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British Columbia, Canada

Canada's Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

Think Lake Louise without the crowds and with better chances of seeing North American wildlife.

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Difficulty: Medio
Length: 7.1 miles / 11.5 km
Duration: Mezza Giornata
Accessibile alle Famiglie
 
Anteprima: This trail is the Rockies at its best. It combines a circuit of a green glacial lake surrounded by mountains, with a diversion to Emerald Basin through forests and avalanche chutes to see the glacier that created it all.

In the warmer months, you can add canoeing to the activity list. The hiking will be more limited in winter, but you have skating, snowshoeing & cross-country skiing options to make up for it.

I've rated the trail as moderate because of some steep sections in the climb to Emerald Basin, but you can just stick to the lake circuit if you want an easier level stroll. The hike to the basin is rewarding not just for the views - it also gets you up close with friendly colonies of ground squirrels and marmots.

It is popular by Yoho standards, but you are not going to get the pedestrian traffic jams of nearby Lake Louise or Banff. The good news is that even on busy summer days, most Emerald Lake visitors don't venture too far from the car park at the start of the trail to capture their photo opportunity. And once you are off the lake circuit, the basin trail feels like true wilderness.


Consigli: You need a pass for entry to any Canadian national park and these can be purchased from the visitor information centre at Field (on the Trans-Canada Highway about 2km north of the Emerald Lake turnoff). It may work out cheaper to buy an annual pass if you are staying for a week or more or are planning other park visits.

The Emerald Lake Lodge is a great place to stay but if the budget doesn't stretch that far, the visitor information centre can provide details of local B&B and camping options.

Punti di Interesse

Parking
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Car park for day visitors

If you are just visiting for the day, you can drive to the start of the trail on a sealed road. The views begin here - some people stepping off the tour buses don't venture any further. To get the full experience, just walk in the direction of the lake and you'll come to the circuit path which this trail does clockwise.

Landmark
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Boat house

If your legs are tired from a previous day's hike, this is an alternative way to appreciate the lake's scenery while giving your arms a workout. This place rents canoes and row boats as well as hiking gear.
Landmark
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Avalanche chute

One of the first of many dramatic natural features on this trail, and a reminder to check at the lodge or information centre for avalanche updates if you are here after heavy snowfalls or during the spring thaw.

At dusk, it's also a favoured feeding ground for a locally-resident bull moose. Once the day crowds have left, he's also regularly spotted crossing the car park in scenes reminiscent of the '80s TV series 'Northern Exposure'.
Junction
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Emerald Basin / Emerald Lake trails junction

The Emerald Basin trail leaves the lake circuit as you reach the edge of an alluvial fan carved by the stream fed from the melting glacier.

Keep an eye on your GPS or the trail markers. There is another trail that leaves the lake circuit close to here. If you pick the wrong one, you're embarking on a two-day hike around the eastern side of the President Range of mountains.
Information
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Emerald Basin Trail

The 3km to the basin is uphill all the way, but keep telling yourself that the first third is the steepest (you'll climb 125m in the initial km).

The trail meanders through a forest for fir, spruce & cedar, with yew & hemlock higher up as the path levels out. Along the way, avalanche chutes cut through the trees to give views of the President Range.
Viewpoint
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Emerald Basin - views of Emerald Glacier & some furry friends

They'll be no mistaking when you've arrived - the trail stops at a gigantic natural rocky amphitheatre.

It's a great spot to rest for a while and enjoy the views. Directly in front of you to the north are The President and The Vice President mountains and the Emerald Glacier. To the north-west is Mount Marple and Michael Peak completes the set to the north-east.

Meanwhile all around you are ground squirrels and marmots scurrying among the boulders in the hope of trading photo opportunities for lunch scraps.

When you've had enough of the rodents, head back down the basin trail and complete the lake circuit.
Animals/Wildlife
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Wildflowers

In summer, wildflowers such as yellow lady's slippers, columbine and Indian paintbrush add some splashes of color to the trail.
Viewpoint
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Emerald Lake Circuit

The loop provides great photo opportunities from all sides. The striking aquamarine color of the water comes from light reflecting off fine rock particles deposited in the lake by millennia of glacial grinding.

The first third of the circuit (up to the basin trail turnoff) is wheelchair accessible, but there are some shallow streams to cross afterwards and it can get a little boggy where this POI marker is.
Hotel
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Emerald Lake Lodge

The original parts of this historic lodge were built in the early 1900s when the Canada Pacific Railway opened up an adventurous era of travel. By keeping that charm, without any old fashioned stuffiness, it's been voted as the second best place to stay in Canada by the readers of one travel magazine. Don't come here expecting TVs, internet access or mobile phone coverage.

There's lots of other trails in the area so it's a good base for a few days of hiking. The restaurant offers a different way to experience North American wildlife (farmed, I'm sure) and an extensive collection of vastly underrated Canadian wines. There is a warren of other casual bars and lounges to explore.
Viewpoint
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View across Peaceful Pond to Mount Burgess and Wapta Mountain

The bridge linking the lodge to the car park is the perfect spot for photographing the day's last golden rays as they hit mountains to the east. Better yet, do it from the bar/cafe/restaurant at the foot of the bridge on the banks of the Peaceful Pond.
Parking
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Car park for lodge guests

If you are staying at the lodge, your car park is about 1km before the day visitors car park on the approach road. Pick up the phone in the hut to request a shuttle service, or walk up if you've no bags to carry.
Fotografie di questa Guida scattate da: garyspink, Alison Gough

Canada's Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park Trail Map


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