Lake O’Hara, Yoho National Park, Rockies

This is a compilation of two separate trips to the Lake O’Hara area of Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies, one in early September and the other in early August.

Lake O’Hara is a jewel in the Rockies but it’s no secret, so its popularity has led to restrictions in visitor numbers. If you want to camp there, you’ll have to book well in advance. Parks Canada opens up reservations 3 months before your first day of camping. Make your booking right away, as in the first minute of the first day you can register! It will be a bit easier to get in later in the season in September but the weather is less reliable. My first trip in early September was cold, cloudy and wet with a light dose of snow on the peaks. My second trip was in early August with warm, sunny days. I would recommend going in July or August, especially in early August.

Campers accessing the area must ride in on the Parks Canada bus that stops at the campground. There is also a lodge with cabins near the campground. I never stayed there, so I can’t say anything about it. I’m guessing it’s pretty pricey though.

There are no restrictions for day hiking but to best experience the area you should come for at least 3 days. The campground has a communal fire pit, cooking shelters and pit toilets. It lacks views but it’s very close to the main lake and the trailheads.

 

There are many trails in the area. We hiked these trails:

  • Lake Oesa (3 hours round trip)
  • Wiwaxy Gap – Lake Oesa Circuit (3-4 hours round trip) – it’s very steep up to Wiwaxy Gap and is best to hike up there first and then down to Lake Oesa, otherwise descending from Wiwaxy Gap would be really hard on the knees.
  • Opabin Lake / Plateau (3 hours round trip)
  • Lake MacArthur (3-4 hours round trip)

There are several other trails in the area that I haven’t done, including:

  • Alpine Circuit
  • Odaray Grandview
  • Duchesnay Prospect / Cathedral Prospect

All of these trails and routes are covered in the guidebook “Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies” by Craig and Kathy Copeland.

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