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Trip Report: Lake O’Hara Region, Yoho National Park

TRIP REPORT: LAKE O’HARA REGION,
YOHO NATIONAL PARK

By Sky England

With its turquoise waters, towering peaks, hanging valleys and larch forests, Lake O’Hara is beloved by all those who know it. The near-mythic beauty of this pocket of Yoho National Park will bring you to your knees. If that’s not enough to make you plan a trip, you should know that Parks Canada has restricted access to a handful of busloads each day. Plan ahead and you’ll be among the eager beavers enjoying one of the most impressive and crowd-free spots in the Canadian Rockies. 


 

Trekking along the Alpine Circuit_Paul Zizka Photography

Trekking along the Alpine Circuit. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography

SUGGESTED ITINERARY

Day 1:

  • Bus into Lake O’Hara. Accommodations nearby include a campground, Lake O’Hara Lodge and Elizabeth Parker Hut. 
  • Hike to Lake MacArthur (7 km roundtrip).

Day 2:

  • Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit (start via Wiwaxy Gap) (12.4 km roundtrip).

Day 3:

Choose between:

  • Duchesnay Basin/Cathedral Prospect (lots of wildflowers, solitude, good for rainier weather) (14.9 km to Cathedral Prospect).
  • Or the Lake O’Hara Shoreline Trail (2.8 km). If you have a fishing license, throw in a line.

Bus out on evening of Day 3 or on morning of Day 4.

 

Elizabeth Parker Hut. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography

Elizabeth Parker Hut. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography

Love This/

  • Ability to hike stunning backcountry terrain without having to carry all your gear.
  • Access to Lake O’Hara is restricted, so you won’t find crowds here.
  • Larch haven in the fall.
  • The campsite is immaculately maintained with personal bear bins for each site, clean bathrooms, cook structures, plenty of picnic tables and a group fire pit. Because you bus in, you can bring lots of little luxuries (like pillows!). No hard shell coolers though.
  • Le Relais hiking shelter, run by the Lake O’Hara Trails Club, has all the information you need about hikes in the area, and also serves hot drinks and snacks.
Lake MacArthur. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography

Lake MacArthur. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography

Consider This/

  • Because Lake O’Hara has restricted access, you need to be timely and proactive in booking a campsite or lodging. You can book your campsite three months in advance to the day (see resources below). Get ready to push re-dial about 100 times. Be patient and persistent.
  • We don’t recommend making the 12-km slog up the fireroad to access this area. If you can’t reserve a camp site, try going out for the day. Day users can reserve the bus in advance here. If you can’t get a spot, try a nearby hike, like Paget Lookout or the Iceline Trail. (More on other Yoho trails here.)
  • Grizzly bears and wolverines frequent the area. Hike in groups and carry bear spray.
View from Odaray/Grandview. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography

View from Odaray/Grandview. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography

Other Side Trips/

You can tack on a trip to Odaray Highline and Odaray Grandview on your trip to Lake MacArthur. Be aware that this is a wildlife corridor. Parks Canada asks that only two groups hike this trail per day, so plan on departing early. Read more here.

Strong hikers and mountaineers can make their way to Abbot Pass Hut (2,926 metres) to spend a night. This hut serves as a launching point for climbers going up the west face of Mt. Lefroy and the south-east ridge of Mt. Victoria. Make sure you have reservations. The hut is a 3-4 hour hike from Lake O’Hara.

Resources//

Lake O’Hara camping reservation information.

Elizabeth Parker Hut: Alpine Club of Canada, information here.

Lake O’Hara trail information.

Bus Reservations (day only).

A NOTE FROM CROWFOOT MEDIA: You, the reader, are responsible for your own safety and gathering the information you require to tackle these hikes and trips. Please adventure safely and use these suggestions as just that: suggestions.