Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake. Photo: BJ Vicks

Emerald Lake is one of the most admired destinations in Yoho National Park, with an unmatched diversity of both activities and landscapes suited to the enthusiastic traveler. It was discovered in 1882, when famed mountain guide Tom Wilson was led lakeside while rounding up a group of horses that had gone astray, and was immediately taken by the vivid Emerald-coloured waters.

Here the vegetation is quite stunning, with several different microclimates suiting a new collection of sensitive plant species, making for some impressively delicate floral displays. The moist, shady enclaves common to the Emerald Lake region make it one of the best places to spot a variety of tiny, fragile wild orchids that survive only in finely balanced conditions. If you're paying attention, you may be rewarded with a Yellow Lady Slipper, Spotted Orchid, or Calypso sighting.

An Outing at Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake. Photo: Matt Tobey

The hike around the lake, clocking in at about an hour, is one of the least strenuous but most rewarding in the park. An incredible breadth of geological features can be viewed from the lake, including the world-famous Burgess Shale fossil beds, the Michael glacier, and an avalanche slope carpeted by meadows where moose often graze.

Emerald Lake is a fantastic place to see wildlife, as animals are drawn to the important water source. Bald eagles, moose, and ospreys are a common sight, as are waterfowl such as loons and mergansers.

Hiking isn't the only way to see Emerald Lake, however. Canoe and rowboat rentals are available at Emerald Sports, as are cross-country skis and snowshoes in the winter. Fishing at Emerald Lake is also quite popular during the summer months. Swimming comes highly recommended for the experience, but is not for the faint of heart. The water is cold! The more leisurely delight of having lunch at the lakeside patio does the trick for some, as well. Picnic areas and the Emerald Sports gift shop are also easily found.

Emerald Lake is easily accessible from Field by a 10-minute car ride, or by biking or cross-country skiing along the Tally Ho trail, depending on the season. Be sure to make a stop at the Natural Bridge viewpoint on the way!

View Parks Canada's Yoho National Park Trail Map in PDF format.