Lake O’Hara is a place where dreams are made. Its unmatched beauty is enhanced by the strictly protected fragile landscape and the abundance of wildlife that travels through it. Since the late 1800’s visitors have been exploring the area’s numerous lakes and majestic snow-capped peaks leading to the development of one of the most extensive and well-maintained trail systems in the mountain parks.
The variety of breathtaking trails available makes this 4-day trip suitable for all levels. We’ll explore the valley basin, azure lakes, alpine meadows, and mountain routes with vistas that will not only immediately impress you but leave you with memories to cherish forever!
Day 1: Travel to Lake O’Hara and begin exploring the area
At 8.00 am we meet at the Yamnuska Mountain Adventures office in Canmore. We’ll go over the trip with you and check to see that you are properly outfitted before heading to the Lake O’Hara parking lot just west of Lake Louise for our 10:30 am shuttle.
An 11km drive up the restricted fire road brings us to one of the most beautiful settings in the world. Framed by snowy mountain peaks, numerous hiking trails radiate from the cerulean waters of Lake O’Hara. We follow one of these trails 0.7km west of the Le Relais Day-Use Shelter to the Elizabeth Parker Hut.
After settling in we can head out for the remainder of the day to explore the area.
Day 2: Day hike
After a hearty breakfast, we head out for the day to enjoy this special place. Hiking options range from classic yet easy rambles to challenging traverses and circuits high above the lake. A good outing is to combine the All Souls’ and Yukness Ledges Alpine Routes. With a bit of route finding, you’ll enjoy the splendid views of Lakes O’Hara and Oesa and the jade-coloured pools of Lakes Yukness, Victoria, and Lefroy. The Opabin Valley, glacier-draped Mt’s Lefroy and Victoria, and the Wiwaxy Peaks offer remarkable settings. This boulder-strewn trail below rock walls and along wide ledges is sure to please everyone.
Day 3: Day hike
Today we will head off in a different direction on one of the least crowded trails: Cathedral Lake and Basin via Linda Lake. From the Cathedral Platform Prospect, a complete overview of the Lake O’Hara region can be seen just as the CPR line surveyor J.J. McArthur observed in 1887. Along the way, numerous subalpine lakes skirt the trail with Odaray Mountain towering high above.
Day 4: Our last day to enjoy this paradise!
With time for one last hike in this extraordinary area, we head to Lake McArthur stopping at Schäffer Lake en route. The spectacular deep blue colour of this glacial lake with its rocky shoreline and the Biddle Glacier as its backdrop is sure to take your breath away. Add to this alpine meadows speckled with multicoloured wildflowers and this hike is sure to be a photographers’ delight.
Guest Comments: “The guide was exceptional! He listed his skill sets, including many years of experience in the mountains, climbing, paramedic skills, and he was well equipped with maps, GPS, and ways to contact help if required. He quickly gained my trust, And to top it off, he has superb people skills!
I wanted to hike in the mountains and the Yamnuska reputation is world-renowned and I didn’t hesitate to sign up. I wanted to experience the whole package, mountain hiking, the vistas without getting lost! This was my first trip like this and I was worried about my ability to keep up with the group – would sleeping ( or not) in a hut with 15 others impact my energy, and would we all get along. Worrying was all for not – Our wonderful guide led us through our adventure at a pace to enjoy the vistas, and I met other like-minded wonderful people, and sleeping in a hut with 15 others – no problem after a day of hiking, fresh air, and delicious meals.
Yamnuska has a world-renowned reputation for professionalism, paramount safety standards, superb technical training and Service. A few years ago my son completed the mountain skills semester with Yamnuska and spoke highly of them. I saw Amazing race Canada had Yamnuska personnel on the episode where they rappelled down Calgary tower. Others on this trip had taken previous trips or training with Yamnuska and are planning more. Their world-class reputation is well deserved!” Deb – July 2018
Meeting Place and Time
We will meet you at our Yamnuska Mountain Adventures office at 8.00 am on the morning of Day 1.
Our office is located at 200, 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore. See this map for location.
For your greater convenience, we offer a pre-meeting shuttle service within Canmore. Please let us know in advance where you will be staying if needing this service. Pickup at your hotel will occur between 7:40 am and 7.50 am.
Please ensure that you have your hiking equipment with you.
Accommodation and Meals
At Lake O’hara you will be staying in the Alpine Club of Canada’s spacious Elizabeth Parker Hut. Sleeping areas are communal and facilities basic but very sufficient. The Elizabeth Parker Hut is actually two buildings: the main hut and the Wiwaxy Cabin. The main hut consists of a large kitchen area and a living room which houses sleeping quarters, tables, and a wood-burning stove. The Wiwaxy Cabin has sleeping quarters only – users share the kitchen and living area with the main hut users. Guests sleep on four-inch-thick covered foam mattresses.
Accommodation in Canmore is not included. A variety of accommodation options exist in both Canmore and Banff, including campsites, hostels, all levels of hotels as well as condo-style accommodation with kitchens or suites. We recommend that you book your own pre and post-trip accommodations well in advance as all levels of accommodations in the Bow Valley fill quickly.
Excess luggage can be left at your hotel or our office.
We supply all meals and trail snacks from lunch on Day 1 to lunch on Day 4. Groups generally go out for dinner in Canmore on the final evening (own cost).
Trip cuisine is prepared from lightweight wholesome ingredients including our Yamnuska custom-made fresh and dehydrated dinners. For guests with dietary restrictions, we are able to modify the program food pack to meet your individual needs. As food pricing and preparation for these diets is more costly, we have implemented the following surcharges. For vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, soy-free, nut-free, or any similar type of single restriction menu requests, there will be a $17/day surcharge. For a diet requiring any 2 restrictions a $26/day surcharge will apply. For any 3 restrictions, a $31/day surcharge will apply. Vegetarian meals will not be surcharged. For more complex diets our kitchen staff will assess the restrictions to inform you if the diet can be accommodated and what surcharge would apply.
Guides and Group Size
Hiking guides at Canadian Rockies Hiking by Yamnuska are certified through the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and have extensive experience in the Canadian Rockies. Guides also have advanced wilderness first aid training and heritage interpretation accreditation. Guides carry emergency equipment including a first aid kit, bear spray, and radio.
There will be a maximum of eight guests and a minimum of three.
Getting to Canmore and Transportation
Canmore is situated 100km (65 miles) west of Calgary on the Trans-Canada Highway. It is well served by scheduled bus lines both from Calgary (airport and downtown), Banff (20km west), and points further west. Calgary International Airport is well connected to major cities throughout North America and Europe. Once in Canmore, we will supply all the transport needed for the trip.
Frequent shuttles connect Calgary International Airport and Canmore. Banff Airporter is the best way to get between Calgary Airport and Canmore/Banff. When you book with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures you will receive a 15% discount on Banff Airporter Scheduled Services.
Equipment and Clothing
We supply group camping and cooking equipment, as well as an emergency communication device, trip food, bear spray, water purification equipment, and a full expedition emergency first-aid kit. You will need to bring personal backpacking equipment and clothing. When purchasing gear consider both functionalities as well as weight. Lightweight packs, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and clothing are readily available and will lighten your load substantially.
What you bring will have a big impact on the quality of your experience. Please take the time to read the information below, and cross-check with our Traveling Light and Making Backpacking Fun. The list below will keep you very comfortable in the field. Make sure you have all your clothing and gear before you arrive, and reserve any rentals with us in advance. Your guide will go through your clothing and gear with you prior to the trip.
When hiking in the mountains, it is important to be able to adjust to the changing conditions. We recommend bringing clothing that can be layered to achieve comfort as you change from periods of activity to periods of rest. We discourage cotton clothing as it causes rapid heat loss when wet.
You will need to bring:
- Wool or fleece hat/toque
- Sunhat – Wide brim or baseball style
- Long underwear top and bottoms – Lightweight synthetic or merino wool
- Socks – Preferably a synthetic/merino wool blend. Bring at least three pairs.
- Light Synthetic Shirt
- Jacket – A midweight synthetic jacket
- Insulated Jacket – synthetic or down jacket
- Waterproof / Breathable Rain Jacket
- Rain Pants – Also waterproof/breathable. Ideally with side zips, so they can be put on without taking off your boots.
- Hiking Pants – Preferably windproof and quick drying. No blue jeans or cotton pants.
- Light Gloves / Mitts
- Light Footwear – Crocs, Tevas, or running shoes for the occasional creek crossing and use around camp.
You will need to bring:
- Boots – Spend some time walking around in your boots before you arrive for your trip and get used to how they feel. They should have good ankle support and tread, with sturdy soles. Your boots will make or break your holiday so some time getting used to them is time well spent. Ensure they have been waterproofed or have a good waterproof liner material.
- Gaiters – Recommended early & late season. Really help to keep feet dry, keep socks and pants clean from mud and keep debris out of your boots.
- Large Backpack or Duffel Bag – This large bag will be carried the .7 km hike into the hut. Afterward, a daypack is all that is required. The large pack or duffel should be between 55 and 75 Liter capacity depending on the bulk of your personal gear and length of the trip. In it, you will carry your clothing, sleeping bag and mat, plus your share of group camping gear and food which is typically an extra 10 – 20 litres of space. Lightweight packs with good suspension are recommended. If bringing an additional day pack, this should be very light and compressible in order to fit inside the bigger pack on the approach hike.
- Pack Cover – This should be waterproof and large enough to cover the outside of your pack to keep the contents dry in a rainstorm. You can also line the inside of your stuff sacks with plastic bags to keep gear dry.
- Sleeping Bag – We recommend a ‘3 season’ bag rated 0ºC to –6ºC as temperatures can drop to below freezing at night. Make sure you bring a stuff sac lined with a plastic garbage bag that will reduce your bag to its minimum size (i.e. one with compression straps). This will provide enough space in your pack for everything else. A down bag will be lighter and more compressible for the weight than a synthetic bag.
- Pillow – A small, compressible pillow or a spare stuff sack into which you can stuff extra clothes to create a pillow.
- Trekking Poles – Must be collapsible.
- Sunglasses – With 100% UV protection and a hard case.
- Headlamp – With fresh batteries
- Water Bottle / Bladder – 1-2 litre capacity.
- Blister Kit – Moleskin, Second Skin, etc.
- Personal First Aid Kit – Our guide carries a group first aid kit so keep this small. Band-Aids, Tylenol/ibuprofen, etc.
- Sun Block & Lip Balm – Extra strength with UV protection.
- Eating Utensils – Bowls, sporks, a large mug, light pocket knife, etc. (Not required on the Lake O’Hara Hiking Tour)
- Personal toiletries including hand sanitizer
- Insect repellent
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. A deposit of 35% is required at time of booking. The final payment is due eight weeks before the start of the trip.
For detailed Booking Instructions and Conditions, click here.
Please note that you will be required to sign our waiver before commencing the trip. Click here for a waiver copy.
There are two basic types of insurance that most travellers need to consider: Medical and Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. We offer our guests coverage for both and highly recommend you purchase it.
Emergency Medical Expenses Insurance:
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident during your trip. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for rescue in the National and provincial Parks, however, costs such as air or ground transportation, long-term care, and other services are not covered.
Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance:
We recognize that our guests’ schedules may change for many reasons; business, family, flight delays, injuries, and other unplanned events. For these eventualities, Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance is a great way to protect your investment.
For all your travel insurance requirements we recommend the Simpson Group. This agency offers a wide range of travel insurance options including Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Travel Medical, and Personal Effect Loss for Canadian Travelers. We highly recommend purchasing this insurance. For more information and to purchase a plan, visit the Simpson Group’s website.
Please note that this coverage is for Canadian residents only. For guests who are not from Canada and who are interested in the ‘Visitors to Canada’ insurance package please contact the Simpson Group directly at JSimpson@simpson-group.com and reference your Yamnuska Mountain Adventure trip.
Pricing is based on a minimum group size of 4 guests and includes four days of hiking with a professional guide, 3 nights of accommodation, all out-trip meals, local transfers, and National Park Entry.
Not included: Gratuities for guide & 5% Goods & Services Tax (GST).
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
How difficult is it?
How fit and experienced need you be?
This is an easy to moderate difficulty hiking tour. It involves hiking for up to 5 hours per day where daily distances can range from 8km to up to 16km. Elevation gains of up to 600m for some hikes. Participants will be carrying a day pack containing spare clothing, a camera, lunch, and something to drink each day. Hikes will be chosen to best suit the group. We will stay as a group while hiking.
This program is designed for fit walkers. Any training you can do before you arrive will enhance your experience. No previous mountain hiking experience required. We suggest you train by walking or hiking in hilly terrain (use flights of stairs if in the city).
Visit our Trip Difficulty Comparison Chart.