With travel limited these days given the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been encouraged more and more to explore local. We decided to make the most of that over the past year by visiting some sights within Alberta and British Columbia that we have always wanted to see. Most of the travel was done last summer, when travel restrictions were less strict.
One of our first long weekend excursions was to Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, a little gem tucked away in the Rocky Mountains. The lake gets its name from its beautiful turquoise-coloured waters. The secluded location of the lake nestled among the wilderness and framed by mountain peaks makes it extra special.
The lake was discovered back in 1882 during construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). An explorer stumbled upon it while tracking down a team of runaway horses. He proceeded to name the lake after its emerald water, the color a result of glacial melt.
Since its beauty had to be shared, the CPR eventually built the first log tourist lodge on the lake surrounded by guest cabins. This lodge still remains, built of timber and housing a hotel lobby, billiards room, and bar. The Emerald Lake Lodge was purchased and renovated in 1986. While preserving the rustic elegance of the lodge, the accommodations are now more comfortable with cozy cabins featuring screen doors open to a lake-view patio and in-room fireplaces.
The Lodge is meant to be an escape, with the nearest parking lot over a kilometre away (requiring shuttle access), no WiFi or TV in the rooms, and limited cellular signal. Other than the two restaurants on site, there are no other businesses on the lake. It truly feels like a remote and secluded getaway!
The most popular activities at Emerald Lake are canoeing and hiking. There is an easy, family-friendly trail that goes along the entire lake, as well as many more challenging hikes in the mountains above.
We chose to do a more difficult hike that promised a rewarding views of the lake from atop a mountain ridge. However, given the high elevation of Emerald Lake and its surrounding mountain peaks trapping storms, the lake sees frequent rainfall in the summer and heavy snowfall in the winter. Thus, despite our presence in late June, the peak of our hike was covered in snow.
We tried to trudge through this snow field as best we could, but soon every which way we turned looked just like the last. With no signage, cellular signal or GPS, we figured we should turn back before we got lost. Sadly, we achieved no views to reward our heavy climbing efforts!
We descended back the way we came, with the universe poking fun at our failure with a gentle rainfall. Snow and rain all in one day! We decided to walk the trail around the lake instead, and enjoyed seeing Emerald Lake Lodge from varying view points.