Great Hike: Iceline Trail, Yoho National Park
By Michael Lanza
The hike begins with a short walk to the base of Takakkaw Falls, which plummets thunderously more than 1,100 feet (350m) over a cliff, raining mist on hikers below. Fed by the Daly Glacier and Waputik Icefield, the waterfall takes its name from the Cree word meaning “it is magnificent.” You won’t contest the claim. Beyond, you begin a long, steady ascent, first through forest, but soon with expansive views of the Yoho Valley in the Canadian Rockies, where sprawling icefields cap the mountains. A bit over two miles from the trailhead, traversing an ice-ravaged, open landscape of rock, dirt, and a few tiny but hardy plants and wildflowers, you get your first view of the thick, severely cracked Emerald Glacier, pouring off of 10,000-foot peaks in the President Range.
The eight-mile, out-and-back dayhike of the Iceline Trail to Iceline Summit (the trail’s high point at 7,316 feet/2,230m) is no secret to Canadians; it’s popular with dayhikers and backpackers. But in Yoho you don’t see the crowds of neighboring Banff National Park—and Yoho has scenery easily as good as any of the Canadian Rockies parks, as you can see in the photo gallery below from my family’s dayhike on the Iceline Trail.
The hike ascends 2,250 feet/685m to the Iceline’s high point, but you can turn around before that and still enjoy basically the same views of the mountains and glaciers flanking the Yoho Valley. For much of the hike, Takakkaw Falls is visible and audible far below you, glowing like a ray of sunlight in the valley bottom. And for the upper half of the hike, you’re looking straight ahead at the thick tongue of the Emerald Glacier, eventually coming nearly to the toe of two of its lobes.
My family dayhiked the Iceline after a four-day backpacking trip on the Rockwall Trail in nearby Kootenay National Park. If you’re looking for an introduction to Yoho or have one day to hike here, the Iceline is hard to beat.
This blog and website is my full-time job and I rely on the support of readers. If you like what you see here, please help me continue producing The Big Outside by making a donation using the Support button at the top of the left sidebar or below. Thank you for your support.
THIS TRIP IS GOOD FOR anyone, including beginners and children, capable of hiking at least five to six miles round-trip, and close to 2,000 vertical feet up and down, on a trail that’s well constructed and well marked, but nonetheless rocky at times.
Make It Happen
Season Trails are mostly snow-free from mid- or late July through September and sometimes into October.
Getting There From the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) 2.3 miles/3.7k east of Field, B.C., turn north onto Yoho Valley Road. Follow that road 7.5 miles/12.5k to the Whiskey Jack Trailhead. If the parking there is full, drive to the end of the road and park at the Kakakkaw Falls Trailhead. From there, walk less than a half-mile to the base of the waterfall, then follow the trail south to the Whiskey Jack Trailhead.
Map Lake Louise & Yoho 1:50,000 map, $10.46 USD/$13.95 CAD, can be purchased in stores in the Yoho-Banff area or from gemtrek.com.
Guidebook The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide, by Brian Patton and Bart Robinson, $24.95 CAD, canadianrockiestrailguide.com.
Contact Yoho National Park, (250) 343-6783, pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/bc/yoho.