Trip overview – The Iceline Trail is one of the signature day hikes within Yoho National Park. It is typically hiked as a loop/circuit including Takakkaw Falls, the Iceline Trail, Little Yoho Valley, and Laughing Falls. The full circuit from the Takakkaw Falls parking lot is roughly 13 miles in length with a starting elevation of 4,950 feet, a peak elevation of 7,300 feet, and an overall elevation gain of ~3,000 feet. Highlights include great views of several glaciers, expansive views of Yoho Valley and Little Yoho Valley, and multiple waterfalls. We completed this hike in September of 2018.
Where to stay: For our trip to Yoho and Banff National Parks, we decided to stay in the town of Banff. This meant we had a ~1.5 hour drive to the trailhead from our hotel. This drive was a bit long, but very beautiful. We only spent one day in Yoho National Park, so this made sense for us. If you plan to spend multiple days exploring Yoho National Park, you may want to stay closer or within Yoho NP. There are many camping options in the park or you could stay in Field, B.C. or in one of the many vacation rentals around the park. More info on accommodations can be found at the Yoho National Park website.
Permits: You will need to pay an entrance fee upon entering the National Parks in the vicinity of Banff and Yoho. More info on the fees can be found here. If you purchase a park pass upon entry to Banff National Park, that pass will allow you into Yoho National Park as well. Beyond the entrance fee, you do not need to obtain any permit to day hike within Yoho National Park (except for Lake O’hara, more info here). If you are backpacking, however, you do need to get a backcountry permit. Permits can be reserved online at the national park website.
Supplies: If you are doing a lot of hiking on remote trails, it may be wise to invest in some bear spray to protect yourself in case you come across a grizzly bear. If you only plan to hike popular trails and have a large group (more than 4 people), bear spray is probably unnecessary. A good bug repellent is also nice to have because the mosquitoes and flies can be a nuisance in the Canadian Rockies. Finally, you will want a variety of layers to carry with you because the weather in the Yoho National Park can change quite a bit over the course of a day. It can also be quite chilly and windy in sections of the Iceline Trail that are above the treeline. For trail maps, I recommend Tim Jensen’s “The Best Day Hikes in the Canadian Rockies.” This book has maps, descriptions, and rating for many of the hikes in Yoho and the neighboring national parks.
Here are some suggested hiking clothes and gear that are good for the Iceline Trail hike (I recommend bring a small backpack to carry some layers):
- a lightweight hiking rain jacket (North Face Venture 2 Jacket)
- lightweight down jacket (Patagonia 800-fill Down Jacket)
- fast drying synthetic hiking pants (prAna Zion Pants)
- a quick drying long sleeve hiking shirt (Columbia Silver Ridge L/S Shirt)
- wool outer socks (People Socks Moreno 4-pack)
- thin blister preventing base socks (WrightSock double layer Coolmesh)
- quick drying synthetic boxer briefs (ExOfficio Give-N-Go)
- Gore-tex hiking shoes (adidas Outdoor Terrex Fast R Gore-Tex Shoe)
- 3 liter hydration bladder (Camelbak Antidote Reservoir)
- small backpack (Osprey Daylite Daypack)
- trekking poles (Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles)
Trail Conditions and Difficulty: The trail are along this circuit are generally well marked. I do advise bringing a map or studying a map before hiking though. While there are trail signs marking the different trails, there are not explicit directions showing how to get back to the Takakkaw Falls parking lot. With a map, it is easy to figure out the correct the route.
The Iceline Trail is an overall tough day hike. There is a sustained climb over several miles culminating at the Iceline Summit, so hikers should be in good shape and be prepare to hike for at least 5 hours. During the normal hiking season, no special equipment or extensive route finding is required for this hike though.
Iceline Trail Hike Details: 13 miles; +/- 3,100 feet of elevation; Start at the Takakkaw Falls parking lot, Yoho Valley Trail to Iceline Trail to Little Yoho Valley Trail to Yoho Valley Trail.
After driving along the Trans-Canada Highway, you take the winding Yoho Valley Road to the Takakkaw Falls parking area. After parking, begin the Iceline hike by hiking towards Takakkaw Falls. Along this first section of the trail, which follows the Yoho River, you get some nice views of the falls up close. You also get nice views of the mountains on either side of Yoho Valley. At the start, follow signs for Iceline via Whiskyjack along the Yoho Valley Trail.
After roughly 0.25 miles, the trail turns away from the Yoho River and heads towards the Whiskey Jack Hostel. The trail crosses Yoho Valley Road before you reach the Hostel. You reach the hostel at about the 0.6 mile mark.
At this point, the trail begins to climb up towards the Iceline Trail. The climb starts with a ~1 mile and +2,000 feet steep climb through the forest. At this point you are hiking on the Yoho Lake Trail and heading towards the junction with the Iceline Trail. Along the way you will see a junctions for trails to Hidden Lakes and then to Yoho Lakes. After you pass the junction where the Yoho Lake Trail splits off from the Iceline Trail, you are on the Iceline Trail and will follow this for several miles.
The Iceline starts off still in the forest and then around the 1.7 mile mark, emerges above the tree line. Soon you reach a junction with the trail that heads to Yoho and Emerald Lake. Continue to follow the Iceline Trail here.
At this point the views really start to open up and you get great views of Takakkaw Falls and the Daly Glacier to the East and the Emerald Glacier to the West. The next ~2.5 miles of the Iceline Trail are above the tree line and provide really expansive views of the Yoho Valley and the nearby glaciers. There are also several glacial lakes that the trail passes. The trail continues to climb until about the 5 mile mark where you take a short side trip up a hill to the top of the Iceline Summit.
After the first set of lakes, you hike another 15-20 minutes before reaching two more lakes. There is also a junction here with a trail to Celeste Lake. Stay on the Iceline Trail. From here you get a good glimpse of The Vice President, a peak in the President Range.
Shortly after leaving this area you will see the Iceline Summit and that side trail that leads up to. Take a quick trip to the summit and enjoy the view. From there, head back down to the Iceline Trail and continue on towards Little Yoho Valley.
After descending from the Iceline Summit, the trail continues above the tree line for another mile or so. The views are great as you head towards the Little Yoho Valley. The trail then descends into the trees again as it heads down towards the Little Yoho River. During the descent you get some great views of the mountains to the North.
At the ~7 mile mark, you reach the Little Yoho River. After crossing the river you come upon an Alpine Club hut. At this point you begin hiking on the Little Yoho Valley Trail and follow the Little Yoho River through the forest. After roughly 3 miles descending, the trail meets up with Laughing Falls. You can take a short break to go check out the waterfall up close.
After Laughing Falls, you take the Yoho Valley Trail back towards Takakkaw Falls. Along the way you can make brief stops to see Angels Staircase Falls and Point Lace Falls. Both are very short side trips from the main trail. The hike back to the parking lot is roughly 3 miles from Laughing Falls.
At this point, you continue hiking until your meet back up with the Takakkaw Falls parking lot. When you pass through the campground, you will know that you are close. Overall this is a great but challenging hike!
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