This Underrated National Park Has Views As Enchanting As Banff Without The Crowds

Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, is full of iconic wonders of nature. It features world-class hiking, majestic mountain views, stunning lakes, and accessible wildlife viewing. It also hosts over 4 million visitors each year.


A short drive away, however, you'll encounter another must-see destination, Yoho National Park, with many of the same features and a lighter tourist footprint. In contrast to the massive crowds at Banff, a fraction of people, around 665,000, explore Yoho annually. That gives you a better chance of getting closer to natural wonders, having trails to yourself, finding parking, and spending your time paddling waterways rather than battling the masses.

While Canada's first and most-visited national park, Banff, has earned its place in the spotlight for a plethora of reasons, Yoho is barely a younger sibling. It earned its place as Canada's second national park less than a year after Banff was established, alongside Canada's Glacier National Park, which was added at the same time.


The Natural Wonders of Yoho

Yoho is open year round, so whether you're into snowshoeing, hiking, kayaking, or photography, there's plenty to do. The largest lake in the park, Emerald Lake, earned its name by its emerald green hue. You can ski or hike the easy 3.2-mile trail around the lake or take to the water on a canoe, available to rent lakeside at the Emerald Sports Boathouse. On your way into or out of your visit to Emerald Lake, stop off at The Natural Bridge, a rock bridge marvel that crosses the Kicking Horse River.


Unlike some of the most swimmable waterfalls in the U.S., the waterfalls in Yoho are likely to be too cold for comfort, but they are gorgeous nonetheless. Takakkaw Falls is the tallest waterfall in the Canadian Rockies and the second tallest in all of Canada. You can also hike to Laughing Falls from Takakkaw's parking lot, and continue onto Twin Falls with an extra hike. In another part of the park, Wapta Falls lacks height but impresses with its 482-foot-wide span.

Besides water and mountains, you can learn about the geology and history of the region at Burgess Shale Fossils. You must take a guided tour, and you'll need to make a reservation to see the fossils that have been set in shale for over 500 million years.


Logistics of Yoho

Unlike the world-renowned waterfalls on the east side of the country, once you've crossed off the many things to do around easy-to-find Niagara Falls, you might be wondering how to get to Yoho, which is just over the border from Alberta as you cross into British Columbia. Yoho is one of several national parks within the region, with Jasper to the north, Glacier to the west, and Kootenay to the south. West of Banff, it's about an hour's drive to Field, the town in the middle of Yoho National Park. If you're flying in, you can be grateful you don't have to visit Toronto's awful airport since Calgary's international airport is about 140 miles away. 


There are a few lodging options inside the park, including Field, but most visitors stay in nearby Lake Louise (the town named after the uber-popular attraction in the Banff National Park) or Golden. There are also camping options within the park.

To visit, you will need to purchase a daily or annual Parks Canada pass, so pick one up before heading into the park. You can buy a pass online, at the visitor's center in Field, or pay at the park boundary checkpoints along the highways that lead to the park. While Yoho is a bit further from Calgary than Banff, it's a great launching point to take in Glacier National Park, or you can visit as a day trip if you already have your Banff itinerary set.