Yoho N.P. – Iceline Trail

For our last back country camp-out of the season we returned to the National Parks of Canada. Yoho National Park is a 1313 square kilometre protected piece of land on the western slopes of the Canadian Rockies. The area is filled with dramatic waterfalls, rugged peaks and home to the small of Field, Population: 195. Just under five hours of driving through these beautiful mountains placed us at the foot of one of Canada’s tallest waterfalls, Takakkaw Falls, with its two tiers stretching a breathtaking 373m. We set up camp at Takakkaw falls campground with what we call the easiest backcountry campground in Canada. From the Parking lot we loaded up our gear into a wagon and walked the 300m on a level dirt track to our pad. Once set up, the girls hopped onto their strider bikes as we walked the paved 1 km over various bridges to the foot of the misting falls. From here you get a dramatic hands on feeling of the power of the water as it cascades down from the melting Daly Glacier above to the river bed below.

Day 1:

  • Location: Takakkaw Falls parking lot to Twin Falls campground
  • Distance: 6.3 Kms
  • Start/end elevation: 1498m / 1645m
  • Min/max elevation:1498m / 1686m
  • Parking lot to camp time: 3 hours

The following morning after breakfast and camp was eaten and packed we walked the short distance back to the car to return the luxury items we would not be enjoying over the four days. From here on we would be on foot. We started out following the riverbed gaining minimal elevation over the next few hours. The gradual incline was barely noticed as we gazed around at the tranquil nature and scenery we were now lost in. An open rock bluff and Laughing falls made for the perfect resting point to take off our packs, sit down and have a bit of lunch.

After a short break we were back on our feet. The trail steepened a bit but soon dropped us off at our first campground for the night, Twin Falls Campground. With our tent set up and food stowed in the food bear cache we were now free to explore the area. As the name implies there is another waterfall viewable from our tent pad. However this is not actually Twin Falls but some other chute less dramatic, but nonetheless impressive. We relaxed in the sun and soaked our feet in the river water as we enjoyed the sounds of the water thrashing about. After a dehydrated meal dinner we packed away all our food and settled in for the night.

Day 2:

  • Location: Twin Falls campground to Little Yoho Campground
  • Distance: 7.9 kms
  • Start/end elevation: 1645m / 2056m
  • Min/max elevation: 1645m / 2056m
  • Camp to camp time: 5.5 hours

Waking up to rain today had us worried for another Rockwall Hike adventure. With the girls in in their Thermkids and us in our rain gear we loaded up the wet tent and started to push on. Soon we arrived at a junction point where we had to choose between keeping low or climbing high. We knew that today was going to be a longer day and chose the easier and lower route. A few hundred meters after that the rain let up and we arrived at the base of Twin Falls. Being immensely breathtaking and towing 190m we chose to take an extended rest break and enjoy the sun that had now arrived. Being a bit later in the season only the right half of the falls sent water crashing to the rocky earth below. With half our lunch gone now we strapped on the bags and kept moving. Walking past the now closed but historic Twin Falls Tea House and Marpole Lake we gained a little elevation as we made our way through a bolder field. The sporadically placed rocks seemed to go on forever as the girls struggled to make their way over the larger than average steps that lie in front of them, but both were determined to hike the whole way.

As we stopped to gaze around we couldn’t help but admire the sparkling blue glaciers, jagged rocky peaks and lush green forest that stretch on for days. As we entered the forest foliage we arrived at a trail junction that leads you back to the parking lot or further into the wilderness. As we chose option two we gradually climbed for a couple hundred meters before we met up with the trail fork for the other Twin Falls hike, formally know as the Whaleback Trail. With a slight rest break to eat the second half of our lunch we were back on our feet to complete the final leg of the day. The trees started to thin, rivers flattened out and we were pleasantly greeted with the Stanley Mitchel Hut on our right and various outbuildings all around. A couple hundred meters further was our resting place for the night. A perfect tent pad adjacent to the creek nestled in some trees and opening up to the President and Vice President mountain peaks in the background.

The girls hiked the full distance today and had a great time searching for wild blueberries and huckleberries. Somehow they still had energy left to collect sticks, throw rocks and bounce off the walls of our tent while we cooked dinner. Being higher in the mountains now the cold mountain air set in sooner and before long we had our food cached away and the four of us were all settled in for the evening. One of my favourite activities while in the backcountry is to head outside in the middle of the night and gaze as the stars above. The silhouette of the peaks, lack of any light pollution and peaceful crips air make for amazing moments.

Day 3:

  • Location: Little Yoho Campground to Yoho Lake Campground
  • Distance: 10.7 kms
  • Start/end elevation: 2056m / 1813m
  • Min/max elevation: 1813m / 2228m
  • Camp to camp time: 6 hours

Today was the actual day we were looking for, the real reason we chose to do this hike in the park. Yes the waterfalls are breathtaking, and yes the distance peaks are second to none, but this Iceline trail is what we came to see. We enjoyed our casual morning and pack up in our regular fashion, traditionally the last to leave. We only had a slight bit of elevation to gain today before we were well above the tree line and now proceeding horizontally through the rocky alpine terrain. Although the distance was longer then previous days the time seemed to flash by. With every turn or ridge we passed we were left with astonishing views of green glacial lakes, whispering waterfall, gorgeous glaciers and stunning summits. The girls were busy hopping and skipping from stone to stone and every vista warranted an elongated stop to take it all in.

There was an unbelievable view of the Daly Glacier with its meltwater flowing down to Takakkawa Falls and we were looking down on it from across the valley and above. As one glacier led to another we eventually noticed how late were were in the day. It was time to make some progress towards our next camping spot. At a trail fork we continued on the higher path lowering ourself down below the tree line now and through the lush green forest. After a couple kilometres and a handful of descending switchbacks we could spot a glimpse of the green mountain lake with its yellow shoreline through the pines. With our spot now picked out we promptly pitched the tent and put our feet up for a rewarding break. Before long we started our evening duties of cooking, cleaning and packing away any food and garbage hanging it up the bear pole.

Today was such an amazing day for us. The hike was perfect, the girls did amazing and scenery was just wow. This being the most desirable trail in the area and having multiple access points it was however a very busy spot. Day hikers can easily make the journey and there are even guided tours from the parking lot that leaves the area a bit more crowded than most would desire. We just had to do our best to focus on what we came for and not the other sightseers, and not to worry, there was so much to see on this section of the trail to keep your emotions and eyes focused on the natural beauty of this place.

Day 4:

  • Location: Yoho Lake Campground to Takakkow Falls parking lot
  • Distance: 4.7 kms
  • Start/end elevation: 1813m / 1519m
  • Min/max elevation: 1519m / 1819m
  • Camp to parking lot time: 2 hours

We woke up today well rested and ready to tackle the final leg of our journey. Casually making our way out of the tent we enjoyed the morning sun while we finished the last bit of our breakfast. With the tent now packed up and all goods loaded into our bags we couldn’t help but notice how much lighter it felt after 4 days of food missing. Such a pleasant feeling. The sign post in the centre of camp indicates the route back to Takakkaw falls parking lot but also points in the direction of Emerald Lake. Shannon and I both have not been there in such a long time and are due back for a visit. If you have not heard of this little gem in the mountains be sure to look it up. Today however, would not be that day. We started out with the girls running ahead on foot. The trail wraps itself in a counterclockwise direction around the lake and slowly starts to make its descent. After a short little section we passed high above a small green lake buried within the trees with only glimpses here and there. Another couple hundred meters and we joined up with the Iceline Trail highway. This was a steep section of switchback that would take us all the way down to the road. Coming in the opposite direction were swarms of hiking day trippers to the glaciers. Some hiking alone or in small groups. Families on their holidays and as well as tour groups and guided hikes. As we rounded the corner on one of the turns we noticed a different style of hiker. This was actually a mid-sized black bear 20′ away making his way up the trail. Hikers below were climbing up and the bear was trying to get away. Before we even had a chance to draw our bear spray from our holders and step in front of the girls the bear had already decided it wanted nothing to do with us and raced up the thick bush to the track above. We had spent most the morning picking wild blueberries and stepping aside so others could pass that we were amazed to even see a bear in the area. We were on our toes for the next few switchbacks before tension eased as we made our way onto the flat ground. From here the trip quickly turned into the paved road that we drove in on and as we turned to look back at our accomplishment we were greeted with dark clouds and rain. We could see thick forest, cascading waterfalls and hundreds of memories that will last a lifetime.

To complete the final leg back to our truck we had to complete the final kilometre or so on the gravel shoulder of the paved road. The rain lasted for only a few short moments but long enough to warrant rain gear. As we reached the truck it was such a rewarding feeling of accomplishment to tour through this amazing part of the world and such a pleasure to see our girls walk every step of the way. They spent most of the time racing around with nothing but smiles on their faces. We get so many opportunities to connect with them, teach them about nature and the various types of trees and they soak it all in without even knowing it.

With boots and packs finally off we loaded into the truck and drove to Field where we enjoyed a delicious meal at Truffle Pigs Bistro then started the drive back home. What an amazing way to enjoy a handful of days in the backcountry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s