There are seven National Parks in British Columbia, and while I haven't been to all of them, I can say with certainty that Yoho National Park is one of the best. If you are driving the Trans-Canada Highway in B.C., stopping in Yoho is absolutely necessary.
Yoho is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, a continuous stretch of seven National Parks through the Rockies and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On its eastern border, the Continental Divide separates Yoho from Banff National Park and British Columbia from Alberta.
Most of the points of interest in Yoho National Park are located north of the Trans-Canada Highway and accessible from the highway via two main roads. The first, Emerald Lake Road, leads to a Natural Bridge and then, as expected, Emerald Lake.
1. Natural Bridge
The Natural Bridge was very cool. The rock formations are odd, there is a small beach so you can feel the frigid glacier water, and the water just gushes through the small opening below the Natural Bridge.
Let's talk about this water! It looks so milky and has great color. The glaciers scrape the rocks they sit on and grind them into rock flour, which then flows away in the meltwater off the glacier. How the sun reflects these particles changes the color of the water. That's why this water is pretty silty and not transparent. In some cases, the rock flour settles in lakes before the river continues, and these rivers are then crystal clear. While the river here looks a murky green color, in Emerald Lake, it's just spectacular.
2. Emerald Lake
As you'd hope to be the case, the water of Emerald Lake is a brighter blue-green color. All of these photos are totally unedited #nofilter so you can see exactly what I saw.
You will notice two interesting optimal illusions here. The first is that the water looks more colorful from a higher elevation than it does when looking at it from the shore. Each of these photos was taken at a different elevation, and again, I promise, none have be edited post-production. The second interesting thing is that the water is more colorful in deeper waters as opposed to in the shallows. Both of these are visual effects of how the light reflects. It definitely gave us an excuse to hike to higher elevations to try to get better viewpoints.
The second main road in Yoho National Park, Yoho Valley Road, leads to Takakkaw Falls. On the way, we stopped at the Meeting of the Waters viewpoint, where the Kicking Horse River and the Yoho River come together. It's a steep slope to get down to the water, and it's a beautiful view from the viewpoint. In person, I could see that the Yoho River (left) was silty, whereas the Kicking Horse River (right) is crystal clear. As I mentioned above, the Yoho River was nearer to its glacial origin. The Kicking Horse River had a longer journey to this point, and the rock flour didn't make it this far. It was cool to see this contrast in action.
We also saw a herd of female elk on this road!
3. Takakkaw Falls
Finally, we got to Takakkaw Falls, or as our server at dinner called it, Tak Falls. In my opinion, Takakkaw Falls is the best part of Yoho National Park. If you only have time to do one thing in Yoho, go to Takakkaw Falls. At a total height of 1,224 feet, Takakkaw Falls is the second tallest waterfall in all of Canada, and it was awesome.
It's an easy walk from the parking lot to the base of the falls, and the view will not disappoint. The mist coming off the Falls was extremely chilly, and I recommend bringing a light jacket or at least a wipe to clean off your glasses afterwards! You can see how misty it was and how much of the nearby rock face was wet.
It's a good thing I was wearing a red shirt that day, otherwise I'd be impossible to find in that third picture.
Other Sights in Yoho National Park
One of the most popular sights in Yoho National Park, which I didn't visit, is Wapta Falls. Where Tak Falls is tall, Wapta is wide: 350 feet wide, to be specific. We opted to skip the 3-mile round-trip hike to Wapta Falls and instead see these other incredible sights. It was a good thing, too, because we still managed a whopping 17,000 steps and over 7 miles. If you want to see it, though, keep an eye out because it's just past the western entrance to the park, and it's not well marked.
The Spiral Tunnels viewpoint is the last part of Yoho National Park we saw. There are two hard-to-see entrances to the tunnel, and if you wait long enough, you can catch a train snaking up the mountainside. Personally, I found this view underwhelming compared to all the natural beauty of the park. But it's an easy stop on the Trans-Canada Highway, and it's great for people interested in the Canadian Pacific Railway or ferroequinology more broadly.
Overall, Yoho National Park was an amazing wonder. I loved seeing Tak Falls and feeling the extremely frigid glacial water. This park is so close to the much more popular Banff, and I recommend anyone headed there make the jump over to check out Yoho, too.