Yoho National Park is a lesser known gem in the Canadian Rockies. The word ‘Yoho’ comes from an indigenous Cree expression of ‘awe’, and in awe you’ll be. Massive waterfalls, colourful lakes and rivers, and mountain peaks as far as you can see.
Most visitors of the Canadian Rockies visit Banff, drive the Icefields Parkway and end their journey in Jasper. Only those who seek further from the most popular tourist attractions make it to Yoho National Park.
You won’t believe what this national park can offer. Even as locals living nearby we haven’t seen it all. But what we did experience, as you will see, is definitely worth it (and we’ll be coming for more).
Our guide covers the highlights of Yoho National Park, lesser known places, great hikes and other outdoor activities, and a lot of tips for your visit.
Planning to visit the Rockies? Read these:
Why you should visit Yoho National Park
- To visit a little known gem of the Canadian Rockies
- To see the 2nd highest waterfall in Canada
- To experience wilderness and camping in the mountains
- To kayak or stand up paddle board on the emerald coloured lake
- To see the wildlife – bears, deer, moose, mountain goats, deer
- To hike away from crowds and enjoy the tranquility
- To visit its neighbour Banff National Park
Get excited for your visit – our post Canadian Rockies from above includes many mountain photos (taken from a small plane), and video as well. Enjoy!
Where is Yoho
Tucked in the southeastern corner of British Columbia lies the Yoho National Park. The little town of Field, located along Kicking Horse River and Trans-Canada Highway, provides few amenities. It’s as remote and secluded as it can be. There are no streets filled with gift shops or tourists (as you can see in Jasper or Banff).
Eastern part of Yoho National Park sits on the Continental Divide where Bow River on one side flows to Atlantic Ocean and Kicking Horse River into Pacific Ocean.
Yoho National Park is a neighbour to Banff and Kootenay National Parks.
*In the spirit of full disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission at no extra costs to you. We appreciate your support!
How to get to Yoho
The closest airport to Yoho National Park is Calgary, only 208 km away. It is 83 km from Banff and 28 km Lake Louise.
From Calgary, you will go through Banff National Park first and then continue on Trans-Canada Highway after Lake Louise. Shortly after you will leave Alberta province and enter British Columbia.
There are no public buses going to Field in Yoho which leaves us with a few options how you can get from Calgary to Yoho National Park:
The Trans-Canada Highway is toll free and easy to drive. Once you leave Calgary’s limits, the mountainous views open up. Even though the drive should take you around 2,5 hours, you can stop along the way and enjoy many viewpoints and hikes.
Having your own transport is the best way to see the Canadian Rockies, especially Yoho National Park as it does not have any shuttle buses.
You can rent a car at the airport (or go to downtown for cheaper prices). The basic rental car usually costs around 45 CAD a day (+insurance and GST). Use Rentalcars to compare different car rental companies to find the best deal.
- Shuttle bus
Rocky Mountains Sky Shuttle operates between Calgary Airport and Lake Louise for 80 CAD. Another option is Brewster Express but they only go to Lake Louise as well. From Lake Louise, you would need to take a taxi.
There is a Rider Express bus going from Lake Louise to Golden which may drop you off in Field on the way, ask them before booking the ticket.
The most budget friendly option is to rent a campervan which will save you not only on transport but also on accommodation. The fuel from Calgary to Field in Yoho would cost around 30 CAD. You can rent our Smile Campervan to have a complete freedom over your day to day activities and use campgrounds in the Canadian Rockies.
How to travel within Yoho National Park
Field in Yoho is a small village and you can walk everywhere. Popular attractions and hikes are spread out in Yoho and you will need your own transport.
Highlights of Yoho National Park are spread in 3 different valleys:
- Around Emerald Lake
- Around Lake O’Hara
- Around Takkakaw Falls and Yoho River
*with the exception of Spiral Tunnels (along Trans Canada Highway) and Wapta Falls which are located on the edge of Yoho National Park on the way to Golden.
When you drive the Trans-Canada Highway and reach Field, you will see a Visitor Centre on your left side. You can pick up a map for the national park and inquire about campgrounds, trail reports and other information.
If you’re driving a car or campervan, there are parking lots at each attraction and they’re free of charge.
Best time to visit Yoho
The quick answer is any time of the year. A lot of summer hiking trails are suitable for snow shoeing or cross country skiing in winter. Seeing frozen waterfalls might be even prettier in winter than seeing them in full force in summer.
The cross country trails are maintained and groomed and you can enjoy them from late December to April. Backcountry ski touring is very popular here with almost limitless options. The closest skiing on groomed hills is in Lake Louise.
April and May are great for wildlife watching, especially newborns. You will have a high chance of spotting bears along the road. Read our post wildlife in Canada to learn what types of wildlife you can see here. Generally, you can see wildlife all year round.
Hiking season usually starts a bit later than in Banff and Jasper National Parks. Because the town of Field is not located in a big valley and it is surrounded by dense mountain peaks, the trails dry out in June. With so many peaks over 3,000m tall, there are many spectacular waterfalls in Yoho, best visited from late June.
Be respectful of wildlife. Visit Jasper’s Information Centre or Parks Canada website to learn how to behave around wildlife. You should never approach or feed wildlife (and of course not take selfies!). If the animal feels threatened it might charge you. In these cases, Parks Canada has to put the animal down and it’s the person’s fault. In the better case, Parks Canada can give you a huge fine, they are regularly on patrol.
Most people visit in summer. Popular places are a bit crowded, especially during the day. For example, if you’d like to see Takakkaw Falls, come early in the morning before the tour buses.
Our suggestion would be to visit anytime from June to September. We didn’t find Yoho to be extremely crowded during the summer, compared to the other National Parks.
For a complete breakdown of all seasons and the best time for different outdoor activities (including seeing Northern Lights), read our post Best time to visit Banff National Park which also applies to Yoho.
How much time to spend here
For a quick visit, you can see all the popular places in Yoho in one day. Bear in mind that it would be only for viewpoints, not including hiking. The most popular attractions are Spiral Tunnel, Natural Bridge, Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake.
We recommend taking more time, ideally 2 days and go hiking to see Wapta Falls and one of the hikes near Takakkaw Falls to see them from above.
If you’re coming for your very first trip to the Rockies, I’d recommend visiting for at least 10 days or 2 weeks. If you start in Calgary, you can spend 2 days in Canmore, 3 days in Banff, 2 days in Yoho, 2 days along Icefields Parkway (which spreads through Banff & Jasper National Parks), and 3 days in Jasper.
We’ve compiled a nice detailed Banff-Yoho-Jasper itinerary that a lot of our readers enjoy in our post: Western Canada road trip itinerary.
Things to do in Yoho
Our list below offers natural wonders and adventure activities. Because of the area being closely surrounded by high mountain peaks, most hiking trails are only accessible from mid-June due to avalanche risk.
The best year round activity is seeing the Natural Bridge and either canoeing on Emerald Lake or cross country skiing in the area.
Things to do in Field
- Visit Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation– learn about the fossils found in Yoho
- Go for a walk along Kicking Horse River (starting from Visitor Center) – the milky blue colour is due to the parts of the icefield in it
- Wildlife watching– bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk (they can be often see along the road or while hiking)
- Photograph the old historic train station along the river
Things to do in Yoho National Park (outside the town)
- See the Spiral Tunnel – the most difficult part of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s track where trains are climbing 300m in the tunnel. The viewpoint is only accessible mid-May to mid-October.
- Visit Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site – learn about the background and importance of building the Spiral Tunnel
- Try canoeing, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding on Emerald Lake (canoe rental is on lakeshore and costs 60CAD/hour for 3 person canoe)
- Mountain or road biking – check Parks Canada website for options
- Visit Natural Bridge – year round activity where you can see the tumbling and frozen waterfall in winter, it’s on the way Emerald Lake
- See Takakkaw Falls, the 2nd highest waterfall in Canada (the road to the falls is closed mid-October to mid-June every year due to avalanche risk)
- Join guided hike to Burgess Shale Fossil Beds – some of the oldest fossil beds in the world belong to UNESCO World Heritage Site
- See the confluence of Yoho River and Kicking Horse River – while Yoho River is milky white due to coming from an icefield, the Kicking Horse River is crystal clear. When they merge, they create a river with light blue colour (and the water leaves a white dusty film on you)
- White water rafting on Kicking Horse River – rafting companies in Golden, BC can take you on an exhilarating ride down the river
- Stand up paddle board to Wapta Falls – a guided trip on Kicking Horse River can be combined with white water rafting; starting from Golden, BC
Since Yoho is a neighbour to Banff and Jasper, I’m sure you will visit these national parks as well. Read our comprehensive list of 100 things to do in Banff National Park and 65 adventurous things to do in Jasper National Park.
Hikes in Yoho National Park
Below is a selection of great hikes in Yoho National Park from over 400 km of hiking trails. For more info about the trails, highlights and photos, read our post Hiking in Yoho National Park.
Read our recommendation: Hiking packing list for summer in the mountains
Hiking in Yoho is best from July to September. Many trails pass avalanche areas and are not suitable for hiking in winter and spring.
Download a Yoho National Park map for easier orientation.
Easy hikes in Yoho National Park
- Wapta Falls – 5 km short hike ending with a small downhill to the base of the very strong 30m high falls
- Emerald Lake Loop – 4,5 km loop around the Emerald Lake offers different coloured shades of the lake depending on how the sun rays reflect from the surface
- Ross Lake – 14 km hike starting at Lake O’Hara parking lot to a pristine green lake. It’s also a great mountain biking trail.
- Lake O’Hara – this is a truly special alpine area with a restricted amount of visitors. You need to book a shuttle bus (and optional campground) months in advance in order to visit. All info is in our post: Hiking & camping guide to Lake O’Hara
Moderate hikes in Yoho National Park
- Emerald Basin – 9 km trail starts along the shore of Emerald Lake, you will slowly climb through a forest until you reach the Emerald Basin with a view of the mountain peaks and Emerald Glacier
- Twin Falls – 16 km trail with only 300m elevation passes Laughing Falls and the views are staggering
- Hoodoos Creek – 5 km hike to the tower sand formations (Hoodoos can be also seen in Canmore or Banff)
Difficult hikes in Yoho National Park
- Iceline Trail – 20 km hike in the Takakkaw Falls area passing Laughing Falls and through Highline Junction with a breathtaking bird’s eye view of Takakkaw Falls
- Emerald Triangle – another stunning 20 km hike in the Takakkaw Falls area going through Burgess Pass, Yoho Pass and close to the Burgess Shale
Always carry a bear spray and learn how and when to use it when hiking in the Canadian Rockies. You can buy one at many outdoor stores, the cheapest one would be at the Visitor Centre where they can provide you with lots of bear safety tips.
Where to stay in Yoho National Park
Camping in Yoho
Sleep under the stars in one of the 5 campgrounds in Yoho National Park. They are open mid-May to mid-October. If you’d like to stay during July or August, it might be a good idea to book in advance.
Price starts at 15,70CAD/night for a basic campground without showers and 27,40 CAD/night for Kicking Horse Campground with hot showers.
- Kicking Horse Campground (4 km from Field) – operating May 23 to October 14, accepting reservations, amenities: toilets and hot showers
- Monarch Campground (4 km from Field) – operating May 2 to October 14, accepting reservations, amenities: dry toilets, water, kitchen shelter, food storage
- Takakkaw Falls (at the end of Yoho Valley Road) – operating June 20 to October 14, first-come-first-serve, amenities: dry toilets, water, kitchen shelter, food storage
- Hoodoo Creek (23 km from Field) – operating June 17 to September 2, first-come-first-serve, amenities: dry toilets,water, kitchen shelter
- Lake O’Hara Campground – strict quota conditions apply, you need to book 3 months in advance to the day when you’d like to visit
Check out Parks Canada website for fees and more info. Alternatively, you can stay in campground in Lake Louise (28 km east from Field) or in Golden (with options for wild/free camping).
Yoho National Park has 6 maintained backcountry campgrounds. If you’d like to stay in one of them you need to purchase wilderness pass and make a reservation in advance, either online or by calling the Visitor Centre. Popular backcountry trips are Iceline Trail and Emerald Triangle where you can also stay in alpine huts.
Field has one hostel – Fireweed Hostel in Field with dorm, private rooms or apartments and free Wifi. Dorm bed costs 45 CAD in high season. Another hostel is at the end of Yoho Valley Road (near Takakkaw Falls) – HI Whiskey Jack.
B&B, Lodges& Hotels
There seems to be quite a few options for guest houses in Field. Search on google maps as each of them usually have their own website. The most luxurious stay is Emerald Lake Lodge located right on the lakeshore of Emerald Lake. They have fireplaces, outdoor hot tub and restaurant, operating year-round.
Many visitors choose to stay in Lake Louise to be closer to more lakes and hiking trails, and only a short ride from Yoho. You can also stay in Golden (58 km west from Field). They offer accommodation options for all budgets.
Where to eat & drink
Field doesn’t have a grocery store. Buy all the supplies you need in Calgary, Canmore, Banff, Jasper or Golden.
The Siding Café in Field offers delicious breakfast for reasonable prices and I especially enjoyed a beet burger in Truffle Pigs Bistro.
Emerald Lake Lodge offers dining options and a bar.
Tips for visiting Yoho National Park
- National park fees
When you enter any National Park,in this case you will probably be arriving from Jasper or Banff, you are required to pay an entrance fee. You have a choice of either a daily pass or a yearly pass.
As of 2020, the fees are:
- 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.
- Road closure
For seasonal road closures due to wildlife presence or avalanche dangers in Yoho National Park, check out the report from Parks Canada.
Current road conditions for British Columbia can be checked here.
Yoho Valley Road leading to Takakkaw Falls is passing through avalanche area and it’s open mid-June to mid-October.
- Bear country
If you’re hiking in the Canadian Rockies, you’re hiking in a bear country. 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 (to let bears and other wildlife know that you’re there so you don’t scare them)! Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around bears.
- Visitor Centre
Yoho’s Visitor Centre is located in Field along Trans-Canada Highway. The helpful staff can answer any questions you have about the area, current trail closures or reports, provide maps or book campgrounds.
It’s only open from May 1 to October 14:
– 8:30 am to 7 pm from June 1 to September 30
– 9 am to 5 pm in May and October
You can also reach them at +1-250-343-6783.
- Public restrooms
They are located in Yoho’s Visitor Centre (and open year round). There are also restrooms in the gas station, opposite from the Info Centre. Outhouses are located at every attraction.
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