July 21, 2021. A family-friendly walk around a gem-blue lake in Yoho National Park.
- Region: Yoho National Park. Traditional territory of the Ktunaxa and Blackfoot First Nations
- Distance: 5.4 km loop
- Total Ascent: Minimal
- Safety and Disclaimer
Emerald Lake is a great destination for anyone looking for an easy walk around a lake in beautiful mountain scenery. It gets very busy and the parking area is fairly small resulting in an overflow of cars parked in a designated area along the access road. There is an interpretive trail circling the lake with several signs along the way discussing the natural history of the area. Based on the order of the signs, the trail is meant to be travelled clockwise. It is a family-friendly destination – there are good toilet facilities near the parking area and the first half of the trail (if going clockwise) is smooth and level enough to be stroller-friendly.
Access is 1.6 km west of Field, B.C. along Hwy 1. There is a signed turn-off followed by a good-quality paved road that quickly makes its way to the lake.
The lake itself is a lovely turquoise colour. Several canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards were on the water when we visited. There was smoke clouding the air due to summer wildfires. That dampened the views a little, but we still had particularly good views of Michael Peak, The President and The Vice President (yes, those are the real names of the mountains). East of the lake is the massif which includes Mount Field, Wapta Mountain, Walcott Peak, and Mount Burgess. These are the environs of the famous Walcott Quary and the Burgess Shale. The character of the forest surrounding the trail is different on the west side of the lake as opposed to the east side – the reasons why are explained on the interpretive signs. The trail is more rough, root-strewn, and soggy on the east side after crossing over a bridge at the far side of the lake. If you’re pushing a stroller, stick to the trail on the west side of the lake. Walking out-and-back to the bridge will still be an excellent outing.
When we were done our walk we drove back down the access road and stopped at the Natural Bridge pull-out, just before getting back to the highway. This fascinating spot on the Kicking Horse River used to be a waterfall. There were cracks through the rocks forming the waterfall and eventually chemical and physical processes eroded those into wider channels. In time all the water flowed through the channels instead of over the falls, leaving behind a rock bridge.
Click on the pictures below for full-resolution images.