The Iceline Trail, Whaleback, and Yoho Valley trails make for a great two-four day backpacking circuit in Yoho National Park. Beginning at Takkakaw Falls, we headed up Yoho Valley. The first of many sights along the trail is Laughing Falls. There’s a backcountry campground here if you wish to explore the area more before you continue. Seeing as it’s only about 3.5 kilometers from the trail head, we continued on.
Welcome to Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park nestled quietly in the shadow of neighboring Banff National Park. Yoho isn’t small by any means though. Yoho National Park also boasts some of the most outstanding beauty in the entire Canadian Rockies – which would more than make up for its’ “lack of size”.
Yoho national park is located on the west side of the continental divide which acts as a natural border between Alberta and British Columbia. The Canadian Rockies to the west of the divide are typically a little more lush and green.
The park entrance is immediately north of the town of Field. A small town with a number of accommodations and places to have a quality breakfast before spending a full day in the mountains.
A little bit about the Iceline Trail
The Iceline trail is one of many trails and networks of trail located inside Yoho National Park. The Iceline trail itself is just under 10km and can be easily done in a single day. Instead of coming back the same way you came in through, consider exploring the other incredible trails in the area. Whaleback trail and little Yoho valley trail can act as add-ons to your Iceline trail trip. I opted to include these trails and did all 3 in just two days and a single night.
I recommend including the whaleback trail and little Yoho valley trail. The views on both trails are equally as impressive as the iceline trail. If you do decide to do all three trails, you can do it in a circle counter clockwise. Starting on the little Yoho valley trail, then going over the whaleback, sleeping at little Yoho valley campground, and then doing the iceline trail on the second day. The iceline trail will eventually spit you out where you started at the Takkakaw falls parking lot.
Field BC and Yoho National Park are about 30 minutes west of Lake Louise when coming from Banff or Calgary. The total drive time is 2.5 hours from Calgary.
Photography Tips For Shooting The Iceline Trail
Best Time of Day for Photography
Backpacking and photography are often tricky combinations. Sometimes great photos reveal themselves at the worst times of day. I say, if you’re inspired to take the photo, make the best of it despite the time of day or conditions outside. If possible, return to location and create your image with better light during sunrise, sunset or after dark!
There were a number of photos I took on my journey around Yoho that I simply took to remember for future photos that I hope to return and recreate under better lighting conditions. Sometimes beggars can’t be choosers.
What Camera Gear to Bring
- Limit what you take with you, you’ll have it on your back for a long time
- Polarizing filters is a must. The sun can be harsh and the haze can also be bad
- Leave the tripod at home unless you’re certain you’ll want to do some long exposure photography here
- Pick one or two lenses that can cover the largest variety of focal lengths
- Bring extra batteries or a rechargeable battery pack
What Outdoor Equipment to Bring
- Bring your rain gear, it can get cold if fast if you get wet up in the alpine here
- You’re in the backcountry so consider bringing an emergency location or SOS device like an InReach
- Bring an extra fleece or insulated jacket – it’s always colder at night or when you’re sitting still
- Visit my gear list to view a detailed list of my backpacking and camera gear
Technical Photography Tips
The scale of the landscape along the Iceline trail is deceivingly large. It can be difficult to capture everything in a single frame. At the same time, wide angle lenses here can shrink the landscape in a way that makes it totally unrealistic and doesn’t quite give it a true sense of scale. I used my 24-70mm lens for almost all of my shots here.
Make good use of your lens hood. The sun can be extra difficult to deal with at elevation.
Where to stay
Monarch Campground immediately off of the Trans Canada highway is a self use campground where you simply drop cash into an envelope and pick your spot. It’s first come first serve but if you get there before the afternoon you should have pretty good chances of finding a good spot. This is where I stayed before my first day hiking the Iceline Trail.
Kicking Horse campground is right “next door” from Monarch and you can make bookings here if winging it isn’t your thing.
Takakkaw Falls Backcountry Campground – This campground is technically backcountry but it’s less than a kilometre from the parking lot. This is a great camping spot if you wish to start on the little yoho valley trail first and the do the Iceline trail the second day.
If you’d like to stay in a bed & breakfast before you set off, you can also find a lot of options in Field.
Once you’re on the trail, there are tons of backcountry campsites to stay at which you’ll have to reserve online before-hand.
You’ll need to book little yoho campground for some point of your trip no matter what your plans are. Little yoho campground is the one right at the end of the Iceline trail. You can stay here whether you plan to do a circuit of the whaleback and little yoho, or just the Iceline trail.
Where to eat
If you don’t pack it, you won’t have it. Field is the only place to grab some food and even then the options are limited. You’ll have to go to Lake Louise or Golden to get any kind of food options outside of the local Bed & Breakfast.
Parks Canada is second to none in providing clean backcountry campsites and trails. However, leaving no trace is critical. Yoho national park is a busy park in the height of summer so do your best not to leave the trail.