You’ve mosied on over to Yoho after immersing yourself in the splendor of Banff and Jasper National Parks. They’ve set the bar pretty darn high, and you don’t know how Yoho could ever compete with their epic landscapes and out-of-this-world experiences. But Yoho is the quiet achiever – around every corner is a natural wonder to be discovered, and the beauty is that it’s a whole lot less swamped with tourists than it’s Alberta neighbors.
But if you’re pressed for time, and only have a day or two to explore, here’s the top 5 things to do in Yoho National Park.
If you could only see one sight in Yoho National Park, my advice would be to check out Emerald Lake. As the name suggests, the lake itself is a luciously deep turquoise hue, set within a spectacular backdrop of towering mountains and dense boreal forest. Take a leisurely stroll around the side of the lake, which offers up jaw-dropping views of the lake and surrounds, or simply find a scenic seat and have a bite to eat at the picturesque cafe across the bridge.
If you’ve got an afternoon free to explore Emerald Lake, I suggest taking a 2-3 hour hike up to Emerald Basin, perched high above the lake and with a completely different landscape to that below. There were still glacial remnants in the basin when we were there, and I made a point of sipping from the fresh glacial spring. Delish! Another must do when you’re at Emerald Lake: take a dip! It’s gaspingly cold, but amazingly refreshing on a hot summers day, and quite possibly one of the most scenic swims you’ll ever get to boast about.
Takakkaw Falls may be a real mouthful, but they’re some of the most spectacular falls I’ve ever laid eyes on. At over 300 metres in height, the falls are some of the highest in North America, and the rugged setting makes it all the more worthwhile. Get their early or later on in the afternoon to avoid the droves of tourists who come to check these falls out.
And be warned: if you’re driving an RV (like we were!), it gets a bit hairy with the series of hairpin turns halfway along the road! If you’re driving something 24 feet or longer, be prepared to hold a few cars up as you do 4-point turns at each of the hairpins! Well worth it though: these falls are definitely a must-do in Yoho National Park.
Burgess Shale fossil beds
The Burgess Shale is world famous – I remember learning about it in my first year of university, in a very dusty old geology lecture theatre! The Burgess Shale fossil beds are some of the most important paleontological finds of our time, with the unique undisturbed beds provided by the shale preserving immaculate fossils dating back 530 million years or more. For those interested in our planet’s early history, or simply for a spectacular hike, consider taking a guided walk up to the Burgess. You can reserve a spot on the next available hike at the visitor centre in Field.
Kicking Horse Pass
This is one of the less time consuming things to do in Yoho National Park – a pullover along the road to Takakkaw Falls provides an excellent view of the world famous Spiral Tunnels created for the Canadian Pacific Railway Line. In order to safely descend the ridiculously steep “Big Hill” that you possibly drove down to get to Yoho, railway engineers back in the day were forced to come up with an alternative to the traditional straight railway line that would ensure the trains could descend slowly and safely. The result was the spiral tunnels, which wind around and around inside the hill until the reach the valley floor. Quite the feat of engineering!
Just inside the southwestern entrance to Yoho National park, you’ll find another great sight to see: Wapta Falls. Look out for the turnoff for Wapta Falls from the Trans Canada Highway, and follow the short road to the end. A brief walk will take you to the foot of Wapta Falls, an impressive cascade of the Kicking Horse River. Be sure to bring your camera!
For more on Yoho, be sure to check out our more in-depth post and experiences here.