The Emerald Triangle is another gorgeous hike in Yoho National Park.
When I learned that the route would take us close to the famous Burgess Shale, my mind conjured up images of massive dinosaur skeletons. Even though I knew the Burgess fossils are made up of small, soft bodied creatures like jellyfish, my brain enjoyed the fantasy. During our research the previous day, we learned that we couldn’t hike in the fossil beds by ourselves. The Burgess Shale is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the unique fossils are protected. We look forward to returning to Yoho soon for a special guided hike with a Parks Canada Heritage Interpreter. However, the Emerald Triangle took us very close to the fossil area; we kept our eyes peeled the whole time for Cambrian creatures in the rock. The trailhead for our trip was at the Emerald Lake Lodge (1300 m). We decided to complete a loop in the counter-clockwise direction so we could hike up the steep forest section rather than descend it. Save the knees! We visited Emerald Lake the previous summer, experiencing the lake loop and reading every single interpretive plaque. I remember Mike pointing to the Burgess Shale, promising to come back and hike the area together. I didn’t know we would be back one year later.
- Drive (852 km/9 h 51 min) from Victoria towards Field via Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 E. 1.5 km west of Field turn onto Emerald Lake Road. Travel 9.5 km north to the trailhead at Emerald Lake Lodge. Google Map
Permits & Fees
- All visitors to Yoho National Park require a Day Pass or Discovery Pass. We love our Annual Discovery Pass because it inspires to visit as many of Canada’s National Parks and Historic Sites as we can in a year!
Books & Maps
- Patton B. & Robinson B. Canadian Rockies Trail Guide. 8th ed. Summerthought Publishing; 2007. www.summerthought.com
- Scale 1:50,000. Lake Louise & Yoho. Gem Trek Publishing; 2012. www.gemtrek.com
Emerald Triangle – September 22, 2015
- Distance: 20 km
- Duration: 9 h
- Peak: 2183 m
- Gain: 918 m
Emerald Lake Lodge to Burgess Pass (7.2 km)
We got off to a reasonable start, although the potato restaurant in Field was sadly closed. Clif Builder’s Bars provided a convenient breakfast instead. There were lots of tourists taking pictures at the Emerald Lake Lodge, but we quickly broke off from the crowds. After a few minutes of hiking along the muddy lakeshore, we started up the steep forest switchbacks towards Mount Burgess. We knew we had several hours of climbing, so we settled into a comfortable pace and took off our warm puffy jackets. The forest was wet and felt much like our Vancouver Island rainforests. After a couple of hours on the Burgess Pass Trail, we found a break-spot with a view to drink Starbucks Refreshers and gobble maple cashews. We cooled off quickly though and decided to keep on moving up. Much of the trail at this point was wet and slippery. We chose lighter approach shoes rather than heavier hiking boots and got a little mucky as a result. Mike and I were excited to finally reach Burgess Pass (2175 m) and gain wider views of the surrounding peaks.
Burgess Pass to Yoho Pass (6.1 km)
Now that our climb was behind us, we could really relax and enjoy being up high. The trees were smaller and thinner just after the pass. Before long, we encountered a sign that warned of the closed Burgess Shale fossil area. The Wapta Highline Trail would take us right along the border, so I watched the ground intently to spy a wayward fossil. We were now on the slopes of Wapta Mountain, immersed in a gorgeous alpine meadow with scrubby little trees and tons of shale (2183 m). Emerald Lake shone green “like an emerald” far below. There were boats on the lake, but from our high place they looked like a pod of whales. About half-way along this stretch, we took our lunch break on the trail among giant shale slabs. We were clever and packed dehydrated homemade soup and crackers. The sun was bright and warm, lunch was hot, and the air was still. A bold golden-mantled ground squirrel showed up just as the coloured food bags came out. We didn’t feed him of course, but he was extremely hopeful…hanging around the entire time, hopping around the rocks to see if we dropped any crumbs. Mike took some photos, remarking how my shirt colour choice of the day looked like the shale. Shale-shirt forever! I liked blending into the beautiful rocks, feeling part of the natural landscape. I thought I may have seen a fossil in one of the rocks…it was a round imprint like a sea anemone. After lunch, we continued hiking along the Highline beneath Wapta Mountain and eventually along the base of some remarkable cliffs that dripped water ever so gently. The trail descended gradually and entered forest once again. Eventually, we arrived at Yoho Pass.
Yoho Pass to Emerald Lake Lodge (6.3 km)
Yoho Pass (1815 m) was a link to the Iceline Trail that we completed the previous day. We had a few hours of dropping down the Yoho Pass Trail to Emerald Lake. The light softened to grey as we walked down single-track and washouts. Sometimes large creeks flowed right across the trail, and we had incredible views of waterfalls. The terrain was rocky underfoot, and we were grateful for trekking poles to help our descent. Emerald Lake got bigger and bigger as we moved down towards it. At last, the ground levelled off and we were dumped onto an alluvial fan. I was definitely fatigued, but still filled with wonder at the enchanting fan area. We braided our way through rubble and milky streams, crossing log bridges that floated around with washouts. Trees grew thin here, and in this magical place we caught the last sunlight of the day on Mount Burgess and the moon. Finally, we arrived at the lakeshore, although the water no longer looked green in the low light. We finished our last kilometer along the Emerald Lake Trail, ending the day happy and satisfied with another Yoho classic. The lodge parking lot was pretty deserted when we got there just before 1900 h. Chilly once again, we fired up the car and headed towards Lake Louise for the night. After hot baths and a short rest, we walked to the famous Outpost Pub for food. We shared an awesome veggie pizza next to a roaring hot fire, basking in the full Canadian Rockies après-activity-glowy feeling. Yoho is an epic park with some of the best hiking we’ve done together. We can’t wait to come back to Yoho and explore more!