Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park: Hiking Guide

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Iceline Trail was determined to be memorable. “Heeyyyyyyy!!! Don’t turn around! Keep hiking, heeyyyy! Keeeeeeep hiking” We yelled while waving our arms in hopes they’d see us. Except they already started to descend. And I could barely hear my hiking buddy right beside me let alone someone yelling from two switchbacks above. We were getting pelted by snow. P e l t e d. Yet it was worth waiting out the weather in spades, right around the corner, what we we’re trying to tell the other hikers that decided to turn around, was the most majestic alpine views. So much so that everyone that did turn that corner either shouted for joy or were jaw dropped in complete awe.

Iceline Trail

The Low Down

  • Directions: Only 30 min drive from Lakre Louise, drive on Hwy 1 towards Field following the signs for Takakkaw Falls.  The drive up to the Takakkaw Falls parking lot include a few hairpin turns but otherwise an easy route. As Parks Canada states: “Yoho Valley Road is open mid-June through mid-October. RVs and trailers are not permitted due to steep switchbacks.”
  • Cell Reception: Only once in the alpine.
  • Trail Distance: Depends on turnaround point or if hiking the full loop. We hiked 15kms from the parking lot to the Iceline Trail lookout.
  • Elevation Gain: 864m
  • Duration: 4-6 hrs to the lookout and return dependent on fitness level.
  • Dogs: Permitted on leash.
  • Crowds: Moderate traffic on trails. Tak Falls parking fills up quickly mid morning.
  • Washrooms: Onsite at the parking lot.
  • Entrance Fee: Free.
  • More Information: Visit the Parks Canada and AllTrails for info and trail map.

In Good Company

We literally ran as fast as we could out of Lake Louise. #justtoomuch Escaping to Yoho sounded like bliss, and Iceline Trail was the one that I was most looking forward to exploring. So after sleeping in till 6am (best hike time is an early hike time!), we drove over to Takakkaw Falls and gazed up to the mountain range in front of us. Holy bananas. It looked intimidating and exciting all rolled into one. The best part about these hikes (Larch Valley, Lake Agnes, Big Beehive, Mt Rundle) is that Marlena and I made for great hiking buddies. On this one, we discovered that a) the more we tell stories on the way up, the easier the ascent seems and b) sometimes the best views are just around the corner.

Iceline Trail
Source: Parks Canada

What to bring

Besides the 10 essentials and what I would normally suggest for hikes, here are the highlights for this particular hike:

  • Hiking poles: Worth it in spades to bring poles, especially in the spring/early summer on muddy trails.
  • All the layers: We experienced all-the-weather so make sure you bring all-the-layers and rain gear.

Parking and Trailhead

The parking for this hike is at the Takakkaw Falls parking lot. Simply follow the signage towards the trail head located at the Whiskey Jack Hostel parking lot. It’s a no brainer really, but avoid parking at the Whiskey Jack Hostel, that’s for guests. You’re about to hike a over 14kms, parking at the next lot over like you’re suppose to isn’t a big deal. The Takakkaw Falls parking does fill up during the summer months since the falls is a very accessible tourist attraction…plan accordingly.  We arrived at 8am and there was still plenty of room.

The trailhead is well marked at the Whiskey Jack Hostel parking lot and includes the trail map/updates/warnings.

Iceline Trail Description

Is there something about this trail or was there something about that day? Either way, it goes down as the best hike I’ve had all year. Between the wild weather, nice long stretch on the alpine, and utter feeling of peace looking out at the landscape…this was an incredible day.

The tail itself is well defined and easy to follow through the wooded sections, once you’re pass the treeline however you have to pay a little more attention to see the trail. Once in the alpine, follow those cairns!

It goes something like this; moderately steep switchbacks of dirt trails through lush woods followed by a dirt/rock trail filled with wildflowers once you break the treeline. Then the trail breaks towards trail left leading you with rock steps and a two foot wide rocky switchback trail. On the last switch back you’ll turn the corner to break into epic alpine views. Follow the cairns pass the mini stream to well defined path towards the lookout.

Iceline Trail
Iceline Trail
Iceline Trail
Iceline Trail

Iceline Trail View Points

The trail gives great views of Takakaw Falls throughout and the large glacier sitting above it the higher you ascend. Once you break the tree line you can look back to see and breathtaking views of the range across the way and Cathedral Mountain. The real beauty however is coming around that last corner and seeing Micheal Peak, The Vice President, and The President.

It was suppose to rain all day actually, but we were lucky! Taking a bunch of pictures on the ascent with the sun peaking out from the clouds. Once we reached the alpine though, holy sweet mother did the skies ever open up! It snowed. Snowed in July. And it was pretty fierce. We actually pulled out the emergency blanket to cover our legs so that we could eat a snack before deciding if we should turn back or wait it out.

We decided to turn back, the rain was unforgiving and it was chilllllly my friends. Even with our wet weather/cold weather gear on! Only two switch back down the sky seemed to turn. Was that a break of blue we see?!?! Nah. Maybe? So we waited and sure enough, we were graced with good hiking weather again! Yassssssssss. Good thing too, the best was yet to come with all-the-views. I mean really, check out these pics…

Iceline Trail
Iceline Trail
Iceline Trail
Takakkaw Falls
Iceline Trail

Takakkaw Falls

Takakkaw Falls is soooome mighty in the spring! After that longer hike though, the skies turned grey again and it just poured. So we decided not to visit the base of the falls, opting for a quick clean up and early dinner instead.  Besides, sitting on Iceline Trail you pretty much get the best view from there.

Takakkaw Falls

Nourish thy self

What were we munching on while getting pelted by snow and rain? The Berry Bars from Trailhead Coffee of course! Their delicious berry bars quickly became a trail favourite. I mean, we already loved them for our Larch Valley hike. And when you’re riding out the weather (snow? ice? rain? maybe all of it?!) it’s nice to have a little pick-me-up like these.

Trailhead Coffee

Post hike we headed over to Truffle Pigs in Field, BC. Field is a small, small town but it a) has a great visitors centre and b) has Truffle Pigs. Absolutely mouth watering gourmet food and a drink list that’ll peak your interest. It’s a popular spot in the summer months so check their hours and try to get there ahead of the dinner crowd.

Truffle Pigs

Wrapping it up

There is something to be said for getting away from the crowds and exploring your own backyard. Traveling over the years has only increased my appreciation for what we have right here. Our gorgeous and wild rockies with all the lessons they have to teach us. Iceline trail was a whole lot of happiness wrapped into a really great day.

Victoria xo