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Why Lake O'Hara Should be on Every Hiker's Bucket List

This alpine paradise ranks in my top three day hikes anywhere.

By: Afton Aikens + Save to a List

Lake O'Hara in BC's Yoho National Park isn't exactly easy to visit. 

It's a coveted mountain destination - you have to book your trip well in advance (three months to the day for the campground, and for the Alpine Club hut your best bet is to enter a lottery). But it's so worth the effort. Here's why.

Photo: Callum Snape

1. Lake O'Hara is truly about the journey. 

The views from almost every step of the trails here are like what you'd often have to hike for hours to see.

2. Because of the entrance restrictions, it feels like true wilderness. 

It was a Thursday in the off season when I visited, and only two other people were at Lake Oesa (a glacial lake we stopped at early on) when we arrived.

3. The scenery will amaze you. 

About two hours into our hike when the sun came out before lunch, I was pretty sure I'd been transported into a fairytale and that a dancing, singing bear and deer duo would make an appearance any minute.

Photo: Callum Snape

4. You feel like you're on top of the world. 

The views from the top of the All Souls' Prospect alpine route were incredible. The sky, peaks, and lakes and larch trees dotting the landscape below stretched for miles. The air was crisp, but not cold—just fresh autumn alpine air.

5. You feel like you accomplished something at the end of the hike. 

Our descent was a bit steep at first, and another hiker suggested we turn back the way we came. We were glad we didn't. It was a rewarding end to a beautiful day. If you're of reasonable physical fitness, don't be intimidated, stay the course!

Although the points above are true of hiking in general, these elements come together beautifully at Lake O'Hara. It's an amazing place, and everyone I know who's been has echoed that sentiment. 

Your day can consist of easy or more challenging hiking - and you can refuel on tea, coffee and snacks in the day shelter afterward before heading back to your campsite, the Alpine Club hut, Lake O'Hara Lodge (for a more upscale experience) or home (you can just visit for the day if you want). However you experience Lake O'Hara, you'll want to go back.

Read more about my trip to Lake O'Hara.

Cover photo: Afton Aikens

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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