Rockies :: Yoho :: Lake O'Hara

Canoe Boats at Lake O'Hara shore with view of Yukness Ledges (right) and Lake Oesa Alpine Basin (center)

Canoe Boats at Lake O'Hara shore with view of Yukness Ledges (right) and Lake Oesa Alpine Basin (center)

Lake O'Hara is the shining jewel of Canadian Rockies.  Beautiful and compact area, tucked in alpine basin surrounded by glaciated peaks of Banff / Yoho National Parks.  In order to preserve this exceptional beauty (and not allow tourist gong show Lake Louise has become), Parks Canada are managing the access.  11km gravel road leads from parking lot just south of Alberta/BC provincial border, but driving and even cycling are disallowed.   Daily shuttle operated by Parks Canada, runs in season with several departure times;  for full details, schedule and booking call commercial reservation line at  250-343-6433 or visit Parks Canada Reservation Service for Yoho National Park.  Warning:  it is next to impossible to secure this booking as whole season gets booked solid within few hours on a first day, usually April 23 8am MST onwards.   I tried on multiple occasions in my early days and eventually gave up wasting time,  you might be more successful though.   Same applies for securing space in back-country campground, situated ~1km before Lake O'Hara (reserving campground space automatically puts you on the list for the bus & you don't need to reserve both).   Besides camping, other overnight options are Elizabeth Parker ACC Hut - booked solid as well, and does NOT book bus automatically - and finally deluxe and very expensive privately operated Lake O'Hara Lodge, which runs their own bus.   Note:  In 2020, due to COVID-19 Pandemic,  Shuttle Buses were suspended and at time of this writing it was unclear when/if they will resume.


All this means that hiking the road is price one likely must be prepared to pay in order to visit Lake O'Hara.  It is less difficult one would assume and only steep portion is between km 8 and 10;  rest can be walked (or even ran!) very fast,  at least 6km/hr pace.   I've walked this road many times and it never took more than 2 hours to get in.  In the past I was also able to sometime show up without reservation and be accepted on the bus because some campers would cancel or not show up,  but since 2014 this strategy did not work anymore as demand keeps growing.  It is considerably easier to get "walk-in" 6:30pm download, but this is not guaranteed either and you must be prepared to walk back if download bus gets filled.  


Considering all the above, certain degree of fitness is required in order to enjoy O'Hara.  But price is more than worth, specially in late September when golden larches are on full display.  Following is the list of day hikes starting from end of access road:



Some images from these hikes are showcased on gallery below; follow the links above for more details and full trip reports


Odaray Reflections Little Odaray and Mt. Odaray reflected in calm water of Lake O'Hara in lower part of Lake Oesa trail

Opabin Prospect Lake O'Hara and Mary Lake from Opabin Prospect.  Cathedral Mtn. distance center


Lake McArthur Lake McArthur with snowy Mt. Biddle partially obscured by clouds


Schaffer Lake Panoramic view of Schaffer Lake on Lake McArthur Trail. Wiwaxy Peaks center right


Opabin PassOpabin Tarn and Glacier Hiking Trail reaching glacial tarn at top of Opabin Plateau. Personal Top 1 spot in the Rockies.    Opabin Glacier and Pass center right;  Hungabee Mtn towering above to the left


Opabin PlateauOpabin Larches Golden Larches spreading like shiny jewels on Opabin Plateau Circuit


Yukness LedgesYukness LedgesAerial view of Lake O'Hara from Yukness Ledges alpine route. Distant Mt. Odaray upper left.

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Lake O'Hara Aerial View from Yukness Ledges on Alpine Circuit Trail


Lake Oesa Beautiful Lake Oesa.   Abbot Pass alpine route circles lake on rough trail on the left side, then scrambles up talus slope at far end of the lake


Lake Victoria Golden Larches reflected in still water of Lake Victoria on Lake Oesa trail