I couldn’t have been happier celebrating Canada’s148th birthday (July 1st) on one of the country’s most spectacular hikes. The Iceline Trail in BC’s Yoho National Park is all about over the top grandeur—huge waterfalls, giant glaciers, and epic views of the Rocky Mountains. It’s one of my top three all time favourite hikes.
On a previous trip to the Iceline, we hiked the 21 km trail over two days, camping at Little Yoho Valley. Although doable as a long day hike, this was a great way to really appreciate the splendour of the region.This time, we hiked a shorter version of the trail via Celeste Lake. At about 17.5 km with 700 m elevation gain, it took us 7 hours, which included plenty of time for rest stops and photo taking.
The “best” direction for this loop trail is up for the debate. I prefer starting at the Whiskey Jack Hostel with the steep but short 2.8 km switchbacks. It’s a bit of a grunt but you are quickly rewarded with outstanding vistas. It’s definitely the way to go if you want to do a shorter out and back hike of about 12 km. The route via the Laughing Falls Trail is pretty with a much gentler uphill, but it takes over 10 km to get to the Iceline ridge. Plus, there’s the knee-knackering, downhill switchbacks at the end of a long hike. You choose!
Enough introduction. Let’s get to the good stuff. Come follow my hubby, sister, brother-in-law, and me on our Iceline hike. Wipe the sweat from your brow and gaze across at thundering Takakkaw Falls. The payoff is massive after a mere 45-60 minutes of switchbacks. One of Canada’s highest waterfalls, Takakkaw in the Cree language means magnificent.
After making it up the switchbacks and onto the ridge, the next 3 km or so are my favourite part of the hike. The well-defined trail is pleasantly undulating with wide-open views. At times, you’re almost close enough to touch the glaciers. The melt water from the glaciers runs down the rocky slopes in meandering rivulets. There are lots of fun little creek crossings, all with strategically placed stepping stones.
About 6 km into the hike, you’ll get to the junction for Little Yoho Valley in one direction and Celeste Lake in the other. Some folks make this their turnaround point, or continue another 0.7 km toward Little Yoho Valley to get to the high point of the Iceline Trail. We opted for the Celeste Lake route which descends through lovely alpine meadows and lakes. It continues downhill for a little over 6 km before reaching Laughing Falls.
A little rest stop at Laughing Falls is a welcomed break before completing the final 4.5 km segment along the Yoho River back to Takakkaw Falls. Take time to walk down the side trails and check out the raging eddies of the mighty Yoho River.
It’s an easy going walk along the Laughing Falls Trail back to the car park at Takakkah Falls, but we could feel the distance in our middle-aged bones. With burgers and beer on our minds we headed back to Banff for a delicious, high-fat, no-guilt meal at the Eddie Burger and Bar. It was a perfect Canada Day!
If you go:
The closest town to Yoho National Park is Field. For more amenities, Banff, Alberta is about a 1.25 hour drive east of the park, and Golden, BC is about 45 minutes west of the park. For camping options, check out the Parks Canada website. To get to the Takakkaw Falls trailhead, take the Yoho Valley Road off the Trans Canada Highway (Hwy 1) just east of Field. It’s a beautiful, curvy 14 km to the falls. Park at the Takakkaw lot. If you’re heading up the switchbacks take the short trail past the falls viewing area to the Whiskey Jack Hostel. If you’re doing the loop in the other direction, follow the signs for the Laughing Falls Trail. Bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, layers of clothing, rain gear and sturdy footwear. Hiking poles come in very handy. It’s not a technically difficult trail and is very well marked. Just be aware of the distances. Enjoy!
Take a look at some of my other favourite BC hikes:
Elfin Lakes and Opal Cone in Garibaldi Provincial Park
Howe Sound Crest Trail Lions Bay to Porteau Cove (Vancouver North Shore)
Mount Seymour Vancouver North Shore
Cathedral Provincial Park North Cascades in Southern Interior
And, a stunner across the border in Alberta, Burstall Pass