Panorama from the Yoho Lake hike in Yoho National Park
Panorama from the Yoho Lake hike in Yoho National Park

Yoho Lake Hike

Yoho National Park
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Pink mountain heather on the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaTakakkaw Falls from the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaCreek near Yoho Pass on the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaLooking across the valley on the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaSubalpine forest along the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaTrailhead of the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaCreek crossing the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaViews from the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaOuthouse with a view of Mt Wapta on the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaViews of the lake and Mt Wapta on the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaKruppelholz view on the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaRed chairs on the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaYellow columbine on the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British ColumbiaACC plaque on the Yoho Lake Hike in Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Yoho Lake Hike

Distance: 5.3mi
Elevation: 997ft
Time: 2.5-3.5h

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
9.6 Overall Rating
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Yoho Lake is one of the shorter hikes in Yoho National Park, and it’s a great opportunity to get away from the crowds. You’ll find excellent views of Takakkaw Falls - for those who don’t want to make the trip up to the Iceline Trail - and it finishes at a peaceful backcountry lake. It’s rare to find an easy hike with low crowds, so take advantage of this awesome trail!

Yoho Lake Hike Map

Getting there

To start the Yoho Lake hike, from Banff, go west on the Trans-Canada Hwy. From the AB/BC border, continue 8.0mi west turn on Yoho Valley Rd. Go 7.9mi to the HI Hostel. Trailhead is here, but parking is guests only. Go 2297ft down and park at the Takakkaw Falls Day Use parking lot, then walk back to the hostel.

I’ve done this 46 people have done this
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About

When to do

July to September

Backcountry Campsites

Yes, at Yoho Lake

Toilets

Yes, at trailhead and at the lake

Family friendly

Yes

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

Low

Route Type

Out and back


Yoho Lake Hike
Elevation Graph


Yoho Lake Hike Description

The trailhead is at the back of the Whiskey Jack Hostel parking lot – the same as for the Iceline, with which you share the first 0.8mi of trail. An old wooden pipe lingers on the side of the trail – the water supply for the original hostel.

Almost immediately you start to switchback up the side of the Yoho Valley in dense subalpine forest. Wildflowers dot the edge of the trail, making the most of the little bit of sunlight they get here. There is an unusual form of columbine (a wildflower) to be found here. It’s a hybrid of the (eastern) yellow columbine and the (western) red columbine, making a lovely pinkish flower. It’s only found where the two species’ territories overlap.

Almost all your elevation gain is done in this first 0.8mi; although, it may feel like much more. When you pause to catch your breath, make sure to look back across the valley for elevated views of Takakkaw Falls. Upon first seeing these falls in 1886, Canadian Pacific Railway president William Cornelius Van Horne named them Takakkaw, loosely translating from Cree to “it is magnificent”.

At 0.7mi a side trail branches to the left, leading to Hidden Lakes a short distance away. This trail is extremely rough, and muddy, and the lake itself is rather average by Canadian Rockies standards.

After 20 switchbacks, you’ll walk directly uphill for a short distance, next to a large, overgrown avalanche path – probably the one that destroyed the original hostel in 1967. This section of the trail can be slippery and muddy, and turns into a natural watercourse in rain, so take care. You’ll reach a junction with a trail sign – Iceline Trail to the right, Yoho Lake straight on.

After this the trail is easy going, traversing along the terrace of the Yoho Valley through a spruce and fir dominated forest. Trees that have escaped the destruction of avalanches have grown large and old here, some of them reaching diameters of 0.7mi. Five small creeks cut across the trail but are easily passed with some careful foot placement. A healthy population of weasels live here, judging by the multiple carefully placed scats on prominent rocks along the trail. The roaring sound of the waterfall gradually fades away as you ascend a slight hump, then descend into a more open subalpine forest. This is the wide, flat expanse of Yoho Pass.

Snow can linger late here, and many of the trees show evidence of this. Kruppelholz (a German term meaning “crippled wood”) is a name for the gnarled, stunted spruce and fir trees that grow near the tree line in mountainous environments. Winter snow in these areas protects the tree from the harsh, cold air, so the trees tend to grow outwards, and not up, above the snow. Patches of Kruppelholz indicate areas where snow tends to accumulate, and the height of the trees can give an indication of the average depth.

As the forest canopy opens up, opportunistic alpine wildflowers abound. Glacier lily, western anemone, alpine globeflower, and pink & white mountain heather pop up in moist patches where snow has recently melted. When you feel the first sting of a mosquito bite, you’re almost there.

A deep emerald green, Yoho Lake peeks out through the trees as you traverse narrow bridges over its wetlands. Travelling a little further along the lakeshore you reach the Yoho Lake backcountry campground. This was the site of the first mountaineering camp of the Alpine Club of Canada in 1906, giving early alpinists easy access to the peaks of Mt Wapta (south) and Michaels Peak (north). The picnic tables at the campground may tempt you, but if you continue around to the north end of the lake you’ll find a pair of Parks Canada’s red chairs, with a stunning view of Mt Wapta reflected in the tranquil waters of the lake.

The easiest option is to return the way you came. For the more adventurous, following the trail past the end of the lake takes you on the Highline Trail, connecting with the Iceline Trail in 1.5mi. If you return that way, you can make it a loop trail. The higher elevation and greater exposure make this a better trip for late summer in good weather.

Insider Hints

  • Bring bug spray! Mosquitos love the damp subalpine meadows of Yoho Pass, and backcountry campers may be spotted wearing full bug nets while cooking.

  • From the campground, the official summit of Yoho Pass is 2297ft further west. Unlike most passes, this is completely forested and offers no views. Avoid, unless completing a longer trip to the Wapta Highline or down to Emerald Lake.

  • The HI Whiskey Jack Hostel offers affordable, hostel style accommodation right at the trailhead.

Comments

YukihiroSato 2 years ago

Excellent hike. Not too exhausting but incredible views.

10.0 Overall Rating
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2h 00m Time Taken
Tara Green 2 years ago

Great trail and a must-do if at Yoho National Park

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2h 30m Time Taken
RandyO 2 years ago

This hike holds a special place to my heart. Had a wonderful time with my family.

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3h 00m Time Taken
WendyMag. 2 years ago

The trail-head is clearly marked at the south end of the parking area past spectacular Takakkaw Falls. Elevation is gained on the trail to Yoho Lake, not too crowded. Worth the trail.

9.0 Overall Rating
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Ethan Welch 3 years ago

Takakkaw Falls was magical! The water is flowing enormously and I'm so happy we got to see it that way.

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matsuomako 3 years ago

I love it so much! It is so quiet and peaceful!

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Nathan R. 3 years ago

Nice backcountry experience. The lake looks exceptional.

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monicaovabrava 3 years ago

Simply breathtaking! The water the mountain peaks are beautiful. The trail was reasonably good to take with younger kids.

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hikertom12 3 years ago

Good way to see the falls minus some of the crowds. Not much elevation, bring a rainjacket in case of unfortunate surprises, though.

Arabella Houston 3 years ago

This lake is worth the visit. It's simple yet captivating.

10.0 Overall Rating
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20 Comments Show all

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