The Yoho National Park is a beautiful park located in the province of British Columbia in western Canada. It makes for an easy day trip from Banff or Lake Louise and is worthy of a visit. Here are all the amazing things to do in Yoho National Park.
As part of this guide, we have also included a day trip itinerary to organize your sightseeing.
Things to do in Yoho National Park
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The word, ‘YOHO’ sounds exciting, doesn’t it? It actually means amazement or awe, in Cree. And truly with all the stunning mountain peaks, waterfalls and the pristine lakes will melt your heart.
Yoho National Park is bordered by Kootenay National Park (south side), and Banff National Park (east side). It is one of the smallest national parks in the Rocky Mountains, but it is ranked super high, thanks to the icefields and mountainous beauty.
The visitor office for the park is located in the town of Field, by the Trans Canada Highway.
Being a national park, there are entry fees, and that is $20 CAD/day for a family or group. Check for park fees here – Parks Canada. Keep in mind, if you have already paid for park fees in Banff, and are traveling to Yoho and returning on the same day, you won’t have to pay again at Yoho National Park.
Natural Bridge is a wonderful phenomenon of natural rock formation, that looks like a bridge, wherein the Kicking Horse River flows from the Field Valley.
This scenic lookout is easily accessible, without any strenuous hikes. It also serves as an access point for the Kicking Horse Fire Road trailhead, which leads to the Meeting of the Waters.
There is a car parking lot right outside the lookout/viewing platform. There are also interpretive displays explaining the physical processes at work. The natural rock is sculptured and formed this way due to the erosive forces of rushing water over the centuries.
The bridge can easily be reached by car just 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) from the town of Field on Emerald Lake Road.
The Spiral Tunnels were created when British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation and a railway network was constructed. Today, 25 to 30 trains pass through the Spiral Tunnels every day, making it super picturesque. However, you have to be patient to be able to capture trains coming through.
There are two Spiral Tunnel viewpoints.
- The first viewpoint, called the Lower Spiral Tunnel in Mt. Ogden, is located 7.4 km east of Field on the Trans-Canada Highway.
- The Upper Spiral Tunnel can be seen from the pull-off located 2.3 km up the Yoho Valley Road.
When you are driving from Banff or Lake Louise, the Lower Spiral Tunnels viewpoint will be your first stop. At this viewpoint, you can see trains entering the Spiral Tunnels on Kicking Horse Pass.
There are informative displays on the Spiral Tunnels and the Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site of Canada.
The Takakkaw Falls are one of the powerful and mightiest waterfalls in the whole of North America. You can easily access Takakkaw Falls via Trans-Canada Highway and on the Yoho Valley Road.
The scenic drive to the Falls takes about 30 minutes. On your way, keep an eye out for wildlife. However, don’t stop for pictures here. The roads are steep and narrow, which means you can easily cause traffic congestion.
A short trail will take you to a wooden bridge, where you will be greeted by a full view of Takakkaw Falls. The water rushing down to the edge of the barren cliffs and the surrounding sea of coniferous forest make Takakkaw Falls one of the most picturesque scenic points in the Canadian Rockies.
Lunch in the Town of Field
After sightseeing, head to the town of Field for lunch. There are locally owned cafes and restaurants where you can devour a good meal, and a drink or two. Our favorites – Truffle Pigs Bistro & Lodge and The Siding Café located in Stephen Ave.
There is also a cute post office that you can explore.
Field is also an excellent base for accommodations if you plan on staying overnight. It is home to 300 residents only.
The showstopper of Yoho National Park is the Emerald Lake. This stunning lake and the lodge nearby is accessible all year round, but it is scintillating in the summer.
During the summer months, you can rent a canoe or take walks. In addition, this is the perfect time to capture the turquoise color of the lake (especially in the month of July).
The lake is enclosed by mountains—President Range, Mount Burgess, and Wapta. And that’s why it is prone to heavy snowfall in the winter, making it a paradise for cross country skiing. Rain is frequent in the summertime. June and July are the perfect months to capture images of wild flora and fauna.
Near the lake is a hiking trail that is accessible for differently-abled and strollers.
The Emerald Lake Lodge located nearby is perfect for overnight stay. It is super amazing for a romantic getaway too, and it is open for meals and lodging year-round.
Lake O’ Hara
Lake O’Hara is a beautiful mountain lake, located below the peaks of the Continental Divide. Access to the lake is restricted to preserve the ecosystem of the area.
You can embark on the Iceline Trail 13 km (8 miles to 13.1 miles round trip), as part of the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit. You can hike into the lake basin, or book a seat on the bus that takes you through the gravel road leading to the lake.
It is important to reserve your spot in advance. These buses run mid-June through the first weekend in October, about four times per day. Tickets are priced at $15 CAD (plus a reservation fee is $12 CAD).
You can also opt for overnight camping at Lake O’Hara. This is very popular with backcountry hikers. Without camping, Lake O’Hara Lodge is a good option for accommodation. The lodge offers rooms and cabins with meals and bus transportation.
Wapta Falls is the largest waterfall on the Kicking Horse River. It is located about 30 minutes from the town of Field. To access Wapta Falls, you must get to the “Wapta Falls Trailhead.”
When you are traveling west, the turn-off is not marked, as there is no left lane. Therefore, you will have to drive 3 kilometres past the west entrance of the park and then turn around and come back.
There is a short 1.9 kilometre hike to the Kicking Horse River, and a lookout at the top of the falls. The trail is not difficult but you will easily need 2 hours for the return trip.
Iceline Trail is one of the premier hikes in Yoho National Park, starting at the end of the Yoho Valley Road. It requires a full-day hike of 7-8 hours.
Guided hikes to the Burgess Shale
The Burgess Shale Beds is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in Field. It is one of the most important fossil sites in the world. Burgess Shale has a record of being one of the earliest marine ecosystems giving a vivid glimpse of life, as it was, over 500 million years ago.
There are guided hikes available to explore the world heritage site, and they are conducted and led by local guides. Find more about guided hikes here
Scenic drives through mountain peaks
The drive from Banff to Yoho via the Trans Canada Highway, and then the Yoho Valley Road is filled with towering rock walls, mountain peaks and stunning waterfalls on the way.
So sit back and enjoy the scenic drive in the Rocky Mountains.
Getting to Yoho National Park
Calgary will be a better option to visit this park in the Rocky Mountains, and it can be an extension to your broader Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary.
From Banff, Yoho National Park is only an hour away. And from Lake Lousie, it’s even closer – only 40 minutes away. Due to the distances, it is easy to travel to Yoho on a day trip from Alberta.
The town of Field is the nearest town to get services including restaurants, lodges to name a few. We highly recommend filling up the car tank (gas/fuel) prior to your trip to Yoho National Park from Banff/Lake Louise.
Planning a trip to Yoho National Park
Although the Yoho National Park is open all year round, road access to the attractions inside the park have seasonal limitations.
- The Yoho Valley Road to the popular Takakkaw Falls is only open from late June to mid-October. The road is narrow and you have to constantly switchback if you are using a bigger vehicle. We recommend traveling in a small or midsize car.
- The same goes for Spiral Tunnels Lookout. You can drive by the highway, but due to snow you won’t be able to see the tunnels, and the lookout area can be slippery
- For adventure activities like high alpine hikes, note that they are snowbound and are subject to avalanche hazard until July.
- The park is located at an elevation of 11,686 feet, at its highest point. It is common to experience a slight chill in the air, as compared to Banff and Lake Louise. When we visited Yoho, the weather in Lake Louise was pleasant, with no snowfall. But Yoho was different, and half-day into the trip it started snowing heavily! So pack a light jacket or warm clothing.
Day trip to Yoho National Park Itinerary
It is worth taking a day trip to Yoho National Park from Banff. Here is an ideal road trip itinerary from Banff/Lake Louise.
Banff to Yoho National Park: 1.25 hours | Lake Louise to Yoho: 40 minutes
Start early morning from Banff or Lake Louise. Drive on Trans-Canada Highway/AB-1 W to Field Access Road.
- Stop 1: The first stop is at the Lower Spiral Tunnels Lookout
- Stop 2: The next stop is at the Natural Bridge, located on the Kicking Horse River, situated just outside of Field
- Stop 3: About 4 km from the town of Field is the Yoho Valley Road, located off the Trans-Canada Highway. This road leads to the Takakkaw Falls. Take a short stroll, and admire the gushing waterfalls, before breaking for lunch
- Stop 4: Break for lunch at the town of Field, preferably at our favorite Truffle Pigs Bistro
- Stop 5: Stop to access the Upper Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint in Cathedral Mountain. You can also view the meeting point of the Kicking Horse River and the Yoho River
- Stop 6: Relax at the Emerald Lake Cafe. You can also canoe in the afternoon, during summers
If you prefer to stay overnight, stay at one of the lodges in Field. The next day participate in a guided hikes tour of the Burgess Shale fossil. Another option is to hike Wapta Falls or enjoy a leisurely stroll at the Takakkaw Falls.
Is Yoho National Park worth a visit?
Yoho National Park is a phenomenal place—a protected alpine paradise—and it deserves at least one day on your road trip itinerary. It brings in majestic beauty to your fingertips, and it is perfect for family and group outings or romantic getaways.
Not only nature, you can hike to a half-billion-year-old fossil bed and learn about Canadian History at the Spiral Tunnel pass. So don’t wait, book that trip to Yoho today!
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