May 2016 – Just 25 miles from Lake Louise, there is a treasure trove of glittering aqua magic at the rushing waters of Natural Bridge and in the serene, glassy depths of Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park.
Four national parks are clustered together in this part of the Canadian Rockies, and Lake Louise is within reasonable shooting distance of all of them. Banff National Park and Jasper National Park lie on the eastern slope of the Continental Divide in the province of Alberta while Kootenay National Park and Yoho National Park lie on the western slope. All four parks abut each other.
Despite the cold gray weather of a late May morning, we headed out to see what we could find at Yoho National Park. We’d never heard of it before, but being a National Park, it had to be good!
We were aiming for Emerald Lake on the map. A name like that seemed to hold real promise! So it was a total shock when we rounded a bend on Emerald Lake Road and came across a fabulous bowl of turquoise waterfalls! This definitely wasn’t “Emerald Lake,” but it was a vivid aquamarine color and was very cool!
It turned out that this place was called Natural Bridge.
We wandered all around the rocks, totally mesmerized by the vivid color of the water flowing over them.
It was all so beautiful, it was impossible to decide whether to stand still and try to take it all in and admire it quietly, or to run around on the rocks and zip back and forth over the bridge to try and see it from all angles all at once.
The Natural Bridge itself is formed by two rocks that make a narrow arch over the rushing water.
But the most beautiful spot is right in front of this bowl of waterfalls where they seem to cascade into each other from every direction.
This spot is also where the tour buses let people off, and the buses were arriving in droves!
The mission of everyone on every bus was to jump off and get a quickie selfie before jumping back on and zooming away to the next destination.
I thought it would be neat to do a timelapse video that would show the water flowing over the rocks. Instead, I captured an awesome 6 second snippet of selfie-crazed tourists visiting a world renowned travel destination!
Continuing a few miles further down the same road, we finally arrived at Emerald Lake. Our first glimpse was of the Emerald Lake Lodge peeking out between the trees.
What a lovely lodge and in what a great setting!
Emerald Lake has canoes for rent, and even though it was a bit cool to be on the water, people were happily taking the canoes out.
Maybe by taking the canoes out they persuaded the sun to come out for a little bit too. For a few moments, it was almost sunbathing weather on the dock!
Like nearby Lake Louise and Moraine Lake as well as Peyto Lake and Waterfowl Lakes on the Icefields Parkway, we were blown away by the bright and rich color of the water here at Emerald Lake.
There is an easy trail that heads out around the western side of the lake, and we strolled along this path we came across a field of pretty wildflowers that lured Mark right down to the ground.
And what wonderful photos he took!
The view across the lake looking back towards the Emerald Lake Lodge was expansive, and the water was amazingly still.
Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something floating by. Then it splashed around a bit and threw a spray of water into the air. It was a loon!
He was taking a late afternoon bath!
He didn’t seem to mind being photographed as he dipped and bobbed in the water, so I clicked away. What luck!!
There is a lot more to see in Yoho National Park than just Natural Bridge and Emerald Lake, and on our way home we stopped in the unique little train depot town of Field to poke around. This is a cute village of B&B’s that is perched right on the edges of Banff and Yoho National Parks, making an ideal home base for visitors.
One of the homes is the original Yoho National Park Superintendant’s house. He had some pretty nice digs! A sign explained that he had such an elaborate house to give him an air of authority in the newly formed National Park where the more gritty industries of mining and railroads had always ruled.
The drive to and from Yoho National Park is beautiful — as are all the highway drives in the area. Some of the best mountains views to be found are actually right on the Trans-Canada 1 highway!
We returned home to Lake Louise and unwound a bit. It was cold and gray and wet, but the scenery we had been seeing was so heavenly we sure didn’t mind!!
More info about Emerald Lake & Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park in the links below…
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Links for travelers heading to Yoho National Park:
- Yoho National Park Official Website
- Emerald Lake and Natural Bridge Official Website
- Village of Field in Yoho National Park
- Locations of Natural Bridge and Emerald Lake in relation to Lake Louise
- RV Camping at Lake Louise
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Other blog posts from our RV travels in Canada:
- Waterton Lakes Nat’l Park – Starry Skies, the Milky Way & Wildflowers
- Waterton Shoreline Cruise – A Classy Tour of Waterton-Glacier NP
- Waterton Lakes National Park – Rocky Mountain High!
- Kananaskis Country – Canadian Rockies Beauty Off the Beaten Path
- Canmore, Alberta – An Outdoor Lover’s Town in the Rocky Mountains
- Jasper National Park – Columbia Icefields & Athabasca Falls
- Hot Springs in the Canadian Rockies – Swimming in Giant Hot Tubs!!
- Banff, Alberta – A Grand Resort Town in the Canadian Rockies
- Moraine Lake – Crown Jewel of Banff National Park
- Icefields Parkway – True Blue Lakes, Avalanches & Grouse!
- Icefields Parkway – Canadian Rockies Scenic Drive – WOW!
- Lake Louise – RV Travels to the Heart of the Rockies in Banff
- Kootenay National Park Canada – Bears, Mountains & Rivers!
- Canadian Rockies – Big Mountains & Bighorn Sheep!
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Incredible loon photos! Nice of him to pose. Maybe he was the one that posed for the “loonie” and its all old hat for him.
Were you able to stop and see the Spiral Tunnels of the Canadian Pacific Railroad on your way from Lake Louise to Emerald Lake? We spent an hour there just watching three long freight trains go through the entire length of the tunnels. Those tunnels really were an amazing engineering feat.
If you get back to that area during summer, try to visit Takakkaw Falls, with more than 1,200 ft. of total drop. It rivals Yosemite Falls, but with much more water dropping down the cliff face. It even has the same tourists taking the same selfies that you saw at Emerald Lake!
That loon definitely had a modeling contract — what a beauty!
We were pretty pooped after our day at Yoho NP, so we saved the Spiral Tunnels and the Takakkaw for another visit in the future. Those two things and so many others are great reasons to return!!