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Yoho National Park – Yours to Discover!

Yoho National Park – Yours to Discover! thumbnail

Capitalizing on our extended summer weather, my wife and I recently decided to get another day trip in before the long, cold winter arrives. We don’t regularly select a destination we previously explored and enjoyed but this time we thought we would return to Yoho National Park. This was our 5th visit to this stunning paradise.

Yoho National Park is Canada’s second oldest National Park, after Banff and was created in 1886 by Sir John A. Macdonald. It is located about 30 minutes west of Lake Louise in the beautiful province of British Columbia. The word Yoho is Cree Indian language meaning awe and wonder. You will certainly agree after a visit there!

I look forward to these kinds of trips since there are numerous stops along the way. Furthermore, there are few sights as magnificent as the Canadian Rockies in the winter.

We left Calgary at 7:00 am and drove past Banff and Lake Louise, as we’ve been there many times but we did stop a few times along the highway for beautiful scenery and that’s always a good idea. It allows us and our passengers the opportunity to stretch our legs and we always pack along a cooler of food and a Thermos of coffee. We rarely drive continuous for more than 30 minutes on any of our trips. This keeps the driver as well as the passengers alert.

Our first stop, 36 km west of Lake Louise, was the Natural Bridge and there is no need to rush through these smaller attractions. On both sides of the river, above and below the falls there is easy access for young and old, fit and not so fit to explore and see the falls from a variety of angles. The gorgeous aqua blue colors of the water, along with the frequent snowflakes falling most of the year make this stop ideal for photo enthusiasts. The water level, although low in the fall, still produces a magnificent cascade as it wears away the rocks and creates a natural bridge over the river.

Just minutes further on Highway #1 you will come to another mountain gem – Emerald Lake. This stop includes the beautiful lake with the snow covered mountains surrounding it while the Chalets and lakeshore trails are appealing walks too. With water level low at this time of year, this occasion we did not hike to see Hamilton Falls, accessible from the parking lot trailhead. We will do that in the spring.

The unique color of Emerald Lake, along with the remarkable reflections will make you wish you could stay here forever. We sometimes rent canoes in the summer and paddle around the lake. As always, we snacked, had some coffee and fed the Blue Jays right out of our hands. Another tip – always bring some bird seeds!

Continuing another 20 minutes west, 25 km past Field, B.C. we come to our chief destination – Wapta Falls. These Falls are the largest falls on the Kicking Horse River, at about 30 metres high and 150 metres wide. Wapta is a Nakoda Indian word meaning “river”.

The 3 km trail to the falls winds through the trees, roots and rocks and is mostly flat surface along the way. This is bear country so be aware of them. You will not even hear the roar of the falls until you are almost there. The upper viewing area is impressive, but also be sure to take the short trail down the hill so you can get close to the base of the falls, right into the mist. If there is any sunshine you will glimpse several rainbows.

My wife and I, after viewing the aqua blue water of the falls and river, then explored the river bed and river banks. I took lots of pictures and video, from different angles. Ludy collected souvenir rocks and driftwood for our yard and she always builds those Inuit rock things – Inukshuk – with rocks found along the shores. On warm days it is so relaxing just to lie in the sun with the noise of the falls to lull you to sleep!

If you ever visit Yoho National Park in the summer you can also check out Takakkaw Falls, Kicking Horse Pass and the Spiral Tunnels. The short road to these areas is closed in the winter months.

The drive home was just under 2 hours and after outings like this – it was done in silence. I was reflecting on God’s awesome creations – while my wife was napping contentedly, her belly filled with delicious food after a stop to visit our friends who live in Banff. A swim in the guest pool at Banff Springs Hotel concluded our exciting day.

We traveled more than 600 km on our day trip, hiked 15 km on foot and our only cost was $22 for gas. You don’t require a lot of money for these trips and the fresh air, sunshine and exercise will do wonders for your mental and physical health. If you have an interest in cool, clear, clean and quiet nature, then load up the car, throw in some food, pick up a few friends and start a new life of health and happiness!

Yoho National Park is just one destination out of hundreds in western Canada waiting for you to explore!

Steve Tarzwell


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