Yoho National Park ~ Natural Bridge, Emerald and Moraine Lakes

August 12th ~ Yoho National Park, Alberta, Canada

Emerald Lake

Yoho National Park is right next door to Banff National Park, so a day trip was in order to check out a few of the highlights in Yoho.

“The name Yoho comes from the Cree word for awe and wonder.” ~ Wikipedia

Map showing where Yoho and Banff National Parks connect

Spiral Tunnels – Kicking Horse Pass

Spiral Tunnels

Our first stop was at Kicking Horse Pass, which I had never heard of, but we were glad that our timing was impeccable, even if we did not know it ahead of time 🙂

Kicking Horse Pass sits in the Canadian Rockies along the Continental Divide on the border of British Columbia and Alberta, as well as the junction of Banff and Yoho National Parks. This was a vital transportation route for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Initially the route over the “Big Hill” was steep, dangerous and sometimes deadly.

“In 1884, when Canadian Pacific Railway construction crews first encountered the Kicking Horse Pass they found at the summit a staggering drop with no room in either Kicking Horse Canyon or the Yoho Valley to lengthen the line so as to reduce the gradients. To save time and money the tracks were laid in a steep descent from the top of the pass to Field, dropping 237.5 feet to the mile (4.5%).” ~ Trainweb.org

Railroad crossing

This was one of the steepest railway lines anywhere and sadly disasters were a much too frequent occurrence. In addition to runaway trains, they also had to contend with blizzards and avalanches. Finding an answer on how to make this route safer was not easy, as there was simply no room to lengthen the lines on either side which could reduce the steep grade.

Eventually a solution was found – building two spiral tunnels INSIDE of the mountain to gain the needed track length which would therefore reduce the grade. The famous “Spiral Tunnels” were opened in 1909 and seen as an engineering marvel of the time.

This shows where we were standing, and the white lines where the tunnel is inside the mountain

The view-point was already crowded when we arrived, complete with an entire bus load of visitors from Asia. I found it amusing that we were all staring at a train track tunnel opening, a place I would have normally ignored. But because each train makes an entire spiral circle inside the mountain, trains actually cross over themselves. You can witness a train exiting the upper portal, while part of it is still entering the lower portal. It looks like it is both coming and going at the same time!

Within a few minutes of our arrival, a train graced us with a live view of how this all worked…

We could see the train both enter and exit the mountain after completing the spiral turn

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge

Once a waterfall, the softer rock that was below the hard limestone had eroded away until the rock widened enough for the water to flow under the outcrop, thus creating a natural bridge.

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This reminded me of dandelions, but flatter.

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake is located in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada. It is the largest of Yoho’s 61 lakes and ponds, as well as one of the park’s premier tourist attractions. Emerald Lake Lodge, a high-end lodge perched on the edge of the lake, provides local accommodation. A 5.2 km (3.2 mi) hiking trail circuits the lake, the first half of which is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. During the summer months, canoe rentals are available; in the winter, the lake is a popular cross-country skiing destination.” ~ Wikipedia

Tim and Joanne at Emerald Lake

Jumping off the bridge!

Visitors from all over the world congregate here

The color of the water was a startling turquoise blue/emerald green and the flowers were so rich and healthy looking. I just kept snapping…

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The mountains are draped behind a smokey veil.

Our final stop of the day was back in Banff National Park. We had run out of time the previous day when we visited Lake Louise, but wanted to return to that area to check out another beauty, Moraine Lake.

Moraine Lake

There were traffic monitors in place who had temporarily closed the road toward Moraine Lake when we arrived at the turnoff. But, after a U-turn a short way up the road, when we approached from the other direction, we hit it just right and were admitted behind a tour bus.

Once again the tour busses were there in force.

Tour busses took up a sizable portion of the parking lot.

But it was late enough in the afternoon that we almost immediately found a parking spot. A huge rock hill greeted us as we approached the lake. Those of all ages who felt the need of a challenge climbed or scrambled up the side of the hill.

Rockpile Hill

“The view of the lake from the top of the rockpile is one of the most photographed locations in all of Canada. That view of the mountains behind the lake in Valley of the Ten Peaks is known as the “Twenty Dollar View”, as Moraine Lake was featured on the reverse side of the 1969 and 1979 issues of the Canadian twenty-dollar bill.” ~ Wikipedia

We stood firmly on both feet at the bottom, however if it had been clear, I might have been more tempted to make the climb as I will do almost anything to capture a good picture.

View of the lake from near the dock area.

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GRATITUDE MOMENT: They say that timing is everything, and time after time we seem to get lucky and arrive at the correct time, find that last parking space, get admitted when others have been turned away, receive a ticket for a sold out performance, or seats become available on what had been a full tour and so much more. Feeling blessed!

Up Next: More sightseeing in Banff National Park

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our "next chapter". At a stage in life where traveling the world, taking pictures, and sharing our adventures with friends and family will be our dream come true.
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32 Responses to Yoho National Park ~ Natural Bridge, Emerald and Moraine Lakes

  1. Michael Alesko says:

    Simply spectacular.

    Like

  2. Anabel Marsh says:

    Gorgeous! We didn’t go to any of these places this time, but did 10 years ago. The mountains in this post look like they did most of the time we were there – but my disappointment is trivial compared to the problems of the poor people living near the fires. It sounded terrible.

    Like

  3. Terry says:

    I can not wait for my trip next year. Looks you are following the same path I will be going on.

    Like

  4. I remeber Kicking Horse Pass. We also were lucky enough top see the train enter and depart. Thanks for the memory!

    Like

  5. Penny Rambacher says:

    Makes me proud to call Canada my birth country – so beautiful. Have fond memories going there with my mom about 20 years ago, and saw these emerald lakes, moose, bear, breath-taking scenery. Oh Canada.

    Like

  6. Quite beautiful, especially Emerald Lake. –Curt

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  7. Gosh that waterfall and Kicking Horse River…beautiful. Xx

    Like

  8. Lise D Brown says:

    We are on the road right now in Washington on our way to the Canadian Rockies. Love the shot of Emerald Lake, last time Charlie and I were there in 2013 we did the canoe on it, very very cool. we were wondering how the smoke is now (Aug. 26th) Do you know a good way to find out? website or?

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  9. Yoho Park is one of my favourite places in the world! Great photos!

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  10. tippysmom2 says:

    Another spectacular day! The story of the railroad is interesting and love that you got to see the train both going and coming. The lakes and river waters looked so inviting. I saw those people jumping in. Is the water not freezing? Also, I know that your favorite color is purple, but, you have to admit that big, bright orange flower was pretty special.

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    • I did not personally try the water, but I can assure you that the first thing out of that young ladies mouth when she surfaced after jumping in was that the water was FREEZING. The bright orange, red, and yellow are all gorgeous, but in my next post I have a purple flower display to share that is had to top.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wonderful! I did not know about this place. The men in the turbans were probably local. We have a lot of Sikhs here but especially in British Columbia.

    Like

  12. sunnyharvy says:

    Too bad you didn’t get to see that view at Moraine Lake in it’s full glory, but it was still beautiful nonetheless. Our photos of it appear near the end of this blog post: https://travelswithharvy.com/2015/06/09/canadas-alpine-adventure/ That entire area is totally amazing…almost better than Alaska!

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  13. Pingback: Columbia Icefields, Athabasca Glacier and Glacier Skywalk | A Note From Abroad

  14. thanks a lot for the beautiful insights – thanks thanks thanks

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  15. curvyroads says:

    Gorgeous photos all, well, except all the buses, but that Emerald Lake wins the day!

    So happy to hear of your continued good fortune. 😍

    Like

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