Backpacking and Hiking in Little Yoho Valley
April 15, 2015 Outdoor Trip Reports & Ideas
The Little Yoho valley is a famous backpacking, hiking, scrambling and mountaineering area in British Columbia, Canada. Little Yoho National Park of Canada is located just outside of the small town of Field, BC, and not far from the ski resort of Lake Louise in Alberta. It is home to the very popular, and highly coveted by hikers, “Iceline Trail” which draws hundreds of hikers a year for it’s amazing location and views. We took a trip on the trail this past August.
We had a solid ridge of high pressure over the mountains those few days, and were very lucky with weather! We headed off hiking from Takakkaw Falls trailhead, where we left our car, and hiked into our campsite in the Little Yoho Valley. This backcountry campsite can be reserved by calling Parks Canada at Yoho National Park. Overnight camping costs $9.80 per night.
The turnoff to the start of the trail is a 20 minute drive from Lake Louise, Alberta, and 45 minutes from Golden, BC. Add another 15 minutes or so to drive the windy road (usually full of tourist RV traffic in summer) to the Takakkaw Falls trailhead.
Getting to Little Yoho Valley
Getting to the Little Yoho campsite is an easy, 9 kilometer (5.6 mile) hike with 500 meters (1640 feet) of elevation gain. It should take you about four hours to get there. If you start in the morning, you’ll have plenty of time to explore all the hiking trails in the area. We arrived in the late afternoon, so we chose to hang out and relax. As an option, you can also stay at the Stanley Mitchell Hut, operated by the Alpine Club of Canada. It costs $36 per night, and the hut has a full kitchen with propane stoves for cooking. Contact the Alpine Club to book.
The campsite has special poles set up to hang our food away from bears, picnic tables, and a composting toilet (it doesn’t stink!). It’s situated next to a creek, so if you snag one of the choice tent spots by the creek you’ll enjoy it’s calming sound all night long.
Kiwetinok Pass and Mount Kerr
The next day we set off to Kiwetinok Pass to climb Mount Kerr. It was a great day with amazing views all day long. The hike up to the Pass is nicely graded, but a bit steep at the end. It is an established hiking trail, which ends at Kiwetinok Lake. On the way up, enjoy great views of the President and Vice President, and the President glacier.
After we admired the lake and had a nice relaxing lunch, we took off on the scree slopes to summit Mount Kerr. Though it is an easy scramble, there is lots of loose rock on this mountain. I recommend traversing to the right as long as you can and then gain the ridge via a more gentle slope rather than heading up the painfully loose and tedious (and steeper) way directly up from the lake.
The views from the summit are amazing, you can see a vast panorama of Rockies and Selkirks peaks. It almost makes you forget the notoriously loose rock!
To descend, we decided to descent to the east side, and not the west side where we came up. We followed the ridge to the col. It’s moderate scrambling down to the col, stay on the ridge and pick your way through the rock, eventually bearing right to gain the col.
After that, take snow slopes – fun glissading – down to the beautiful alpine tarn (lake) lower down.
From there, follow the scree back down to the creek that drains from Kiwetinok Pass, cross this creek, and you’ll find the hiking trail back down to your campground.
The Iceline Trail
One of the highlights of this trip will be hiking the Iceline trail. You can either hike it on your way in or out, but we recommend hiking it out because you’ll skip the steep initial ascent from Takakkaw falls. It’s much better to go down this part of the trail than up, especially at the beginning of your trip when your pack is heaviest.
The trail meanders through some amazing post-glacial terrain, going up and down old glacial moraines. It’s all above treeline, so the views are outstanding, and particularly striking on a clear day.
The trail is 11 km (7 miles) long and from Little Yoho gains about 300 meters of elevation, whereas if hiked from the other direction (from Takakkaw Falls to Little Yoho) gains 800 meters.
Plenty to do in the Little Yoho Valley
There are many other trails from Little Yoho that we didn’t explore this trip, but have explored on past trips. From Kiwetinok Lake you can have a three-peak day if you combine the ascents of Kiwetinok Peak, Mount Pollinger and Mount McArthur. Kiwetinok Peak is notoriously loose and very exposed so I would not recommend doing it, however Mount Pollinger is an easy ridge walk with a short fourth class (or lower fifth class) downclimb to continue on the ridge to Mount McArthur. Mount McArthur (9892′) is normally climbed by mountaineers from the east side, where you travel on a glacier, but the east side allows an easy ridge walk all the way up to the summit of this big mountain, with amazing views. Highly recommended!
Other day hikes from little Yoho include the Whaleback, an easy ascent on a hiking trail, and the scramble up to Isolated Peak. Isolated peak is also quite loose – so take care! There is lots of exploring to do in the area, and you won’t run out of stuff to do with a 3 or 4 night stay.
Tips to Hiking in Little Yoho Valley
This valley is high and you can easily get up to 10,000 feet, so pack accordingly, including a gore-tex and down layer for quickly changing mountain weather. Since in the summer rain is quite common, pack a rain jacket and read our article about what you’ll need to hike in the rain. Due to all the loose scree, sturdy footwear is highly recommended, and a hiking pole is a must. There is plenty of uneven ground particularly on the Iceline trail.
If you’re just getting into hiking, check out our hiking tips to make you a more efficient hiker. Also visit our outdoor gear price checker to get the best price on outdoor gear you’ll need for the hike.
More Amazing Places to Visit in the Area
Interested in more cool hikes in the area? Consider taking a trip to these awesome places: the Skyline Trail in Jasper, Skoki in Lake Louise, Waterton, and something a little further – the West Coast Trail. Also check out our hiking tips.
View all the photos here
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