Emerald Lake is the largest lake located in Yoho National Park in the province of British Columbia. It’s just 20 minutes drive west from it’s famous neighbour Lake Louise, but is not as well known. With a beautiful green hue it truly stands up to it’s name. The colour is most intense in early summer when there is a high amount of glacial silt flowing from the surrounding mountains. Due to the high elevation of the lake it remains frozen from November to early June.
The lake is surrounded by mountains of the President Range, Mount Burgess and Wapta Mountain. The area is home to a number of bird species including eagles, osprey and loons. Ground squirrels and marmots are can often be spotted and if you’re really lucky you might spot a moose.
The lake setting itself is quite secluded, but can be easily accessed from the Trans Canada Highway. Scores of vehicles drive past every day with no idea of the nearby beauty. Although Emerald Lake only gets a fraction of the visitors that the nearby Lake Louise receives, it can be overwhelmingly busy if a group of tour buses have arrived. During the summer the parking area can become full, at this point people have to park along the road leading to the lot. When the tour buses are present you can get away from the crowds by doing the walk around the lake. The tour groups have limited time, they rarely venture much further than the foot bridge at the front of the lake. Once the day visitors have passed through it’s a much quieter environment. If you are staying at the lodge you’ll practically have the lake to yourself in the evening.
The view of Mount Burgess from Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake Lodge And Restaurants
Emerald Lake Lodge is the only accommodation at the lake. It was originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1902. It offers 24 cabin style units, an outdoor hot tub, two restaurants, a gift shop and a kayak and canoe rental dock. If you are not okay being disconnected from the world for a while and enjoying nature this is not the place for you. There’s no televisions or wifi available except in the main lodge and the area does not get cell phone reception. To further enhance the tranquility of the lodge vehicles can not go beyond the parking area that is 1 km away. Staff shuttle guests and their luggage to and from the lodge and by golf cart to their cabins.
The Cilantro restaurant just across the foot bridge has a a large patio area where you can sit and have lunch or a drink while taking in views of the lake. During the summer a side window in the Cilantro offers gelato, cookies, tea, coffee and snacks from 10am to 3pm.
The formal Mount Burgess dining room in the lodge offers hearty Rocky Mountain cuisine. The same menu is served in a more casual lounge along with regional micro-brewed beers served from a historic 1890’s wooden bar that was originally from the Yukon.
The canoes are not cheap to rent, but if you have deep pockets it’s a peaceful way to enjoy the lake. Currently the rates are $40 for one hour or $66 for 2 hours. A few row boats are also available. No reservations are needed unless you have a large group of 12 or more. Additional information can be found at Emerald Sports & Gifts.
Hiking And Walking Trails At Emerald Lake
A 5.2 km trail circles the lake. Part of the path is paved and offers views of the lake and mountains. This portion is suitable for wheelchairs and strollers. Near the back of the lake the trail becomes a little more uneven and consists of a dirt trail and some boardwalks. Allow between 1 to 1.5 hours to do the entire loop.
For more adventurous hikers there are other trail options. Bring your bear spray. Activity here is common, you’ll often see bear scat on the trails.
Winter At Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake can be accessed in the winter months, it’s a popular spot for cross country skiing and snow shoeing. The paths and trails are cleared somewhat for walking, but make sure you’re wearing proper footwear. Cleats might be necessary if it’s icy.
With no electronic distractions and rooms with cozy wood burning fireplaces the lodge makes for a romantic winter getaway. Ski and snow show rentals are available.
A Little History About Emerald Lake
The first European person to see Emerald Lake was the famous mountain guide Tom Wilson. He discovered it in 1882 by accident when he was tracking down a team of his horses that had escaped and made their way into the valley. He gave it the name Emerald because of it’s remarkable colour. This wasn’t the first lake he gave this name to. Another beautiful lake he discovered not long before was also called Emerald Lake, but was renamed shortly after in honour of Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daugher of Queen Victoria. That lake is the famous Lake Louise.
Directions To Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake Lodge is located 20 minutes west from the village of Lake Louise. Head towards the Town of Field, B.C. The turnoff to Emerald Lake is 1 km west of Field. Follow the road for 8km until you reach the lake parking area.