The mountain peaks, valleys, and lakes that surround the Lake O’Hara area are among the most beautiful alpine regions in the world. If you haven’t visited yet, you need to add it to your bucket list! Activities in the area include hiking, climbing, scrambling, camping, fishing, glacier swimming, canoeing, snowshoeing, skiing, and skating. Keep reading for everything you need to know about visiting Lake O`Hara in Yoho National Park.
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How to Get There
The parking lot for Lake O’Hara is located 194 km (120 miles) from the city of Calgary. If you do not have access to a vehicle you can take a bus from the Greyhound Terminal in Calgary to Lake Louise. Once you reach Lake Louise you can either taxi or contact the Lake O’Hara lodge and they may provide transportation to the parking lot. Upon arrival, there are buses that will take you up to the lodge or campground.
You will have the option to reserve a spot on the bus at the time of booking a campsite or room at the lodge. If you are just visiting Lake O’Hara for the day, book as far in advance as possible because the bus fills up quickly! You do not need to reserve a seat on the outbound bus, only the inbound. Arrive at the bus staging area 20 minutes prior to departure. For more information on price, bus schedule, and making reservations, click here.
Hike to Lake O’Hara
If you’re just visiting for the day and the bus is full you can always hike the 11 km access road up to Lake O’Hara. This hike will take you along a windy dirt road with about 400 meters of elevation gain. Once you reach the lake you can spend some time exploring the area or even rent a canoe and paddle around Lake O’Hara. If you want to hike further, I would recommend hiking up to Lake Oesa or Opabin Prospect as they are the shortest distances with the most rewarding views.
NOTE: If the outbound bus is not full when you are done hiking, you can always catch it back down! Make sure to bring cash if you are considering this option as they don`t take credit or debit.
Best Time to Visit
- Opening Day: Mid-June
- Closing Day: Beginning of October
- Opening Day: Late January
- Closing Day: Mid-April
Annual High/Low Temperature for Lake O’Hara
Opening Day for Reservation: Reservations typically open up in late January for the entire year. Competition is high so make sure to be online at 8 am on opening day to grab a spot. You can make your reservations through Parks Canada.
Lake O’Hara Campsites: 30 single tent sites with a 13’ x 13’ tent pad
Facilities: There is access to potable water from two separate taps with large commercial sinks as well as women’s and men’s outhouses (2 toilets each). Unlike most other back-country campgrounds in Canada, Lake O`Hara also has garbage and recycling bins so you don`t have to pack out your garbage!
Lockers: Each campsite comes with a bear-proof locker to store your food and toiletries. There is a larger shed for shared storage as well.
Lake O’Hara Lodge
The Lake O’Hara Lodge is stunning with a marvelous view of the lake. There are 8 lodge rooms with 2 community bathrooms. Tea time is from 3 pm to 5 pm and is free for guests of the lodge. It is quite expensive for campers or day-trippers, but they can stop in for tea as well. The lodge operates its own bus service so you don’t have to worry about reservations.
- Inbound Bus: 08:30 am, 10:30 am, 3:30 pm (campers only), and 5:30 pm (campers only)
- Outbound Bus: 09:30 am, 11:30 am, 2:30 pm, and 4:30 pm
- Guide Cabin (2 people): $1065/night (Min. 2 nights)
- Lakeshore Cabin (2 people): $1080/night (Min. 2 nights)
- Lodge Room (2 people): $755/night (Min. 2 nights)
- Single Lodge Room (1 person): $545/night (Min. 2 nights)
These rates include accommodation for two, all meals, afternoon tea and snacks, road trip bus fare, and all taxes and gratuities.
Lake O’Hara is regulated and only certain types of equipment are allowed into the campground. These rules help control the amount of waste that campers can bring into the area and it also helps to regulate the type of campers that stay overnight. The equipment restrictions are listed below:
- Soft Cooler: One collapsible 512 cubic inch cooler per site
- Back Country Stove: A single burning back-country stove like a JetBoil or a Pocket Rocket. We have seen larger groups bring a double-burning propane camping stove and they didn’t have any issues.
- Backpacks: You are allowed one large backpack and one smaller day pack per person on the bus.
Bear sightings are common in the area so it’s important to carry bear spray, make loud noises, and travel in groups. Attacks are rare, but the lodge can call for help and has first aid available in the unlikely event something does happen.
Dehydration & Exhaustion can ruin a trip fast! Drink plenty of water, carry hydration tablets with you, and take breaks when you’re tired.
Insects aren’t usually a problem but mosquitoes can get bad in the early summer so bring good bug spray or cream!
The Lake O’Hara region has several spectacular trails including the Alpine Circuit, Linda Lake, McArthur Lake, and so much more! If you`re looking for a trail that combines the shortest distance with the best views, I would highly recommend Opabin Prospect. You can also choose to hike sections of the circuit or even just hike around the stunning turquoise lake!
If you enjoy the challenge of fishing hard-to-access lakes in the high alpine, then fishing the Lake O’Hara area will keep you entertained for days! The lakes that surround this beautiful hike in lodge and campground have some exceptional fishing for native west slope cutthroat and brook trout.
Elizabeth Park Hut (ACC)
This hut is maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada(ACC) and located just 500 m west of Lake O’Hara in a small meadow. There are actually two small buildings: the Elizabeth Parker Hut and the nearby Wiwaxy Cabin. The main building sleeps 16 people and the Wiwaxy cabin sleeps 8 people in the summer. In the winter, the cabins combine to sleep 20 people. Mattress pads are provided for you to use under your own sleeping bag.
Both huts are heated by wood-burning stoves and propane is supplied for cooking and lighting. Outhouses are 25 m from the huts and any garbage or food scraps should be disposed of properly. Snowmelt and the creek that runs nearby are the only water sources. Booked by lottery only during the summer months, the hut is open to Alpine Club Members and the general public during the winter. To book at the Elizabeth Parker Hut call 403-678-3200 ext. 0
Abbot Pass Hut
Maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada, this hut is located between Mount Victoria and Mount Lefroy near the continental divide. At an altitude of 2925 m, the hut is only operational during the summer because it’s too dangerous in the winter. After reaching Lake Oesa you will find a sign marking the end of the Parks Canada trail. The trail turns into a scramble that can be hard to follow at some points due to rock slides.
The Abbot Pass Hut sleeps 24 people, has a wood stove for heating, and a propane system for cooking and lighting. An outhouse is located a short distance away. These resources are flown in and out annually by helicopter, so be sure not to waste them.
Winter at Lake O’Hara
During the winter months at Lake O’Hara, the 11 km access road is groomed weekly for cross-country skiers. On weekends the lodge offers soup, salad, dessert, and coffee or tea between 12 pm and 2 pm, cash only. Skiing is the only way to get into Lake O’Hara in the winter and takes approximately 3-4 hours each way.
- Activities: Skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing
- Lodge Room Twin Bed (2 people): $387.50/night (Min. 2 nights)
- Elizabeth Parker Hut: $40/person/night
This rate includes all meals, Après ski gluhwein & goodies, Sauna, and guided ski touring.
Le Relais Day Use Shelter
This small shelter is the information and snack shack for the area. You can purchase maps and a few other small items but remember they are CASH ONLY. The employees are always helpful and know a lot about the area so feel free to ask plenty of questions. When you need to take your mind off of how sore your legs are from the hiking, try their delicious carrot cake!