Hiking the spectacularly scenic Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit is one of the premier day-hiking experiences in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Three things make it a stand-out: 1) altogether, the various segments of the Alpine Circuit lead to, pass by or incorporate scenic viewpoints overlooking almost a dozen turquoise mountain lakes; 2) it offers hikers the flexibility to complete the Alpine Circuit in small sections, linking as few or as many sections in one day as their heart, lungs and legs desire; and 3) it showcases the vision and generosity of spirit of Tommy Link and Lawrence Grassi, who devoted many years and considerable effort to create a network of engineered trails that significantly improve the hiking experience in the area while at the same time doing much to preserve the fragile alpine environment.
This is an easy, interesting and scenic hike that starts along the Lake O’Hara shoreline, turns uphill via a short series of switchbacks and then enters an otherworldly plateau of loose talus and scree before ascending alongside Victoria Falls on stone steps constructed by Lawrence Grassi. After skirting the shorelines of two lovely little lakes, a short slope up through a break in the cliffs leads to the rocky slabs above scenic Lake Oesa.
Opabin West and East trails anchor an easy loop to Opabin Plateau – a beautiful, rocky hanging valley above Lake O’Hara. The plateau is dotted with multiple alpine lakes, offers spectacular views of Lake O’Hara valley and is criss-crossed by a network of trails that pass multiple waterfalls, larch trees and more.
This limited access area of Yoho National Park is named for Lake O’Hara. But Lake McArthur, situated in a hanging valley surrounded on three sides by Schaffer Ridge, Mount Biddle and Park Mountain, is roughly twice the size of Lake O’Hara, and definitely worth a visit.
Cooler autumn temperatures and a bit of precipitation finally put out most of the forest fires in BC and Alberta. As the skies cleared and the summer crowds thinned out, we closed out the 2017 conventional hiking season with an up and back hike to the high point along the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park. The majority of the trail is across barren landscape that was covered by glaciers just a hundred years ago. Pioneering alpine shrubs added touches of warm, fall colour to the rocky terrain – a beautiful contrast to the icy pools of turquoise glacier melt.