Driving through the Canadian Rockies, it’s impossible not to fix your gaze on the jagged, monstrous mountains as you cruise the Trans 1 Highway. With a network of trails to keep me busy riding my bike all day everyday, it’s easy never to step out of Golden itself and have adventure aplenty. With the OCC coming up in August and an itch to rest the bike legs and get into those peaks and insanely lucid lakes, we planned a camping adventure to nearby Yoho National Park to hike Yoho and Burgess Pass to Emerald Lake, a 30-something kilometre hike that takes you to a lung-testing 2200m.
Stopping at the cutest, tiniest little town off the highway, we picked up our park passes in Field and reserved our camp spot for the night at one of the only places left to pitch, Yoho campground. With a basic basket of supplies in our packs, we pulled into one of two cafes to load up our calorie count and one last coffee for the road, to prevent me from shaking from my rapidly increasing caffeine habit…. Stopping in at the Siding café, it served up a moreish budda bowl of goodness and I made note of the banana cake for the return journey of course. Life is not complete without cake.
Winding our way up the pass to the starting point at Takttakwa Falls, a 300 m tall, pumping powerhouse of water fed by the Daly Glacier. We pulled into the parking area and were swarmed with a mass of tourists making a stop-and-go at this awesome sight. Snubbing the tarmac path on our hunt for isolation and true trails, we took a short walk up to the base to see the powerful beast of a waterfall in full force for a moment, dodging a parade of snap-happy families and fleets of children.
On from there, the trail to Emerald Lake and our camp spot was of a muddy, rooty nature and much more what we had in mind. Hiking up to the start of the route, we made a short stop into Hidden Lake, a serene little spot with glassy, clear water that inspired some yoga moves and Ico’s photographic mojo. Hardly seeing a soul, we’d chosen to hike up the short few kilometres at the end of the day, so we had nothing but flora, fauna and the company of many a mosquito as we found the way to our resting place for the night.
Yoho Lake is a mere puddle by Canadian mountain standards, but beautiful all the same. We were completely alone, all for the best given the slightly clinical layout of camp spots – we’re Scottish and South African, so used to wild camping and a laissez-faire approach to outdoor rules. Canada has regulations for a reason though; they’re there to protect this sacred spot and keep us from curious bears. As much as I’m nostalgic about Yogi, I wasn’t too keen to meet him for a cuddle whilst camping.
Pitching our cosy tent, we huddled inside after a short while, fearing for our skin after the mosquitos descended on us, a major army of world war proportions that slightly killed the romantic mood of the evening. Waking up the next day, we set off early to hike towards Emerald Lake, along Yoho Pass and onto Burgess Pass; a winding, woodland trail that opened out to reveal a stunning view over to Emerald Glacier. Feeling the height at nearly 2200m, we puffed our way along, time needed before any running might be possible! Emerald Lake came into view and it’s certainly the most striking of points to see it. The mighty Emerald Peak towers over the luminous lake and left us curious about climbing routes. We cut down sharply from Burgess Pass, a network of rooty, switchback trails that took us towards the honeypot of tourists and expensive lodge living – a rude contrast to the peaceful trails on the mountainside. We were greeted only by a group of European hikers marching with their mammoth-sized daysacks and making colourful comments about our choice of Five Finger footwear. Soon we hit the side of the lake and I lured myself toward to the smell of coffee and a pit stop.
Emerald itself is incredible to see, I swear someone is feeding that water with something wacky and wild for it to be that colour. We didn’t decide to stay too long though, shooed away by screaming children and hordes of holidaymakers enjoying the morning. I wished I had a kayak or a SUP at that point, to be able to take off into the water and see the mountains surrounding us.
Hiking back to join Yoho Pass, we climbed quickly and steeply, the boulders and technical trail making work of our legs as we hit the top of the pass. After an hour or so, delinked back to our camp spot and checking inside for awaiting bears… packing up our kit, we took off back down the pass towards our starting point, a near total of 30km covered to bed the legs in for my up-coming OCC race in August. Thankfully Yogi didn’t show up this time.