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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.