The Iceline is the most scenic hike in Yoho National Park, located near Field in British Columbia. It is a moderately trafficked trail that features spectacular views of mountains and glaciers, ever-changing landscapes, stunning glacier lakes and beautiful wildflowers.
Yoho Lake is located around 2.4 kilometres from the Iceline Trail. It has a stunning emerald green colour and is definitely worth walking to the extra few kilometres.
Iceline Trail Hike
Hike Key Facts
- Distance: 14.2 km out-and-back
- Estimated Time: 4-6 hours
- Elevation Gain: 864 m
- Iceline Summit: 2220 m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Location: Yoho National Park
- Best Time to Hike: mid-June to September
- Parking: Takakkaw Falls Parking Lot
Camping in Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is home to some of Canada’s most beautiful campgrounds. When camping in the Canadian Rockies, you can wake up beside an alpine lake, fall asleep to the sound of a distant waterfall, or sit around the campfire watching the sun fade behind a mountain.
There are two campgrounds located at the foot of Mount Stephen, about 4km from Field: Monarch and Kicking Horse. Another two are located at the west end of Yoho National Park, approximately 23km from Field: Hoodoo and Takakkaw Falls.
There are 6 designated backcountry campgrounds in Yoho National Park: Yoho Lake, Laughing Falls, Twin Falls, Little Yoho, McArthur Creek and Lake O’Hara.
Takakkaw Falls Campground
During our visit to Yoho National Park, we camped at the Takakkaw Falls Campground for 8 nights. This was our second stay at this campground. From here, we enjoyed the magnificent views of the Takakkaw Falls every single morning while eating our breakfast and in the evenings while cooking our food.
The actual campground is a short walk from the parking lot and provides tent camping only. A cart is available for moving gear to your campsite. This is an excellent place to use as a base for backcountry hiking and camping.
Yoho Lake Hike
We started our hike from the Whiskey Jack wilderness hostel. To get there, we walked around 1.5 km from our campground. If you drive a car, the Whisky Jack hostel is located towards the end of Yoho Valley Road. There are plenty of trails to hike, starting from here.
You can park your car in the main car park for Takakkaw Falls. We did the hike as an out and back, but we also added around a 4-kilometre hike to Yoho Lake.
The first part of the trail was steep, and we made almost all of our elevation gain in the first one and a half kilometres. After that, the trail went through a lush green forest. As we hiked up, we could see the Takakkaw Falls from a distance, in the occasional gap in the trees.
After about 1.3 kilometres, we reached a junction with a trail sign: Iceline Trail to the right and Yoho Lake to the left. We took the first option in the past, so we decided to go to Yoho Lake this time. From there, we took the Highline Trail, which eventually connected with the Iceline Trail.
Yoho Lake hike is one of the shorter hikes in Yoho National Park. It is a good opportunity for those who do not want to trip to the Iceline Trail but want to get away from the crowds. We fell in love with Yoho Lake at first sight. Especially with the astonishing deep emerald green colour.
The lake is surrounded by a beautiful forest, and one side offers an amazing view of Wapta Mountain. We had a strong temptation to jump inside, but we knew we do not have enough time.
As we walked along the lakeshore, we reached the peaceful backcountry campground right next to the lake. This was the first mountaineering camp of the Alpine Club of Canada in 1906, giving early alpinists easy access to Mt Wapta (south) and Michaels Peak (north).
Once we passed Yoho Lake, we followed a trail that took us on the Highline Trail. We hiked through a beautiful subalpine forest. As the forest opened up, we spotted some pretty wildflowers on the ground.
In about 2.4 km, the Highline Trail connected with the Iceline Trail. We could see and hear the Takakkaw Falls from a distance again. As we continued on the trail for a bit longer, the view of the Yoho Valley unfolded before our eyes and was truly stunning.
The Iceline is a fascinating hike that took us along rocky glacial moraines, up along the Emerald Glacier and Vice President Mountain edge.
As we hiked on the trail high above the valley, we also witnessed an outstanding view of the Daly Glacier branching off the Waputik Icefield feeding Takakkaw Falls. It was an amazing sight to be able to see the waterfall being fueled by a melting glacier.
While hiking the Iceline Trail, we could hear the sound of the Takakkaw Falls for quite some time. However, as we advanced on the trail, the roaring sound of the waterfall gradually faded away.
Onto The Glaciers
The climbing has not finished yet but became much more gradual. The trail continued up a rocky path for another couple of kilometres before turning a corner and reaching a truly awe-inspiring landscape.
The Iceline Trail gave us a chance to witness glacial processes up close. As the Emerald Glacier retreats, it leaves boulders, rock moraines, and scars across the mountainside. There are not many trails in the world where you can get this close to a glacier on a mountain.
Glacial lakes are created after the melting of glaciers. These lakes are formed in depressions or holes created on the surface of the land by glacial erosion. When such depressions fill up with water, lakes are formed. The water in glacial lakes is usually sourced from melting ice left behind by a retreating glacier or rainfall.
While hiking the Iceline Trail, we walked past a few amazing glacier lakes. All of them had a somewhat different shade of turquoise. They were pristinely clean and certainly impressive. If I had the time, I could sit by one of these lakes the entire day and bask in the beauty surrounding them. And of course, I would go swimming too.
There are many alpine lakes in the Yoho and Banff National Park. We ended up swimming few times in Lake Louise and once in Lake Agnes. There were no showers in our campground, and the outside temperatures were high every single day. So jumping inside the lake, even though it was cold, felt amazing and refreshing.
The Iceline Trail offers stunning scenery from start to finish. As we hiked along the path, the views kept getting more and more spectacular. It is hard to describe just how epic this hike was.
At one point, we thought we had seen it all, and as we continued hiking, the views got even more spectacular. It was hard to leave this place. Camping here would be amazing, but it was not allowed.
Do Not Forget a Sunscreen
On the day we hiked, it was hot and sunny. There was not a single cloud in the sky. The trail had no trees, and there were no shaded sections to cool down. The sun was beaming at us the entire time.
In the morning before we left, we applied a bit of sunscreen, but not an adequate amount. We got sunburned, and I felt a bit of nausea for the next few days whenever we were exposed to the sun. It is definitely a good idea to bring sunscreen if you are hiking during the summertime.
Snow on the Trail
The majority of the Iceline Trail was free of snow; however, there were still some lingering patches. They were easy to cross since many people walked over them and left a trail through the snow. I have seen some photos where people made a small snowman on the trail during summertime. It seems the snow never completely melts in some areas.
Heading Back on the Iceline Trail
Once we made it close to the end of the Iceline Trail, we turned around and went back on the same path we came on (skipping the Highline Trail towards the end). The other option was to proceed onto the Little Yoho Valley trail towards the Stanley Mitchell Hut and then hike through an immense forest as we did two years ago.
This time we decided to turn around and stay on the Iceline Trail. The hike towards the Stanley Mitchell Hut is pretty but has no match to the amazing views of the Iceline Trail.
It was also getting late, and we did not want to be the only people hiking through the massive forest since grizzlies or black bears could be there. As we were returning on the trail, there were no people, so we had it all to ourselves.
Safety on the Trail
Ensure that you have enough food and water. Pack a bit of extra food in the event you need to spend more time on the mountain. Bring enough water. There are few places along the trail where you can refill your water bottles.
We drank water from a stream without filtration and had no problems. Doing so is at your own risk. If you are worried about certain bacteria present in the water, we highly recommend using a filter. It is always good to have a first aid kit with you as well.
While visiting the Rockies, we recommended carrying a bear spray and knowing how to use it. Canada is a bear country, and it is always a good idea to read a guide on bear safety if you are not familiar with it.
In the areas where bear sightings occur more often, it is better to travel with a group and make a noise. Bears generally prefer to avoid people, so make noise to avoid them.
Iceline Trail Packing List
To make sure you have enough energy throughout your hike, bring enough Food, Snacks and some Energy Bars. Also, bring a few Water Bottles and a Water Filter if you need more water from the stream. Having a Knife or Multi-tool in your backpack always comes in handy.
We recommend having a well-fitted Backpack, Hiking Poles, comfortable Hiking Boots, Extra Clothes and a Rain Jacket. Other things to bring are Hat, Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Bug Spray and a Lip Balm. Also, First Aid Kit, Headlamp and Trail Directions.
To keep your memories alive, bring a Camera and if you are planning to take photos at night or take long exposure photos, bring a Travel Tripod.
To get to the Takakkaw Falls, first, drive to Filed on Highway 1. Filed is a small community of approximately 169 people in the Kicking Horse River Valley of southeastern British Columbia.
Next, turn onto Yoho Valley Road, just 4 km east of Field. Takakkaw Falls is located at the end of Yoho Valley Road. The road and falls are heavily signed from Highway 1, and once on the right road, the falls can not be missed.
A caution to those planning on visiting the falls with a trailer or RV. It would be best to plan on having an alternative transportation method because a pair of extremely sharp switchbacks in the road up the valley limits navigable vehicle lengths to about 25 feet.
Also, keep in mind that Yoho Valley Road is closed to vehicle traffic from mid-October through mid-June due to avalanche risk. You can check the road status with Parks Canada before you plan your trip.
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