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Top 5 Experiences in Yoho National Park in Winter

Top 5 Experiences in Yoho National Park in Winter
Wapta Falls Yoho National Park

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Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park is a beautiful and serene nature park located in British Columbia. This Canadian Rocky Mountain park offers spectacular waterfalls, gorgeous lakes, and vistas rivalling those found in neighbouring Banff National Park to the East. 

As much as we love to explore Banff National Park, it can get a little crowded at times. To escape the clamour of the crowd simply visit Yoho National Park. 

Here are our top 5 places to visit in Yoho National Park in winter!

Visit Field, BC

Field is a cozy mountain town situated in the stunning Kicking Horse River valley in Yoho National Park. What started out as a settlement for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway has evolved into a thriving yet unpretentious tourism town.  

Make sure to visit the Field Information Center for trail maps, weather forecasts, avalanche zones, and other pertinent information. You can also purchase Yoho National Park paraphernalia inside. The gentleman that occasionally mans the gift shop is a pleasure to talk to.

Walk through the charming small town and soak in the relaxed ambience. Admire the classic North American style homes and the splendid mountain views that abound.

Town of Field in Yoho National Park in Winter
Entering the community of Field
Canada Pacific Rail Train Yoho National Park
Canadian Pacific Rail

 The Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge in Yoho is a natural limestone rock bridge over the Kicking Horse River. In winter the river freezes over and you can walk up to and under the natural bridge. Inside your eye is drawn to the blue frozen waterfall.  Snow traces the outline of the individual rock layers of the walls of the natural bridge. It’s a captivating sight. You can also hear and partially see the water flowing behind the frozen waterfall. Try not to fall in!

Natural Bridge Yoho National Park in Winter
Water still flows behind the frozen waterfall in the Natural Bridge
Under Natural Bridge Yoho national Park
The view of the Natural Bridge from below

Snowshoe, Ski, or Walk around Emerald Lake  

Emerald Lake is a gorgeous lake set in a stunning surrounding. In winter, snowshoeing and cross country skiing is popular both on land or on the lake ice. The forest sees more traffic and the compact snow makes for an easier journey. For more exercise, the lake provides a bounty of deep powdery snow to tramp through. 

The loop around Emerald Lake is a leisurely 5.3km. If you have more time we would strongly suggest incorporating the 4.2km Emerald Lake Alluvial Fan Loop that deviates from the main trail around the lake. It is a quieter trail, something we cherish after the bustle of the main loop. We felt humbled in the presence of the beautiful peaks towering overhead and marvel at the blue frozen waterfalls clinging desperately to the steep rock face.

Lake Emerald Yoho National Park
Lake Emerald Lodge overlooking frozen Emerald lake
Emerald Lake Alluvial Fan Circuit Yoho National Park
Snowshoeing the Alluvial Fan Circuit on Emerald Lake

Snowshoe Hike to Wapta Falls 

Wapta falls is an easy and delightful half day snowshoe excursion in Yoho National Park. It is a 8.6km (5.3mile) return snowshoe or ski trip. The gate for the road leading to the Wapta Falls trailhead is closed through fall and winter so your journey will start by the highway. (Note that in fall there is space to park several cars. However in winter they may not clear the parking area of snow so you will have to park on the side of the highway.)

About 550m into the trail the forest thins out and you can catch a glimpse into the valley. Traditionally we like to take a short detour off the path and down into the valley to take in  splendid views of the river valley and accompanying mountain landscape. 

The first few kilometers from the highway are along the wide access road before connecting to the start of the trail. The official trail is hilly and narrow through thick forest. You won’t hear the waterfalls until you are almost above them.

We paused to admire the falls from the upper viewpoint then ventured down onto the frozen Kicking Horse River. Traversing over the ice we climbed onto the snow covered mound in front of the waterfall for a closer inspection of the falls. After a time we descended down the mound and snowshoed up a small neighbouring hill (situated on what was normally an island in the spring and summer) to capture the falls with the mountain backdrop. 

Partially frozen Wapta Falls Winter
Partially frozen Wapta Falls

Day Trip or Overnight venture into Lake O’Hara

This is a full day excursion or overnight trip for those with an extra day or snow enthusiasts! From the Lake O’Hara parking lot the path follows 11km or 6.8miles along the summer access road to Lake O’Hara.

It is possible to cross country ski a return trip in a day. If you’re snowshoeing forget about it and plan to overnight at the Elizabeth Parker hut or the Lake O’Hara Lodge.

We went snowshoeing in a group of three and found the first few kilometers to be the most tiring since we had to break trail from the (very) recent snowfall. It continued to snow all day but the snow was more compact further along the trail from skiiers and snowshoers on their return trip.

This trail is pleasantly peaceful and visually invigorating. The trees are burdened by the snow they catch in their arms. Rocks transform into snow mushrooms and other bulbous forms. The layers of the mountains are highlighted in white powder and demand your attention. Arriving at the destination, we find a frozen Lake O’Hara covered in deep powdery snow to be a serene scene. 

Lake O'hara snowshoe
En route to Lake O'Hara
Elizabeth Parker Hut
We stayed overnight at the Elizabeth Parker Hut

 Getting There

Car: Yoho National Park is a 200km or two hour drive West of Calgary West along the TransCanada highway. We prefer to take the Bow Valley Trail (Highway 1A) until it joins with the TransCanada Highway as we find it to be more relaxed and it sees less traffic. 

Bus: The greyhound stops in Field in Yoho National Park after stopping in Lake Louise. The bus line connects other towns along the TransCanada Highway. 

Bike: The well maintained roads and mountain scenery make for an tiring but epic cycling journey.

Yoho National Park

Safety & Hazards

Avalanche road signs: There will be sections of the Akamina parkway where road signs indicate Avalanche Area No Stopping. Follow these instructions! By no means should you stop whether it is to photograph an animal or the landscape. You could be putting yourself and others at risk. Always pull over in a safe, visible spot before going shutter happy.

Backcountry access: Exercise caution and bring appropriate equipment. Arm yourself with an avalanche safety course if you plan on deviating off the main road or exploring the backcountry.

You must bring an avalanche snow shovel, probe, and beacon if you plan on entering avalanche zones in the backcountry.

Download the free Avalanche Canada App (Android or IOS) or check the Avalanche Canada Website for information on avalanche conditions in Yoho before leaving.

Road Conditions: For up to date road reports we recommend downloading the free 511 Alberta App (Android or IOS) or checking on their 511 Alberta Website before hitting the road.

Winter tires: When visiting in the winter, drive on winter tires. Renting a car with winter tires is more expensive but worth it. Road conditions are variable and you will want traction. The weather in the mountain can change quickly. If you can afford winter tires get the. Otherwise a combination of four wheel drive and mud and snow-rated tires are the next best option. Hire the best vehicle you can afford.

Yoho National Park Accommodation

Budget

Firewood Hostel – Charming backpacker’s hostel in the town of Field. Relaxed social atmosphere, spacious lounge, and well equipped kitchen. Field does not have a grocery store so make sure to buy supplies prior to your stay. For more amenities and services, you can base yourself in Banff or Lake Louise and make a day trip out to Yoho National Park.

Mid-Range

Emerald Lake Lodge –  The cabins at Emerald Lake Lodge perch above the alluring Emerald Lake and surrounded by pristine wilderness. Enjoy wood burning fireplaces in your room, outdoor hot tubs, onsite restaurant and bar.

Check prices on: Booking.com | HotelsCombined

Planning a Trip To Canada?

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We never leave home without emergency medical and trip protection cover. We utilize travel insurance from World Nomads for short trips abroad. Protect yourself and your wallet from unexpected injury, sickness & theft abroad. 

Winter Emergency Kit

Do pack a winter emergency kit to keep in your car at all times. If there is an issue with your car, if you get into an accident with another car, pole, animal or slide off the road and more it is imperative that you have the supplies to keep you warm and safe until help arrives.

What we recommend:

Snow shovel, Emergency roadside flares, Emergency warning triangles, First Aid Kit, Jumper Cables,Dual Snow Scraper/Snow Brush, Sleeping bag, Emergency blanket, Flashlight with extra batteries,Matches, lighters, candles, 2L of cat litter, sand, or road salt for traction.

Extra clothing: hats, mittens, socks, snowpants, thermal layers

Extra snacks: energy bars, granola bars, raisins, trail mix, small bottles of water (50cl)

Dress Appropriately for the Weather

The Canadian Rockies can have harsh winters depending on the year. Temperatures can dip to -30 degrees Celsius with wind chill making it feel like -40 degrees C. Its essential to dress accordingly to the weather. It could also be +20 degrees, sunny and blue skies with snow on the ground. Canadian weather system is flexible, you have to be as well.

We recommend waterproof jackets, snow pants or quick drying pants, warm boots, quick drying pants, and layers layers layers! Don’t forget about a toque for you head, a versatile buff, mittens and hand warmers. Shop our favourite Canada travel essentials!

Looking for more stellar off the beaten path trip destinations in the Canadian Rockies?

Check out the best experiences found in Nordegg, Alberta and Waterton Lakes National Park in winter!

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Yoho National Park in British Columbia, Canada is an absolute delight to visit in winter. Discover gorgeous waterfalls, frozen lakes, gorgeous mountain scenery and a plethora of snowshoeing and skiing opportunities! Where will you choose?

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Have you been to Yoho National Park? What would you like to see and do? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. I love everything about this part of the country. And now I’m dying to seek out the Elizabeth Parker hut. It looks so cozy in the snow!

    1. The Elizabeth Parker Hut is so cozy Tracey you should definitely check it out. We met some great people there and even had an impromptu disco party!

  2. I’m not much of a fan of the cold to be honest but those photos… WOW you may have just convinced me its something I need to see in real life. Thanks for sharing lots of useful info as well.

    1. Hey Perri, if you go make sure to wear plenty of layers! It’s not always terribly cold though, winters can be quite mild sometimes. Besides, if you’re moving you won’t stay cold for long!

  3. I keep meaning to head back to British Columbia since it really isn’t a far trip for us, but my focus was on getting back to Vancouver and Victorian. Now you have me thinking about packing our snowshoes instead 🙂

    1. I love visiting Vancouver and Victoria! There’s always so much to see and do 🙂 If you can’t make it to Yoho, the area around Whistler is fantastic for snowshoeing as they get a ridiculous and enviable amount of snow each year. I’ll have a post up on it soon!

  4. I feel like those pictures are asking me to visit and try all the beautiful nature for myself. I have not been to Canada; I will for sure visit Lake O’Hara. I am sitting in 35% looking at all these beautiful snow and frozen lakes…

    1. 35 degrees eh! Our summers do not usually get that hot, I think a lot of Canadians would start to melt 🙂

  5. wow, amazing pictures! I would love to go to canada! Is this national park is to expensive? Definitely have to be in my bucket list!

    1. Hey Citlali, great question! In general, Canada is an expensive country to live and travel in. 2017 was Canada’s 150 anniversary and in celebration, all National Parks were free. From 2018 on there will be applicable admission fees depending on how people are coming and for how long. In the past if you planned on staying for a week then buying yearly pass would pay for itself and is valid for ALL national parks in Canada! Those on a budget can save money by cooking their own food, staying in hostels or Airbnb if traveling in a group. You can check out the Parks Canada website for admission prices: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/admission

  6. I’ve been living in BC for 8 years… HOW HAVE I NOT BEEN TO THIS PLACE YET ?!!!

    So beautiful and that waterfall looks amazing.

    There are very few places on this planet as majestic and awe-inspiring as the Canadian Rocky Mountains. You captured them beautifully.

    Thank you for sharing this, It has made it to my must-visit list, it is just so close, we have no excuse..

    Thanks for posting and keep traveling. Adventure is better shared with friends

    1. Beautiful British Columbia; it’s on the license plate for a reason! I love going to Wapta falls any time of the year. Thank you for the kind words Anthony!

  7. The pictures look so inviting. I’m not sure if I can handle the adverse weather though.

    1. The key is staying warm and active! Wear plenty of layers, have some hot chocolate or hot tea waiting for you in a thermos in the car, and warm up by the fireplace at night!

  8. National parks look fantastic in winter, such lovely snowy mountains. Wish I had friends who would like to join me for skiing there for few days. Everyone now is afraid of cold weather

    1. You could always try joining a meetup group or a club for ski enthusiasts to find more like-minded people to go with Alexander!

  9. whew..your pics made me chilly! We had the pleasure of exploring Banff this past summer and were totally amazed by it! While there in Calgary, we debated on going to Yoho or up to Edmonton and opted on the latter as we hope to return to Yoho in the coming years. I think the Limestone formations of the Natural Bridge would be my favorite though the Yapta Falls do look amazing. Though I would have to skip the winter months. It is pretty but I hate the cold!

    1. Ah the winters aren’t all bad.. 😉 but I understand where you’re coming from! The cold isn’t for everyone. Edmonton holds a special place in my heart as we used to live there but these days my allegiance is to Calgary heh! Yoho is definitely worth returning to in warmer weather though. If we’re in Calgary at the same time let me know!

  10. This looks absolutely stunning, I would love to go there sometime. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful place.

    1. Divya, oh yes if you have the opportunity you definitely should! Thanks for reading!

  11. Wow I luv nature and seems like my kinda place .. Luv how detail info u have given .. Have bookmarked this post right away .. Thanks so much for the info

    1. Hi Ritika, if you love nature Canada is bursting with it! Great to hear you have bookmarked it, I’m happy it was helpful for you!

  12. This looks soooo cold but so beautiful!! It’s is freezing cold or with the right gear comfortable hiking? I have limited experience with snow except a little snow shoeing in Denver. It looks amazing. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hey Karen, oh for sure it can get cold at times, down to minus 30 even. But it’s not always that extreme and in general if you’re wearing enough layers and moving it should be fine! Thanks for stopping by.

  13. Nice and Wonderful info.it’s so useful post,thank you so much for sharing….

  14. I would love to do some shoeshoeing Lisa. 5 miles sounds about right because my running is quite different from plowing through the snow 😉 As for the images above, brilliant! Loving these snaps. I am writing from Bangkok now and love the tropics but appreciate cold weather trips here and there too to change it up. Signing off from Thailand 🙂

    Ryan

  15. It is a very beautiful place to travel and thanks for the sharing this post.

    Regards,
    Basit Ansari

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