Recommended winter trails

Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park is on the west side of the Continental Divide and gets a lot of powdery snow. The park offers a variety of winter activities with options for everyone. The natural setting and the simple network of winter trails will charm you. The best skiing and snowshoeing is from late-December until late March.

On average, the cross-country ski trails are groomed twice a week. The grooming frequency depends on snowfall and weather conditions. Check the trail conditions for updates.

Winter safety
Two people wearing ice cleats walk on a snowy trail.

Safety is your responsibility. There are always hazards associated with outdoor recreation. Even short trips can have serious consequences.

Minimize your risk by planning ahead.

  • Check current trail conditions, warnings and closures.
  • Expect that trail conditions and winter hazards may change throughout the day. Consult weather forecasts, and be prepared for changing weather and emergencies.
  • Review trail descriptions and maps before heading out. Always choose a trail suitable for the least experienced member in your group.
  • Contact the Parks Canada visitor centre in Lake Louise for trip planning advice. Note that the information desk at the Yoho National Park Visitor Centre is closed from mid-October to early May. You can buy your park pass at the self-serve kiosk outside of the visitor centre. The washrooms and free Wi-Fi are also available year-round (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
  • Tell a reliable person where you are going, when you will be back and who to call if you do not return: Parks Canada Dispatch – 403-762-1470.
  • Winter hazards include avalanches, disorientation, thin ice, hypothermia and frostbite.
  • From November to March, make sure your car is winterized. Snow tires, proper clothing, and an emergency kit are recommended. Visit Road Conditions and Events - DriveBC for road reports.
  • In case of EMERGENCY, call 911 or satellite phone: 403-762-4506. Cell phone coverage is not reliable throughout the national park.
A person, at the back of a car, gets their hiking gear ready (snowshoes, backpack), while another person  looks at a brochure.

Recommended packing list

  • Trail guide and map: guidebooks and topographic maps are available at the Banff and Lake Louise visitor centres, and retail outlets in Banff and Lake Louise.
  • Full water bottle or thermos
  • High energy food
  • Bear spray
  • First aid kit and repair kit
  • Lightweight emergency blanket, candle and lighter or waterproof matches
  • Headlamp or flashlight with spare batteries
  • Winter hat and gloves
  • Extra warm clothing in case of an emergency
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Hand and toe warmers
  • Cell phone or satellite communication device

Visit parksmountainsafety.ca for additional information on winter packing.

Wildlife

Although bears are denning during the winter, they can awaken at any time for short periods. Cougars, wolves and other wildlife remain active throughout the year. If you see wildlife, do not approach. Give them lots of space and observe from a distance with binoculars or a telephoto lens. If tracks are observed, do not follow them towards the animal.

Be alert, make noise and carry bear spray. Learn more about keeping yourself safe.

 Avalanche safety

Avalanche season in the mountains extends from November to June, and even a short walk can take you into avalanche terrain. Trails with a known hazard are identified with an avalanche symbol in the trail description.

When travelling beyond marked trails, or past an avalanche danger sign, assume you are in avalanche country.

If you see this sign, you are about to enter avalanche terrain. Do not proceed unless you have avalanche training and a transceiver, probe and shovel.

Sign indicating an avalanche risk zone.

There are often tracks beyond these signs left by equipped parties – this does not indicate that the trail is safe. You don’t know how informed previous travellers were or what the conditions may have been at the time.

Safety is your responsibility. Check the current avalanche forecast at a Parks Canada Visitor Centre or avalanche.ca

 

Avalanche zones

A backcountry skier reads an avalanche hazard sign at Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park.
  • Emerald Lake: There is a large avalanche slide path on the left side of the lake. Only use trail 3A in early season. Look for warning signs.
  • Emerald Basin: Travel towards Emerald Basin requires avalanche training and equipment.
  • Connector Trail: The maintained trail crosses an avalanche zone. Look for warning signs, and move through the area quickly and safely.
  • Yoho Valley Road: Travel beyond the groomed trail requires avalanche training and equipment.
  • O’Hara Fire Road: Beyond the Ross Lake Loop Trail, the road travels through avalanche zones. Look for warning signs.
  • Sherbrooke Lake: The lake is in a narrow valley surrounded by steep avalanche slopes. Travel beyond the warning signs requires avalanche training and equipment.

For safe trails options, stay on the recommended trails described below.

 

Learn how to travel safely in avalanche country

Many excellent programs exist to help you learn to travel safely in avalanche country. Visit Avalanche Canada for a list of programs and an online introductory primer.

Visit parksmountainsafety.ca for more information on backcountry travel and how to stay safe in the mountains.

Get outside, have fun and be safe!

Trail etiquette 
Cross-country skiers and snowshoers are on either side of a multi-use winter trail.

The trails are shared in Yoho National Park, It means that you could see people classic or skate skiing while you are snowshoeing.

  • The track set portion of the trail is for classic skiing only. No dogs are allowed on track set portions. The flat groomed lane is for other users.
  • Read the trail descriptions as dogs are not permitted on certain trails. Keep dogs on leash and under physical control at all times. Always pick up after your dog.
  • When climbing, please yield the right of way to descending skiers or other users.
  • If you fall, move off the track as quickly as possible.
  • When taking a break, step to the side, leaving room for others to pass.
  • Leave no trace. Pack out everything you pack in.
Trail ratings
 

Easy

  • Suitable for those with little or no trail experience.
  • Flat to gently rolling.
  • Little or no elevation gain or loss.
 

Moderate

  • Suitable for those with basic trail experience.
  • Gently rolling with short, steep sections.
  • Moderate elevation gain or loss.
 

Difficult

  • Suitable for experienced visitors with above average level of fitness.
  • Major elevation gain or loss with long steep sections.
For all trails, be prepared as conditions can change quickly; easy and moderate trails can become difficult due to weather change, icy conditions or poor visibility.
Estimated time to complete these trails ranges depending on activities, trail distances, fitness levels, weather and trail conditions.
Elevation gain/loss
On most trails you will gain and lose elevation before you reach your destination. Elevation gain represents all the up and elevation loss all the down you will experience on a one-way hike.
Yoho National Park winter trails map

Winter trails in Yoho National Park

Trail Distance (one-way) Elevation gain / loss Estimated time (return) Activity
 1 Hamilton Falls 900 m 100 m / 5 m 30 minutes Dogs on leash
 2 Peaceful Pond 900 m 30 m / 30 m 30 minutes Dogs on leash
 3 Emerald Lakeshore 5.2 km loop 120 m / 120 m 2-3 hours Dogs on leash
 3A Emerald Lakeshore 600 m 15 m / 15 m 20 minutes Cross-country skiing Dogs on leash
 3B Emerald Lake Crossing 500 m n/a 20 minutes Cross-country skiing Dogs on leash
 4 Classic Emerald 1 km (with 4) 20 m / 20 m 1 hour Cross-country skiing
 4 Classic Emerald 50 m 10 m / 10 m 5-10 minutes Cross-country skiing
 5 Alluvial Fan Loop 4.3 km 55 m / 55 m 1 hour Cross-country skiing
 6 Connector 6.9 km
7.3 km until Natural Bridge
180 m / 105 m
190 m / 110 m
3-4 hours Cross-country skiing
 7 Tally Ho-Old ski hill 2.3 km 80 m / 40 m 1-1.5 hour Cross-country skiing
 8 Great Divide 2.7 km until Great Divide
9.8 km to Lake Louise
55 m / 30 m
210 m / 120 m
1 hour to Great Divide
3-4 hours to Lake Louise
Cross-country skiing Biciclettes
 9 Ross Lake Loop 8.2 km loop 390 m / 135 m 3-4 hours Dogs on leash
 10 Kicking Horse Fire Road 3.8 km to rest area
7 km to the end
60 m / 140 m 2-3 hours to rest area
4-4.5 hours to the end
Cross-country skiing
 11 Yoho Valley Road 4.5 km 180 m / 85 m 2-3 hours Cross-country skiing Dogs on leash
 12 Sherbrooke Lake 2.9 km 280 m / 75 m 3-4 hours Dogs on leash
 13 Wapta Falls 3.8 km 160 m / 150 m 3-4 hours Dogs on leash

Winter trails in Yoho National Park
Trail descriptions

 1 Hamilton Falls

Dogs on leash

Length (One way): 900 m
Estimated time (return):30 minutes
Elevation gain: 100 m | Elevation Loss: 5 m
Trailhead: Access the trail from the west side of the Emerald Lake parking lot.
Habitat: Mature forest (lodgepole pine, spruce, fir, cedar), canyon and frozen waterfall.
Description: Quick and easy trip to the frozen Hamilton Falls.
Estimated time (return): 30 minutes


 2 Peaceful Pond

 Dogs on leash

Length (One way): 900 m
Estimated time (return):30 minutes
Elevation gain: 30 m | Elevation Loss: 30 m
Trailhead: Access the trail from the east side of the Emerald Lake parking lot.
Habitat: Mature forest (lodgepole pine, spruce, fir, cedar), canyon and frozen waterfall.
Description: Hike in the forest near Peaceful Pond. When you arrive at the Emerald Lakeshore Trail junction, keep left to go back to the lodge and parking lot. Turn right for a longer adventure around Emerald Lake.


 3 &  3A Emerald Lakeshore /  3B Emerald Lake crossing 

Cross-country skiing (3A and 3B) Dogs on leash (3A and 3B: Not on XC tracks) 

Length (One way):
5.2 km loop 3 (with 3A OR 3B)
600 m 3A
500 m 3B
Estimated time (return):
2-3 hours 3 (with 3A OR 3B)
20 minutes 3A
20 minutes 3B
Elevation gain:
120 m 3 (with 3A OR 3B)
15 m 3A
n/a 3B
Elevation Loss:
120 m 3 (with 3A OR 3B)
15 m 3A
n/a 3B
Trailhead: Emerald Lake parking lot.
Habitat: Frozen lake with views of the mountains, and then mature western forest.
Description: In early season, the trail 3 starts by the Emerald Lake public washroom ( 3A ) when grooming on the lake is not safe yet, and then follows the perimeter of the lake clockwise. Once the lake surface is frozen, the trail 3 starts on the lake ( 3B ) to avoid the avalanche path.


 4 4 Classic Emerald

Cross-country skiing

Length (One way): 1 km
Estimated time (return):
1 hour (4 & 4)
5-10 minutes (4)
Elevation gain:
20 m (4)
10 m (4)
Elevation Loss:
20 m (4)
10 m (4)
Trailhead: Access the trail by 3A (early season) or 3B (on the lake is frozen). Once the lake surface is frozen, the trail starts on the lake (see 3B) to avoid the avalanche path.
Habitat: Mature forest (lodgepole pine, spruce and fir).
Description: The moderate section of trail 4 is very short but steep. The easy section of trail 4 has gentle rolling hills and leads to the back of Emerald Lake. Continue on the Alluvial Fan Loop for panoramic views.


 5 Alluvial Fan Loop

Cross-country skiing

Length (One way): 4.3 km
Estimated time (return):1 hour
Elevation gain: 55 m | Elevation Loss: 55 m
Trailhead: Access the trail by 4.
Habitat: Open view, alluvial cone, and views of surrounding mountains.
Description: You can glide both ways on this loop on the alluvial fan at the back of Emerald Lake. Enjoy the views of the mountains at one of the rest areas along the trail. Continue until you merge back with 4.

 Warning: On the loop, Emerald Basin junction is a destination for backcountry users and goes through avalanche terrain. It is not a part of the Yoho winter trail offer. Travel beyond this point requires avalanche training and equipment.


 6 Connector

Cross-country skiing

Length (One way):
6.9 km
7.3 km until Natural Bridge via 7
Estimated time (return):3-4 hours
Elevation gain:
180 m
190 m until Natural Bridge via 7
Elevation Loss:
105 m
110 m until Natural Bridge via 7
Trailhead: Access the trail from the Emerald Lake or Natural Bridge parking lots. At Natural Bridge, the trail starts across Emerald Lake Road.
Habitat: Mature forest (lodgepole pine, spruce and fir).
Description: The trail has hilly and steep sections. It is recommended for advanced cross-country skiers.

 Warning: The maintained trail crosses an avalanche zone. Look for warning signs, and move through the area quickly and safely.


 7 Tally-Ho - Old ski hill

Cross-country skiing

Length (One way): 2.3 km
Estimated time (return):1-1.5 hour
Elevation gain: 80 m | Elevation Loss:40 m
Trailhead: Park at the Natural Bridge parking lot and cross Emerald Lake Road to join the Tally-Ho Trail.
Habitat: Mature forest (lodgepole pine, spruce and fir).
Description: Once on the trail, put on your cross-country skis. Go straight at the junction. The trail climbs gradually and is followed by a short descent towards an area that was a small ski hill until the late 1960s.


 8 Great Divide

Cross-country skiing Biciclettes

Length (One way):
2.7 km to Great Divide
9.8 km to Lake Louise
Estimated time (return):
1 hour to Great Divide
3-4 hours to Lake Louise
Elevation gain:
55 m to Great Divide
210 m to Lake Louise
Elevation Loss:
30 m to Great Divide
120 m to Lake Louise
Trailhead: Park at the Lake O’Hara parking lot. Walk back up 150 m down the road you just drove on to find the trailhead.
Habitat: Mature forest (lodgepole pine, spruce and fir), cliffs, and views of surrounding mountains.
Description: Classic and skate ski, snowshoe or fat bike along the old road up to the Great Divide gate for almost 3 km. The groomed trail continues towards Lake Louise for 7.5 km (one way).


 9 Ross Lake Loop

 Dogs on leash

Length (One way): 8.2 km loop
Estimated time (return):3-4 hours
Elevation gain: 390 m | Elevation Loss:135 m
Trailhead: From the Lake O’Hara parking lot, follow the Great Divide Trail until you reach the Ross Lake trailhead.
Habitat: Mature forest (lodgepole pine, spruce and fir) and frozen lake.
Description: Note that dogs are not allowed on 8. The trail 9 climbs gradually for 1.3 km to a small lake bounded by an impressive rock wall. Turn right and continue for 3.2 km to the Lake O’Hara Fire Road. Turn right at the fire road to return to the parking lot.

 Warning: Beyond the Ross Lake Loop Trail, the Lake O’Hara Fire Road travels through avalanche zones. Look for warning signs


10  10 Kicking Horse Fire Road

Cross-country skiing

Length (One way):
3,8 km to rest area
7 km to the end
Estimated time (return):
2-3 hours to rest area
4-4.5 hours to the end
Elevation gain: 60 m | Elevation Loss:140 m
Trailhead: Access the trail from the Natural Bridge parking lot.
Habitat: Mature forest (lodgepole pine, spruce and fir), river, and views of the surrounding mountains.
Description: Ski 2.4 km down a gradual hill, past the Emerald River to the Amiskwi River bridge. Cross the bridge and continue left along the old fire road for 4.6 km to the Otterhead River.


11  11 Yoho Valley Road

Cross-country skiing Dogs on leash

Length (One way): 4.5 km
Estimated time (return):2-3 hours
Elevation gain: 180 m | Elevation Loss:85 m
Trailhead: Drive the Yoho Valley Road until you reach the winter parking lot near Monarch Campground.
Habitat: Frozen cascades, cliffs and views of surrounding mountains.
Description: You will cross two bridges, and climb a steep hill before you reach the Upper Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint and pass the Kicking Horse River.

 Warning: Travel beyond the groomed trail requires avalanche training and equipment.


 12 Sherbrooke Lake

 Dogs on leash

Length (One way): 2.9 km
Estimated time (return):3-4 hours
Elevation gain: 280 m | Elevation Loss:75 m
Trailhead: From the Great Divide Lodge parking lot, head toward the fence, climb a few stairs and open the gate to access the trail.
Habitat: Mature forest (lodgepole pine, spruce and fir) and frozen lake with open views.
Description: The trail climbs steadily for 2 km and levels off before reaching the lake at 3.1 km.

 Warning: The lake is in a narrow valley surrounded by steep avalanche slopes. Travel beyond warning signs requires avalanche training and equipment.


 13 Wapta Falls

 Dogs on leash

Length (One way): 3.8 km
Estimated time (return):3-4 hours
Elevation gain: 160 m | Elevation Loss:150 m
Trailhead: Eastbound access only from Highway 1. Park at the Wapta Falls winter parking lot just off the Trans-Canada Highway.
Habitat: Mature forest (lodgepole pine, spruce and fir) and frozen waterfalls with open views.
Description: The winter trail follows the access road then reaches the summer hiking trail after 2 km. There are a few rolling hills, and the trail continues to a lower viewpoint down river from the falls. Be careful as you walk as mist makes this lower section icy.

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