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  • Writer's pictureHike Travel Repeat

Every Question About Lake O'Hara, Answered

If you have ever had a question about what it is like to hike and camp at Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park, Canada, it is answered here! If it isn't, leave me a comment and I will try and answer for you.

Park & Trails

  1. Is there cell reception at Lake O'Hara? There’s no cell reception anywhere in the park or parking lot

  2. How safe is it to hike at Lake O'Hara? Can I hike solo? The park is as safe as any park. There are wild animals, difficult trails, and unpredictable weather. If you are prepared with the essentials and experienced hiking in remote areas, then you should not have any trouble hiking (even solo) on established trails in the park. If you are uncomfortable, there are several easy hike options that beginners can choose. Having been there, I would definitely have felt comfortable going solo.

  3. Should I hike the Alpine Circuit? The Alpine Circuit is considered a difficult trail. It is steep and has a few cliffy sections. For a more moderate adaptation, try the low route to Lake Oesa and then the Yukness Ledges to the Opabin Plateau, and down via West Opabin trail.

  4. Should I go to Lake O'Hara in the rain or snow? Rocks are slippery when wet (especially in boulder fields). Consider adapting your hiking plans to a more moderate or easy hike based on the weather, or turning back in case a storm rolls in.

  5. Are there bears or other dangerous animals at Lake O'Hara? Yes, often. Be bear aware and always carry bear spray!

  6. Can I access Lake O'Hara without a camping or bus reservation? Yes, the lake and trails can be accessed by an 11km road that you can walk up in summer, or ski/snowshoe in winter.

  7. Can I bring my dog? Yes, but you must walk the road with them.

  8. What is the best weather forecast for Lake O'Hara? The weather forecast used by the park is: though it covers a vast area and the weather in each valley is completely unpredictable. Be prepared for all weather. You could also use or Mountain Forecast for a variety of opinions.

  9. How early do I need to arrive to hike Odaray Grandview? Odaray Grandview has a voluntary maximum of 4 parties per day due to meadows being wildlife corridor. There is a sign in kiosk after the final junction. Join up with hikers close behind/in front of you to allow for more people to hike per day and walk as a group though the meadow and don’t stop from the sign in booth until you are though the meadows. It totally depends on the day, but campers should try and arrive before the second bus of day hikers arrives for the best luck, and perhaps ask other groups at camp if they would join you (at least for the trip through the meadow). Be aware this is a steep hike with some difficult terrain and you should not continue past the first viewpoint without appropriate skill and gear.

  10. Will trail running shoes be ok on the trails around Lake O'Hara? A good pair of trail runners are a decent option in good weather, if you prefer them to hiking boots. I used them on all the trails we did (Alpine Circuit, McArthur, and Odaray Grandview) without issue. Perhaps I would have preferred boots on the sharp rocky sections.

  11. Which trails should I avoid if I am scared of heights? If you are severely afraid of heights, avoid Wiwaxy Gap, Huber Ledges, Yukness Ledges, and Odaray Grandview. If you are minorly afraid, you will probably be ok on most of them (we met and heard of many people who were able to face their fears and get through without too much fuss).

  12. What is the best time to visit Lake O'Hara? Any time of year has its own charm if you have the skills, experience, and proper gear. For the average hiker, mid-July to early September would be recommended. The snow usually doesn't melt at higher elevations until mid-July. That being said, snow can be experienced on the ground or falling from the sky even in the height of summer. You can see the larches turn yellow in the end of September but it's often snowy by then.

  13. Which trails can I do at Lake O'Hara? (Distances given from Le Relais, return. Add 500m each way from campground.)

Easy Trails:

Lake Ohara Loop - 2.8km & flat. Add the viewpoint of the Seven Veils Falls (250m one way).

Shaefer Lake - 2.8km & moderate incline

Moderate Trails

Lake McArthur (High or Low Level, we preferred High Level) - 6.6km (various options) & moderate incline

Opabin Plateau - 4.4 km (various options) & flat sections and moderate incline sections

Lake Oesa - 5.8km (various options) & moderate incline.

Yukness Ledges (Trail is not too narrow, no significant fall risk) - 8.1km loop with Lake Oesa & moderate incline.

Linda Lake - 10km loop from campground & mild elevation gain

Difficult Trails

Odaray Grandview (some steep drops and places you need to use your hands, very steep trail near the end) - 7.6km & moderate to very steep incline

Wiwaxy Gap (portion of the Alpine Circuit)(very steep, some painful looking drops) - 7.2km loop to Lake Oesa & very steep incline.

All Souls Alpine Route (didn’t do this one but looked tough) - 5.2km for short loop only All Souls via Opabin & moderate to steep incline.

Full Lake O'Hara Alpine Circuit - 11.1km & steep inclines

Very Difficult/Scrambles

Schaffer Mountain

Little Odaray

Odaray Mountain


  1. When should I make a reservation to go to Lake O'Hara? You must plan ahead. Reservations open each spring. Check this link for dates, once announced.

  2. Where to I make my reservation? Create an account though

  3. Once I am on the Parks Canada reservation website, how do I book? Select “Backcountry” and then “Backcountry Zone” and then Park: “Yoho”. Then enter your dates, party size, tent pads, and preferred bus time.

  4. It says no sites are available, what now? If your original dates are unavailable, use “Calendar” view to see other available dates

  5. How many nights can I book? 3 consecutive nights per visit.

  6. How many people can camp on one tent pad? 4 people.

  7. How many tent pads can I book at a time? 1 tent pad per booking.


  1. What facilities are available at the Lake O'Hara campground? There are picnic tables, an indoor cooking area with a wood stove for heating, an outdoor fire pit (wood provided), two sinks for dishes, clean drinking water from the taps, pit toilets (two stalls per gender), a storage shed for storing backpacks and extra gear, and bear lockers for food.

  2. What if I dont have room for all my stuff in my tent? Theres a lovely, dry storage shed at campground. It's an excellent place to keep bags dry and not in your tent

  3. Do I need to filter water at the campground? There is clean water from the tap at the campground (I still recommend bringing a small lightweight water filter for emergencies if you run out of water while hiking)

  4. What size tent can I bring? Tent pads are spacious, so they could likely fit a 5-6 person tent (they are rectangular, so problem is the width). Parks Canada specifies 2.7m x 2.7 m but since the pads are not square, this isnt the actual size of the pad.

  5. Where do I cook? There are indoor and outdoor picnic tables

  6. Why cant I find a site number on my reservation? Tent pads are not pre-assigned, and you will be able to walk around and choose one on arrival, then let the park ranger know which one you chose.

  7. Where do I store my food? One bear locker is assigned per tent pad.

  8. Can I bring a cooler? Yes! A small soft sided cooler will easily fit in the bear locker, along with other food bags

  9. What date does the campground open? For 2023, the campground is open from June 18 - Oct 2. For more information click here.


  1. When should I arrive for the bus? Aim to arrive at least 30 minutes early for the bus (especially due to Kickinghorse traffic delays). The bus leaves very punctually and you will need time to organize yourself and find a parking spot, then get to the bus pickup area. Remember if you are coming from the West that Lake O'Hara is on the Mountain Time Zone, 1 hour ahead of Vancouver.

  2. How will they check my reservation? Screenshot your reservation as there’s no cell service at the parking lot

  3. Do we all need to arrive at the same time? You must arrive with your entire party on your pre-scheduled bus

  4. How does it work to leave the park? You receive a token for your departure, which is individual and you can depart at any time. If you lose the token, they will charge you $10 for the bus ride down, no exceptions.

  5. What if the last bus is full? If too many people on the last bus, they will not leave you in the park.

  6. What is the departure bus schedule? Departure bus times are: 9:30, 11:30, 2:30, 4:30, 6:30.

  7. How much luggage is allowed? You are allowed a carry on bag in addition to the “checked” bag specified by Parks Canada. (Stowed baggage is restricted to one large bag per person (max. weight: 25 kg / 55 lbs; max. length 97 cm / 38”).

  8. What dates are the buses running? For 2023, buses start June 18 and end on Oct 3. Check here for current information.

Le Relais Day Shelter

  1. How do I get my hands on the famous carrot cake? The carrot cake is made at the Lodge and restocked at Le Relais at 8:30am and 1:30pm, and sells out quickly. It costs $6 (as of 2023).

  2. What can I buy? Shops sells soft drinks ($3), hot drinks, chocolate bars, instant noodles, carrot cake ($6), t-shirts ($30), post cards, maps, O’Hara themed books, etc.

  3. How can I pay for things at the shop? Shop is cash only.

  4. When is the Le Relais shelter open? 8:30am - 6:30pm.

  5. What can I do at the park in the evenings? The park occasionally organizes talks about various things at Le Relais in the evening (around 8:30pm). When I was there, there was a bug talk, and then there was going to be a talk with poetry and stories about the area.

  6. Can I hang out at Le Relais? Yes of course, there are indoor and outdoor areas, and there is a wood stove there to keep warm or dry out.

  7. What else can I do at Le Relais? They have a selection of books about the flora, fauna, and area in general for you to look at while you are there and identify what you have seen or could see. They also have a log book so you can note any exciting wildlife encounters (please don't enter marmot, pika, or ground squirrel sightings, as they would fill up the book!)

Lake O'Hara Lodge

  1. Can I visit the Lake O'Hara Lodge without being a guest? Sure! The lodge offers tea which is open to the public. Cost is $18. Hours: 3:00pm - 4:30pm

  2. Can I skip the reservation madness and just stay at the lodge? Sure, for a pretty penny (please let me know if you would like a new friend!).

So, what did I miss? Let me know in the comments.


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