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Emerald Lake Things You Need To Know Before You Visit

Emerald Lake: Things You Need To Know Before You Visit

Emerald Lake, like its name, is a true gem, tucked away in the Canadian Rockies. With its crystal-clear waters, lush forests, and stunning mountain views, we’re not surprised why this place is on everyone’s must-see list.

To make the most of your visit to this enchanting oasis, we’ve crafted the ultimate Emerald Lake travel guide. We’ll spill the beans on the best local hangouts, must-try activities, and some insider tips that will make your experience truly unforgettable. 

Best Time to Visit Emerald Lake

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The best time to visit Emerald Lake is during the summer, from June to August. The weather is gorgeous, with average highs of 70 F, and the wildflowers are in full bloom. You’ll have a chance to spot wildlife like mountain goats, and over 200 species of birds.

The lake is absolutely breathtaking at sunrise and sunset; the water looks like a mirror! And for those Instagram-worthy shots, don’t miss the golden hour, right after sunrise or before sunset.

If you don’t mind a bit of chill, I’ve heard September and May are pretty great too, with fewer people and lower prices. You might find some snow on the trails, but the fall colours in September are amazing.

Local Tip: Summer is peak season, so the trails and attractions will be more crowded. If you want to avoid the biggest crowds, go early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Also, if you want the best combo of awesome weather, smaller crowds, and lower prices, I’d say late spring or early fall is the way to go.

How to Get Around

Car Rentals: Renting a car is a popular option for exploring the Emerald Lake area. Companies like Expedia offer their services and let you pick from a variety of rental options. 

Tour Buses: Since public buses are not available in Emerald Lake, you can take a tour bus instead. These tours, like GetYourGuide, often provide transportation, informative commentary, and a structured itinerary to help you make the most of your visit to Emerald Lake.

Park Passes in Emerald Lake

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You’ll need a park pass to explore Emerald Lake’s wonders. Here are the details you need to know:

Full Day PassHalf-day Pass
Valid from the time of purchase until the park closes that day. 

• Adult – $5
• Child(ages 6–16) – $2
• Family/Group – $10
Valid from the time of purchase until either noon or 4 PM, depending on when you enter the park.

• Adult – $3
• Child -$1
• Family/Group – $5
Annual PassMonthly Pass
Valid for one full year from the date of purchase.  

• Adult – $30
• Child(ages 6–16) – $15
• Family/Group – $60
Valid for one calendar month from the date of purchase.

• Adult – $20
• Child -$10
• Family/Group – $40

This pass grants you access to all the incredible trails, picnic spots, and scenic viewpoints scattered throughout the park. If you plan on visiting more often or staying longer, a season pass is perfect.

It gives you unlimited access for as long as you’re in the area. I got my pass at the park entrance, but you can also snag one in advance on the BC Parks website.

It’s totally worth it because you’ll be immersed in the serenity of nature and be able to capture some awe-inspiring Instagram-worthy moments.

Local Tip: Make sure to display your pass on your vehicle’s dashboard while you’re in the park to avoid any fines. 

Where to Stay near Emerald Lake

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Camping Sites

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If you really want to soak in all the beauty Emerald Lake has to offer, I recommend camping. There are over 200+ campsites near the lake, and the views of the water and mountains were just incredible. 

Kicking Horse Campground


Located in Yoho National Park, this campground offers a picturesque setting along the Kicking Horse River. It provides basic amenities such as restrooms, fire pits, and picnic tables. 

Hoodoo Creek Campground


Situated along the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1), this campground is just a short drive from Emerald Lake. It offers a tranquil atmosphere and is equipped with facilities like fire pits, picnic tables, and vault toilets.

Monarch Campground


Also located along the Trans-Canada Highway, Monarch Campground is a beautiful spot near Field, British Columbia. It provides both tent and RV camping options, with amenities including fire pits, picnic tables, and flush toilets.

Takakkaw Falls Campground


Positioned near the stunning Takakkaw Falls, this campground offers breathtaking views and a peaceful setting. It features tent sites and basic amenities such as picnic tables, fire pits, and pit toilets. 

Emerald Lake Lodge

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Address: 1 Emerald Lake Rd, Field, BC

Contact Details: +1 250-343-6321

If you’re looking for something a bit cosier, there are some super cosy cabins near the lake like Emerald Lake Lodge. I had friends that stayed here, and their rustic cabins were perfect for up to six people. 

But it’s not just the picturesque setting that makes Emerald Lake Lodge special. The lodge itself is oozing with charm and character. With its warm and inviting atmosphere, crackling fireplaces, and wood-panelled walls, you’ll instantly feel right at home. 

And let’s not forget about the delicious food! The on-site restaurant serves up mouthwatering dishes that will satisfy even the pickiest of taste buds. 

Not a fan of camping? No worries! There are a few hotels within a 30-minute drive of Emerald Lake. I’ve heard great things about Golden, BC, which has hotels like the Prestige Mountain Resort and the Best Western Mountainview Inn. 

Local Tip: Most spots for camping are first-come, first-served, so arrive early, especially on weekends and holidays.

Parking at Emerald Lake

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Let me tell you, parking at Emerald Lake can be a bit tricky, especially during the busy summer season and on weekends. There were only about 50 parking spots in the main lot, so if you get there after 9 AM, you might be out of luck.

Your best bet is to arrive early, before 8 AM if possible. As a last resort, you may need to park along the roadside and walk up to the lake, which can be up to a mile of hiking.

Just be cool and respectful to other drivers, and remember to check for any parking restrictions, so you don’t end up with an unexpected surprise. Once you’ve found a parking spot, make the most of your day at the lake. 

You’ll want to soak in the scenic surroundings for as long as you can, since the parking situation may cut your visit shorter than you had hoped. Rise and shine—the early bird gets the parking spot!

Local Tip: If the main lot is full, don’t despair; there are a few overflow parking areas along Emerald Lake Road with about 20 additional spaces. Get there early to snag one of these coveted spots.

What to Do at Emerald Lake

Visit the Natural Bridge

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You’ve got to check out the Natural Bridge. Picture this: a stunning natural rock formation carved by the rushing waters of the Kicking Horse River.

The water has carved its way through the rock over time, creating a beautiful natural arch. It’s a short drive from the lake, and there’s a parking lot nearby, so it’s super easy to access. Don’t forget your camera—the views are amazing!

View the tallest falls in Canada: Takakkaw Falls

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Takakkaw Falls is seriously impressive—it’s one of the tallest in Canada! The drive to the falls is a bit winding, but the scenery along the way is totally worth it. Once you get there, it’s just a short walk from the parking lot to the base of the falls.

Hike to Hamilton Falls

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If you’re up for a bit of a challenge, I recommend going for a hike at Hamilton Falls. The trailhead is near Emerald Lake, and it’s about a 1.6-kilometer hike to the falls. The path can be a little steep at times, but the reward is worth it. 

It’s the perfect spot to relax, enjoy a snack, and snap some photos before heading back. So, when you’re exploring around Emerald Lake, make sure to check out these must-see attractions—you won’t regret it!

Stroll on the Lakeshore Trail

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Hiking around Emerald Lake is an absolute must, trust me! With over 6 miles of trails, you’ll have a blast exploring the area. The paths take you through forests of pine, cedar, and fir, and you’ll catch some stunning views of the emerald waters as you go.

If you’re looking for an easy stroll, the Lakeshore Trail is perfect. It goes right along the edge of the lake, and I loved taking in the scenery at a leisurely pace. 

But if you’re up for more of a challenge, the Huckleberry Mountain Trail is where it’s at. It climbs up and offers some incredible panoramic vistas—definitely worth the effort.

Rent a canoe or kayak

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Address: 1A Emerald Lake Rd, Field, BC 

Contact Details: +1 250-343-6000

Operating hours: 

  • Monday to Sunday – 10 AM to 4:45 PM

Paddling on the pristine waters of Emerald Lake is a peaceful way to spend an afternoon. You can rent a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddle board from one of the outfitters around the lake. 

What’s really cool about the lake is that it’s surrounded by old-growth forest, so you might spot some wildlife while you’re out there.  If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, I recommend paddling to the far end of the lake. 

There’s a scenic waterfall that cascades into the lake, and it’s absolutely stunning. It can be a popular spot, though, so I suggest going early to beat the crowds. 

Have a picnic

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There are so many great picnic areas around Emerald Lake, so you’ve got plenty of options. Pack a basket with snacks, sandwiches, and a blanket to sit on. 

And let me tell you, for dessert, nothing beats roasting marshmallows over a campfire as the sun sets behind the mountains. It will be a cosy and memorable way to end the day. 

So, when you’re at Emerald Lake, make sure to set aside some time for a picnic with a view—you won’t regret it!

Fish for trout and salmon

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If you’re into fishing, Emerald Lake is the place to be! It’s home to rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and kokanee salmon. Just make sure you grab an Alberta fishing licence from one of the local outfitters before you start.

You’ll find a quiet spot along the shore to cast your line, but you could also rent a boat if you want to try your luck out on the water. So, why not give it a shot and see if you can reel in one of those elusive fish? 

Go stargazing

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Emerald Lake is seriously one of the best spots for stargazing at night, since it’s so far from city lights. Find an open area, lay down on the grass, and look up at the sea of stars above. 

You might even spot some constellations like Ursa Major and Orion the Hunter, or catch a glimpse of the Milky Way stretching across the sky.

Local Tip: Bring a flashlight with a red light to preserve your night vision.

Explore cross-country skiing trails

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Address: 1 Emerald Lake Rd, Field, BC 

Contact Details: +1 250-343-6321

If you’re into cross-country skiing, Emerald Lake is a winter wonderland! With over 15 miles of trails winding through snow-covered forests and around the lake, it’s just perfect. 

They groom the trails for both classic cross-country skiing and skate skiing, so you’ve got options. For beginners, I’d recommend the Emerald Lake Loop (2.5 miles) or the Yoho Valley Trail (3 miles). 

They go around the lake and through the forest, and they’re super fun. The cross-country ski trails are open from December to March, as long as there’s enough snow

And the best part? You can rent skis, poles, and boots right at the Emerald Lake Lodge. So, grab your gear and hit the trails—you’re going to love it!

Go snowshoeing

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The trails around the lake are perfect for exploring on snowshoes, and there are routes for all skill levels.

Once you’re at the lake, there are a bunch of snowshoe trails to choose from. If you’re looking for something easy, there’s a 2-kilometre loop trail that circles the lake with minimal elevation gain. 

For a longer trek, connect to the Yoho Valley Trail, which goes on for 10 kilometres. And if you’re up for a challenge, the Emerald Basin Trail is a 6-kilometre climb up to a scenic alpine basin—totally worth it!

Local Tip: Before heading to the lake, rent snowshoes from one of the outfitters in Field or Lake Louise. They’ll help you find a pair that fits well and suits your needs.

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