The lesser known Yoho National Park is an incredible place to discover mountainous scenery, hiking trails for every age, towering waterfalls, emerald coloured lakes and so much more. With over 1300 square kilometers of land, more than 400 km of hiking trails, and easily accessible for RV’s, this national park should be on your bucket list when visiting the Canadian Rockies. Even though this park is the smallest of the parks in the surrounding area, it does not mean it should be skipped. That is one of the best things about Yoho National Park is with less than 700,000 visitors a year compared to the 4 million visitors to Banff National Park you are much more encompassed into the beauty and raw wilderness that Yoho National Park has to offer. Whether you choose to spend a day or a week here you will not be disappointed.
Paget Lookout starting at Sherbrooke Lake Trail Head
Paget Lookout is a hike that is located on the Eastern side of the park. Approximately 11.8 km east of the village of Field you will start the trail at the Sherbrooke Lake Trailhead. There is two small sections to the parking lot with the lower section being more suitable to RVs.
This hike takes you up to Paget Lookout, the oldest surviving fire lookout in the National Park. Dating from 1944, this lookout was used extensively until 1970’s. The hike is a 7km round trip that starts easy as it winds through the forest. After climbing gently for about 1.4km, the last 2.2 km is a steep uphill that gets rewarded with incredible views of Yoho National Park and the Continental Divide. It should take you between 1.5-2 hours to complete this hike one way depending on your skill level.
It is an incredible place to experience, and if you have the time, head to Sherbrooke Lake on your way down or head up towards Paget Peak. The path to the Lake is mainly flat, and the path up to Paget Peak has a lot of scree and is over 400m of elevation in a short amount of distance. It is recommended that you bring hiking poles for this activity as it helps with stability.
The Village of Field
The village of Field is 11.8 km drive from the Sherbrooke Trailhead, and you should arrive within 20 minutes. Field is the only town located within Yoho National Park. The town is the perfect place to take a break, grab a bite to eat and soak in the views of Cathedral Mountain and Kicking Horse River. If you are lucky, you can see one of the many trains that go by through here on a daily basis.
The village of Field has just over 200 residents, and was founded in the late 1800’s to help with the building of the railway. If you are looking for a bite to eat we highly recommend heading over to Truffle Pigs Bistro for a delicious meal. The bistro has great options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They do close in between the different meals, so check out their schedule as it varies per season. They offer amazing burgers, salads, sandwiches, and upscale dinner mains. There is something for everyone.
Things To Note: The village of Field has very minimal goods for purchase, especially in the fall as the season is ending. When entering Yoho, it is recommended you come prepared with the food and items you need for your trip in Yoho.
Takakkaw Falls is the second largest waterfall in Canada and it is an absolute must see while visiting Yoho National Park. The drive up to Takakkaw Falls is beautiful and winding where you are greeted with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges. You follow the Yoho River up to the falls, and as you steadily climb you see a canyon on your right side. There is a section with multiple hairpin turns which is tight for a small vehicle alone. Any vehicles over 7m in length will have to reverse to be able to turn and continue up. It is highly recommended if you are towing an RV to unhitch and leave your RV at the campground as you will not be able to make these turns. For mid-size Motorhomes, vans and truck campers, if you are well versed in reversing you should have no issues navigating these tight switchbacks.
As you drive you will start seeing the falls standing at an impressive 373 m in height. When arriving late in the afternoon, the sun should create a rainbow in the mist from the waters coming from Waputik Icefield. The hike from the parking lot is short, paved and accessible.
Things To Note: Yoho Valley Road has a seasonal closure of after Thanksgiving weekend until mid-June. To check the road closing and opening dates head to the Parks Canada website (https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/bc/yoho/visit/heures-hours)
Emerald Lake is one of the most famous spots to visit in Yoho National Park and it is easy to see why. With that in mind, ensure to get up early if you want to experience Emerald Lake at its finest. Sunrise is the perfect time to experience the beauty of Emerald Lake as you will beat the majority of the crowds and the tour buses.
Sunrise is a sublime experience, seeing the fog in the morning overtop the lake on cool mornings, having less people around, and being able to do the trails early can lead to seeing wildlife in the area while exploring. Arriving early also allows to ensure yourself a parking spot for your RV as the parking lot itself it quite small.
The lake is also a hub for many trails that you can do. The most popular one is the Emerald Lake Loop, a 5.2 km trail going around the lake that takes roughly 60-90 minutes to complete. You can also take advantage of the canoe rentals that are available and have an incredible experience in the lake from a different vantage point. You can also see the Burgess Shale, a world renowned fossil and UNESCO World heritage site, from Emerald Lake from a viewing scope. And if you are keen, you can end your time at Emerald Lake while having a late brunch at Emerald Lake Lodge before you head out to explore more of Yoho National Park.
Located only 10 minutes away from Emerald Lake on Emerald Lake Road, you cannot miss the Natural Bridge. The Natural Bridge is a cool and unique natural rock formation that used to once be a waterfall. The powerful Kicking Horse river carved a path through the limestone rock from thousands of years of erosion is a great showcase of what influence water has on the landscape to carve and constantly change it.
The Natural Bridge can be viewed from a few different vantage points with a bridge and a lookout that allows you to be able to walk around and explore this natural wonder from various angles. It is recommended that you are careful when walking along the rock as rain and other weather can make it extremely slippery, and the current is extremely strong.
The Spiral Tunnels are both a historical and wonder of human engineering innovation and a unique piece for the Canadian Railway due to the challenge of the geography of building a railroad through the mountains. Modeled after a system from Switzerland these tunnels, which are still used today, allow the transport of over 25-30 large train loads a day between British Columbia and Alberta. To this day, these tunnels that were built between 1907-1909, are both historical and important to the commercial economy of Canada.
The amazing engineering feat created two pairs of loops that have been tunneled within Cathedral Mountain and Mount Ogden. These were done to reduce the high incline that would have been needed to climb the Big Hill – the high incline area between Field and Lake Louise in between the Continental Divide.
There are two places for you to view the Spiral Tunnels and possibly catch a train going through them! These viewing locations are:
The Upper Spiral Tunnel: located in Yoho Valley Road heading towards Takakkaw Falls approximately 2.3km up the road. This has a smaller parking lot but can fit most rigs.
The Lower Spiral Tunnel: located on the Trans-Canada Highway approximately 7.4 km east of Field. There is a large pull off parking lot that will fit RV’s of any size.
Each of these locations offers a unique view of the tunnels and if you wait long enough you can see a train go by usually every 30 minutes or so.
Meeting of the Waters
On your way down Yoho Valley Road towards Highway 1 make sure to stop at the Meeting of the Waters. The pull over will be on your left hand side if you are come down from Takakkaw Falls. Meeting of the Waters Confluent is the mixing of the Yoho River that flows from Takkakaw Falls and the Kicking Horse River. The Yoho River has a milky white look due to the minerals when it melts from the Waputik Icefield, and the Kicking Horse River is more clear and blue.
The mixing of the two creates a very interesting natural phenomenon. The walk down to the river is very short but steep. The meeting of the waters can only truly be seen down the steep embankment and is worth the walk down. Once you are down there is an area with a small waterfall (Kicking Horse river) and some large boulders. This isn’t an accessible hike for anyone with disabilities.
Kicking Horse Campground
After you are done your day, head over to the Kicking Horse Campground. A short 5 minute drive from The Spiral Tunnels, this campground is the perfect hub for you to explore Yoho National Park. The park is located on Yoho Valley Road approximately 1.2 km off Highway 1.
The park is unserviced, offering 88 campsites and can accommodate RV’s up to 50 feet in some sites. Reservations are strongly recommended to pick a spot that fits your RV. Additional accommodations are firepits and firewood, hot showers and flush toilets, dishwashing station, playground and beautiful views of Cathedral Mountain and the kicking horse river.