Lake O’Hara is one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Hiking to Lake O’Hara in larch season is a must do!
And we’re not the only ones to think so. Visitation to Lake O’Hara has recently been limited, with only 42 visitors allowed by bus every day to preserve the sensitive alpine environment. And it’s not just that: these spots are reserved months in advance – usually within the first day of ticket sales, which in our case was 5 months prior to our trip!
If you do go through all that effort to get there, you might want to consider prolonging your stay by spending a cozy night at a cabin right on the lake and enjoy the peaceful scenery after everyone is gone:
… And it’ll only cost you nearly $1000 a night!
The exclusivity of visiting Lake O’Hara makes it a quaint and serene experience, where bumping into other travellers is few and far between. Arriving at the main lake you are greeted by a tiny log cabin heated by a wood burning stove, where you can warm your hands and have a cup of hot chocolate. From there you can choose from a number of hiking routes of varying difficulty levels.
We chose to hike to the Opabin Plateau, where some of the best viewpoints of Lake O’Hara can be found along the way.
Our trip to Lake O’Hara was beautifully timed with the Larch autumn season. Larches are unique because unlike most evergreen trees, they are a deciduous conifer – meaning their pine needles turn yellow and fall during the autumn season. This is a very rare find! The trees also prefer to grow at high altitudes, so it requires you make a trip to the mountains to get a glimpse of these.
Visiting Lake O’Hara at the end of September is the best season to catch the Larches in full color:
The only thing to note is that at such high elevation in September, it also gets pretty chilly. The weather changed on us a few times, from bright sun, to windy clouds, to our first glimpse of snowflakes falling as we boarded the bus on our way home.
No matter what season you choose, we’re sure your visit to Lake O’Hara will not disappoint!
Practical Information: Bus Shuttle to Lake O’Hara
Location: Yoho National Park in British Columbia, Canada.
Cost: $14.70 per adult for round trip bus ticket.
Bus Departures: 0830 | 1030 (and 1530 | 1730 if overnight guest)
Length of Journey: 11 km, approximately 25 minutes
There are limited spots for the 11 km bus ride to Lake O’Hara. These must be reserved months in advance from the Parks Canada Reservation Service. You can only reserve up to 6 seats, and there are only two times to choose from (around 8:30 and 10:30 AM).
If you were not lucky enough to snag a ticket in advance, you have two options. First, you can show up early to get onto the waitlist and hope somebody with a reservation does not show (on the day we went, 5-10 people got in off the waitlist). Second, you can do the 11 km hike up to Lake O’Hara yourself. Keep in mind it’s not the most exciting route – it’s a simple winding road made solely for the purpose of a shuttle bus.
If you would like more than a day trip to Lake O’Hara, there is a campground near the lake where spots can be reserved. There is also the Lake O’Hara Lodge, which offers lodge rooms (around $400-600 per night) as well as the lakeside cabins we mentioned earlier (around $1000 per night).
Note: Information is subject to change. Please confirm with Parks Canada before your departure.