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Highlights along the route from Lake Louise, Alberta to -and within- Yoho National Park, British Columbia.
I’ve visited the area many times as a tour guide, as well as on my own.
From my experiences I offer suggestions for
• must sees – I put the highlights in an itinerary sample for a day of sightseeing
• active adventures
• a backcountry experience – for you who would like to stay a couple of days in the area.
Additional information on this page:
Cell phone reach
After your visit to Lake Louise, take Highway 1 West.
You enter Yoho National Park, British Columbia, 10-15 minutes later.
When entering the park, you’re at the continental divide. Water floats east via the Bow River towards the Atlantic Ocean, and west via the Kicking Horse River and Columbia River into the Pacific Ocean.
A special viewpoint - the spiral tunnels – is an interesting stop located 18 km/11,2 mi. west of Lake Louise mall.
What’s a spiral tunnel? A solution to decrease a train rail grade.
By building a rail loop inside the mountain the original 4,5 % grade has been brought back to a gentler 2,25 %. This way, trains can safely get over and down, ‘The Big Hill’.
Two layers of the same train
If lucky, you might see a long enough train going in and coming out of the lower tunnel at the same time (the upper tunnels is on the other side of the highway and out of your view). As many trains are over 1,000 metres/1,094 yards long and the lower tunnel is close to 900 metres/984 yards, there is a good chance to see two layers of the same train above each other. What a spectacular view!
Although I’ve never been able to get a hold of a train schedule, I was lucky quite a few times around 1 pm and 5.30 pm.
If travelling from Lake Louise to Yoho National Park and back again, you will pass the Spiral Tunnel lookout twice. Any moving train on the other side of the highway, either just went through the tunnel or still has to go by it.
Construction of the Spiral Tunnels
When visiting the viewpoint you’ll see a scale model and a couple of signs explaining the construction and history of the tunnels. I find it very impressive.
Continue on Highway 1 West another 4 km/2,5 mi. and turn off at Yoho valley Road.
This 17 km/10,5 mi. narrow windy road leads to my favourite waterfall; Canada’s third highest Takkakaw Falls, meaning magnificent in Cree (native language).
A steep switchback halfway up the road prevents tour buses and trailers travelling up.
The road is seasonally closed from early October until mid June.
Takkakaw Falls is located at the end of Yoho Valley Road.
From the car parking, follow the trail to the right. It's a 10 min stroll to the viewpoint. If you don't mind getting wet, continue another 10 minutes to the base of the fall.
Not visible from the viewpoint is the upper part of Takkakaw Falls. The total combined height of the falls are 373 m/1224 ft.
The falls are fed by the Waputik Icefield
The Iceline trail starts at the end of Yoho Valley Road.
This is a full day hike and one of my favourites.
It will take you about 7-8 hours to complete the 18-21 km loop.
Back on Hwy 1 West, take the first turn to the right, leading to Emerald Lake. After a few hundred metres you’ll see the ‘Natural Bridge’ viewpoint.
A viewpoint along the Kicking
Horse River. White water carved an opening through solid rock; a
natural bridge arches the rumbling river.
Park at the
end of the 8 km/5 mi. road at Emerald Lake, and walk around this
turquoise jewel. From the left lakeside you have a splendid view to
This popular lake is great for canoeing, hiking or sightseeing, including a picnic on the lake shore.
Emerald Lake Trail
• The easy walk around the lake is 5 km/3,1 mi. in length.
• It takes about 1.5-2 hrs to complete.
• The left side of the lake is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
1909 Charles Walcott discovered the ‘Burgess Shale’ fossils on this
2,599 metres/ 8,527 feet high mountain. It contained the fossilized
remains of more than 120 marine animal species dating back 515 million
It turned out to be one of the most important fossil sites of the world, and is designated a World Heritage Site in 1984. For almost 20 years, this mountain decorated the $20 bills.
From Emerald Lake Road, turn onto Hwy 1 West en follow 25 km/15,5 mi. to the west entrance of Yoho National Park (no left turn is allowed when travelling east to west on the highway).
Turn and come back for 3 km/1,9 mi., and turn right at the sign to Wapta Falls.
Follow the 2 km/1,2 mi. gravel road. Park here for a stroll to the falls.
2,3 km/1,4 mi. trail leads to a 150-metres/164 yards wide, and
30-metres/32,8 yards high, drop of the Kicking Horse River. It is the
biggest waterfall of this river.
Make sure to continue to the bottom of the falls. The 60-metres/65,6 yards elevation loss (and gain on the way back) is worth the effort.
Stick to the 'must sees' from 1st map layer.
9.00 am Leave Lake Louise village (at the mall)
9.15 - 9.30 am Viewpoint Spiral Tunnels
9.30 - 10.00 am Drive Yoho Valley Road
10.00 - 10.45 am Takkakaw Falls viewpoint
11.30 - 11.45 am Natural Bridge
12.00 Emerald Lake
12.15– 1.00 pm Picnic along the lakeshore
1.00 – 3.00 pm Walk around the lake or rent a canoe (call to reserve a canoe: 1-250-343-6000)
3.30 – 4.00 pm Spiral Tunnels 2nd chance
4.15 pm Return to Lake Louise
Select the 'Get Adventurous' layer in the map.
Go hike in Yoho National Park or get your adrenaline shot by rafting the roaring Kicking Horse River.
the parking lot at Takkakaw Falls, walk to the Whiskey Jack hostel.
From here the best hike ever starts; The Iceline Trail.
Real thrill seekers have to experience the wild roaring Kicking Horse River (movie offered by Tourism Golden) by raft or kayak.
Several outfitters organize half and full day, guided rafting trips.
Only experienced kayakers should play with the class 2, 3, and 4 rapids.
If you have plenty of time to play with, make sure to visit Lake O’Hara, a true gem of the park.
Select 'multiple days' in the 3rd map layer.
O’Hara offers breathtaking sub-alpine and alpine scenery. This is true
heaven for hikers and for those who would like to escape the
Plan at least 3 months ahead for this unique getaway.
The only way to get to Lake O’Hara is either by shuttle bus or by hiking in along an 11 km/6,8 mi. dirt road. Reservations for the shuttle bus are required for going up and can be made three calendar months in advance of your planned visit.
As there is limited access into Lake O’Hara, seats are usually sold out within half an hour after opening the reservation line. For going back down you don’t need a reservation for the shuttle bus.
Check shuttle bus details.
Use the map within this website or access each map in a separate full screen window (recommended).
For the latter, click on the 'view larger map' icon in the upper right corner.
Check or uncheck the box of each layer to hide or show the specific highlights that fit your style.
The icons in the map tell you the type of sight or activity– viewpoint (full or half circle)/ hike (hiking icon)/ mountain (mountain icon)/ rafting (water icon) or other (standard icon).
Zoom in to enlarge a region. The zoom in/out icon is located in the left bottom.
Hold and drag
Hold and drag to move around on the map.
Click on a specific sight to read a description of it.
Find directions from any location to a specific site, by clicking the arrow at the description box.