Lake O’Hara is a STUNNING place in British Columbia, Canada, and is nicknamed a “Hiker’s Paradise” because really, the only thing to do while visiting Lake O’Hara is hiking. This is for good reason though because there are SO MANY beautiful hikes here.
Where is Lake O’Hara?
Lake O’Hara is located in Yoho National Park in British Columbia, Canada. The Lake O’Hara Parking Lot is around a 15 minute drive from Lake Louise and around 13 minutes from Field, BC.
What is the Best Time to Visit Lake O’Hara?
Lake O’Hara hiking trails typically open mid-June until early October.
For warm weather and limited snow, I would recommend visiting in July and early August.
For beautiful fall colours, late August – September is perfect.
Where to Stay at Lake O’Hara?
Most visitors to Lake O’Hara try to stay overnight in order to get the most amount of hiking in. If you are hoping to stay at Lake O’Hara, there are three options:
1 . LAKE O’HARA CAMPGROUND
The Lake O’Hara Campground Reservations open online through the Parks Canada Website, usually in late January for the following summer. There are about 30 sites in the campground, and it can be tough to snag a site. Read all about camping in Lake O’Hara here!
- $20.04/night for a campsite
- $14.70/adult for a roundtrip bus ticket
- $11.50 online reservation fee
- Around $46.24/night for one adult
2 . LAKE O’HARA LODGE
The Lake O’Hara Lodge is stunning. There are beautiful small lodges right on the water’s edge of Lake O’Hara for incredible views everywhere you look. The Lodge also offers cabins that are nestled into the forest near the Lake for a little more privacy and a more wild feeling. Staying here can get a little pricey though, but I can see why because it is amazing.
*Cost: $770 – $1,095
3 . THE ELIZABETH PARKER HUT
The Elizabeth Parker Hut is a hut run by the Alpine Club of Canada and is extremely hard to get. Only one group can stay in the hut at a time, and it operates off of a lottery system. Meaning you have to win a lottery draw in order to stay here. I met a hiker while I was visiting Lake O’Hara and he told me had finally won a spot at the lodge after trying for 6 years – so if your name gets picked then consider yourself incredibly lucky!
*Cost: $1,000 for members of the ACC | $1,100 for non members.
How do I Get to Lake O’Hara?
There are two ways to get to Lake O’Hara, and both options start at the Lake O’Hara parking lot: take the bus or walk 11km in and out. The road is not open to public vehicles or bikes, so you cannot drive in!
1 . TAKE THE BUS INTO LAKE O’HARA
There is a bus service that transports visitors from the Lake O’Hara parking lot to the main area where all of the hiking trails begin. A spot on the bus is included in a campground reservation, and the rest of the spots go into a lottery draw for day visitors. So basically, if you don’t have a camping reservation that day, you have to win the lottery that day in order to be transported in. Another option is to wait standby and see if there happens to be any empty spaces on the bus, in which case you can pay $10 in cash for a ride if there’s space for you (and this doesn’t guarantee a ride out). If there’s no space, you can choose not to go, or you can choose to hike in.
*Cost: $14.70 Adult Roundtrip | $7.30 Youth Roundtrip | $9.70 Adult One Way | $4.75 Youth One Way
*There is a $10 cost to enter the random day bus lottery
Bus Times In: 8:30 AM | 10:30 AM | 3:30 PM* | 5:30 PM*
*These shuttles are for campers only
Bus Times Out: 9:30 AM | 11:30 AM | 2:30 PM | 4:30 PM | 6:30 PM
2 . WALK INTO LAKE O’HARA
If you can’t score a spot on the bus, your only other option is to walk the 11km fire road in. It can be done, as I met a couple of hikers who had done it on the days I was visiting. The general consensus was it took 2.5-3 hours to hike the road one way. Because the road is a fire road, the entire view is just trees, so it’s not scenic but it’ll get you to the trailhead for incredible hikes!
Tip: If you hike in, you can try to wait standby to see if there is any space for you on the bus out. Make sure to have cash though (as they only accept cash), and double check the cost of the bus before leaving to make sure you have enough. You can do this through the Parks Canada website, or by calling Parks Canada
What Gear do I Need for Lake O’Hara?
- Bring cash for Le Relais – a shelter where you can buy snacks, souvenirs and find out any information you may need about Lake O’Hara
- Your camera!
- Enough food, water, and snacks & a way to prepare them (jet boil, etc.)
- Appropriate clothing (jacket, hiking shoes, sunscreen, bug spray…) and extra clothing in case it rains
- Your swimsuit – you can swim at Lake O’Hara, the lodge even has a dock you can jump off of!
- Backcountry camping gear if you are staying overnight
- I recommend purchasing the trails map from the Yoho National Park Visitors Center or from Le Relais once you arrive at Lake O’Hara – it was so useful and is only $5
- Bear spray – you are responsible for your own safety!
Hiking Lake O’Hara
There are a lot of amazing hiking trails to explore in Lake O’Hara. Most of them are short and are very manageable – you could do more than one in a day (depending on fitness level).
Some of the more popular hikes include:
LAKE O’HARA SHORELINE TRAIL
The shoreline trail is basically a hiking trail that runs along the shores of Lake O’Hara. This hike is very easy and you’ll probably end up hiking most of it just by doing other hikes in the area, as most hikes leave from somewhere along the shoreline trail.
OPABIN PROSPECT & THE OPABIN CIRCUIT (my personal favourite)
The Opabin prospect is probably the most famous hike at Lake O’Hara. It is the one featured all over Instagram and for good reason. It is stunning. This is one of my favourite hikes of all time. I recommend starting on the West Shoreline Trail, hiking up West Opabin, hiking to the Prospect, then descend through East Opabin, and complete your hike along the East Shoreline Trail.
If you have extra time or extra ambition, you can extend this hike even more and make a stop at Opabin Lake.
The Lake McArthur Trail is a great hike leading to beautiful Lake McArthur, which takes around 3 hours to accomplish. This trail also connects to a lot of other, larger trails, which is perfect if you are looking to extend your hike for a longer day.
Lake Oesa is a highly recommended hike that leads to a beautiful lake nestled in the mountains, where you can have a picnic, swim or just hang out! The hike to Lake Oesa takes around 3 hours, so it is a perfect hike to do if you are hoping to finish two hikes in one day.
Other Practical Information for Visiting Lake O’Hara
- If you are taking the bus in, there is a baggage limit
- There is no service at Lake O’Hara – so download whatever you need offline before arriving
- Le Relais does not sell water bottles, so bring your own water bottle
- You can fill your water bottle at the campsite (even if you’re not staying there)
- Le Relais only accepts cash
- The bus in and out of Lake O’Hara only accepts cash
- You need a valid National Parks Pass on any vehicle that is stopping in Yoho National Park. So, if you are parking at the Lake O’Hara Parking Lot, you need to have a visible & valid National Parks Pass. You can purchase these in Field, BC at the Yoho National Park Visitor Center
- Be bear safe!
Resources That May be Helpful:
- Lake O’Hara Trails Club
- Lake O’Hara Lodge
- Elizabeth Parker Hut
- Parks Canada & Yoho National Park
- AllTrails Hiking Site
Please email me or message me on Instagram any other questions you have, or comment below, and I’ll help you out.
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