The 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.
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!
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: