Iceline Trail, the jewel of Yoho National Park

If there is one word to describe the feeling I had for the Iceline Trail, overwhelming is the word. The Iceline Trail hike has every features of a good mountain hike — towering waterfalls, stiff climbs, lots of glaciers, stream crossings, pretty lakes, the immense landscape — and some more. This hike is mighty pretty.

The trail condition report in early July for the Iceline wasn’t very positive. The trail was rated poor for hiking due to snow accumulation. We waited until the last possible opportunity to hike the Iceline before having to head to Revelstoke, BC. The wait paid off. The trail condition was improved when we were in Redstreak Campground in Kootenay National Park. It was a bit of a drive to Yoho National Park from there, but we determined to do this hike. So, off we went.

We arrived at the trailhead parking lot around 11 am. It was completely full even though it’s a large parking lot. That’s because it shares the same parking lot as the main feature in the Yoho Valley, Takakkaw Falls. The falls are fed by the Daly Glacier, part of the Waputik Icefield. Takakkaw Falls was the most impressive waterfall we saw in the Canadian Rockies. Since we couldn’t find a parking spot, we left the parking lot and parked on the side of the road where the trail crossed the road. By parking where we did, we actually shortened the hike by about a half mile, which came in handy at the end of this full-day hike when the idea of walking another half mile wasn’t as appealing.

Takakkaw Falls from the valley floor

After an initial level walk on the gravel access road to a hostel, the trail entered a forest and the climb began. The first 2 miles or so was the steepest part of the trail, then the ascent was more gradual for the rest of the trail. Takakkaw Falls could be heard and often seen from across the valley during the climb. The higher we climbed, the more of the Daly Glacier above Takakkaw Falls was revealed to us. The mountains to the southeast, behind us, were jagged and spectacular. For most hikes, this view could have been the destination and we would have been satisfied. On this hike, it got even better from here.

As we climbed higher, the Daly Glacier above the falls Came into view..
Looking back on the trail we could see the mountains across the valley.

After leaving the forest, the trail climbed again up and over a rock shelf. Then lo and behold there it was, the Emerald Glacier. The Emerald Glacier was a receding glacier and we were walking on the path the glacier once was. We chose a spot next to a stream to fill water and had our lunch. There were quite a few hikers on the trail, not as busy as the Plain of Six Glaciers hike in the Lake Louise area, but the vast landscape absorbed them right up, so the trail never felt too crowded.

A rock shelf next to the trail
The first full view of the Emerald Glacier
Walking on the path of the receding glacier
The Emerald Glacier
Refilling water
The Daly Glacier from across the valley

From this point on, the trail followed the base of glacier, crossing several moraines and passed by a few small lakes. For those who are interested in geology and glacier study, there are tons of study materials along this trail, like huge glacier erratics and striations on rocks left behind by past glacial activities. Our destination was the Iceline Summit, which was a high point (elevation of about 7,350 ft) on a hill next to the trail after the junction of Celeste Lake.

In the center of this picture you can see a bus-sized glacier erratic (notice two hikers on the trail in front of the rock for comparison). Glacier erratic is a rock or boulder that was transported from its original place by glacier activity.
After crossing a moraine we came to a colorful tarn. A group of hikers were at the tarn, taking a dip in it.
The next moraine was a popular spot for folks to walk up its narrow ridge for a photo op.
So did David
More clouds appeared in the sky.
Another lake at the junction to Celeste Lake Trail
Another glacier across the valley
The same hikers at the tarn passed us on the trail. We found them again taking a dip in the lake here.
We continued toward the Iceline Summit.
The scenery behind us
Looking back toward the last lake that we just passed.

It was an understatement to say that the views from the Iceline were breathtaking. What you could experience on this trail from both the sight and the sound was just overwhelming. I hope the photos on this post provide a glimpse of the wonder of this hike, the rest is best experienced in person.

View from the high point. The landscape of the Iceline is so vast.
Looking toward Little Yoho Valley
One last picture at the summit before heading back

After enjoying the view at the summit and an energy boost from tamarind candies, we started our return. The weather was threatening us with a few sprinkles on the way back but the eventual rain thankfully held off until a few minutes after we got back to our truck, a nice farewell to this wonderful day of hiking.

Dark clouds started to build up in the area, but so far no rain.
Same trail, different lighting…a good side of out-and-back hikes
A final section on the rock shelf before heading down into Yoho Valley
Amazing light on the mountain across the valley
  • Date hiked: July 15, 2017
  • Hiking time: 6h 57m
  • Distance: Approx. 8.35 mi round-trip to the Iceline Summit (out and back)
  • Elevation change: Approx. 2,470 ft gain
  • Note: Wear a good, sturdy pair of hiking boots for this hike as the much of the Iceline is on a rocky terrain. Bring sun screen, sun protection, and lots of drinking water.

9 thoughts on “Iceline Trail, the jewel of Yoho National Park

  1. Pingback: link – evyaniy
  2. We visited Takakkaw Falls on a whim after doing the Plain of Six Glaciers hike and were blown away. Looking around, we realized how many great hikes there are in the area and definitely marked it as a place we want to go back to. After reading this, you have reaffirmed that desire to go back. Another of the amazing bits of scenery in Canada. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment, Brian. I’m glad to know that this little bit of what I post re-ignited your desire to revisit the Rockies or to visit new places. That’s what I look for when I read inspiring travel blogs such as yours.

      Liked by 2 people

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