We went to a camp near Field. Today is cloudy and sunny. We have been around noon at Kicking Horse Campground. In the afternoon we go up a steep road (we have a hairpin bend backwards just stabbing) direction Takakkaw waterfalls.
Great ride to a very high fall with a difficult name.
A decently worthwhile stop on the Emerald Lake Road is the Natural Bridge, an odd rock formation that spans a rapid of the Kicking Horse River. While the Natural Bridge is certainly an interesting geologic oddity, it doesn't resemble the soaring arches and natural bridges associated with the American southwest. I liked the stop more for the surroundings than for the bridge itself- from a footbridge next to the natural bridge, there are good views of Mt. Stephen and the Kicking Horse River. As it's right off the Emerald Lake Road, there's no reason not to stop at this natural feature on your way to or from Emerald Lake.
The largest lake in the Lake O'Hara region is Lake McArthur, which lies in southern corner of the basin. The lake is a pretty turquoise and has a sizable glacier at its southeast end; while I'm sure that there is very much about the lake to appreciate, my experience at the lake was dampened by a rainstorm.
To get to the lake, follow the McArthur Pass Trail for a steady ascent from the Le Relais Shelter to Lake Schaffer and then continue up to the pass; from there, a trail begins to descend into McArthur Valley before climbing back uphill to the lake itself. The round trip is roughly ~8-9 km; it's a well-known and pretty hike, and although being drenched detracted from my experience here slightly, I still found the area to be remarkably scenic.
One of the many scenic trails in the Lake O'Hara region is the Odaray Highline and Grandview Trail, which climb to viewpoints on the slopes of Odaray Mountain. This is a very worthwhile hike, as the views here offer a good overview of the entire Lake O'Hara area. Access to the Odaray Highline Trail is restricted to four parties a day, so if you plan on hiking it, it's advisable to go earlier in the day. The restrictions are due to the high grizzly traffic in the area, especially through McArthur Pass.
To get to the area, take the McArthur Pass Trail past the Elizabet Parker Hut and its nearby meadows and Schaeffer Lake. The Odaray Highline Trail follows the slopes of Odaray Mountain from McArthur Pass, passing through meadows with constant good views. At the end of the Highline Trail, there are good views of Cathedral Mountain and there's also a good chance to see mountain goats. From here, the Odaray Grandview Route, a steep route with cairns rather a real trail, clings to the side of Odaray Mountain, climbing to a viewpoint of Lake O'Hara, Lake McArthur, and the peaks that surround the area.
Lake O'Hara may be the gem of the Rockies, but Opabin Plateau is the gem of Lake O'Hara. There are few places I have ever been to that have been so easy to hike to yet offer such incredible scenery. This plateau is a hanging valley above the Lake O'Hara basin and has two fairly significant lakes of its own, Hungabee and Opabin Lakes. The East Opabin Trail, which can serve as either an entry or exit point to the plateau, follows a creek up into the valley, where the lakes are surrounded by sparse forest and green meadows and glaciers. Opabin Lake is especially pretty; the south end of the lake has a pretty glacier and the lake itself is surrounded by Yukness, Ringose, and Hungabee Mountains.
A network of trails runs through the plateau, allowing access to the two lakes. Give this place as much time as you can- although the plateau can be reached in a 3-4 hour round trip hike from Lake O'Hara, you will definitely want to spend much longer to appreciate the absolute beauty of the area. Hiking up to the plateau requires a moderately strenuous exertion.
The most well-known day hike in the Lake O'Hara area is probably the Alpine Circuit, which traverses a large portion of the high country above the lake and offers what are reportedly amazing views. Although I didn't get to hike that circuit, I did get to see what I considered to be the most thrilling view of Lake O'Hara accessible by a non-Alpine Circuit trail. This viewpoint, at the northern rim of the Opabin Plateau, offers a sweeping view over the entire valley that Lake O'Hara is nestled in- a forested valley nestled between Cathedral Peak, Odaray Mountain, and Mt. Huber. Beside the Lake O'Hara, the slightly less spectacular (less colorful) Mary Lake is also visible.
Some highlights of the view: Odaray Glacier is clearly visible, and the Wiwaxy Gap portion of the Alpine Route can be seen ascending vertically up the side of Mt. Huber. The trail to Lake Oesa is also visible.
To get to the prospect, follow the south lakeshore trail, then take the West Opabin Trail, which passes by Lake Mary, then begins a steep climb to the plateau that has many views of Lake Mary and Cathedral Mountain. Once atop the plateau, a trail heads off to the left that pops in and out of the forest and eventually leads to the very edge of the Opabin Plateau and the prospect.
This 6-km round trip hike is one of the many enjoyable in the Lake O'Hara region. Following the lakeshore trail around the lake's north shore, you'll come to the branch-off for this trail before reaching Seven Veils Falls. The trail ascends steeply and quickly gets atop a rocky ledge above the lake, from which there are incredible views of the beautiful lake and Odaray Peak. As the trail climbs further, the wavy rock formations on Mt. Huber become particularly apparent. A little farther on, the trail begins to follow the stream that drains Lake Oesa; the trail passes numerous waterfalls and two small lakes as it continues to climb, until it finally reaches the Lake Oesa basin. Set at the foot of Mt. Lefroy and Mt. Victoria, the lake is a stunning blue in a rocky, barren basin; across the lake, there's a glacier visible. The mountains here tower thousands of feet above the lakeshore- it's a stupendous sight.
There's no real trail, but you can make your way along the lake's south shore to a viewpoint of both the glacier and of Abbott Pass. It's possible to see the Abbott Pass Hut here, which is also visible from the Plain of Six Glaciers in Banff National Park.
This relatively easy loop trail follows the shoreline of Lake O'Hara and allows you to access the other trails in the area (Lake Oesa, Opabin Plateau). Some of the prettiest views are on the south end of the lake, where you can look north across the lake to Odaray Mountain and where you can see Seven Veils Falls. There's some elevation gain and loss, but it's the flattest trail in the area and certainly doable by anyone in decent shape.
Tucked away in a valley beneath Mt. Victoria, Huber, and Lefroy with some of the most turquoise water of any lake in the Rockies, Lake O'Hara is arguably the most enchanting spot in the Canadian Rockies. The secluded lakes is set beneath some of the most beautiful peaks in the Rockies and has Seven Veil Falls dropping into the far end of the lake and lush, forested shorelines. Day hikes also emanate to the lake's incredibly spectacular surroundings.
So why isn't Lake O'Hara overrun like Lake Louise or Emerald Lake? Well, access is quite limited- the road to the lake is not open to vehicular traffic! You can hike 11 km in, or, about 3 or so months in advance, you can book a seat on one of the four times that the Lake O'Hara bus runs from a parking area near Highway 1 down to the lake. While most people make visiting the lake a day trip, camping at the lake's campground is highly recommended as it gives you time to explore the area.
It may be out of the way and the logistics of getting to the lake may deter some, but don't give up going because of those issues- Lake O'Hara is seriously beautiful and you won't have to share it with tour bus hordes. Don't miss it.
Wapta Lake is a roadside lake just west of Kicking Horse Pass, off of Highway 1. Driving on the highway gives you good views of the lake, and from the area around the lake, Mt. Stephen, Cathedral Peak, and the side of Mt. Victoria are visible. While it's not the most spectacular of lakes in the Rockies, it's accessibility makes it a requisite stop.