Despite the mist, rain, sleet and snow pellets, it was definitely worth hiking at Lake O'Hara during golden larch season and we hope to do it again (in better weather) some time over the next few years. On the advice of Parks Canada staff, we covered about 9 km, hiking up the Lake Oesa trail, across the Yukness Ledges and then - after a bit of time exploring the Opabin Plateau - down East Opabin trail.
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.