Visiting Yoho National Park is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Canada. There are so many fun things to do and places to visit in Yoho National Park, and in this blog post I’m going to share some of my favourites with you!
Are you a fan of fresh mountain air, snow-capped mountain peaks, bustling waterfalls, turquoise lakes, and endless glacier views? Then you’ve come to the right place.
All this is waiting for you in Yoho National Park, nestled in the Canadian Rockies. You might have heard of Yoho’s more famous neighbours Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, or even the lesser known but bigger Kootenay National Park. But just because Yoho National Park is small doesn’t mean there’s a lack of views or activities.
Yoho National Park is one of 48 National Parks in Canada, and one of four in British Columbia. It covers approximately 1,313 km2 (507 sq mi) of stunning landscapes in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. The word Yoho is a Cree (one of the First Nations in Canada) expression of amazement or awe, and the perfect way to describe the beautiful landscapes and fun things to do in Yoho National Park.
Over the last decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to live near the Canadian Rockies and explored Yoho National Park countless times. There’s plenty of hiking trails, mountain views, and natural wonders to fuel your adventurous soul.
If you’d like to leave the crowds behind, let’s dive into this guide, where I cover the best things to do in Yoho National Park and the best hikes in the Canadian Rockies from a local perspective.
In this Yoho National Park travel guide I am going to share with you the best things to do in Yoho National Park, the best places to visit in Yoho National Park, the best hikes in Yoho National Park and my favourite adventures.
From going on challenging day hikes to waterfalls and glaciers, to seeing the infamous Northern Lights and canoeing on Emerald Lake, there are loads of fun things to do in Canada waiting to be put on your bucket list!
Other blog posts you might be interested in…
- The best things to do in Canada: the ultimate bucket list
- North America: the ultimate travel guide
- A guide to planning a British Columbia road trip
- How to budget for a road trip through the Canadian Rockies
- A 7-day Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary: Banff, Jasper & Yoho National Parks
- The best things to do in Jasper National Park
- 12 reasons you should visit the Kootenay Rockies
- A 1-week road trip itinerary for the Kootenay Rockies
- The best things to do in Banff National Park in summer
- The best things to do on Vancouver Island
- My top things to do in Vancouver in summer
The best things to do in Yoho National Park...
1. Visit the spectacular Takakkaw Falls.
Takakkaw Falls (300 m) is the 2nd highest waterfall in Canada. The best news is, they’re easily reachable by car, only a short 17 km drive from Field. Once you park your car, a short paved path leads right under the falls.
You can experience the insane power of Takakkaw Falls from underneath and get sprayed on to refresh on a hot summer’s day. The famous red chairs are located here at a fantastic viewpoint if you’d like to spend some time here watching the falls.
I highly suggest putting Takakkaw Falls on your bucket list and visit in the summer/autumn. The road leading to the falls is closed mid-October to mid-June as it crosses an avalanche path. There are also several hikes in the area and a campground with a view of the falls. It’s one of the most scenic campgrounds in the Rockies and definitely one of the best things to do in Canada, never mind one of the best things to do in Yoho National Park.
2. Hike the Iceline Trail for glacier views.
As mentioned above, there are several hikes around Takakkaw Falls. If you’d like a short one, you can hike to Laughing Falls (8.8 km) or try a longer hike to Twin Falls (16.4 km).
My recommendation is the Iceline Trail day hike via Celeste Lake Trail, about an 18 km loop. This is one of my favourite hikes in Canada and one of the best things to do in Yoho National Park. You see the Takakkaw Falls from above with the glacier feeding it, several glaciers close-by, waterfalls, lakes, and even wildlife.
The hike starts at Takakkaw Falls, just beyond the red chairs. You’ll shortly reach the Whiskey Jack Hostel, where the steep incline starts. This is the most challenging part of the hike, until you get above the treeline.
From now on, prepare to be in awe. Instead of people on the trail, you’ll probably encounter mountain sheep. You’ll see the Takakkaw Falls across the valley. They’ll now seem much smaller, with a background of a giant rock wall and glaciers above.
As you continue to hike on a rocky path, several glaciers will emerge right beside you. Suddenly you’ll be surrounded by glaciers wherever you look, and the 2nd highest waterfall in Canada will keep you company as you continue hiking.
After the long passage of rocks and glaciers, you’ll step into another climate with lots of greenery, mushrooms, and moss. From here, there are several emerald lakes and waterfalls along the way back to the parking lot.
After so many glaciers, lakes, and waterfalls, you can see why Iceline Trail is one of the most scenic hikes in the Canadian Rockies and one of the top things to do in Yoho National Park.
3. Go canoeing on breathtaking Emerald Lake.
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park is breathtaking from any angle, even if you’re walking along its shore. The best way to see and experience the insane colour of Emerald Lake is by renting a canoe.
You can rent a 3-person canoe right onshore for 60 CAD per hour. Rental is budget-friendly compared to nearby touristy locations Lake Louise or Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, but this is still one of the best things to do in Canada. If you’d like to stretch your legs afterwards, walk the Emerald Lake Loop. There are several benches along the shore to pause, have a picnic, and enjoy the views.
Afterwards, visit Cilantro Café with a patio overlooking the lake to get some drinks and snacks for a lunch break.
4. Take a walk along the turquoise Kicking Horse River.
Park by the Visitor’s Centre in Field and go for a walk along the beautiful milky blue Kicking Horse River. Pair it with the shore filled with yellow dandelions, snow-capped mountain peaks, and you have the perfect scenery for a walk or photoshoot. It’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Yoho National Park!
If you dip your toes in the river, it leaves a dusty film on your body. It’s due to the particles from the glacier. To see where this colour originates, visit the confluence of Yoho and Kicking Horse River along the road to Takakkaw Falls. Yoho River is milky white, as it begins at Yoho Glacier, while Kicking Horse River is crystal blue. When they meet, a new milky blue colour Kicking Horse River emerges flowing south through Field. Cool, right?!
Are you wondering why it is called Kicking Horse River? It was named by an expeditionary that was being kicked by his packhorse while exploring the river. The unfortunate incident resulted in naming the river ‘Kicking Horse River’.
5. Hike to the massive Wapta Falls.
The trail to Wapta Falls can be found along the Trans-Canada Highway on the edge of Yoho National Park. The sign is only visible if you’re coming from Field; you can’t turn to the trailhead if you’re coming from the opposite direction.
It’s an easy 5 km hike through the forest to Wapta Falls, making it one of the best hikes in Yoho National Park whatever your fitness level. It’s mostly flat until you reach the upper viewpoint of Wapta Falls. Then you hike down the dirt path and arrive at the Kicking Horse River and the base of the falls.
Even though most hikers choose to admire the falls from afar, I highly recommend getting up close. You can walk up the small hill that’s right underneath the falls to get generously sprayed on. Let’s see if you can make it down without getting soaked! It’s a fun little refreshment that makes hiking back to the parking lot much more bearable in the summer.
6. Walk across the Natural Bridge.
Lake O’Hara area is a hidden gem of the Canadian Rockies. It’s not as busy as other popular locations because the yearly visitors are limited.
You can only reach Lake O’Hara by a shuttle bus. If you’re visiting for a day, you need to enter the draw for the shuttle bus tickets due to the popularity. For a more immersive experience, you can stay overnight in the campground. Camping reservations usually open in June and fill up very quickly. For more info on booking, visit the Parks Canada website.
Once you have secured shuttle bus tickets, oh my, you’re in for a real treat, as visiting here is one of the best things to do in Yoho National Park. The jaw-dropping views of valleys, mountain peaks, and colourful lakes are out of this world. The most popular hike in the area is Opabin Plateau (6 km). The hike leads to a cliff above Mary Lake and Lake O’Hara, with views across the valley.
One of my personal favourite hikes in Yoho National Park is the Lake McArthur hike (8 km). I’ve never seen a lake in such a mesmerizing deep blue colour.
7. Walk across the Natural Bridge.
Natural Bridge is a spectacular rock formation located along the road to Takakkaw Falls. The Kicking Horse River flows under the rocky bridge creating a thundering waterfall. Do you dare to cross it? As the water flows underneath, you can walk across the river to the other side.
Visiting in in the colder season is equally impressive, if you’re looking for places to visit in Yoho National Park in winter. While most of the river is frozen, you can still hear the bustling water underneath the Natural Bridge. Staying in Emerald Lake Lodge, snowshoeing around Emerald Lake and visiting the frozen waterfall at Natural Bridge are the most popular things to do in Yoho National Park in winter.
8. Watch the Northern Lights.
Seeing the Northern Lights, especially if you’re visiting on a short trip, is a game of luck, I’m not going to lie. But it’s possible and certainly one of the best things to do in Yoho National Park, if you can. While you can see the Northern Lights at any time of the year, the best time is generally winter when the sky is darker and nights longer.
That being said, I’ve seen the most beautiful Northern Lights in May at midnight. The sky turned green, then a purple light flashed across the sky, and the waves of light continued to dance for hours.
You can ask at Visitor’s Centre if there’s a probability of seeing the Northern Lights, checking out the space weather website, or joining the Facebook group Alberta Aurora Chasers where members share the forecast, the best locations, and photography tips. Note: Yoho National Park is in British Columbia but this Alberta group shares forecast for Western Canada.
The word “Yoho” means awe and wonder in the Cree language. With so many fun things to do in Yoho National Park, isn’t it just the perfect name for this slice of mountainous paradise?
What are your favourite things to do in Yoho National Park?
Where are your favourite places to visit in Yoho National Park? Anything you’d add?
Love as always and happy adventuring…
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