Yoho National Park Travel Guide

Yoho, a Cree word of amazement, is a fitting name for this 131,300-hectare (324,450-acre) national park in British Columbia on the western slopes of the Canadian Rockies. The TransCanada Highway bisects the park on its run between Lake Louise (Alberta) and Golden (British Columbia). Banff National Park borders Yoho to the east, while Kootenay National Park lies immediately to the south. Yoho is the smallest of the four contiguous Canadian Rockies national parks, but its wild and rugged landscape holds spectacular waterfalls, extensive ice fields, a lake to rival those in Banff, and one of the world’s most intriguing fossil beds. In addition, you’ll find some of the finest hiking in all of Canada on the park’s 300-kilometre (186-mile) trail system.

Within the park are four lodges, four campgrounds, and the small railway town of Field, where you’ll find basic services. The park is open year-round, although road conditions in winter can be treacherous, and occasional closures occur on Kicking Horse Pass. The road out to Takakkaw Falls is closed through winter, and it often doesn’t reopen until mid-June.

Planning Your Time

Yoho National Park is a gem of a destination, well worth visiting even for just a day. If you do make the park a day trip from Banff, you’ll have enough time to drive to Takakkaw Falls, hike the loop trail around Emerald Lake, and enjoy lunch in between at one of the restaurants I recommend. Organized tours from Banff and Lake Louise follow a similar itinerary–a good option if you don’t have a vehicle (children will love being on the bus as it negotiates the road to Takakkaw Falls). The highlight of a visit to Yoho is Lake O’Hara, one of the most special places in the Canadian Rockies. Unlike at the region’s other famous lakes, you can’t simply drive up to O’Hara. Instead, you must make advance reservations for a shuttle bus that trundles up a restricted-access road to the lake.

Yoho Highlights

Yoho Valley: This valley doesn’t become snow free until June, but when it does, the access road passes natural wonders such as Takakkaw Falls and opens up excellent hiking.

Emerald Lake: At the end of this scenic drive, you can hike, canoe, fish, or simply soak up the mountain scenery.

Opabin Plateau, Lake O'Hara

Opabin Plateau, Lake O’Hara

Lake O’Hara: Quite simply, magical. Access is limited by a quota system, so take heed of the reservation information and be prepared for a day of hiking you will always remember.

Burgess Shale: The hiking is strenuous along a restricted-access trail, but because this is one of the world’s most important paleontological sites, the trek is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.