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Your guide to Emerald Lake
No glacial lake in Yoho National Park has earned quite as many fans as Emerald Lake, one of the most iconic sights in the Canadian Rockies. In fact, many park guests plan their visits to coincide with the snow melting off the surrounding mountain peaks — that’s when its enchanting turquoise waters appear the brightest. The credit goes to limestone for causing the vivid colors of the lake, which look especially luminous in the July sun. You can rent kayaks and canoes in the summer; in winter, the lake becomes a popular destination for cross-country skiers. Emerald Lake is one of more than 60 lakes and ponds in the national park, which has more majestic landscapes than you can shake a hiking stick at.
You’ll find chalets, guesthouse rentals, and the Yoho National Park Visitor Centre in the tiny community of Field, home to around 200 residents. Nearby, the hamlet of Lake Louise is known for its ski resort. Midway between Calgary and Emerald Lake, the destination town of Banff is a popular jumping-off point for exploring the surrounding Banff National Park.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Emerald Lake
Temperatures vary dramatically by elevation, so you’ll want to pack layers no matter the season. Emerald Lake’s surface stays frozen from around November to June, making summer and early fall the peak times for visiting Yoho National Park and the surrounding communities. July and August highs average around 73 degrees Fahrenheit and lows dip to the 40s, though snow still falls in higher altitudes even in summer.
Bring snow gear for the cooler months, when Yoho appeals to experienced winter recreationists. Average high temperatures decline from the 60s to the lower 40s Fahrenheit through early fall. Come November, average highs are below freezing. Keep in mind that many trails and roads in the park are closed during the winter months, when the park becomes a favorite venue for snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
Top things to do in Emerald Lake
Hikers won’t quickly run out of trails in Yoho National Park, where summertime outings vary from accessible day hikes to more ambitious backcountry excursions. Several of the most scenic include a popular circuit that traces the shores of the lake. Check in with the visitor center to plan your trek.
Tumbling for more than 1,200 feet, Takakkaw Falls is the second-tallest waterfall in Canada. You can reach it by car on the twisty-turny Yoho Valley Road. For a view from above the falls, hike the strenuous Iceline Trail, which grants you stellar views of the rugged alpine landscape.
Paleontologists study fossils that date back more than 500 million years at Burgess Shale, an important scientific landmark that’s recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visits to one of the three fossil beds require advance reservations.