Categories > Guides and Tips

A Local's Guide to Lake O'hara

A Local’s Guide to Lake O’hara

Eyeing an unforgettable getaway in Lake O’Hara this weekend or sometime during the holidays? Before you do so, planning ahead is a smart way of making sure that your trip there is a guaranteed blast!

There are loads of exciting things to do like fishing, hiking, and camping, and Lake O’Hara’s amazing view of the pristine waters and mountainous areas make these experiences even better!

So, let’s get right to it as we delve into our ultimate guide to visiting Lake O’Hara! 

Time Zone

Canada Standard Time (GMT-5)

Things to Know

Currency: Canadian Dollar (CAD)

(Check the current exchange rate)

Language: English 

Calling Code: +1

Address: Columbia-Shuswap, BC V0A 1L0, Canada

How to Get to Lake O’Hara 

Media credits artofvisuals

To reach Lake O’Hara by car, you’ll need to travel to Yoho National Park, which is located in British Columbia, Canada. 

By car

Here’s a general guide on how to get there by car:

From Calgary:

  • Take the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) west towards Banff National Park.
  • Continue driving through Banff National Park and enter Yoho National Park.
  • The drive from Calgary to the Lake O’Hara parking area takes approximately 2.5 to 3 hours.

From Vancouver:

  • Take the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) east towards Kamloops, then continue on the same highway through Glacier National Park and Revelstoke.
  • After Revelstoke, continue on Highway 1 into Yoho National Park.
  • The journey from Vancouver is significantly longer, taking about 9 to 10 hours.

Accessing Lake O’Hara:

  • The Lake O’Hara parking area is located off the Trans-Canada Highway, near the border of British Columbia and Alberta. Look for signs for Lake O’Hara near Field, BC.
  • It’s important to note that direct access to Lake O’Hara by private vehicle is highly restricted to protect the area’s fragile environment.
  • Visitors typically need to reserve a spot on the Parks Canada-operated shuttle bus to get from the parking area to Lake O’Hara. The shuttle bus operates from late spring to early fall. Reservations are mandatory and can be highly competitive.

By shuttle:

If you’re planning to visit Lake O’Hara and don’t have access to a car, there are still convenient ways to reach the shuttle departure point. 

The shuttle buses are located at a parking lot situated between Lake Louise and Field and operate from mid-June to early October, with departures at 8:30 AM and 10:30 AM. 

For your return, buses from Lake O’Hara back to the parking lot depart at 2:30 PM., 4:30 PM., and 6:30 p.m. 

It’s crucial to reserve your spot on the shuttle in advance, as this is a highly sought-after experience with limited availability.

Alternative Access:

If you’re unable to secure a shuttle reservation, another option is hiking into the area via an 11-kilometer access road. Be prepared for a strenuous hike at high elevation.

Best Time to Go

For your trip to Lake O’Hara, aim for the summer months between June and early September. This is your golden window for hiking and camping, thanks to stable, warm weather and fully accessible trails. 

However, this is also the time of the year when you’ll find some snow on the high paths, making them slippery. Lakes might still have a bit of ice and there are more bugs then, and it’s usually cooler and might rain more.

If you’re drawn to the allure of fall colors and quieter trails, September through October is your sweet spot. You’ll trade a bit of warmth for the stunning golden hues of larch trees, but keep in mind that services start winding down.

What Should You Prepare and Keep in Mind When Hiking and Camping in Lake O’Hara 

Getting There

  • Reservations: Access to Lake O’Hara is limited to protect its natural beauty. You need to reserve your spot on the shuttle bus in advance. If you miss out on a reservation, consider visiting another time to fully enjoy the area’s hikes.
  • Alternative Access: If you can’t secure a shuttle reservation, hiking the 11 km access road is an option. It’s a significant additional effort before you even start exploring the trails, so it’s generally not recommended unless you’re prepared for a long day.


  • Camping: Lake O’Hara offers a unique backcountry camping experience with some frontcountry amenities. Reservations open well in advance and are highly competitive.
  • Huts and Lodge: For a more comfortable stay, you can book the Alpine Club of Canada’s Elizabeth Parker Huts or the luxurious Lake O’Hara Lodge. Both require early booking, sometimes a year in advance, due to their popularity.
  • Facilities: The campground features kitchen shelters with wood stoves and picnic tables, and large metal food lockers keyed to your campsite number for safe food storage.

Preparation and Etiquette

  • Pack Lightly and Wisely: You’re allowed one large bag or two small ones, with a total weight limit. Hard-sided coolers, large bags, and excessive gear are not permitted.
  • Food Storage: All food and scented items must be stored in provided lockers to prevent wildlife encounters.
  • Cooking: Use backpacking stoves for cooking. The campground has designated cooking areas for bear safety.

What to Wear Layered outdoor clothing:

Your wardrobe should be a trilogy of layers – a moisture-wicking base to keep you dry, an insulating middle to keep you warm, and a waterproof outer shell to fend off the rain and wind. The mountains have a mood of their own, changing from sunny to stormy in a heartbeat.

Footwear: Trust your feet to sturdy hiking boots that promise waterproof protection and ankle support, ensuring every step on the rugged trails is secure and comfortable.

Accessories: Don’t forget a warm hat and gloves. Even in the embrace of summer, the mornings can whisper chilly secrets.

What to Keep in Mind When Camping in Lake O’Hara

For the most part, you’ll be camping alongside other happy campers in Lake O’hara. This means that we should be as good of a camping neighbor to them as best as we can possibly be. 

Here are some of the things we have to be mindful of during our camping adventure: 

  • Respect Quiet Hours: Usually from sundown to sunup, it’s important to keep noise levels down to enjoy the natural symphony of the outdoors. This includes managing noisy generators in RVs by parking among other RV users​​.
  • Light Management: Use dimmable lanterns or subtle LED lighting to avoid light pollution that can disrupt others’ enjoyment of the night sky​​.
  • Personal Space: Avoid walking through or setting up your camp in a way that encroaches on others’ campsites. Everyone appreciates their little piece of paradise​​.
  • Keep Your Site Clean: Leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. Dispose of trash in designated areas and keep your space tidy to prevent attracting wildlife​​​​.
  • Campfire Care: Always monitor your fire, keeping it manageable and within designated fire rings if available. Before leaving or retiring for the night, make sure your fire is completely extinguished​​.

Best Hiking Trails in Lake O’Hara

McArthur Pass 

Media credits wagstaffmedia

Distance8 km circuit
Elevation310 m
Duration5-7 hours
Trail TypeCircuit 
Surface Climbs through larch forests to alpine meadows.

The Schaffer Lake and McArthur Pass Trail in Yoho National Park is a demanding but rewarding hike. 

The trail starts near Lake O’Hara, climbs through rugged terrain to the Odaray Viewpoint, and offers stunning panoramic views of mountains, forests, and lakes. 

The hike combines the beauty of alpine meadows, challenging climbs, and the tranquility of Schaffer Lake, making it a must-do for avid hikers seeking to experience the park’s diverse landscapes​​.

Linda Lake Circuit

Media from cayleighanddavid

DifficultyEasy to Moderate
Distance3.5 km one way
Elevation140 m
Duration5-6 hours
Trail TypeOne way
Surface Maintains level through forest, then climbs to Linda Lake.

The Linda Lake Hike in Yoho National Park is a moderate circuit offering stunning alpine views over 10.1 km, with an elevation gain of 582 m. 

This popular trail weaves through forests and meadows, leading to the emerald shores of Linda Lake. 

Accessible via shuttle or foot from Lake O’Hara, it’s a serene hike with moderate crowds, best from May to September. It’s suitable for older children and pets on leashes, making it an ideal family adventure​​.

Duchesnay Basin Trail

Media credits annedejongart

Distance3.2 km one way
Elevation230 m
Duration5.5 to 6.5 hours
Trail TypeOne way
Surface Gently climbs through meadows to Cathedral Lakes

The Duchesnay Basin trail starts from Linda Lake’s west end and meanders through meadows to Cathedral Lakes, showcasing the beauty of Odaray Mountain’s northeast ridge. 

This scenic path offers views of kettle ponds, a testament to the park’s glacial history, making it a picturesque and moderately challenging hike​​.

Odaray Highline Trail

Media credits canadian.landscapes

DifficultyModerate to Difficult
Distance1.2 km
Elevation90 m
Duration3.5 to 5 hours
Trail TypeOne way
Surface Passes along lower slopes of Mt. Odaray to Grandview Prospect.

The Odaray Highline trail will guide you along Mt. Odaray’s lower slopes to the stunning Grandview Prospect. 

This trail is part of a voluntary program to protect vital wildlife corridors, emphasizing the importance of mindful hiking practices. It’s ideal for experienced hikers, this route offers breathtaking alpine views, making it a memorable part of the Lake O’Hara hiking experience. 

Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit

Media credits meghanjward

DifficultyModerate to Difficult
Distance11.7 km loop
Elevation90 m
Duration4.5 to 8.5 hours
Trail TypeLoop
Surface Includes steep climbs, switchbacks, rock steps, and offers panoramic views.

The Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit in Yoho National Park is a premier hiking loop and designed for those seeking an immersive alpine experience, with portions requiring careful navigation over steep, rocky paths. 

Highlights include breathtaking vistas from Wiwaxy Gap, serene moments by Lake Oesa, and the rugged beauty of Yukness Ledges. 

This circuit also offers a comprehensive exploration of the park’s diverse terrain and is best suited for experienced hikers ready for a day’s adventure amidst stunning natural landscapes.

Where to Stay Near Lake O’Hara 

Post Hotel & Spa

Media from posthotelspa

Address: 200 Pipestone Rd, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0, Canada


Contact Details: +14035223989

Price: $$$

The Post Hotel & Spa, nestled in Lake Louise, Alberta, is an ideal stay for those exploring Lake O’Hara. 

Offering a range of summer activities, including hiking in Banff National Park, guided hikes, and biking, it’s a sanctuary for outdoor enthusiasts. 

With its proximity to Lake Louise, you can enjoy easy access to the area’s stunning trails and the Lake O’Hara shuttle for a seamless adventure into the heart of Yoho National Park’s natural beauty​​.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Media from fairmontcll

Address: 111 Lake Louise Dr, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0, Canada


Contact Details: +14035223511

Price: $$$

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a historical gem nestled in Banff National Park, Alberta, offering a gateway to the Canadian Rockies. 

It’s known for its majestic setting by Lake Louise, the chateau offers you year-round outdoor adventures. 

You can also enjoy activities from skiing and mountaineering to hiking and canoeing. With its great views, luxurious amenities, and activities like horseback riding and fine dining, it’s an ideal base for exploring the natural beauty surrounding Lake O’Hara​​.

Lake Louise Inn

Media from lakelouiseinn

Address: 210 Village Rd, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0, Canada


Contact Details: +14035223791

Price: $$

Staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise puts you close to Lake O’Hara, nestled in the heart of Banff National Park. 

Apart from Lake O’hara, it’s also surrounded by the iconic Lake Louise, offering guests outdoor adventures across all seasons, from skiing to hiking. 

The hotel serves as a comfortable base if you’re looking to explore the natural beauty of the Canadian Rockies. It’s well-suited for anyone seeking both relaxation and adventure in a picturesque setting. 

Best Western Mountainview Inn

Media from kelownacutris

Address: 1024 11 St N, Golden, BC V0A 1H2, Canada


Contact Details: +12503442333

Price: $

The Mountaineer Lodge provides practical lodging with essential comforts for those visiting Yoho National Park. 

Its proximity to both Lake O’hara and Lake Louise makes it a strategic choice for travelers wanting easy access to the park’s scenic spots and outdoor activities. It’s ideal for adventurers looking to spend most of their time exploring the outdoors like hiking! 

What to Expect About the Weather

In July, Yoho National Park greets you with cool and pleasant weather, featuring average highs of 69°F, lows around 42°F, and up to 16.1 hours of daylight. 

Pack light layers and a sweater for your comfort. As September arrives, temperatures drop to average highs of 58°F and lows of 35°F, with the days shortening to about 12.7 hours of daylight and humidity increasing, so you’ll want to bring warm layers and a jacket with you. 

Related topics