Alberta & BC Rockies Nearby - Lake Louise to Yoho Attractions
Lake Louise is not just a stop on the Icefields
Parkway between Banff and Jasper, but is also the last stop on the Transportation-Canada
before heading across the provincial boundary (and over the Continental
Divide) into British Columbia. Take the time to explore the just-over-the-border attractions, so close to Lake Louise.
You can follow the route taken by the first Canadian trans-continental railway (you can even see some of the old tracks beside the highway) up and over the Continental Divide. In the early 1900s, the railway route was lengthened with a few loops, tunnels and zig-zags to reduce the slope, leaving the faster & steeper route for motor vehicles.
The Yoho National straddles the Transportation-Canada Highway on the western slope of the Continental Divide, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are 28 peaks over 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) inside the park boundaries. The word "Yoho" is the Kootenay Indian expression of astonishment. This trans-continental railway was built in 1884 and followed the steep path now used by the highway. It wasn't until after several serious train derailments that the railroad built the Spiral Tunnels that dropped the grade of the track to a more manageable 4 percent.
Here are the attractions between Lake Louise & Yoho (from East to West):
- Great Divide
The continental divide separates the Atlantic waters from the Pacific waters at this point. The Kicking Horse Pass, slightly to the north and west of Lake Louise is also the path of the Canadian Pacific Railroad which still follows the route surveyed over a hundred years ago.
- Lake O'Hara
- On the south side of the Transportation-Canada, just to the west of the Continental Divide, is Lake O'Hara. The second-largest of 25 named lakes in this valley, Lake O'Hara has over 30 hiking trails, totaling 80 km in length. In order to minimize environmental impact, the road is not open to the public.
- Spiral Tunnels
- A few miles past the Continental Divide are two vantage points where you can watch the long trains (they're typically a mile long) make their way up or down the Kicking Horse Pass. Trains enter one tunnel above the highway and emerge below the highway and viewpoint, only to disappear into another tunnel. In a few minutes, the front of the train emerges from a tunnel below the track that is still carrying the back end of the same train. Canadian freight trains are typically 100 cars and about a mile long. The double spiral tunnels help trains safely climb the narrow valley, since the large trains can only manage slopes of 2% or 100 feet per mile.
- Takakkaw Falls
- This waterfall, on the north side of the highway, drops 253 metres (830 ft)--which is higher than Niagara Falls--and is named for the Cree word for "it is wonderful". it is a favorite spot for ice-climbers in wintertime.
- Emerald Lake
This lake, located on the north side of the Kicking Horse River, is held back by a glacial moraine. A shoreline hike takes about two hours, with other longer hikes branching from the lake. Emerald Lake Lodge is a very popular tourist stop.
- Kicking Horse River
This river, flowing alongside the Transportation-Canada Highway, drops sharply from the Continental Divide. The river's power erodes the rocks into dust, which stay suspended in the swift current, and gives the river its aqua green colour.
Kicking Horse River Photos
- Burgess Shale
This fossil treasure trove, discovered in 1909, has the remains of animal remains over 500 million years old, and has contributed significantly to the scientific understanding of evolution.
- Town of Field
Originally a railway crew town and today a jumping-off spot for hikers and back-country skiers. Just off the highway is a visitor information centre for Yoho Park.
- The Paint Pots
Several depressions in the limestone, filled with sedimentary accumulations of varying colours. Only accessible from eastbound lanes, roughly where the highway bends from its southeast course from Golden to the northeast course to Lake Louise.
- Blaebery Marshes
Located where the Blaeberry River approaches the flat and wide Columbia River basin, these provide lush wetlands popular with resident and migrating wildlife.
Click on "Hybrid" to view satellite image with map.