Iceline Trail is a breathtaking hike in Yoho National Park featuring views of Takakkaw Falls (the 2nd highest waterfall in Canada), up-close and distant glaciers, several other waterfalls and pristine lakes.
We’ve been to Yoho National Park and even seen Takakkaw Falls several times. But it wasn’t until last summer that we went truly beyond the well-known path and discovered what, in my eyes, is one of the most stunning hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
The fact that it starts and ends at Takakkaw Falls with magnificent views and picnic tables gave us some extra time to appreciate the beauty of these mountains. No wonder this province is commonly known as ‘Beautiful British Columbia.’
While this blog post contains a lot of useful written info and tips, it’s a giant photo gallery of the Iceline Trail. It’s long, but I guarantee it’s worth it!
First time in Yoho National Park?
Read our comprehensive Adventure travel guide to Yoho National Park for more activities and tips for visiting.
More hiking ideas:
- Hiking in Jasper National Park: 17 best hikes for all levels
- 20 best hikes in Banff National Park
- Hiking in Yoho National Park
Pros & cons of the Iceline Trail
- Seeing Takakkaw Falls and its feeding glacier from above
- The whole trail is very scenic
- Get up-close to several glaciers
- A lot of distant views of waterfalls and glaciers
- Very few people on the trail
- The trail is passing several different climates
- Plenty of lakes and other waterfalls along the trail
- Option for shorter day-hike or longer multi-day hike
- Option for camping or staying in a hut for a multi-day backpacking trip
- Close by campgrounds to stay before and after the hike
- There are none
Where is Iceline Trail & how to get there
Iceline Trail starts at Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, British Columbia at 1,500 meters above sea level.
From the closest town Field in Yoho National Park, it’s about 15 km.
If you’re coming from Calgary, Banff, or Lake Louise, take the Trans-Canada Highway until you see a sign for Takakkaw Falls/Yoho Valley Road. Google Maps won’t show you directions during the road closure (mid-October to mid-June).
The map below shows Takakkaw Falls, where the Iceline Trail starts.
Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park
- Distance: 18.3 km loop via Celeste Lake Trail (the longer loop via Stanley Mitchell Hut/Little Yoho Valley Trail is about 4 km longer)
- Elevation gain: 793 m
- Difficulty: difficult
- Best time to go: mid-June to mid-October (outside these dates the road is closed due to avalanche danger)
- Gear: water bottle with filter (you can fill up from glacier waterfalls), windproof jacket, running/hiking shoes, bear spray
– Parking is only allowed at Takakkaw Falls Trailhead (not along the road or by the hostel)
– There are several backcountry campgrounds and an alpine hut for backpackers
– While we were carrying a Gem Trek map for Lake Louise & Yoho, the whole trail is very well signed and map is not necessary
– The trail might be covered in snow if you go early in the season
Iceline Trail Map
In early September, we drove from Calgary to Yoho National Park to explore the Iceline Trail. The night before the hike, we camped in our Smile Campervan in the Monarch Campground as it’s only a few minute drive to Takakkaw Falls.
When we parked at Takakkaw Falls parking area at 8 am, it was surprisingly empty. Just a few hikers dressed in lots of layers and wearing hats. As usual for autumn in the Rockies, mornings are chilly and mountain air is extremely fresh.
Just as we started walking from the parking lot towards the falls, we saw a big sign of all hiking trails in the area. The Iceline Trail is a loop that can be done in both directions: either starting via Little Yoho Valley or via Whiskey Jack Hostel.
We chose to hike via Whiskey Jack Hostel because the beginning above the hostel is steep, and it’s better for the knees going uphill. We warmed up pretty quickly as well. Finish of the hike is flat, great for relaxing the legs at the end of the day.
When walking towards the Takakkaw Falls, we passed the bridge on the left and continued straight up until the famous red chairs. They are perfectly set up to provide excellent views of Takakkaw Falls.
Right here where the pavement gave way to the dirt trail, the hike continues. Shortly after we crossed the Yoho Valley Road and arrived at Whiskey Jack Hostel, a big sign for Yoho Valley and Bear warning welcomed us.
A few hikes start here, including the Yoho Pass Trail which takes you to Emerald Lake. After about one kilometre, a sign points you to the right direction for Iceline Trail (to the right).
Glacier views in every direction
The trail changes to switchbacks and climbs steeply through the trees. As we slowly gained elevation, the view of the Takakkaw Falls opened up a couple of times and we started seeing the glacier feeding the falls.
We gained about 500 meters until we climbed above treeline. This was the hardest part of the hike and from now on, there are constant breathtaking views.
Distant views all around us uncovered several waterfalls and glaciers. The rocky trail is slightly hilly and provides Takakkaw Falls view for the next three kilometres. While they are impressive, the views on the left side of the trail don’t disappoint either. When we left the rocky walls behind, we shortly stumbled upon glacier after a glacier.
It’s truly beautiful to see the cycle of nature – glacier on top of the mountain becoming a waterfall, which is feeding a mesmerizing emerald lake. Then the lake forms a creek and becomes another waterfall further down the mountain.
When we reached the crossroad by two small lakes marked with a sign, we stopped for lunch. Looking at the uncertain clouds above us, we’ve decided not to continue to Stanley Mitchell Hut/Little Yoho Valley Trail but shorten this day hike and take the Celeste Lake Trail instead (which saved us additional 4 km).
Change of scenery
We left the rocky trail and entered a different climate. Suddenly the nature came to life. Lush green forest opened in front of us, grass sprinkled with morning mist and growing mushrooms everywhere. Yoho Glacier in the distance was proudly overlooking it all and keeping us company.
The 4 km long Celeste Lake Trail descends through the forest and passes three green reflecting lakes. When we reached the bottom of the Little Yoho Valley, the trail flattened significantly. Only two kilometres later, we arrived at stunning Laughing Falls. Even though it wasn’t a hot day, I like to get close to the falls for a quick light, refreshing shower.
The last 4.5 km is completely flat all the way to the parking lot at Takakkaw Falls. The trail goes through a forest and offer occasional views of the Yoho River or Angel’s Staircase, a cascading waterfall. I was surprised to see this part of the trail man-built and protected the surrounding fragile environment.
Once again we spotted Takakkaw Falls announcing the end of the hike.
If you’re a fan of magnificent views throughout the whole hiking trip, I highly recommend Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park.
I know we’ll be back soon to explore other hiking trails, glaciers and waterfalls! We’re already eyeing Twin Falls, Moraine of Yoho Glacier and the full loop of Iceline Trail to reach the Iceline Summit.
Where to next?
If you’re continuing east to Banff National Park, check out our Adventure travel guide to Banff National Park for activities and tips for visiting. For travelers continuing west to Golden or Revelstoke, we’re preparing travel guides for you right now.
Know before you go
- National park entrance
When you enter any national park in Canada, you’re required to pay an entrance fee. You have a choice of either a daily pass or a yearly pass.
- 10 CAD per person for a daily pass, 20 CAD for a group/family
- 69.19 CAD per person for a yearly pass, 139.40 CAD for a group/family
The yearly Discovery Pass is valid for all National Parks in Canada. You can purchase it at the gate when you enter the national park, in the Visitor’s Centre or online here.
Read our recommendation: Hiking packing list for summer in the mountains
- Staying in Banff National Park
To have the most freedom and enjoy nature to the fullest while staying on a budget, we always recommend staying in the campgrounds. Check out our Smile Campervans; they can be your home on wheels in the Canadian Rockies.
- Camping in Yoho National Park
– Kicking Horse Campground – both reservable and first come first serve sites are available. This scenic campground offers sites by the river, in the forest or on a meadow. The campsitete fee is 28 CAD and includes hot showers and flush toilets.
– Monarch Campground – both reservable and first come first serve sites are available. It’s a basic campground open April 30 to October 11 for a fee of 17,99 CAD.
– Takakkaw Falls Campground – walk-in campsite with a view of the 2nd tallest waterfall in Canada. Only tents are allowed (parking is about 500 meters from the campground with trolleys available to carry your gear). It’s open June 18 to October 11 for a fee of 17,99 CAD.
– Hoodoo Creek – this campground is furthest from Takakkaw Falls and other Yoho’ attractions. It’s open June 18 to September 6 for a fee 16,05 CAD.
- Road closure
For trail closures due to wildlife presence or avalanche dangers in Yoho National Park, check out the report from Parks Canada.
- Trail report
Before you head out, check current trail conditions on Trail Report from Parks Canada.
- Bear country
As always in the Canadian Rockies, you are in bear habitat. You should always carry a bear spray (can be purchased at Visitor’s Centre or outdoor stores), know when and how to use it and make noise while hiking and running (so you don’ surprise any bears)! Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around them.
Our favourite hikes in the Rockies
Canmore & Kananaskis Country:
Banff National Park:
- Sulphur Mountain
- Johnston Canyon in summer and winter
- Aylmer Lookout
- Glacier Lake
- Mount St. Piran
- Healy Pass
- Boom Lake
- Rockbound Lake
- Peyto Lake
Yoho National Park:
Kootenay National Park:
Jasper National Park:
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