Yoho National Park

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: June 2022

Yoho National Park is located within the Rocky Mountains in southeastern British Columbia along the Continental Divide. It was the second national park to be established in Canada based on its beautiful landscape. It boasts of having some of the tallest peaks in the Canadian Rockies, features a few turquoise coloured lakes and rivers, and contains a variety of scenic viewpoints and hiking trails.

During our stay in Banff National Park, we made a day-trip to Yoho since it’s nearby and significantly less crowded. Prior to our trip, we tried to book tickets for the Parks Canada Lake O’Hara Bus, but were unsuccessful in the lottery. It turns out that all the trails in the Lake O’Hara area were still snowbound when we visited, so in the end, it didn’t really matter.

The first spot we stopped at was at the Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint. The Spiral Tunnels were built over 100 years ago to allow trains to travel through the mountainous terrain. Despite the rugged terrain, Kicking Horse Pass was chosen due to its close proximity to the United States and because it was a shorter distance to the Pacific Coast. This choice was so significant to the transportation history of Canada that it was designated a national historic site in 1971. From the viewpoint we could see the lower Spiral Tunnel and read about the history of the tunnels.

Once we got back on the Trans-Canada Highway, we turned off onto Yoho Valley Road to get to Takakkaw Falls. But we were easily distracted by signs for the Meeting of the Waters, where the Yoho River meets the Kicking Horse River. The views from the parking lot were underwhelming as they were obstructed by the trees, but we took some sketchy footpath down to get a better look.

We hopped back in the car and continued our drive the rest of the way to Takakkaw Falls. The road is narrow, steep and has a few switchbacks. Despite the signs to indicate no larger vehicles or trailers, we were stuck behind a line of cars waiting for a tour bus to inch its way up the mountain, which also had to reverse a few times to navigate around the tight switchbacks.

From the parking lot, there’s a paved path that leads to Takakkaw Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in Canada. Shortly before crossing the bridge, there’s a small detour to an overlook with the Canada Parks Red Chairs.

We then headed to the Natural Bridge, an interesting rock formation that was once a waterfall. As water found its way through the cracks in the rock, it cut a new channel through it. The river now flows beneath the top of the former waterfall, leaving the rock suspended as a bridge. Over time, the bridge will eventually collapse.

We were less than impressed to find a group of tourists who had hopped over the viewing platform and were standing on the Natural Bridge to take pictures of themselves. After waiting for over 10 minutes, we, along with a few other impatient people, yelled at them to get off. We almost felt bad, but then realized they were the idiots who left the viewing platform and ventured somewhere potentially dangerous. So dumb. And all for a picture (or rather 1,000 pictures considering how long they were out there for).

From there we drove to Emerald Lake, the largest lake in Yoho. There’s a trail that loops around the shoreline but we just walked across the bridge that leads to the Emerald Lake Lodges and admired the views of the turquoise water and rugged mountains in the background.

At this point we were starting to get hungry, so we swung by Faeder Lake where there’s a small day-use area with a few picnic tables and benches overlooking the water. We didn’t stay long as it looked like it was going to start raining. So we decided to drive into Golden to pick up some groceries.

On the drive back to Lake Louise, we planned to visit Wapta Falls. Except when we plugged it into the GPS, it took us down a long gravel road to some abandoned looking day-use area. It did provide a teaser of Wapta Falls from a distance though.

We hopped back on the highway and found the real turnoff sign for the Wapta Falls Trail (4.8km, rated easy). The path meanders through the forest and leads to the edge of the Kicking Horse River. There’s a viewpoint of the upper part of the falls and from there the path leads down to the base of the falls.

As we were hiking back up to the top of the falls, we heard some thunder. Darker clouds were rolling in, so we picked up the pace. We were nearly finished our hike when it started to lightly rain. The thunder continued and we even saw some lightning, which motivated us to walk even faster. Just as we got back to the parking lot, it started to really come down. We were thankful to be on the road for the next hour or so.

We made another detour to drive around Field, a small community of fewer than 200 people that is located within the national park. The town was established in the 1880s by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Since it was still raining, we just drove down a few of the streets to admire some of the older buildings, many of which have been converted into B&Bs.

It was still raining by the time we returned to Lake Louise so we decided to treat ourselves and go out for dinner. There weren’t many options nearby, so we went to the Lake Louise Village Grill + Bar since they were still open. The food was okay, but it was warm and dry inside. By the time we finished eating, the rain had subsided (for now).

L

103 thoughts on “Yoho National Park

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The colour of the water in the mountains out west is gorgeous. That’s so exciting that you’ll be returning to Yoho in September. Hopefully it won’t be crowded and the bugs should all be gone by then.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Yoho is actually really close to Lake Louise and is less than a 30 minute drive away. We found it to be significantly less crowded than Banff and agreed, the scenery was equally as stunning. The signage could benefit from some updating, but it just adds to the rusticness.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. I love how the landscape is so drastically different from the east coast of Canada to the west coast. There’s something special about visiting the mountains though. I could easily spend my whole summer here and never get bored.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks so much! I’m not quite sure why Yoho isn’t more popular than it is, but in some ways, that’s what makes it more special! I’m a bit bummed that we weren’t able to visit Lake O’Hara. It’s high up there on my travel bucket list, so I guess it just means that we’ll have to come back and try the lottery system again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! We found Yoho to be significantly less busy than either Jasper or Banff, which was a nice change of pace. I wish we had a bit more time to explore more of the trails, but hey, I guess that means we’ll just have to come back.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Little Miss Traveller says:

    Very much enjoyed your tour of Yoho NP seeing the crystal,clear water and huge waterfalls. It is so annoying when people hog viewpoints for ages taking photos with no thoughts for other people patiently waiting. To cross over a barrier endangering their own safety was really stupid and they would have been the first to complain if something had happened to them! Thank goodness most people in the countryside aren’t like that!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It’s amazing how vibrant and colourful the water is in the mountains. It’s very different than back home in Ontario. And yes, it was very frustrating to see some people ignore the signs for safety and hop over the viewing platform to “get a good picture”. Hopefully the collective effort from the rest of us who yelled at them to get off the natural bridge taught them a lesson!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. wetanddustyroads says:

    The colour of the water where those two rivers meet, is quite interesting – it almost looks milky. Actually, I realised that most of the rivers’ waters in your post look like that … is that because of melting snow? And wow, the photo of Emerald Lake is stunning! Glad you could get back to the car before the hard rain came down. Thanks Linda for yet another post with breathtaking beautiful pictures!

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  3. Vanessa says:

    Thanks for sharing! I did a similar itinerary when I visited Yoho a few years ago, but since we were really early in the season, the road to Takakkaw Falls was closed so we didn’t get to see them… A good reason to go back, this national park has so much to offer (and way less crowds than Banff!)

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  4. kagould17 says:

    We never realized how beautiful this park was until our son got married at Emerald Lake in 2016. All of those sights are so familiar now. There is a great restaurant in Filed called Truffle Pigs and the restaurant just across the bridge at Emerald Lake was their wedding venue. We have never managed to make it to Lake O’Hara. Thanks for sharing Linda. Happy Thursday. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Emerald Lake is one of the prettiest lakes in the Canadian Rockies. What a beautiful spot for your son to get married!! We actually visited Yoho back in 2016 too, during our first ever trip out west. We just can’t seem to get enough of the mountains. Hopefully someday we’ll finally make it to Lake O’Hara. I had no idea it was so popular. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of the weekend. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  5. JD says:

    We had the same experience at natural bridge: one knucklehead standing in the middle of the bridge taking selfies, oblivious to the dozens of other people wanting a picture without him in it. Yoho was a last minute addition to our trip, but we loved it almost as much as Banff.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Sorry to hear that you had a similar experience at the Natural Bridge with an idiot who was hogging the viewpoint. I can’t believe how clueless some people are and that they would put themselves at risk just for a picture. Glad to hear that you had a wonderful time in Yoho. We did as well and found it to be waaaay less busy than Banff. It was awesome.

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  6. TowardsZEROAccident says:

    Wish I would be fortunate enough to have a chance to have experienced such trip full of nature having woods, water, open n clear / sky having beautiful clouds, lakes etc. It might be delightful experience to visiting one of the highest waterfalls of Canada.
    Nice sharing, dear. May I know your name, please💐🌹

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  7. Diana says:

    So so beautiful! It’s funny that you mention the tour bus on the road to Takakkaw Falls because I visited Yoho when I was a kid (must be at least 20 years ago now) and my only memories are Takakkaw Falls itself, and a tour bus attempting to navigate those switchbacks.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s crazy how those tour buses are able to navigate up those steep switch backs. I wonder what they do when one is coming up and one is going down at the same time. Thankfully we weren’t around to find out as I imagine it would have involved a lot of waiting around for all of us in cars.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The mountains looked so majestic and the scenery was spectacular. It’s such a shame how some people behave and how they ignore the barriers and warning signs. They are there for a reason. I’m glad we weren’t the only ones who were annoyed! At least our collective efforts to shame them to get off the Natural Bridge worked.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Josy A says:

    I love this area tooo! Yay that you got to see so many of the good waterfalls before the rain started bucketing down!

    p.s. If you go back to Lake Louise village – the two places there that are great for food are:
    – Lake Louise Railway Station & Restaurant

    Liked by 1 person

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I’m so glad we missed the worst of the rain. It’s never fun to hike in a torrential downpour. By the time we got back to Lake Louise, it was getting pretty late and not much was still open. I’ll have to check out those places for next time. I like the sound of Storm Mountain Lodge.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Ab says:

    Oh my goodness, these are stunning photos! Look at those mountains, falls and emerald water. Wow!

    I’m trying to visualize the drive in my head, so this park is located near Alberta, but based in British Columbia? You got to cross off two provinces in one day! 🙂

    I never heard of Yoho before, so I’ll have to keep an eye on this for future trip planning. The idea of less packed and stress to visit sound appealing.

    When we did our Alaska cruise in 2011, we did a day trip where he did a train ride through the Rockies, both Alaska and BC and it was incredible. I will have to look at my photos again now. You inspired me!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! Even though it was overcast and cloudy, the mountains still looked impressive. I still can’t get over how colourful some of the lakes are out west. Emerald Lake was one of our favourites.

      Yoho isn’t too far from Lake Louise. We found it significantly less crowded than Banff. Some of the signage looks very “rustic” and could be updated, but in some ways, it just added to the experience.

      It was neat to see all the railways through the mountainous terrain. It’s incredible to think of how this was all engineered back in the day. A train ride through the Rockies sounds like such a fabulous adventure. I hope you got a window seat!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Bama says:

    Yoho National Park looks so incredibly beautiful even when it was overcast. I guess this is one of those places that will always look pretty regardless of the weather. In many places, there seems to be that kind of tourists who are inconsiderate and rather stupid for putting their lives in danger just for photos. It was good that you yelled at them! 😃

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      If anything, the darker clouds just added to the whole atmosphere and made the mountains seem even more impressive. It’s such a shame how some people ignore the rules and warning signs and can often ruin the experience for others. And yes, I’m glad we were able to shame them off of the Natural Bridge! The viewing platforms are there for a reason!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Vignesh M says:

    This series of trip recently is amazing. Loved each and every picture of the trip. Natural world at its best. The red chair still fascinates me! Perfect spot to just watch the views. Thanks for the share.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. Being out in nature is my happy place and there’s something so special about being in the mountains. Parks Canada started the Red Chairs program just over a decade ago. They are often placed at a nice overlook or viewpoint off the beaten path. The chairs are super comfortable and it’s a great excuse to take a break and enjoy the views. Thanks for reading. Linda

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. I’m so glad we finished up our final hike before the rain really started to come down, especially since we didn’t have our rain jackets with us on the trail! Even with the clouds, the scenery was still gorgeous.

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  12. leightontravels says:

    Hey guys, what a day trip this turned out to be. Seriously, I’m running out of new adjectives as we go from one stunning post to another. Gorgeous photography, I particularly like the mountaintop view just beneath the falls photo. Oh and yes, people are annoying.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Even though it was a bit drab and dreary outside, the mountains still looked incredible. And yes, people can be very annoying when they hog a viewpoint or ignore the rules and warning signs. There’s a good reason why the viewing platforms were constructed. At least they got the not so subtle hint when we yelled at them to get off the Natural Bridge!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. travelling_han says:

    Wow – that view from afar of Wapta falls is particularly beautiful. I can never get over the blue of the water and the insane scenery! I also can’t believe there was a tour bus trying to get up there, just ridiculous!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We were very confused as to where our GPS was taking us as the road was pretty dodgy. At least the viewpoint provided a nice preview of Wapta Falls. I’m just glad we weren’t stuck behind the tour bus for the entire drive up the mountain, but it was still painful to wait for it to inch its way up some of the switchbacks. I wonder what happens if there’s a tour bus trying to come up and go down at the same time.

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  14. Carl Wright says:

    Wow, Yoho sure looks spectacular. Less crowds definitely sound more appealing. Fun reading about the little trails you were on. And the teaser drive down the long gravel road.😀

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. It was nice to get away from the crowds and not have to stress about finding parking. Some of the signage was a bit old, but if anything, I think it just added to the whole experience. We contemplated turning around a few times along that sketchy gravel road, but I’m glad we made it to the end as it was actually a nice viewpoint of Wapta Falls. The abandoned day-use area also looked like a great spot to wild camp if you were in a pinch.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. Parks Canada started the Red Chairs program just over a decade ago. They are often placed at a nice viewpoint or overlook, typically off the beaten path. We went on a scavenger hunt to find as many as we could. They are also super comfortable and a great spot to take a break.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. BrittnyLee says:

    There’s a lot of history with this place. The history about the tunnels is especially interesting. It’s wild how every place you go has it’s own history within it. These photos are incredible. Great post, Linda 💗

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Agreed. Building a railway through the mountains does not seem like an easy task, especially back then. At the next park we visited, extending the railway there was especially treacherous because of all the avalanches.

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      • BrittnyLee says:

        Wow avalanches scare me so badly. I watched a documentary about people who got trapped under snow from an avalanche. I can’t imagine how terrifying that would be.

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Same. The thought of being buried alive in the snow sounds terrifying. We drove through a few snow sheds, which were built along the highway to help deflect the snow and saw some debris and fallen trees on top. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be driving in one of those during an avalanche. Needless to say, I probably won’t be visiting the mountains anytime soon in the winter!

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  16. alisendopf says:

    Of all the national parks nearby, I am IN LOVE with Yoho. I am so glad you got to visit so many amazing places there.

    I have never been to the Natural Bridge, which is a total shame. I should make the time. Good for you!!!! For yelling at those yahoos to get off the bridge. People just don’t listen/obey signs. There’s a reason you’re not allowed to go there.

    Last week I was backpacking, and we had to hike past the uber popular Ink Pots above Johnson’s Canyon. About 1 million people visit every day. It’s a fragile environment that’s under stress. There are signs everywhere saying stay out of the water. What does this family of four do? Hey kids – come walk down the small bank (off the trail) and put your hands in the water. My friend Erin and I were pretty vocal about them NOT doing that. They quickly picked up and left.

    That spiral tunnel! In 2012, I skied into the Stanley Mitchell hut, which is 11 km past Takakkaw Falls. The road is closed in the winter so we ski basically from the highway. As we skied in (which took forever with our big packs as we were staying for a week), a train went through the Spiral Tunnel. We were right across from it and stopped to watch the tail disappear while the head appeared somewhere else. Really is an engineering marvel. Anyhoo, at first it was cool, but as train after train screeching along the tracks, we couldn’t get away fast enough 🙂

    You had such a great trip Linda! Yes, you’ll have to come back for Lake O’Hara. Bring your tent and spend a few days. The many day hikes to beautiful lakes are worth it. And since you take the bus in, you can bring a lot of stuff.

    Cheers,
    Alisen

    Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m honestly surprised Yoho isn’t more popular than it is, especially given its close proximity to Banff. The Natural Bridge is super easy to get to and it’s a nice little viewpoint, assuming some stupid idiots aren’t standing on it. I’m glad we were able to shame them off the bridge though. It’s super frustrating how some people ignore the signs and barriers. It’s sad that it’s typically nature or the wildlife that suffer from our actions. Good for you for saying something to that family at the Ink Pots!

      And yes, it’s pretty amazing how they were able to construct a railway through the mountains, especially back then. P.S. That sounds like such a fun winter activity to backcountry ski to the Stanley Mitchell hut. I’ve always wanted to try something like that.

      Lake O’Hara is very high up there on my travel bucket list and is definitely worth returning to Yoho for! Next time I’ll see if I can snag a campsite and/or apply multiple times to the lottery and book my trip around availability.

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      • alisendopf says:

        There are many light touring skis you can do here in the winter that don’t involve avalanche danger. I skied into Lake O’Hara last year. It’s beautiful, but as this is lake country, it’s way better in the summer.

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  17. rkrontheroad says:

    I hadn’t heard of Yoho, but it seems to be quite a destination in itself. I also didn’t realize there was a town of Lake Louise as well as a lake. Guess I’ll have to get up north and check it out sometime!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Yoho isn’t far from Lake Louise. We found it way less busy than Banff and the scenery was equally as stunning. It’s kind of neat because many of the national parks in the mountains tend to have a town located within or adjacent to the park, which is kind of nice in some ways. We took advantage of this by eating out when the weather wasn’t ideal.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. There was actually a storm brewing, so the mist from the waterfall just added to the whole atmosphere. Thankfully we made it back to the car just in time before it started to downpour. The thunder provided great motivation for us to get a move on!

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