Hiking Yoho National Park – Lake Oesa

With wet snow falling our third morning at Lake O’Hara, we donned full rain gear and pulled rain covers over our packs before heading out along the shoreline trail to the Lake Oesa trail junction.

Yes, despite the wet trail conditions, cool temperature and continuing snowfall, we’re headed to Lake Oesa!

We took twice the usual time to get up the switchbacks and through the otherworldly tumble of rocks to the point where there’s a good view of Victoria Falls off to the right. Why? Because somewhere along that stretch I lost my neoprene gloves. How? I took them off (because I was getting too hot) and shoved them deep in my pants pocket (because I thought I’d need them again soon) and somewhere along a one km stretch they dropped out of my pocket.

Retracing our route all the way back to the start of the Lake Oesa trail, we asked the two groups of hikers we encountered whether they’d seen any black gloves along the trail. No joy. 🙁

Eventually I convinced Mr. GeoK that I’d be fine without gloves, and we started back up the trail. When we finally made it past where I’d noticed I’d lost my gloves, we paused long enough to photograph the falls in the distance.

Victoria Falls on a snowy day, taken from the trail a few hundred meters away

Just beyond our stopping point, we crossed a large pocket of deep snow left from last winter and then started up stone steps and switchbacks fashioned by Lawrence Grassi. Mr. GeoK was ahead of me, and I had him pause on the trail where it passed just above a memorial plaque.

Mr GeoK on the upper portion of the trail where it crosses below, and then above, a plaque recognizing Lawrence Grassi’s stewardship of the Lake O’Hara region

Above Victoria Falls, the trail skirts Victoria Lake and then LeFroy Lake, where the fresh blanket of snow and slushy lake water prompted a photo stop.

LeFroy Lake was like a giant slushy, thanks to overnight/continuing snowfall and a temperature right around freezing
LeFroy Lake sits below a short climb to Lake Oesa, hidden just above the prospect on the far shore
Random patterns in the slush of LeFroy Lake

The near-freezing temperature and falling wet snow made the rock slabs a bit slippery as we walked the final hundred meters to the shore of Lake Oesa.

Lake Oesa on a snowy July day, slick rock slabs in the foreground, Glacier Peak behind

With few trees of any size, we ate our lunch out in the open. Mr. GeoK chatted with a couple of young adults headed to the hut at Abbot Pass. And the couple just out of sight behind one of the rock slabs to our left took turns skinny-dipping. There was a fair bit of shouting and swearing at the cold. Could have been refreshing if was a hot, sunny day!

Also during our lunch break we watched a young woman, hiking solo and wearing running shoes, descend from the Lake Oesa trail and strike out along the snow-covered Yukness Ledges trail. Made us think that if you’ve come to visit Canada, and have only one day to do the Lake O’Hara alpine circuit, you do what you have to do. We kept her in our thoughts for the rest of the day.

After we finished eating, we weren’t quite ready to head back for afternoon tea. Instead, Mr. GeoK was determined to get a photo of the stepped waterfall at the outlet of Lake Oesa.

Mr GeoK (center of frame) determined to come back with a photo of the stepped waterfalls at the outlet of Lake Oesa, crossed the rock slab lip of the Lake Oesa outlet
Mr GeoK (just right of center of frame) working his way down the snowy slope to set up for a photo of the stepped waterfalls at the outlet of Lake Oesa
Stepped waterfalls at the outlet of Lake Oesa; it’s hard to get a sense of scale in this one – our estimate is 7 to 8 meters

Meanwhile, I explore the shoreline a little bit more…

Thanks to a fresh accumulation of show, grasses poked through behind the clear demarcation between shoreline and water and remnants of last winter’s ice are highlighted in clean white
The outlet from Lake Oesa is through/over the boulders that make up this rock ledge; from this vantage point, the Yukness Ledges trail is a thin, white line across the talus field in the upper left quadrant

It was still snowing when we decided to head back. By this time, our boots were very wet on the outside; thanks to Gore Tex, our socks and feet were dry and warm. Our rain pants did the job. But we discovered we need to refresh the water-repelling finish on our rain jackets. I was slightly damp but very comfortable, with fleece and wool layers underneath.

Thanks to the miracle of modern materials, Mr GeoK’s boots were soaked on the outside while his socks and feet remained dry on the inside. That’s what steady rain/wet snow accumulating in puddles will do for you!
Mrs. GeoK on the trail below the very top of Victoria Falls

I asked everyone we passed whether they’d spotted my lost gloves (a couple of dozen intrepid hikers made their way to Lake Oesa that snowy day). Still no joy.

Mrs. GeoK pauses on the descent, with the beautifully round Yukness Lake in the background

When Lake O’Hara Lodge came into view, the smoke streaming from the chimney indicated a warm fire inside. Afternoon tea was beckoning…

Smoke from the fireplace in the main lodge beckons hikers to come in for afternoon tea, taken from Lake Oesa Trail

We made one final stop before answering the call to head to the Lodge for tea. I popped my head in the door of Le Relais Day Shelter to ask if they had a lost and found. Yes, they did. Even better, my gloves were in the box!!! THANK YOU to the person(s) who picked them up, carried them down and dropped them off. You affirmed my faith in humanity (or at least the subsection of humanity that enjoys the great outdoors on snowy summer days 😉 ).


Distance = 9.1 km (including approx. 1.2 in search of Mrs GeoK’s lost gloves)
Elevation gain = 465 meters (including 115 meters searching for lost gloves) (267 net)
Time = 5 hrs 15 min, including 2 hrs for lunch and photography stops + 40 minutes searching for lost gloves

Many consider this hike as the easy/moderate hike to do if you have only one day to hike at Lake O’Hara but we actually prefer Opabin Plateau. Arguably, Lake Oesa is more picturesque than Opabin Lake, but Opabin has a more extensive trail network. On the other hand, Victoria Falls is pretty impressive. What do you think? Lake Oesa, Opabin Plateau, or either one would be great because it means a chance to hike in the Lake O’Hara region?

6 thoughts on “Hiking Yoho National Park – Lake Oesa

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  5. Thanks for the intel! Heading to Lake O’Hara on the Labour Day weekend. Glad you found your gloves. This is a reminder for us to pack full-on winter gear.

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