Photo © Megan Hill
by Megan Hill
Chances are you haven’t heard of Yoho National Park, a tiny slice of the Canadian Rockies on the British Columbia side of the mountains. It’s just a short drive from the crowded vistas of Lake Louise in Alberta, but you’ll encounter significantly fewer visitors without sacrificing the scenery.
In Yoho, named for a Cree expression of awe and wonder, there are 36 peaks soaring more than 3,000 meters—and it’s easy to see why the park has earned its name. Mountains rise from wild, sharp angles to form impossible shapes that shift with each footstep. Glaciers cling to high shelves, hinting at the carving power of this ancient ice.
In summer, the snow has melted to reveal a network of trails at varying lengths and elevation gains. Hardy hikers might opt for a guided hike to the site of the Burgess Shale, Yoho’s most famous site. Here, Dr. Charles Doolittle Walcott discovered fossil beds dating back more than 505 million years; this important discovery is now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day hikes include trips to spectacular waterfalls like Wapta Falls, Hamilton Falls, Takakkaw Falls and Laughing Falls; a gentle stroll around stunning Emerald Lake; forested trails leading to alpine lakes like Ross Lake, Lake O’Hara and Sherbrooke Lake; and other trips that lead to the glacial headwaters of Emerald Lake, fire lookouts like Paget Peak, the glacier and waterfall views of the Iceline Trail and more. Trails range in difficulty and elevation gain, so it’s possible to find something for every fitness level and interest. Visitors can also dip a paddle into the otherworldly waters of Emerald Lake, tinted an opaque teal that reflects the impressive peaks surrounding it.
Any description of Yoho is incomplete without mention of the excellent accommodations and dining options. Three national park lodges—Cathedral Mountain (cathedralmountainlodge.com), Emerald Lake (crmr.com/emerald) and Lake O’Hara (lakeohara.com)—offer the perfect balance of rusticity and luxury with delightful cabins, often facing the best view in town. And the experience comes complete with multi-course, wine-paired dinners that will fuel you for the adventures ahead.
In the town of Field, at the center of the park, try Truffle Pigs Bistro, where again, surprisingly inventive and upscale cuisine has landed, despite this being a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Across the street, The Siding Café serves excellent breakfasts.