This trail is about as spectacular as it gets! With magnificent views across a steeply cut valley, a drop dead gorgeous glacier-fed, silt-grey river tumbling over boulders to hike along, tremendously heart-stirring waterfall vistas to take in, and toes of an ancient glacier, glinting blue, winking in and out of the clouds at you, it is truly unforgettable. This is a hike that we did this past summer, and I thought I’d revisit it here in my blog, in case there are any people planning a trip to our wonderful Rocky Mountains next year.
The Iceline trail is an iconic hike in Yoho National Park, just across the Alberta-British Columbia border, high in the Canadian Rocky Mountains near Field, B.C. It takes you up quite high, following the feet of the Emerald Glacier as its blue toes creep down the smoothly worn rock of the flanks of The Vice President and The President mountains. With the Yoho Valley far below, and views of Takakkaw Falls and the gorgeous Fairy & Daly Glaciers across the valley, it is a magnificent trail and a fantastic experience. If you are ever in the area, DO NOT miss this hike.
The trail summits at 2230m (7,316′). We took the longer route that takes you past the Stanley Mitchell backcountry camping hut, so it was a 22km day, and well worth every heart pounding, breath catching, knee straining step!
The day we went, the weather forecast looked good for the Field, BC area, so we headed out early. But, this is the mountains. Weather forecasts are notoriously unreliable and can turn in a heartbeat. Unfortunately for us this day, there was a lot of cloud, so the views played hide & seek with is, but it was atmospheric and incredible, nevertheless.
Come along with us on the trail and see what it was like that cloudy, atmospheric day in July of 2016….
It was so neat, emerging up top through the clouds. The cloud mist was like a heavy fog that gently wafted through, billowing quite thickly at times. As it passed through, thin openings would appear, revealing the treat we were in for: glimpses of the glacier’s blue toes.
We walked over rock, scratched and scoured by the movement of the flowing glacier over time. It was historic. It was epic. It was landscape that revisits me in my dreams.
One word of warning for any tourist visitors out there… the road in to Takakkaw Falls from the main highway is narrow and has very steep switchbacks. There are signs posted on the cliffs showing people in campers how to maneuver through the tight turns, with warnings to downhill vehicles to yield to the uphill traffic as the sight lines are tricky. If at all possible, take a normal vehicle in on the road up there and don’t stress yourself out with the drive because it is spectacular, and you’ll want to take it all in!
One more thing: 2017 is the year that the Canadian Government is giving free access to the national parks to all Canadian citizens. This will make the parks… and trails like this popular one very crowded, it will make roads very busy and it will see parking lots very full and possibly closed off by parks staff if overflowing. That isn’t a reason NOT to come, but you should definitely plan early morning starts to ensure that you can do what you have set your heart on doing on a given day.
This particular spot is popular because you can do a very short, two minute, exceptionally easy and flat walk from the parking lot to Takakkaw Falls and its viewing area without doing an arduous hike. As a result, it sees a LOT of tourist traffic (95% of which stays right there and doesn’t go on to do the Iceline trail). Also, there are ways to make the hike shorter than what we did, so doing the Iceline doesn’t mean having to do 22 km. It can easily be a comfortable day hike.
For a detailed account of the trail itself, and directions to the trailhead, should you want to attempt it yourself, go to Trailpeak or Hiking With Barry (a blogger that we rely on heavily for inspiration, information and hiking ideas here).