Emerald Lake Loop – Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake Loop – Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake Hike - Yoho National ParkThe lovely circuit around Emerald Lake shows off incredibly beautiful views of the mountains in Yoho National Park. This walk is not much effort, and if you go there early, it is also very quiet and serene. We planned to have a quick stop here on our long drive back to Vancouver, but once we started wandering along the Emerald Lake Loop, we couldn’t help but keep going and see entire walk. The Emerald Lake Loop is the perfect place for an accidental hike!

Emerald Lake is just as pretty (if not prettier) than Lake Louise, Lake Agnes and Moraine Lake, but it didn’t seem to be crowded with quite so many tourists. Even if you’re not normally into hikes, this one is worth it. The views just keep getting better and better as you traverse around the water.

Emerald Lake Hike Map

Emerald Lake Loop – the basics

Distance: 5.3km (circuit)
Elevation gain
: Minimal
Time: 1.45 hours  2 hours
What to bring:
Walking boots or shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy.
The ten essentials
There are loos close to the car park
Yep, they’ll love it! But keep them on a lead.
How hard is it?
Easy-peasy. This is another walk that would be great for children.

Even if you don’t want to hike, you should stop here. This is the first view that will greet you on the Emerald Lake loop…

Be careful on the bridge!

When you first arrive at the car park, you’ll see the gooorgeous view above. It is temping to just stand there and gawp (which is what most people seem to do!) There is a bridge that will take you over the the Emerald Lake Lodge and other cabins. Right next to the bridge is a huge sign saying don’t stand there. In front of that sign there was a large crowd of people ignoring the sign, and getting in front of cars! If you stand on the safe side of the bridge, you get to see this view to Mount Burgess.

Emerald Lake Loop – Getting started

You can wander around the lake in either direction. We were not planning to do the whole hike, so we decided to go clockwise, towards the avalanche area on Emerald Peak. If you head this way, there is a gorgeous view back to Burgess Mountain and the Emerald Lake Lodge within the first couple of minutes!

Spectacular views, for hardly any effort!

Aren’t these views amazing!? The easy Emerald Lake Loop walks around the base of each of the mountains you can see below. Click on the photo to zoom in.

From left to right: Emerald Peak is first (with the huge bald patch from yearly avalanches.) Next is the President Range, then Wapta Mountain (in the middle) and Mount Burgess (location of the Burgess shale) to the right.

Very relaxing and quiet

The first part of the Emerald Lake loop hugs the edge of the lake, so you get plenty of opportunities to see this prettiness. We arrived about 8:30am. The car park was not very busy, and although there were quite a lot of people by the bridge (getting in the way of cars!) Once we started walking along the trail, we didn’t see any other people for the first hour! This was a bit of a shock after the hustle and bustle of Lake Louise, Lake Agnes and Moraine Lake.

Can you see the jump shot in the photo below!? Mountains make me look teeny.

The end of Emerald Lake

It took us around half an hour to reach the open plateau at the opposite end of the lake. The view of the President (and the Vice President) had been hidden by trees for most of that time, so it was amazing to look up at the snow-covered rock formations above us! It was still pretty cloudy, but I loved looking back towards Mount Burgess too.

Wapta Mountain views

This was our view of Wapta Mountain and the slippy pathway at the end of the lake. It’s hard to see from this photo, but to me it looked like there is a giant’s fist at the top of the mountain. There were also three huge gashes on the mountainside where trees have be dragged off by avalanches. It looks a bit like a giant bear has clawed the mountain. Or, like the Japanese kanji for river: 川.

The President Range

I also loved looking up through the trees to the President and Vice President. You can really see all the geological formations and the huge swirls of rock that have been crumpled and pushed up to create these mountains.

I mean, it’s not often that you can see views this grand, without a long hike into the back country. The Canadian Rockies and simply stunning.

Accidental hikers

So, as you can probably guess, we could not stop and turn around at this point. We figured, we were half way around the lake, and it’d only be a teeny bit longer to keep walking the whole way around… so we kept going. Would you be able to stop, or would you keep going and see all the views?

I’ll add a photo of Mount Marpole too as it peaked out of the clouds at just the right moment.

Into the trees

Once you’ve crossed the far-end of the lake and swooned at the views, there is a bridge that takes you back into the trees along the other side of the lake. The path is very muddy on this side of the lake, and although the Emerald Lake Loop wiggles through the trees, there are lots of paths down to the edge of the lake when you want to see more views.

At this point, we did start to meet other hikers here, heading in the opposite direction. It was still pretty quiet though.

Emerald Lake Loop – best view

Once we were almost all the way back to the Emerald Lake Lodge, we saw my favourite view of the entire walk. Somehow we had perfect timing. There was a teeny patch of blue sky, to show off the President (and the Vice President) reflected in the lake perfectly. Isn’t that lovely!?

I did take a jumping photo, but to be honest, I like the reflections even more without my silly grin spoiling the view!

*sigh* I could turn this photo upside down, and it would still work.

Finishing the loop

After that gorgeous view, we only had a short walk back to the cabins and bridge at the start of the Emerald Lake Loop. We may have spent longer than we intended on this accidental hike, but I am so glad we did! I was just a little surprised that it was not more popular. Even once we’d returned to the start, the vast majority of sightseers were stopping for a photo at the first viewpoint, and missing the rest of the walk.

If you are planning a road trip to Banff, Emerald Lake is a really good place to stop for a break. However it’s even better if you stretch your legs and wander along the Emerald Lake Loop too!

Emerald Lake Hike - Yoho National Park  Emerald Lake Loop - Yoho National Park  Emerald Lake - Gorgeous Canadian Views

Other easy hikes near Banff:

As it was snowing, we didn’t do any particularly strenuous alpine walks in our time in Banff. Here are some other ideas for easy-ish hikes that you can do in a few hours:

35 thoughts on “Emerald Lake Loop – Yoho National Park

    1. The fall has been goooorgeous this year, but we don’t have snow on the West coast yet. Yoho National Park just gets it so much earlier because of all those mountains!

    1. Yeees! I thought that most people would, but I was surprised by how few people seem to like walking.

      p.s. You’d love this one. Your new hip could totally make it around the lake!

  1. Is there a single part of Banff that isn’t stunning?? Awesome little guide for this loop– it sounds like the perfect half-day, fall walk.

    1. Thanks Dylan! I get the impression the whole area is just gorgeous.

      It’d even be good as a walk, on the way to a more epic walk! We were finished by 10:00am, so you could easily fit more exploring in. We (unfortunately) had to spend the day driving home.

  2. Well, it’s gorgeous that’s for sure, but I think I’ll plan my trip when there’s no snow on the ground. I’m not keen on cold weather.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    1. I totally understand! I normally hate cold weather…Canada (and learning to ski) seems to have made me slightly more hardy!

    1. Thank *you* for popping by Susie!

      It wasn’t too cold that morning, even though the snow on the ground makes it look freezing! It was already melting by the time we left!

    1. Nah, it wasn’t very cold at all. The blizzard stopped that morning, so it was already starting to warm up and feel like Autumn again! 😀

      Still, it does *look* cold!

  3. Your pictures are just out of this gorgeous! They transported me right back into the rockies from my trip eons ago. I just couldn’t do in the cold season. Hats off to you.

    1. Lol we hadn’t planned to be there in the cold, we expected pretty autumnal weather…it’s just the storm didn’t pay any attention to our plans!

      I’d love to do it your way and go back in the summer!

  4. I stayed at Emerald Lake Lodge, but never did the loop! It was way too cold to do anything 🙂 Looks like you had an amazing time though!

    1. Oh no! It must have been freezing for you! Were the views from the lodge amazing? I was wondering if we should stay there next time as there so so many amazing walks in Yoho national Park!

    1. I REALLY wanted to do that trail. It just was not safe with 30-40cm of snow falling in the alpine in 24hours!

      I reeeally hope I can do that walk next time.

  5. Lake Louise has always been on my bucket list! This is a great imformative post with fabulous pictures! Really makes me wish I could book a trip there right now! Looks such a beautiful place to explore 👍

    1. Lake Louise is gooooregous too. But I thought Emerald Lake was just as pretty, without so many other people. I hope you can make it to both! 😀

  6. That is a great first view! If you are comparing it to the likes of Lake Louise then it must be amazing. The reflections on the water are incredible. This is definitely worth a full hike around the lake. What a beautiful area. Just stunning!. I know I said it already but those reflection photos are amazing!

    1. Awww thanks Christina!

      I did love the walks near Lake Louise too, especially the Plain of Six Glaciers. This was just amazing for a relaxed, accidental hike!

  7. Amazing scenery, Canada and particularly the Rockies train ride are becoming really popular amongst Australian tourists. My brother actually did it this year & said it was spectacular. Another one for my bucket list!

    1. Thanks Sally! I would love to do that train ride too…it’s just a bit pricey, so we’d have to save up for a while!

  8. I can definitely see why you “accidentally” hiked this trail! Those mountains and their reflections are stunning, Josy. I think those look like bear claw marks in Wapta, too!

    1. Yay! I’m glad it’s not just me. It would be a pretty massive bear! 😀

      Canada could make it’s own godzilla like movies with giant bears hiding behind mountains (instead of lizards behind skyscrapers!)

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