Location: Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada.
Time to spend: from a quick glance to a couple of hours.
Parking: busy, wait for someone to leave, cars come and leave often.
Emerald Lake is a hidden gem located in the very middle of Yoho National park. We stumbled upon it on the way back to Seattle and were surprised how underrated it is! Just 40 min away from the famous Lake Louise, it draws only a tiny percent of the crowds (Lake Louise gets as many as 15,000 visitors a day).
The name of the lake speaks for itself and the color is really fantastic, especially in the bright sun. (Mostly during July-August). Like other popular lakes in the Canadian Rockies, Emerald is frozen from November until June. When snow from the surrounding mountains starts to thaw, it’s gradually filling the lake with rock flour, giving it that unique emerald color. Don’t forget your camera!
Sunlight has a huge impact on the color of the lake. During overcast, it seems pretty ordinary:
Same lake, an hour and a half later:
Exploring Emerald Lake with Kids
The entire place around the lake is peaceful, quiet, stroller-friendly and easy to explore. Kids will have a lot of space to run freely and do some cool things like wade in the lake (water is shallow and easy to enter), have a snowball fight (there was a huge patch of snow left from avalanche spilling right on the trail in mid-July), ride a canoe or hike around the lake. The hike is very easy and the scenery is beautiful!
Playing in the snow was one of the highlights of the trip for little explorers:
Emerald Lake Hike
The hike around the lake is very easy and mostly flat. It’s a 5.3 km loop trail and will take you approximately 1-2 hours. The first part of it (from the parking lot to the avalanche zone) is well paved, wide, with some picnic tables, benches and in the shade. When you reach the avalanche area, it changes to a dirt path, which would be difficult for stroller wheels.
Like at Bow Lake, you won’t experience crowds at Emerald Lake, despite a filled parking lot. You can try to hike counter-clockwise, to avoid even more people.
The water is bitterly cold (but very refreshing on a hot summer day) because the lake is feeding on the mountain melted snow. There is no grassy area at the banks, but the water is shallow and easy to enter:
Cafe, picnic tables, washrooms are available during the summer season.
The season doesn’t stop here when summer ends. Despite avalanche danger, Emerald Lake is a very popular cross country skiing destination.
Emerald Lake Canoe/Kayak Rides
You are welcome to bring your own canoe/kayak, parking is very close to the water and it’s pretty shallow to enter (there is no public boat launch).
During summer 2017, canoe rentals had no lines and the hourly rate was more than two times less compared to Lake Louise or Lake Moraine!
Emerald Lake Lodge
If you are dreaming about being cut off from the world for a little while, Emerald Lake Lodge is the right place. There is no internet, no TV, no cell phone connection. Nothing but the beautiful scenery and plenty of wildlife around. Price for the rooms starts at little over 400CAD.
Bonus: Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge is really a bridge and really natural. 😉 It is another “must visit” in Yoho National Park. Make sure to have some time to spend there (around an hour). It’s only 10 min drive before reaching Emerald Lake.
Have a wonderful time exploring Canada! 🙂