, offering waterfalls, glacier views, glacier lakes, and beautiful wildflowers if you hit it in the summer.

This trail is rated as difficult, but we found it very easy. There isn’t much elevation gain involved and no scrambling to overcome. However, it is a very long day out that you’ll have to plan for. Expect the Iceline to take you anywhere from 6-8+ hours.

laughing-falls-yoho

To Recap (Drive Times Not Included):

  • Start Your Day at Emerald Lake (30 minutes)
  • Canoe or Emerald Lake Loop (1.5 hours)
  • Natural Bridge (30 minutes)
  • Brunch in Field (1 Hour)
  • Drive Yoho Valley Road (30 minutes)
  • Tak Falls (30 minutes)
  • Laughing Falls (1.5-2 hours)
  • Optional
    • Wapta Falls (2 hours)
    • Sherbrooke Lake (2 hours)


Some Notes on This Yoho Itinerary

emerald lake

You Need a Parks Pass

Yoho is a National Park, and you need a National Park Pass to recreate in the park. If you are already visiting Banff or Jasper, you may already have this pass. The same pass gets you access to all the Canadian National Parks and costs $11 per person/day or $22 for the family. Read all about getting the pass here.

Yoho National Park is Close to Lake Louise

Many people venture to Yoho from their hotel in Lake Louise, as it’s less than an hour’s drive away. You could easily follow this itinerary by staying at a hotel in Lake Louise, like the Paradise Lodge or the Fairmont Chateau.

It’s also Close to Golden!

Yoho National Park is also close the Town of Golden, which is a BC mountain town that is a good alternative to staying in Banff (much cheaper hotel options!) Golden is a great option if you want to spend a few days exploring Yoho. You can even spend a morning on the Golden Skybridge!

You Can Stay in Yoho!

If you want to stay in the heart of it all, there are a few fantastic (and higher-end) places to stay. We recommend looking into Cathedral Mountain Lodge for a super-luxurious stay or the Emerald Lake Lodge to wake up on Emerald Lake.

This is a Summer Focused Itinerary

This is a summer-focused itinerary, mainly because we have very long days here in the summer, making it easier for you to fit all these activities in just one day! Also, Yoho Valley Road typically opens up around June 14th, which is the only way to access the famous Tak Falls. If you’re visiting in winter or shoulder seasons, you can still complete a lot of this itinerary. Just make sure to start early and be realistic—nighttime falls as early as 4 p.m. in December!

This Yoho Itinerary is best for those with their own car.

Not many tours focus solely on Yoho National Park, and if they do, it’s typically ones like this that stop in Lake Louise and then go to Emerald Lake before heading back to Banff. This itinerary is best for those with their own set of wheels and who have ultimate freedom. There’s no public transport options to any of these attractions.

Lake O Hara

Lake O Hara is a pristine area in Yoho, but it has not been included in this article because getting back to it requires advance planning and booking on a very competitive reservation system. It cannot be incorporated into an itinerary for Yoho as Lake O Hara needs its own special planning and itinerary! If you want to learn about how to visit Lake O Hara, we have a full article for that.


Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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2 thoughts on “How to Spend One FULL Day in Yoho National Park”

  1. We want to go to Wapta Falls. We will be going to Emerald Lake, Natural Bridge, Town of Field, Takakkaaw Falls. Where do we fit Wapta Falls? What order? We are staying in Canmore.

    Reply

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