Before I started my crazy adventure to check off some American National Parks from my bucket list, I spent a year or two really delving into my backyard parks - parks that I had been in or through a few times, but didn't feel like I had spent enough quality time in to qualify for a big check mark. One of those parks was Yoho National Park.
Yoho (my computer keeps trying to autocorrect to Oho, Yolo or Soho, but I assure you I am typing it correctly) National Park is an incredible gem on the British Columbia side of the beautiful Canadian Rocky Mountains. It is home to countless sparkling lakes, majestic peaks (28 of them soar over 3,000 meters, according to the website) and wooded haunts. The name "yoho" is a Cree expression for awe and wonder, and this park certainly lacks neither of those things.
I chose to dedicate some time to a specific area in the park to start, though the park itself is quite large. I planned a long weekend getaway to Lake O'Hara, which is arguably the most popular destination in the park. The campground is well established and accessible by reservation only. In terms of back country camping, camping at the Lake O'Hara campground is practically "glamping". There are not only garbage bins for you to dump your trash while you're still camped in the park, but there are even recycling bins! There's an area with fire rings and stocked fire wood, plenty of picnic tables, and even a small shelter with an old wood stove. There are bathrooms with a solar powered water system and a pair of sinks for washing dishes. And if you're really feeling the glamour, you can always take a walk down to the lodge on the lake for tea and cake (bring cash)!
A disclaimer: Personally, I tend to adventure into the outdoors in part to admire natural beauty, but also to enjoy my own company and the solitude of the wilderness. This oftentimes colours my experience in the outdoors in a way that others may not perceive. I tend to prefer trails and areas a little less traveled, and to avoid crowds. It's a personal preference thing, and I don't mean to criticize anyone else's priorities or experiences in the outdoors in any less of a positive way as mine if they do include more populated areas. I encourage everyone to get out, in whatever capacity they are comfortable. Despite Lake O'Hara being a well traveled area, it is still one of my favourites. So, there's that!
Whether you decide to drag someone to the Lake O'Hara area with you or not, you'll no doubt be in excellent company - amongst fellow campers and day hikers, and among the giants: Mount Huber, Yukness Mountain, Wiwaxy Peaks, Mount Schaffer and Odaray Mountain aren't likely to disappoint. Nor will they bore you. The park is full of trails from beginner to advanced levels of experience, and I would have needed a lot more than a long weekend to fit them all in.
I booked my trip for the maximum allowable nights at a time - three. However, I ended up not being able to take the extra day off work for my long weekend. I managed to adjust my bus booking and get in Friday night, and headed back home late Sunday afternoon. The bus reservation isn't necessary, but it does save a couple hours and conserves some energy for the rest of your weekend. The road into Lake O'Hara is closed to general vehicular traffic. Only the lodge and the buses are allowed to use the road, and it's 11 km or so long (and relatively boring). The bus saves you the trouble and time of packing all your gear in.
Apparently I have a knack for planning trips around the Perseid Meteor Shower, and this trip was a prime example. So, Friday night, I dragged my warm and cozy self out into the cool crisp night, and made my first hike down to Lake O'Hara in the dark. Let me tell you: WORTH IT. Not only did I spend an incredible couple of hours watching stars shoot across the sky over Lake O'Hara, but it was also really neat to experience the lake first at night, before seeing it the next day. I even hiked a ways up the West Opabin Trail to get some photos back down over Mary Lake.
I spent Saturday hiking something of an alpine circuit. I believe there is an established Alpine Circuit, and I'm pretty sure I traveled most of it, but probably not all of it. What I do know, is that I hiked a long loop, saw a lot of pristine alpine lakes, admired so many peaks, and was super tuckered and supremely happy at the end of the day! My loop included Lake Oesa (and a few beautiful pools along the way), the Yukness Ledges, Opabin Lake, a waterfall coming back down the trail to Lake O'Hara with a view of Mary Lake, and of course Lake O'Hara itself. I spent more time at Lake O'Hara, bathing in the sun and dipping my toes in the ice cold water on Sunday, before I jumped back on the shuttle.
The colour of each lake I saw on the circuit was different. While Lake O'Hara is an opaque turquoise, Lake Oesa is a crystalline sapphire. Opabin Lake is a beautiful sparkling viridian and aquamarine, and Mary Lake was an intense, deep emerald. Pools in between (Hungabee, Moor, Lefroy, Yukness and Victoria to name a few) fell in between in colour too, and I was in disbelief over their distinct variations. I wish I could have made it up to McArthur Lake and Schaffer Lake or the Morning Glory Lakes too - I think it would have added even more shades to my weekend colour wheel.
Listening to the loons call over Lake Oesa, and photographing wildflowers and alpine grasses around Opabin Lake while fellow hikers skipped rocks and picnicked, I spent the whole day embracing my curiosity around and over every rock and ledge. The view of Lake O'Hara from Yukness Ledges (or anywhere, really) is simply incredible. There's not much more that one could ask for in a day hike - it's all packed into this one, and it's hard to believe but there is even more to explore not just in the park but in this precious little pocket of it.
BONUS: For those of you that are curious, I also learned a lot about the pronunciation of lake names through the weekend. Oesa = "oh-ee-sah"; Opabin: "oh-pay-bin". I always think it's hilarious when you are so sure in your mind of how to pronounce something, until you hear someone else say it out loud, and everything just makes so much more sense. And then you laugh at what you thought it was every time you have to say it again to figure it out. I laughed at myself a lot this weekend in Yoho!
Have you been to the mesmerizing shores of Lake O'Hara or do you have a different favourite spot in Yoho National Park? Do you have questions about planning your own trip to the area? Give me a shout via the contact page or Instagram - I'd love to hear from you!
Photos are my own. Please do not reproduce without my written permission.
First: Lake O'Hara looking towards Mount Lefroy 2016 | Second: Opabin Lake towards Mount Yukness + Ringrose Peak 2016 | Third: Lake O'Hara + Mary Lake from Yukness Ledges 2016 | Fourth: (a) Night sky over Lake O'Hara 2016, (b) Big Dipper over Mary Lake 2016 | Fifth: (a) Mount Lefroy + Glacier Peak with Lake Oesa + Lefroy Lake 2016, (b) Opabin Lake towards Hungabee Mountain 2016