Backcountry

Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park offers spectacular backcountry experiences to visitors looking to step beyond roadside attractions in the park. In the backcountry, you can access natural wonders not seen by most park visitors.

This section of the website is designed to help you plan a safe and enjoyable visit to Yoho National Park’s backcountry, while respecting sensitive ecosystems.

Most backcountry users in Yoho National Park are hikers but travel by bicycle is also possible on designated trails.

A backcountry permit is mandatory for anyone planning an overnight trip into the backcountry of Yoho National Park. Campers must have a copy of their permit (paper or a screen shot) and present it to Parks Canada staff when requested.

Advance reservations are necessary to secure your campsite at most locations for July, August and September. A non-refundable reservation fee applies to all bookings.

Visitors also require a National Park Pass to enter Yoho National Park.

Reservations | Backcountry Permit | Safety and regulations | Trail report | Warnings and closures

Backpacking in Yoho National Park

When to go

The main hiking season in Yoho National Park is from June to October. Until late June, many mountain passes and trails at higher elevations remain snowbound and may be impassable. July and August are the prime backcountry hiking months but even in summer, snow is common at higher elevations. September is generally drier than July and August, although temperatures are lower and there is a greater chance of snowfall.

Access to the Yoho Valley trails and campgrounds is limited as the Yoho Valley road is snowbound much of the year. Visitors must be aware of the road opening and closing dates when making backcountry reservations at one of the 4 campgrounds in the Yoho Valley.

What to bring

This is a list of suggested items to pack, which you can adjust to suit your personal preferences. Mountain weather is unpredictable, be prepared for winter conditions at any time of the year. This equipment list does not account for the special knowledge and equipment required to travel in avalanche terrain.


Shelter

  • tent with waterproof fly and groundsheet
  • sleeping pad
  • sleeping bag
  • repair kit

Clothing

  • hiking boots with ankle support and good soles
  • sandals or runners for fording streams and at camp
  • socks and underwear
  • extra socks
  • pants and/or shorts
  • short and long-sleeved shirt
  • base-layer (long underwear)
  • insulating outer layer (fleece, down or synthetic down jacket)
  • waterproof rainwear – jacket and pants/gaiters
  • winter hat and gloves
  • sun hat or baseball cap

Dry clothes go a long way to making you feel comfortable. Pack light but bring something dry to change into when you reach camp. Keep clothing dry by placing items in a waterproof bag in your backpack.


Food and cooking

  • water treatment or filter (Drinking Water in the Great Canadian Outdoors)
  • water bottle or camelback, 1L minimum
  • food, including enough for an extra day
  • stove and fuel, with waterproof matches or a lighter. Campfires are not permitted anywhere in the backcountry.
  • cooking and eating utensils
  • garbage bags to pack out all food and personal trash
  • sturdy food sack (or backpack) for hanging

For your safety and that of wildlife, your food must be securely stored in the wildlife-proof food locker or suspended from the food storage cables in your campground. Ensure you have a sturdy food sack that will stand up to wind and the elements. Do not leave food in lockers or storage cables when you depart. To stay safe and protect wilderness, manage your food, food smells and garbage.


Essentials

  • backcountry permit and park pass
  • bear spray
  • sunglasses & sunscreen
  • headlamp or flashlight
  • pocketknife or multi-tool
  • rope and carabiner (approx 8 m)
  • trip plan (left with a reliable person)
  • insect repellent
  • topographic map and trip description: guidebooks and topographic maps are available at visitor centres and retail outlets in Yoho, Golden and Lake Louise.
  • GPS/compass
  • first aid and blister kits
  • whistle
  • extra batteries for your devices
  • compact emergency kit (i.e. waterproof matches or lighter, flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries, signaling device such as a whistle or mirror, emergency blanket, pencil and paper)
  • basic toiletries, toilet paper and hand sanitizer

It is recommended that you carry bear spray and know how to use it.


Other items to consider

  • satellite communication device (ie. SPOT, InReach, Zoleo, etc.), personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite phone
  • camera with charged batteries and an empty memory card
  • notebook and pencil
  • deck of cards
  • fishing permit
  • binoculars
  • biodegradable soap
  • camp towel
  • watch or alarm clock
  • candle
  • trowel
  • altimeter
  • field guide(s)
  • trekking poles
  • change of clothes and sandals for the drive home
Safety

Safety is your responsibility. There are always hazards associated with outdoor recreation. When planning a backcountry trip to Yoho National Park, select a trip which best suits your group’s abilities, experience, interests, equipment and the time you have available. Caution and self-reliance are essential.

  • Plan ahead
    • Check the weather forecast, current trail conditions, warnings and closures or visit a Parks Canada visitor centre.
    • Mountain weather changes quickly and it can snow any month of the year. Ensure that you have adequate food, water, clothing and equipment for your trip. Don’t forget essentials including toilet paper.
    • Know your physical limits. Always choose a trip suitable for the least experienced member in your group.
    • At least one person in your party should be able to recognize natural hazards and have training in wilderness first aid
    • Parks Canada does not maintain or patrol winter trails in Kootenay National Park. Some hiking trails are suitable for skiing and snowshoeing, but the park is a natural area and travel is at your own risk.
    • Tell a reliable person where you are going, when you will be back, and who to call if you do not return: Parks Canada Dispatch – 403-762-1470.
  • Check equipment
    • Conditions can change from minute to minute and place to place. Generally, the higher you go, the colder and windier it gets. Ultraviolet radiation is also stronger at higher elevations. A toque, warm jacket and sunscreen may all be required on any given day during the summer.
    • Study trip descriptions, maps and expected hazards before heading out. Guidebooks and topographic maps are available at visitor centres and retail outlets in Radium Hot Springs and Lake Louise.
    • Carry a first aid kit, bear spray and a satellite emergency communication device like SpotX, inReach or Zoleo, and know how to use them.
    • Prepare gear and supplies for at least one day longer than your planned trip. See a complete list of suggested equipment in the what to bring section below.
  • Be alert
    • Be alert for wildlife at all times. Avoid wearing earbuds or headphones. Learn how to travel safely in bear country.
    • Ticks, which could carry Lyme disease, may be present in the park. It is important to check yourself and your pet after hiking.
    • Boil, filter or chemically treat all water before drinking. Surface water may be contaminated and unsafe for drinking.
    • In case of EMERGENCY, call 911 or satellite phone: 403-762-4506. Cell phone coverage is not reliable throughout the national park.

Snowy Trails

Snow can remain on some trails well into the summer. When trails are snow covered, route-finding can be difficult and travel through deep or hard snow and ice can be unsafe. Be prepared and check trail conditions before heading out.


Seasonal Avalanche Risk

Avalanches are possible from early winter to early summer. Trails above tree line (2,000 m) may be exposed to avalanche hazard at any time of the year. Travel only in terrain appropriate for your group’s experience, abilities and equipment. Training and experience can help you recognize and avoid dangerous avalanche conditions.

For more information on avalanche conditions, visit a Parks Canada visitor centre or check the Mountain Safety section.

Protecting the Park

Humans have an impact in the backcountry. Vegetation is fragile, especially at higher elevations, wildlife are not habituated to people, and backcountry users are seeking quiet and solitude.
Park management regulations and guidelines are in place to minimize our impact on the wilderness and each other.

  • Backcountry Permit
  • A backcountry permit is required when traveling in the backcountry. Visit our backcountry reservations page for more info. Individuals must have a copy of their backcountry permit (paper or a screen shot) and present it to Parks Canada staff when requested.

  • Climbing, mountaineering and glacier travel
  • Mountaineers are permitted to bivouac on specified routes, and may do so in non-vegetated areas only. For detailed information on bivouacking and to find out what routes are permitted, please visit the Parks Canada visitor centre in Yoho National Park or call 250-347-9505.

    Note, the Alpine Club of Canada (403-678-3200) operates several alpine huts in the park that are ideally located for these pursuits.

  • Camping restrictions
  • Camp in designated campgrounds as indicated on your reservation and use the tent pads provided to minimize impact on vegetation.

    • A maximum of 4 people and 1 tent are allowed per tent pad/site.
    • The length of stay for any campground cannot be more than 3 consecutive nights.
    • The maximum group size for a reservation is 10 people and 5 tents.

    Random camping is not permitted in Yoho National Park.

  • Cooking and campfires
  • All backcountry travellers should carry a portable fuel or propane stove for cooking. Cook and eat in the designated cooking area.

    Campfires are not permitted anywhere in the Yoho National Park backcountry.

  • Washing
  • Wash well away from any lakes, streams or river, and keep the use of soap to a minimum. Even biodegradable soap are pollutants. Strain out those last bits of food waste and pack them out. Disperse grey water on land, a good distance from water sources and campsites.

  • Pack out garbage
  • If you pack it in—pack it out. Littering is against the law and hazardous to wildlife. Do not dispose of garbage in outhouses or leave it in food lockers.

  • Food storage
  • To avoid attracting bears and other wildlife to your campsite, all food, garbage, toiletries and cooking equipment must be stored in the wildlife-proof food storage lockers or on bear poles provided at designated campgrounds. For areas where bivouacking is permitted, bring a rope to hang your food downwind of your campsite (see illustration), or a bear-proof canister for areas where trees are not suitable for food storage.
    For more information, contact a Parks Canada visitor centre. Remove all garbage, food and belongings at the end of your stay.

    illustration on how to hang food in the Banff backcountry

  • Properly dispose of human waste
  • Use the outhouses provided. If there are no outhouses nearby, select a spot away from trails, campsites and at least 70 m away from water sources. Dig a hole 12 to 16 cm deep to reach the dark-coloured soil layer. When refilling the hole with soil, do not pack it down. Pack out toilet paper and used feminine hygiene products.

  • Pets
  • Pets are welcome in the backcountry but must be leashed at all times. To a wild animal, your pet is potentially a predator or prey. Wildlife may flee, endangering themselves or their young. Alternatively, they may respond aggressively, endangering you and your pet.

    To prevent unsafe situations:

    • Ensure your pet is on a leash and under physical control at all times.
    • Pick up and dispose of your pet’s waste in a garbage bin.
    • Consider leaving your dog at home when camping or hiking in the backcountry.
  • Fishing
  • To fish in Yoho National Park, everyone aged 16 or older is required to have a National Park Fishing Permit. Children under 16 do not require a permit but must be accompanied by a permit holder. These permits can be purchased at a Parks Canada visitor centre. Provincial fishing licenses are not valid in the national parks. The possession limit for all fish caught in Yoho or Kootenay national parks is zero. See the Fishing Regulations page for more information.
    Clean Drain Dry all water-related gear and complete a Self-certification Permit before recreating in any body of water in Banff, Yoho, or Kootenay national parks.

  • Stay on trails
  • Short-cutting between trail switchbacks damages both the soil and plant life, making the area susceptible to further damage by erosion. Stay on designated trails at all times.

  • Share the trail
  • Backcountry trails and campsites may be shared by hikers, trail runners, horse parties and mountain bikers. Respect for others can go a long way toward reducing conflicts. Make noise if you are travelling quickly or silently, move off the trail to allow larger parties to pass, and avoid sudden movement around horses as they may spook.

  • Collecting natural or cultural objects
  • Leave all rocks, fossils, horns, antlers, wildflowers, berries, mushrooms, nests and other natural or historic objects where they are for others to enjoy. It is unlawful to remove, deface, damage or destroy any natural or cultural resources within the national parks. Visit leavenotrace.ca for information on low-impact backcountry travel.

  • Firearms are prohibited
  • Firearms, including pellet guns, bear bangers, bows, slingshots and similar, are prohibited in national parks. Parks Canada recommends carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it for protection for protection from wildlife.

Wildlife and People
grizzly bear on trail in summer

Yoho National Park is home to wildlife including elk, wolves, cougars, grizzly bears and black bears. To successfully raise their young and sustain a healthy population, wildlife need access to as much quality habitat with as few human surprises as possible. Be aware of possible encounters with wildlife in all areas of the park, including paved trails and roads.

All wild animals can be dangerous regardless of their size. Any animal can become aggressive if it feels threatened.

Always carry bear spray, ensure it is accessible, and know how to use it. Bear spray is available at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre and some retail outlets in Radium Hot Springs and Lake Louise.

Make noise. Being quiet puts you at risk for sudden wildlife encounters. Be alert through shrubby areas, near running water and when approaching blind corners. Travel in tight groups and always be aware of your surroundings.

Do not approach wildlife. Stay 30m (3 bus lengths) away from elk, deer, and moose. Stay 100m (10 bus lengths) away from bears and other carnivores. This is a park regulation. Offenders may be charged.

If you are close enough to take a selfie, you are too close.

Safe wildlife viewing distance for predators, such as wolves, bears and cougars,  is 100 meters or 330 feet. Safe distance for all other large species, including elk, deer and bighorn sheep, is 30 meters or 100 feet.

If an animal approaches you, you are responsible for backing away. Be alert for any animal warning signs that indicate you are too close. Do not chase, follow, pursue, stalk, entice, or otherwise harass wildlife.

Parks Canada staff may need to manage wildlife for the safety of the animals and park visitors. This will take priority over wildlife viewing and photography.Your cooperation is mandatory.

Report bear, cougar, wolf and coyote incidents and encounters to Parks Canada Dispatch when possible and safe to do so: 403-762-1470.

Keep pets on leash and under physical control at all times.

Leave your drone at home. Drones disturb wildlife and other park visitor. Drones are not permitted in the national park.

More information:

Where to go

Yoho National Park’s most spectacular backpacking begins in the Yoho Valley. Takakkaw Falls is only the beginning! Journey from here to Laughing Falls, Twin Falls, Yoho Pass, the Iceline, or the Little Yoho Valley. Strong hikers may access the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park via Goodsir Pass. Alternatively, head west for unmaintained trails in the Amiskwi or Ice River valleys.

In more popular areas of Yoho’s backcountry, you will find maintained hiking trails and designated campsites with outhouses, tent pads, food storage cables or food lockers and picnic tables. More remote areas of the park provide a greater opportunity for solitude, although trails may not be regularly maintained and hikers must be self-reliant. Route finding and navigation skills are required and hikers should be prepared to safely ford streams. Pre-trip planning and preparedness are essential for travel in the backcountry.

Map: Downloadable map of Yoho’s backcountry trails and campground locations.
Yoho National Park Trail map
(PDF, 597 Kb)
Trail Ratings

Easy

  • Suitable for those with little or no trail experience.
  • Flat to gently rolling with no obstacles.
  • Little or no elevation gain or loss.

Moderate

  • Suitable for those with basic trail experience.
  • Gently rolling with short, steep sections and infrequent obstacles.
  • Moderate elevation gain or loss.

Difficult

  • Suitable only for those with trail experience.
  • Long, steep sections with frequent obstacles.
  • Major elevation gain or loss.
Estimated time to complete these trails ranges depending on trail distances, fitness levels, weather and trail conditions.
Multi-day trails in Yoho National Park
Trail Distance (round-trip) Time Elevation
Trail rating = easy Laughing Falls 8.8 km 2 days 125
trail rating = moderate Yoho Pass 12.8 km 2 days 530
trail rating = moderate Twin Falls 16.4 km 2 days 300
trail rating = moderate Ottertail Valley to McArthur Creek 32.4 km 2 days 285
trail rating = difficult Iceline via Little Yoho 20.8 km 2 days 710
trail rating = difficult Whaleback 21.3 km 2 days 700
trail rating = difficult Little Yoho Valley 18.6 km 2 days 520
trail rating = difficult Goodsir Pass 25 km 2-3 days 910

*Note: On most hiking trails you will gain and lose elevation before you reach your destination. Elevation gain represents all the up and elevation loss all the down you will experience on a one-way hike.


Trail descriptions

Trail rating = easy Laughing Falls

This trail leads to the Laughing Falls backcountry campground and is an access point for popular multiday backpacking routes.

Length: 8.8 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 125 m
Trailhead: Takakkaw Falls parking lot, 17 km east of Field via the Trans-Canada Highway and Yoho Valley Road. Note: Yoho Valley Road is open seasonally from mid-June through mid-October. Due to tight switchbacks, RVs and trailers are not permitted.

Habitat: Typical Yoho forest with moist groundcover. Watch for the very large fallen tree en route.
Description: A forested trail to a waterfall at the confluence of the Yoho and Little Yoho Rivers.  


trail rating = moderate Yoho Pass

There is a backcountry campground at Yoho Pass. This trail links the Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls areas.

Length: 12.8 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 530 m
Trailhead: Emerald Lake parking lot, 10 km west of Field, B.C. via the Trans-Canada Highway and Emerald Lake Road -OR- Takakkaw Falls parking lot, 17 km east of Field, B.C. via the Trans-Canada Highway and Yoho Valley Road. Note: Yoho Valley Road is open mid-June through mid-October. RVs and Trailers are not permitted due to steep switchbacks.

Habitat: Lush Columbian forest. Watch for goats on the Burgess Highline.
Description: A lakeshore stroll to an alluvial fan, followed by switchbacks and waterfalls. Shuttle recommended. This trail joins with others in the Takakkaw Falls area.


trail rating = moderate Twin Falls

This trail leads to the Laughing Falls and Twin Falls backcountry campgrounds.

Length: 16.4 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 300 m
Trailhead: Takakkaw Falls parking lot, 17 km northeast of Field via the Trans-Canada Highway and Yoho Valley Road. Note: Yoho Valley Road is open mid-June through mid-October. RVs and trailers are not permitted due to steep switchbacks.

Habitat: Drier, Rocky Mountain forest. Watch for goats above the falls.
Description: This forested trail passes Laughing Falls and carries on along the Yoho River to a spectacular double cascade and Twin Falls Tea House National Historic Site. 


trail rating = moderate Ottertail Valley to McArthur Creek

This trail leads to the McArthur Creek backcountry campground.

Length: 32.4 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 285 m
Trailhead: Ottertail Parking lot, 8.3 km west of Field, B.C. on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway.  

Habitat: Sensitive and important wildlife habitat. Watch for bears, wolves, and goats.
Description: Walk or cycle up the Ottertail River to its confluence with McArthur Creek. 


trail rating = difficult Iceline via Little Yoho

This trail passes the Little Yoho and Laughing Falls backcountry campgrounds.

Length: 20.8 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 710 m
Trailhead: Takakkaw Falls parking lot, 17 km east of Field, B.C. via the Trans-Canada Highway and Yoho Valley Road. Note: Yoho Valley Road is open mid-June through mid-October. RVs and trailers are not permitted due to steep switchbacks. 

Habitat: Glacial moraines in the high alpine. Watch for small mammals in subalpine rockpiles.
Description: A signature circuit climbing to a high bench with spectacular glacier views, descending to meadows in the Little Yoho Valley and returning past Laughing Falls in the Yoho Valley. 


trail rating = difficult Whaleback

This trail leads to Twin Falls backcountry campground.

Length: 21.3 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 520 m
Trailhead: Takakkaw Falls parking lot, 17 km east of Field, B.C. via the Trans-Canada Highway and Yoho Valley Road.  

Habitat: Sensitive alpine vegetation and good goat habitat. Watch for goat hair on the trees in the spring.
Description: A classic circuit taking in the Yoho Valley and Twin Falls from both above and below. Seasonal suspension bridge – check the trail report to ensure it is in. 


trail rating = difficult Little Yoho Valley

This trail includes the Laughing Falls and Little Yoho backcountry campgrounds, as well as Stanley Mitchell Hut. Reservations for the hut are required and can be made in advance through the Alpine Club of Canada.

Length: 18.6 km
Hiking time: 2 days
Elevation: 520 m
Trailhead: Takakkaw Falls parking lot, 17 km east of Field, B.C. via the Trans-Canada Highway and Yoho Valley Road.  

Habitat: Subalpine hanging valley. Good place to watch small mammals.
Description: A moderate to steep forested hike into a scenic hanging valley on the doorstep of many alpine climbs. 


trail rating = difficult Goodsir Pass

This trail leads to the McArthur Creek backcountry campground and continues to the Helmet Falls backcountry campground in Kootenay National Park.

Length: 25 km (one-way)
Hiking time: 2-3 days
Elevation: 915 m
Trailhead: Ottertail Parking lot, 8.3 km west of Field, B.C. on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Habitat: A thick forest leading to sub-alpine larch meadows and alpine slopes above. Watch for marmots at the pass.
Description: A steep climb to a larch-laden pass with excellent views of the Goodsir peaks. Connects with Kootenay National Park’s classic Rockwall Trail multi-day route.


Where to stay

Backcountry campgrounds

There are five backcountry campgrounds in Yoho National Park. Campers must camp in designated campgrounds as indicated on your reservation and use the tent pads provided to minimize impact on vegetation. The following applied to all backcountry campgrounds;

  • A maximum of 4 people and 1 tent are allowed per tent pad/site.
  • The maximum length of stay for any campground is 3 consecutive nights.
  • The maximum group size for a reservation is 10 people and 5 tents.
  • Campers must have a copy of their backcountry permit (paper or a screen shot) and present it to Parks Canada staff when requested.
  • Fires are not permitted in any backcountry campground in Yoho National Park.

All campgrounds are equipped with:

  • tent pads
  • dry toilets
  • communal picnic tables
  • food storage cables or food lockers

Random camping is not permitted anywhere in Yoho National Park.

Reservation Info | Reserve your campsite here

Yoho Valley campgrounds

Four campgrounds are located in the Yoho Valley, accessed from the Takakkaw Falls trailhead. If you plan to make an early start, consider spending the night at the Takakkaw Falls front-country campground just 300 m from the parking lot. Alternatively, stay at the HI - Whiskey Jack Hostel, a short walk from the falls.

  • Yoho Lake
  • Laughing Falls
  • Twin Falls
  • Little Yoho

Remember: Access to the Yoho Valley trails and campgrounds is limited as the Yoho Valley road is snowbound much of the year. Visitors must be aware of the road opening and closing dates when making backcountry reservations at one of the 4 campgrounds in the Yoho Valley.

Ottertail Valley campground

The fifth campground, McArthur Creek, is on the Ottertail River, which connects to the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park via Goodsir Pass.

Reserve your campsite here

Alpine huts

Alpine huts maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada are available to club members and non-club members. For information and reservations, visit the Alpine Club of Canada.

Beyond park boundaries

Continuing beyond park boundaries? Find out more about backcountry opportunities beyond Kootenay National Park.

Banff National Park
Kootenay National Park
Jasper National Park
B.C. Provincial Parks

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