Hiking the incredible Lake O’Hara, Yoho National Park
By: Chanel Aries
Lush forest, vibrant lakes, massive waterfalls, glowing golden larches, and over 80 km of trails – Lake O’Hara is something out of a dream. Every step I took in this beautiful park left me in awe. Not even 3-days wandering around this magnificent place is enough to take in all its beauty.
There are many golden moments I will remember from this trip and many moments so beautiful time seemed to stand still. As with any adventure it is always the people who make it, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people whom I met though Hike365. The 5 of us spent 2-nights and 3-days at the Lake O’Hara campground, hiking the surrounding trails. This is luxury backcountry camping at its finest, with all trails being in quick reach from camp, a warm fire and a nice cold beverage.
How To Get There
Advanced reservations are required in order to limit impact in the area and protect the wildlife.
How to Visit:
- Come for the day, book with the Parks Canada Reservation Service.
- Camp for up to three nights, book with Yoho National Park.
- Stay at the Elizabeth Parker Hut, book with the Alpine Club of Canada.
- Stay at the Lake O’Hara Lodge, book with Lake O’Hara Lodge.
What To Do
Explore + explore some more
Linda Lake + Cathedral Prospect + Morning Glory Lakes:
We decided to explore this often overlooked area on our first day of the trip. The lakes were shadowed with striking reflections of the tall peaks that lay above us. Cathedral Prospect gave us a great view of the valley and the lakes below. On our return route we headed along the Morning Glory Lakes, a great day hike with little elevation gain.
The Alpine Circuit:
After spending a cold rainy first night in our tents we were extremely excited to wake to some warm sun on our faces.
We decided to start the Alpine Circuit at the Warden Patrol Cabin located on the banks of Lake O’Hara. The route crosses a few waterfalls and lakes before arriving at Lake Oesa. We stopped for a quick lunch before heading to the Yukness Ledge.
The Yukness Ledge was blazed with markings guiding you the entire way. The markings took us above Lake O’Hara and around the valley to Opabin Lake. The route quickly descends and you can decide to take a detour to the Opabin Prospect lookout.
It was definitely worth the detour to see another great view of the valley and Lake O’Hara below. From the lookout we returned the route we ascended, the route quickly descends and becomes an easy stroll back to Lake O’Hara.
Big Larches + McArthur Lake:
When we woke our final morning we had our sights set on the Big Larches route to Lake McArthur via Shaffer Lake. If we had more time we would have loved to take the All Souls detour on our way up to Schaffer Lake.
We reached Shaffer Lake just in time for the early morning light to touch its surface. The approach to McArthur Lake is one you cannot forget. As you reach a large hill you get a glimpse of the dreamy blue waters and the tall mountains reaching from deep below its surface.
This would be a perfect place to spend a day relaxing and reading in the warm summer sun. We returned the same route we ascended and took the bus back down at 2:30 p.m.
A Little bit of History – Lake O’Hara
In 1908 in the Canadian Alpine Journal, R. L. Glisan wrote, “Not a trace of human presence, not a trace of any disturbing element, the whole scene was the personification of a majestic peace.”
That is not the case today as Lake O’Hara is a jewel of the Canadian Rockies. Climbing groups gathered in the meadows near Lake O’Hara as early as 1909 and some of the few buildings in the area date back to 1926. Many well-known artists have painted in this area and many people have walked, and once ridden its trails.
Today the park is restricted due to high volumes of interest in the area and regulated to keep alpine slopes and meadows from being loved to death. Parks Canada has limited access to Lake O’Hara from somewhere around 250 visitors/day.
Chanel lives in Calgary, and wants to help people become educated about their activities and the impact they are having on the environment and the community. Being outside brings her a peace she cannot find anywhere else. She has met some of the most genuine and inspiring people while out on the trail, or casting my line in the water. Hike365 has been an amazing experience for her and she wants to help others find the same friendships. One’s that encourage you to break the walls of your comfort zone and experience all of what being outside and alive truly entails- good conversations, good food, inspiring and life changing moments, with people that bring out the best parts of each other.
FB: Chanel Aries