Yoho National Park, BC

Yoho Valley, Iceline, Whaleback Trails Loop

August 12-14, 2017



Distance: 30km (~19.5mi)

Time: 3 days, 2 nights

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 760m (~2500 ft)


I’m writing this post 1.5 years after the fact, but I have a lot of pictures from the adventure I wanted to share in a quick photo essay.  On this trip, my friends, Eric and Naomi, and I explored Yoho National Park, Jasper National Park, and Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies.  During initial research for the trip I stumbled upon some pictures and blog posts from Yoho and it looked beautiful. It also seemed to less popular than the other parks.  In the end, this Yoho National Park backpacking loop turned out to be my favorite part of our trip.  Maybe it was because this was my first taste of the Canadian Rockies and beautiful glacier lakes, but Yoho really took my breath away and offered very different types of scenery.

Eric and I departed Calgary for Yoho National Park in the morning.  About an hour into our drive we got our first glimpse of the Canadian Rockies!

We started at the Takkakaw Falls, the tallest waterfall in Canada. There is a section of the parking lot dedicated to over-nights only and we lucked out with the last available spot. Before we began backpacking we hiked up to the base of the falls to snap some photos and feel the mist.  

We had some beautiful weather backpacking to the Twin Falls campsite on the first day.  We also had our first taste of glacial water.

Laughing Falls looked beautiful with the sun starting to set.

We arrived at the Twin Falls campground around 6:45pm.  It took us about 3 hours to hike the first 7km of the trip.  The campsite was next to a river and also had some nice picnic tables. During dinner, Eric and I went to take a quick look at the river, and when we came back to the table, a friendly Chipmunk was eating Eric’s leftover granola.

We slept in a little bit and started Day 2 around 8am.  The next majestic landmark we came across was Twin Falls.  We took a break for a snack at the Twin Falls Chalet and chatted with some hikers staying there.  They told us it was there 3rd night and they had been exploring the surrounding areas. They also said the food the staff cooked at the Chalet was amazing. I’ll have to go back and try it sometime.   

We next merged with the Whaleback trail and started our ascent to the top of Twin Falls. It was a serious climb with a lot of switchbacks; about 500m of elevation gain in less than 3km. In hindsight, we backpacked the loop the harder direction (counter-clockwise), but either way is still strenuous. It started drizzling during our ascent and didn’t stop until we reached our campsite.

Some leftover snowpack In August!

We hiked at a higher elevation for a little bit soaking in 270 degree majestic views of Yoho Valley before heading back down to meet back up with the Iceline trail.

Pit Stop at the Stanley Mitchell Hut. The next several miles were going to be trekking into the rocky glacial region behind Eric in this photo:

Once we got above the tree line, the scenery drastically changed and it felt like we were in a completely new place.  It was extremely rocky, with minimal plant life, and glacier ponds scattered all around.  I imagine this section of the hike is how the Iceline Trail got it’s name. We filled up our water bottles in a super turquoise pond.

Before beginning our descent down to Yoho Lake we got an alternate view of Takkakaw Falls.  I had no idea the mountains kept going so high about the falls when looking from the base of the falls the previous day.  It was a great feeling looking at the Falls from here and seeing how much terrain we’d covered in a little over 24 hours.

We arrived at our campsite around 7:30PM and the clouds broke up a bit right when we arrived. This gave us an opportunity to set up our tent while keeping our gear dry.

There were two other groups of campers there.  One group was a mom and her daughter just starting their trip. The other group consisted of a few hikers from a university (I can’t remember where) taking rock and fossil samples in the backcountry for. One of the guys we were talking to had done some geological research in our home state of Virginia as well, so we bonded over that. 

It rained all night long, but we awoke to some cool foggy views of Yoho Lake.  We also found some of the red Canada chairs!

The hike out took about an hour and then we were off to Banff to shower, rest up, and meet Naomi for the next part of our Canadian Rockies adventure!

Overall this was an amazing Yoho National Park backpacking loop and I’d recommend it to anyone.  The hike up to twin falls was strenuous, but the rest of the loop was easy to moderate. I would like to do the same loop again sometime,  hopefully when it’s less rainy and also more clear outside.  Many of our views on this trip were hindered due to smoke and haze from forest fires. Maybe in the Fall next time with the larch trees! If you choose to do this loop, make sure you reserve permits well in advance!

If you have any questions or comments, shoot me a post below!  Happy Adventuring!

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