Hiking Yoho National Park – Opabin Plateau

After checking the most recent weather forecast (posted by Parks Canada staff at Le Relais day shelter by 9 o’clock each morning), we decided to save our attempt at the Alpine Circuit for our fourth and final day of our Lake O’Hara stay. With clouds and rain showers in the current day’s forecast, we opted to head up West Opabin to explore the network of trails on the Opabin Plateau before descending by way of East Opabin trail.

From Le Relais, we headed counterclockwise along the Lake O’Hara Lakeshore trail, past the lakeshore cabins of Lake O’Hara Lodge to the clearly signed West Opabin trail.

Mary Lake

After a short, gentle climb in the mixed forest, the trail skirts the shoreline of Mary Lake, named after our sister-in-law. 😉 JK! It’s really named after Mary Schaffer (1861-1939) pioneer botanist and explorer, painter and photographer. Not long after emerging from the woods, there’s a clear view of Opabin Prospect looming above and on of our intended stops over the course of the day.

Opabin Prospect, viewed from the Mary Lake shoreline
Reflection of Little Odaray in Mary Lake

West Opabin Trail

The trail continues around the lake before breaking out onto the scree slope above the lake, gaining elevation through a series of switchbacks and then hugging the shoulder of Opabin Prospect for the final steep push. Just before reaching the plateau, a sign indicates the junction with All Souls’ Prospect.

Ascending West Opabin trail, a few minutes along from Mary Lake
West Opabin trail hugs the side of Opabin Prospect as it climbs towards Opabin Plateau, Schaffer Ridge in the background
Cresting West Opabin Trail onto Opabin Plateau

Opabin Prospect

We opted to turn left (northwest) onto Opabin Prospect, where we headed to the first overlook that let us peek down at the Lake O’Hara Valley. We quickly agreed that we prefer the views of Lake O’Hara Valley from All Souls’ Prospect, so retraced our route, stopping briefly to photography the still water of the tarn just off the trail.

Photographing reflections in one of the many small lakes on Opabin Plateau, this one along the Opabin Prospect trail
Reflections on still water just off Opabin Prospect Trail

Side Trip Part Way Along All Souls’ Alpine Route

This side trip added about 2 km to our total distance for the day, but offers not only some of the most beautiful views of Lake O’Hara Valley but also the chance to ascend/descend some of the most impressive, constructed stone steps in the valley.

Decision time: continue to Lake Opabin our detour part way along All Souls’ Alpine Router (we opted for the detour)
Mr GeoK planning his panorama shoot along All Souls’ Alpine Route, overlooking Mary Lake and Lake O’Hara (on the right)
Looking down on Mary Lake and Lake O’Hara, across to Wiwaxy Peaks from All Souls’ Alpine Route
About as far as we ventured along All Souls’ Alpine Route, due to warnings about potential rockfall off Mount Schaffer due to the freeze/thaw cycle
Descending an engineered staircase along All Souls’ Alpine Route, approaching the intersection with West Opabin trail

We hiked the entire All Souls’ Prospect as part of the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit a few years ago. Read about it here.

Opabin Plateau to Opabin Lake

After returning from our side trip along the south end of All Souls’ Prospect, we continued up Opabin Plateau, eventually reaching Opabin Lake. There was fairly extensive lingering snow beyond the final ascent from Hungabee Lake. Mrs. GeoK slogged her way through to the shoreline of Opabin Lake, while Mr. GeoK preferred the drier, loftier views from the ridge overlooking Opabin Lake to the southeast and Hungabee Lake, behind.

West Opabin Trail, just upslope from the All Souls’ Alpine Route intersection
Thanks to a tripod and delayed shutter, we got a couple selfie at the bridge on West Opabin, Wiwaxy Peaks in the background
Mr GeoK on West Opabin, approaching Hungabee Lake
West trail from Hungabee Lake to Opabin Lake
Opabin Lake, Ringrose Peak and Hungabee Mountain in the background
Lingering snow patches reflected in Opabin Lake
A lingering patch of snow slowly recedes from the shoreline along the southwest shoreline of Opabin Lake

East Opabin Trail, Opabin Highline Trail, Opabin Prospect Trail

We stopped for lunch a few hundred meters along East Opabin Trail from Opabin Lake. As we ate, the cloud overhead thickened, the wind freshened and we concluded that the rain in the forecast would soon be upon us. Over the next while, we donned and peeled off our rain gear multiple times, as every time the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds, even our breathable rain gear with pit zips fully opened became unbearably hot in just a few minutes.

We spent a fair while exploring the various trails on the plateau, including Opabin Highline Trail and returning to complete the Opabin Prospect loop before finally taking the trail that passes Cascade Lakes and reconnecting with East Opabin to descend back to the Lake O’Hara shoreline.

Some of the rocks in the shallow Moor Lakes have sprouted vegetation – mostly mosses and grasses, with a few tiny wildflowers

The trail parallels a creek/river pretty much the whole way, so we stopped several times to practice our waterfall photography.

Waterfall off Moor Lakes, East Opabin Trail
Even further downstream along the creek that drains Moor Lakes into Lake O’Hara

Seven Veils Falls

After warming up on the continuous cascades along the creek, once we reached the Lake O’Hara lakeshore trail we continued counterclockwise to Seven Veils Falls. The Lake O’Hara Trails Club has put in some hard work here since our last visit in 2014. Rather than a hodgepodge of braided trails, there is now one clear trail to the falls and a couple of viewing/photography platforms constructed from back-filled stacked rocks. It’s now well set-up for waterfall photography.

Since our last trip in 2014, the Lake O’Hara Trails Club has constructed a couple of viewing/photography platforms at Seven Veils Falls – a great addition to the trail system at Lake O’Hara
Not quite all of the Seven Veils Falls, just off the Lake O’Hara shoreline trail

After packing away our ND filters and tripods, it was time to head for Lake O’Hara Lodge in time for afternoon tea. There it was, across the lake. We opted to continue counterclockwise, to complete the shoreline trail loop.

Looking across Lake O’Hara to a few lakeshore cabins with Mount Schaffer looming behind


Distance = 10.4 km
Elevation gain = 512 meters (304 net)
Time = 6 hrs, including 2 hrs 45 minutes for lunch and photography stops

While many consider the trail to Lake Oesa the easy/moderate hike to do if you have only one day to hike at Lake O’Hara, we actually prefer Opabin Plateau. Arguably, Lake Oesa is more picturesque than Opabin Lake, but Opabin has a more extensive network of developed trails along which to explore, including the Opabin Prospect trail with a couple of lookouts above Lake O’Hara. Also, there are a lot of larch trees on Opabin Plateau, which we would love to see in September some time. Which one is at the top of your list – Lake Oesa or Opabin Plateau?



9 thoughts on “Hiking Yoho National Park – Opabin Plateau

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    1. Lots of reasons to consider it a great hike: bus access limited to < 250 visitors per day to Lake O'Hara area; can be hiked as a loop – up east/west Opabin and down west/east Opabin; good optionality on the plateau in terms of viewpoints, scenic spots and multiple bodies of water; and golden larch! The biggest downside is that it's VERY hard to get a reservation (directly or indirectly) for bus service from the parking lot to the Lake O'Hara shoreline (11 km each way) OR you have to hike up 11 km before starting this hike (but you can usually catch a bus down for $10/seat, during the season the bus is running).

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  6. Can’t wait to go to Lake O’Hara on the Sunday of the Labour Day weekend for two days! What about the Alpine Circuit? I thought that was the must do hike? So many trails, so little time! Great photos as per usual!

    1. Ah yes, the Alpine Circuit. Agree it is the must do hike, but in terms of the must do easy hike, most sources I’ve come across recommend Oesa…will update blog post to clarify. We did the Alpine Circuit in July 2014. This year, Parks Canada and Lake O’Hara Lodge personnel advised against traversing All Souls’ Prospect when we were there…still too much risk of rock fall due to the freeze/thaw cycles going on. You will not have that problem over Labour Day weekend!

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