The mountain peaks, valleys, and lakes that surround the Lake O’Hara area are among the most beautiful alpine regions in the world. If you haven’t visited yet, you need to add it to your bucket list! Activities in the area include hiking, climbing, scrambling, camping, fishing, glacier swimming, canoeing, snowshoeing, skiing, and skating. Keep reading for everything you need to know about visiting Lake O`Hara in Yoho National Park.
How to Get There
The parking lot for Lake O’Hara is located 194 km (120 miles) from the city of Calgary. If you do not have access to a vehicle you can take a bus from the Greyhound Terminal in Calgary to Lake Louise. Once you reach Lake Louise you can either taxi or contact the Lake O’Hara lodge and they may provide transportation to the parking lot. Upon arrival, there are buses that will take you up to the lodge or campground.
You will have the option to reserve a spot on the bus at the time of booking a campsite or room at the lodge. If you are just visiting Lake O’Hara for the day, book as far in advance as possible because the bus fills up quickly! You do not need to reserve a seat on the outbound bus, only the inbound. Arrive at the bus staging area 20 minutes prior to departure.For more information on price, bus schedule and making reservations, click here.
Hike to Lake O’Hara
If you’re just visiting for the day and the bus is full you can always hike the 11 km access road up to Lake O’Hara. This hike will take you along a windy dirt road with about 400 meters of elevation gain. Once you reach the lake you can spend some time exploring the area or even rent a canoe and paddle around Lake O’Hara. If you want to hike further, I would recommend hiking up to Lake Oesa or Opabin Prospect as they are the shortest distances with the most rewarding views.
Best Time to Visit
- Opening Day: Mid-June
- Closing Day: Beginning of October
Opening Day for Reservation: Reservations open April 3rd. You can reserve no more than three months in advance. Competition is high so make sure to call at 8 am three months prior to your intended camping date.
Lake O’Hara Campsites: 30 single tent sites with a 13’ x 13’ tent pad
Facilities: Access to potable water from two separate taps with large commercial sinks. Women’s and men’s outhouses (2 toilets each). Both garbage and recycling are also available.
Lockers: Each campsite comes with a bear-proof locker to store your food and toiletries. There is a larger shed for shared storage as well.
Lake O’Hara Lodge
The Lake O’Hara Lodge is stunning with a marvelous view of the lake. There are 8 lodge rooms with 2 community bathrooms. Tea time is from 3 pm to 5 pm and is free for guests of the lodge. It is quite expensive for campers or day trippers, but they can stop in for tea as well. The lodge operates its own bus service so you don’t have to worry about reservations.
- Inbound Bus: 9:45 am and 4:45 pm
- Outbound Bus: 9:15 am and 4:00 pm
- Guide Cabin (2 people): $975/night (Min. 2 nights)
- Lakeshore Cabin (2 people): $970/night (Min. 2 nights)
- Lodge Room (2 people): $685/night (Min. 2 nights)
- Single Lodge Room (1 person): $515/night (Min. 2 nights)
These rates include accommodation for two, all meals, afternoon tea and snacks, road trip bus fare, all taxes and gratuities.
The camping at Lake O’Hara is regulated and only certain types of equipment are allowed into the campground. These rules help control the amount of waste that campers can bring into the area. It also helps to regulate the type of campers that stay overnight. The equipment restrictions are listed below:
- Soft Cooler: One collapsible 512 cubic inch cooler per site
- Back Country Stove: A single burning back-country stove like a JetBoil or a Pocket Rocket. We have seen larger groups bring a double burning propane camping stove and they didn’t have any issues.
- Backpacks: You are allowed one large backpack and one smaller day pack per person on the bus.
Bear sighting’s are common in the area so it’s important to carry bear spray, make loud noises, and travel in groups. Attacks are rare but if something does happen, get down to the lodge where they can call for help and first aid is available.
Dehydration & Exhaustion can ruin a trip fast! Drink plenty of water, carry hydration tablets with you, and take breaks when you’re tired.
Lake O’Hara’s Alpine Circuit
Lake O’Hara`s Alpine Circuit is one of the most rewarding hikes you will ever accomplish. Start on the Huber Ledges/Wiwaxy trail head which is located on the north end of Lake O’Hara. First you will be challenged with steep switchbacks all the way to the top of the ridge of Wiwaxy Peaks. Next you will follows a ridge along Mont Huber which takes you across to Lake Oesa. There are many waterfalls along this ridge to cool off under and take some beautiful photos.
After enjoying the view of Lake Oesa, you can either take the trail back to Lake O’Hara or continue on to Yukness Ledges trail. This trail will take you around Yukness mountain offering beautiful views over Lake O`Hara. Eventually, the trail will fork and you will have the option of an out and back to see Opabin Lake if you go left. Keeping Mount Shafer on your left you will now begin All Souls Alpine Route. This is a difficult route that is often closed at the beginning and end of the season. This trail will lead you to Big Larch trail and finally take you back to the lodge.
- Distance: 12.0 km round trip
- Elevation Gain: 495 m
- Time Required: 7-9 Hrs
Oesa Lake Trail
A great hike for a recovery day or a less experienced hiker. It’s shorter and less challenging but has beautiful views of the waterfalls and small lakes flowing from Oesa down to O’Hara. This trail head starts at the NE end of Lake O’Hara.
- Distance: 6.6km round trip
- Elevation Gain: 240m
- Time Required: 3 Hrs
Lake McArthur Trail
The perfect arrival day hike. It’s not quite as long as the other hikes but Lake McAurther itself is breathtaking. The trail has a steady elevation gain until you reach the McAurther cut off Trail. You then climb up and over a steep ridge before you arrive at the lake.
- Distance: 6.3 km round trip
- Elevation Gain: 310m
- Time Required: 3 Hrs
Cathedral, Linda, and Morning Glory Lakes Trail
This trail head begins in the campsite. The trail is fairly flat to Linda Lake which in my opinion was the most beautiful lake in the area. You can stop and swim in this turquoise water or continue on to the west end of the lake. Here the trail quickly steepens and continues until you can see Lake O’Hara to the East. There is a small trail down to Cathedral Lakes. If you are up for it there are two separate trails that continue on to Cathedral Basin or Duchesnay Basin.
- Distance: 6.7 km one way
- Elevation Gain: 370 m
- Time Required: 5 Hrs
Lake O’Hara Shoreline Trail
A beautiful hike to do in the morning or evening. It’s a casual walk around Lake O’Hara that offers wonderful views of the lake and the surrounding mountain peaks. There are benches along the trail to take a break and enjoy the view.
License Required: Get an annual $35.00 CAD Parks Canada Fishing License (Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Kootney) or a 3-day license. It can’t be purchased online so you will have to pick it up at a Visitor Information Center inside the park, the Lake Louise Visitor Center is the most convenient. Make sure to grab a set of fishing regulations as the rules of the park and keep limits vary from year to year.
Lake O’Hara: Well known for its West Slope Cutthroat fishing. Fish have been caught at 50 cm and larger! The North Bay is closed at the beginning of the season. Fish the areas around the creek inlets.
Lake McArthur: Brook Trout up to 30 cm
Lake Oesa: Brook Trout up to 30 cm
Linda Lake: I fished this lake for a couple hours with no success other than seeing a small brook trout.
Cathedral, Vera, Schiffer, Opabin, Mary and Morning Glory Lakes: No fish in these lakes so it’s safe to leave the rod at the campsite.
Tips & Gear: Ice off doesn’t happen until the beginning of July on the higher alpine lakes. Ice off on Lake O’Hara happens around the beginning of June. If the fish are rising on Lake O’Hara fly fishing can be very good! If the fish aren’t rising use a nymph pattern. Using a small spinner (Panther Martin, Five of Diamonds, etc.) can also be very productive.
Elizabeth Park Hut (ACC)
This hut is maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada(ACC) and located just 500 m west of Lake O’Hara in a small meadow. There are actually two small buildings: the Elizabeth Parker Hut and the nearby Wiwaxy Cabin. The main building sleeps 16 people and the Wiwaxy cabin sleeps 8 people in the summer. In the winter, the cabins combine to sleep 20 people. Mattress pads are provided for you to use under your own sleeping bag.
Both huts are heated by wood-burning stoves and propane is supplied for cooking and lighting. Outhouses are 25 m from the huts and any garbage or food scraps should be disposed of properly. Snow melt and the creek that runs nearby are the only water sources. Booked by lottery only during the summer months, the hut is open to Alpine Club Members and the general public during the winter. To book at the Elizabeth Parker Hut call 403-678-3200 ext. 0
Abbot Pass Hut
Maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada, this hut is located between Mount Victoria and Mount Lefroy near the continental divide. At an altitude of 2925 m, the hut is only operational during the summer because it’s too dangerous in the winter. After reaching Lake Oesa you will find a sign marking the end of the Parks Canada trail. The trail turns into a scramble that can be hard to follow at some points due to rock slides. The Abbot Pass Hut sleeps 24 people and has a wood stove for heating and a propane system for cooking and lighting. An outhouse is located a short distance away. These resources are flown in and out annually by helicopter, so be sure not to waist them.
Winter at Lake O’Hara
During the winter months at Lake O’Hara, the 11 km access trail is groomed weekly for cross-country skiers. On weekends the lodge offers soup, salad, dessert, and coffee or tea between 12 pm and 2 pm, cash only. Skiing is the only way to get into Lake O’Hara in the winter and takes approximately 3-4 hours.
- Activities: Skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing
- Lodge Room Twin Bed (2 people): $387.50/night (Min. 2 nights)
- Elizabeth Parker Hut: $40/person/night
Le Relais Day Use Shelter
This small shelter is the information and snack shack for the area. You can purchase maps and a few other small items but remember they are CASH ONLY. The employees are always helpful and know a lot about the area so feel free to ask plenty of questions. When you need to take your mind off of how sore your legs are from the hiking, try their delicious carrot cake!