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.
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Planning to visit the Rockies? Read these:
Icefields Parkway itinerary: scenic drive from Lake Louise to Jasper
Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary: 5 national parks in 2 weeks
Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park
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.
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 90CAD/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.
Before you go hiking, always check the trail report from Parks Canada for possible closures and avalanche report if you’re going hiking in spring.
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
Hiking essentials for Yoho National Park
These are just a few of our hiking essentials. But we do carry a few more things. For the complete list or more details about any of these essentials, read our post Hiking packing list for summer in the mountains.
- Lifestraw bottle with filter (or Thermos if you’re visiting in winter)
You need to carry water in a reusable Nalgene bottle, which I find is the most lightweight bottle, or you need to take a filtration system. In this case, all you need is a bottle with a water filter and fill it up when you arrive at the waterfalls. We always carry LifeStraw bottles on our runs, hikes, and backpacking trips.
One of the best-rated sunscreens from EWG, which I use and highly recommend, is Thinksport and Attitude mineral sunscreen. Alternatively, you can pack a sunscreen stick to re-apply during the day without getting your hands messy.
I don’t like DEET repellent’s smell or skin stickiness, so I make my own. It’s been effectively tested in the Canadian backcountry and smells incredible!
My recipe for DIY repellent – combine 200 ml Witch hazel, 5 drops of Lemon essential oil, and 5 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil and pour it into a glass spray bottle. Shake well before each use and spray on your skin or clothes a few times a day.
Alternatively, you can buy biodegradable repellent.
- Bear spray
Bear Spray Repellent is an essential item in the Canadian Rockies. If you’re flying in, you cannot take it on an airplane, but it can be purchased in most outdoor stores or rented at your hotel. Make sure you know how to use it, and keep it close.
Despite popular belief, Parks Canada stated that bear bells are ineffective in deterring bears, and you should make noise while hiking to let bears know you’re there.
- Waterproof jacket
A windproof jacket is a must on any mountain trip. Double bonus if it’s waterproof with breathable fabric as well.
My jacket packs small as it’s from a light fabric, but it’s both windproof and waterproof. Because this shell jacket is an outer layer, you need a fleece or a down jacket for warm insulation.
- Fleece or down jacket
I like to use my comfy soft fleece in spring and autumn when I know I’ll wear it most of the day. When I need to pack a light and small insulating layer into my backpack (especially in summer), I like to use a down jacket that’s lighter than fleece, packs into a little pouch, and uses very little space in my backpack.
- Trail running shoes
My long-time favourite trail running/hiking shoe is Adidas Outdoor Kanadia. They have a waterproof membrane, excellent grip on rocks, and great foot support, and I use them year-round. Michal tried several trail shoes over the last few years, and his favourites for hiking are waterproof Salomon with a wider toe box.
Where to stay in Yoho National Park
Camping in Yoho National Park
Sleep under the stars in one of the 5 campgrounds in Yoho National Park. They are open from 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.
- Kicking Horse Campground
Both reservable and first-come, first-serve sites are available. This scenic campground is open from May 18 to October 9 and offers sites by the river, in the forest or a meadow. The campsite fee is 29.25 CAD/night, including hot showers and flush toilets.
- Monarch Campground
Only first-come, first-serve sites are available. It’s a basic campground open May 4 to September 18 for a fee of 18.75 CAD/night.
- Takakkaw Falls Campground
Walk-in campsite with a view of the 2nd tallest waterfall in Canada. It’s open from June 15 to October 9 for a fee of 18.75 CAD/night. Only tents are allowed (parking is about 500 meters from the campground, with trolleys available to carry your gear).
- Hoodoo Creek
Hoodoo Creek Campground is furthest from Takakkaw Falls and other Yoho attractions. It’s open from June 15 to September 4 for a fee of 18.75 CAD/night.
- A fire permit costs 9.50 CAD/day, and firewood is provided
- Online reservation, modification or cancellation costs 11.50 CAD
- 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
Alternatively, you can stay in a campground in Lake Louise (28 km east of 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.
HI Whiskey Jack Hostel near Takakkaw Falls is open from late June till September but is currently under construction.
Depending on which direction you’re travelling, you can choose from these options:
- The closest hostel is Dreamcatcher Hostel in downtown Golden offering a shared kitchen and the perfect location close to all amenities. Click here for reviews and the latest prices
- Another option is HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre Hostel with a shared kitchen, sauna, and the epic Lake Louise nearby. Click here for reviews and the latest prices
Value pick: Truffle Pigs Lodge
Truffle Pigs Lodge (our beloved bistro) also offers accommodation in Field. You can choose a single room, a queen room with a kitchenette, a double queen, and a family suite. All offer stunning mountain views!
Luxury pick: Emerald Lake Lodge
Located on the gorgeous Emerald Lake shore, the lodge offers rooms with fireplaces, a private balcony, and the most stunning views.
Click here for reviews and the latest prices
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 entrance
When you enter any national park in Canada, you must pay an entrance fee. You have a choice of either a daily pass or a yearly pass.
- 10.50 CAD per person for a daily pass, 21 CAD for a group/family
- 72.25 CAD per person for a yearly pass, 145.25 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 in Yoho National Park
For trail closures due to wildlife presence or avalanche dangers in Yoho National Park, check out the report from Parks Canada.
Accurate road conditions for Alberta can be checked here and for British Columbia here.
Yoho Valley Road leading to Takakkaw Falls is passing through avalanche area and it’s open mid-June to mid-October.
Trail report for Yoho National Park
Before you head out, check current trail conditions on Trail Report from Parks Canada.
As always, you are in a bear habitat in the Canadian Rockies. 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’t surprise any bears)! Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around them.
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 11:
– 9 am to 5 pm from May 1 to June 8, 2023
– 10 am to 7 pm from June 9 to September 28, 2023
– 9 am to 5 pm from September 29 to October 10, 2023
You can also reach them at +1-250-343-6783.
They are located in Yoho’s Visitor Centre in Field and open year-round). There are also restrooms in the gas station, opposite the Info Centre. Outhouses are located at every hiking trail.
Where to next?
This small and charming mountain town offers lots of fun outdoor adventures. You can check out our 3-day Golden itinerary, or 30 fun things to do in Golden.
My favourites are:
Banff National Park
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.
Just a few stops you shouldn’t miss on your visit are:
- Lake Louise
- Moraine Lake
- Johnston Canyon Hike is open year-round with beautiful frozen waterfalls in winter
- Lake Minnewanka
More hiking ideas
- Hiking in Jasper National Park: 17 best hikes for all levels
- 20 best hikes in Banff National Park
- 15 best day hikes near Calgary
What do you think? Does Yoho National Park sound like a good road trip stop?
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Too adventurous to travel on this happening …your article is amazing to learn about this place. Thanks.
Thanks for reading, Vijay.