Guest post by my dad!
While visiting Banff National Park in Canada, we thought it would be worthwhile spending also a day in Yoho National Park before heading North to Jasper. Of course, I had my list of places to see and things to do ready long before our trip, as always.
So August 16th we got in the car, maps handy, and crossed the Kicking Horse pass and thereby the border from Alberta to British Columbia. In doing so we also changed time zone (who cares when on holiday) and crossed the Great Divide. This means that all water in Yoho National Park flows to the Pacific Ocean.
Omnipresent is the Kicking Horse River, cutting its way through the valley of the same name. Most of its water comes via the Yoho River from the Wapta Icefields and is, therefore, ice cold. As the river formed the valley, easiest for men was to build the Canadian Pacific Railway and Trans Canada 1 more or less alongside, following the shape of the valley.
Those who like an adrenaline rush, can go whitewater rafting on Kicking Horse River.
Talking about railways, don’t forget a stop (at the right time) at Spiral Tunnels Viewpoint. In the past, with the steep grade, runaway trains were not such a rare event. The solution came from Switzerland in the form of several spiral shaped tunnels. The grade was lowered by 2.2 % (from a whopping 4.5% before – the steepest on the Canadian Pacific Railway).
We stopped near one of the spiral tunnels and could hear the train in the distance. I had never seen such long train, more than 100 wagons. It gives the very special effect that when the train is travelling through the tunnels you see it actually 3 times: at the lowest level of the valley, entering the tunnel and exiting the tunnel, all at the same time. I have included a picture – absolutely an ugly snap – but I had to show what it looked like.
Further down Trans Canada 1, we passed the exit and road leading to the famous Takakkaw Falls. I had already decided to keep those for later in the day, when the light would be better for photography and the sun would be in the right position. We also passed Field and drove on to find a little bit to the Southwest the road towards Emerald Lake and the Yoho National Park Natural Bridge.
At Yoho Natural Bridge, the Kicking Horse River forces its way through a narrow slot. The slot is still covered with rock hence the “bridge”. At some point in time, this will just be a waterfall or rapid as the water will further erode the rock and the “roof” will collapse. There is a footbridge across the water providing excellent views. I found my spot for the tripod!
Then we continue down the road, direction Emerald Lake. Once again this is one of those gorgeous turquoise lakes. I had been reading about the place before and therefore knew there is a hiking trail all around it. Time to stretch our legs. Near the parking lot, quite some people are wandering around, taking pictures, but as soon as we hit the trail human presence went down to nearly zero.
As most, if not all of these lakes are fed by water from glaciers I am wondering as usually there is a waterfall or rapids or at least a river that stops you from walking around the whole way. High mountains and glaciers may also prevent to make the full tour.
Not so at Emerald Lake.
When approaching the end of the lake through dense forest we come out in the open again. The environment changes completely. There is a lot of water indeed, as expected, a river transporting the ice-cold water into the lake, but you can see that at times the whole area gets flooded. But there is a bridge! Cool, so we can continue our hike around the lake.
The other side is a lot more open, with beautiful views on the lake itself (which before we could not always see through the dense forest) and on the mountains.
We spent a lot of time around Emerald Lake – it is such a gorgeous place. Finally, we had to move on as we were running out of time. We had to skip the trip further down to Wapta Falls and also skip the hike to some waterfall near Emerald Lake. We made it just in time to Field to be able to get lunch at a terrace near the railroad. Right after our order the kitchen was closing.
After lunch (and some chats with the locals), we moved on to our next destination: Takakkaw Falls. We once again had to take a side road from Trans Canada 1. Not a road to drive a mobile home on as it has 2 narrow switchbacks right in the beginning where we couldn’t even turn our SUV in one move. Then the road was okay again but climbing and climbing for miles on end.
Through the trees, we could already see the Falls from far, while approaching on the road. When we walked towards it and recognized the scale, heard the noise, we understood why the Cree called it Takakkaw, which means something like “magnificent”. I wanted to get close and take lots of pictures, but it was hard to capture this overwhelming experience in a few images.
I wanted to be here in the afternoon, as I figured out that the sun would shine directly on the waterfall, and I wanted to see a rainbow in the spray. But clouds were hiding the sun, so no rainbow.
I was stubborn: I did not have an opportunity to come back so I wanted my rainbow. Despite the nice weather it was cold near the waterfall, and slowly but surely I was getting totally soaked by the spray. I had to protect the camera and clean the lens all the time. Every once in a while there was an opening in the clouds and a brief moment of full sunshine, but never for long.
After almost 1,5 hours, just when I was getting desperate, cold and wet, the sun broke through. I wanted to be quick and therefore the drops on the lens spoiled the first pictures but then finally, I managed to catch no less than a double rainbow! See, that’s how little it takes to make me happy…
Now, time for some dry clothes …
Driving around Yoho National Park
To properly visit Yoho National Park, you need a rental car. Check out RentalCars.com. This site compares more than 900 rental car companies so you can pick the best deal for you.
Visit Yoho National Park on a tour
If you’d rather explore Yoho National Park with a guide, check out this tour. It departs from Banff and includes hotel pick-up and drop-off. In a little less than 10 hours, you’ll see places such as the Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake.
Pin for later