Elevation Gain: Approximately 700 metres to the highest point along the Iceline Trail. With the numerous ups & downs over the lateral moraines of a number of lobes of the Emerald Glacier, the accumulated elevation gain was a touch over 900 metres, so the listed elevation gain is a little misleading as to what your legs might tell you at the end of the day.
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult. As much of the hike is above tree-line and over rock, weather conditions could make this challenging, so proper planning and having appropriate gear – as always – is essential.
What more can be said about this trail that hasn’t been said already. According to Parks Canada, “Yoho” is a Cree expression for awe and wonder: this hike could be considered as a signature hike for Yoho’s the beauty of Yoho National Park.
If you’re interested in glacial geomorphology, this hike has it in spades. You can almost hear the echoes of glaciers scraping along the rock. You literally walk up and over several lateral moraines from the Emerald Glacier, which retreated almost that morning, on a geological time scale anyway. The rock, in some areas, is worn smooth by the glacier’s advance, and is exposed by its simultaneous - and seemingly contradictory - retreat. The grooves left on this rock feel almost like glacial fingernails on a limestone chalkboard. The rock over which you walk was probably covered by the Emerald Glacier less than a hundred years earlier. The remaining glacier is actively dripping, gleaming, and glistening only few hundred metres from you as evidence of its liquefying retreat leaves you stepping carefully over strategically placed rocks in its turquoise-coloured streams and shallow “flumes”.
You can almost reach out and touch the glacier. In fact, although we did not do so, scrambling a short distance above the trail will get you up close and personal with the waning remnants of a retreating Emerald Glacier whose flanks are steadily disappearing off of the rugged, steep northeast-facing cliffs of the The Vice-President peak above you.
If you are simply seeking fantastic alpine views and a unique perspective from across the Yoho Valley of Takakkaw Falls and its icy reservoir, Daly Glacier, then you will be equally sated and rewarded for your efforts.
There are excellent write-ups of this hike, including the ones in “The Wonder of Yoho: Scenes, Tales, Trails,” by Don Beers, and in “Don’t Waste Your Time In The Rockies” by Kathy and Craig Copeland.
This particular route is a variation of routes already described on trailpeak.com under “Takakkaw loop via Iceline and Whaleback” and “Emerald Lake to Takakkaw Falls via Iceline”. This loop is shorter than the other two hikes and can easily be done in a day. In fact, the hike length can be shortened by taking the cutoff to Celeste Lake, which is shortly south of the Iceline Trail’s highest point of elevation. We had to take (Aug.2, 2007) the longer loop via Little Yoho Valley as the bridge just near where the Celeste Lake Trail meets the Little Yoho Trail had been blown out by flooding. As we later passed by it while near the end of the Little Yoho Valley trail, there was evidence of active construction. So, assuming it was repaired later in 2007, the Celeste Lake option in the loop will be available; however, it is best to check first when planning your hike. We opted for starting the hike at the Hostel end and getting most of the vertical climb out of the way while it was still cool (a little frost was on the trail at the beginning) and the legs were fresh.
Although we had to hike several kilometres further than the Celeste Lake option would normally have taken us (about 4 km further), we were amply rewarded. The continued marching over moraine after moraine provided even more glacial geomorphological delights as well as more outstanding views and sub alpine meadows and a great lunching point above the Iceline Trail’s high point on a moraine over-looking the Yoho Valley’s splendor, which included outstanding views of Isolation Peak and The Whaleback.
The only, minor drawback was the seemingly long walk (about 4.5 km) back down the Yoho Valley at the end of the day. “Don’t Waste Your Time…” did not even give it 1 boot-print out of 4 and we cannot disagree; however, letting one’s mind drift back to what it had registered over the earlier part of the day will easily take your mind off of the rather mundane final leg down. Besides, as mentioned in the directions, your car is now ½ kilometre closer! (if you parked in the Takakkaw Falls parking lot, that is, and not at the Hostel)
From Calgary, drive west on Highway 1 (Trans Canada Highway) approximately 200 km to the turn north to Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park. (You will need to purchase or have an appropriate National Parks pass.) The parking area at the end of the road to Takakkaw Falls is 13.3 km north from Highway 1. (The turn to Takakkaw Falls is 3.6 km east of Field, B.C. (The turn is approximately 60 km east of Golden, B.C. and about 205 km east of Revelstoke, B.C., both of which are located on Highway 1)
Parking for the Iceline trail is in the Takakkaw Falls parking area (51.497255 N; 116.483012 W). It is a flat walk of about ½ km to the trailhead adjacent to the Whiskey Jack Hostel, located on the west side of the road into Takakkaw Falls. You will pass by it on the way to the parking area. There is no parking allowed at the hostel other than for its patrons. (Besides, you’ll appreciate your car being ½ km closer at the end of the day.)
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Posted By: G_loerkOfTheMountains
- Thu Sep 29 03:38:12 UTC 2016
CommentThis trail is beautiful, you can expect a long day if you want to do it all in a day and be able to take in the view, when i went a group of us decided to scramble emerald mountain to, it was spectacular, although loose scree falling makes it a little dangerous to do if there are people below you. I went September 3rd and 4th and it did snow. The snow was a couple inches and the weather was warm enough that you wouldn't get cold while hiking. I highly recommend, and if you get the chance go do Kiwetinok pass and hike up a morane for a spectacular view of a glacier and the mountains around it
Posted By: euro7066
- Fri Jul 18 05:31:30 UTC 2014
UpsideNice views, well marked Downsidenothing CommentDid it on July 15, 2014. Some patches of snow.
Posted By: ADesouza
- Wed Aug 01 07:27:32 UTC 2012
UpsideYou see it all :) Waterfalls (Takakkaw Falls, as well as smaller ones along the hike), alpine meadows, gorgeous lush forests, creeks and streams, ice blue lakes, and glaciers! CommentThe trail can be accessed from 2 directions since it is a loop. I HIGHLY recommend starting the trail by heading north along the flat valley away from Takakkaw Falls and following the trail from that direction. In doing so, you have a longer, but much more gradual climb and begin in a forest setting. As you ascend, you are rewarded with more and more views until you are above the tree line. Soon after you are above the tree line you are awarded with grand views of the valley as well as lakes and glaciers, and around the peaking point for elevation, you suddenly are awarded with views from above Takakkaw Falls where you began. You then have a short descent back down to your car. If you begin the trail in the opposite direction, you have a very steep, albeit shorter, ascent that would be graded "difficult" as opposed to "moderate". As well, you are continuously in view of Takakkaw falls as you ascend to the highest point, and it seems anticlimactic to then lose views and descend into the forest for a long return without views. Coming from the direction I described initially, you feel more and more rewards as you ascend.
Posted By: mike degelman
- Mon Jul 18 20:20:13 UTC 2011
CommentIf you can, add in the whaleback trail into this loop, it will put you at the top of twin falls. The falls will be crashing right below you. One of the best hikes I have done
Posted By: iwhitehe
- Thu Aug 13 04:39:55 UTC 2009
UpsideThis trail has some great views of the surrounding area when you're up near the glacier and as mentioned there is some fantastic glacial geology to snoop around if you're into it. DownsideThe ascent from the hostel is big and from the other direction i got antsi waiting for the trees to go away in place of the alpine. Commenti did this route from takakkaw to laughing falls to celeste lake and down to the hostel, which is the route i would recommend. lots of traffic on my way down late morning. I started from laughing falls at 6am and was up on the glacier (literally) before i saw any other people around 8:30am, but once they started coming they came in droves. overall it was a great little overnighter that was well worth the trip!
Posted By: cec403
- Mon Jun 08 02:41:32 UTC 2009
UpsideAmazing hike! Lots to see and not too many people along the way.
Posted By: powderedwaters
- Thu Sep 04 17:31:51 UTC 2008
QuestionI was wondering if its possible to add data to a trail. I have the GPS track for another section of the iceline trail but am not really sure if I have to add it as a separate trail.ANSWERS are in this forum: Adding GPS Data