Hiking Lake O’Hara

It is not often you come across something that literally takes your breath away is it? Whilst taking time out to have a browse through some of my favorite websites I came across this article on Hiking Lake O’Hara. I know you will love and appreciate the beautiful scenery as much I do, so thought it would be unfair not to share it.

Hiking Lake O’Hara from Hike Bike Travel

The route was designed by Lawrence Grassi – a man who wore many hats including that of park warden at Lake O’Hara, stonemason, miner and the person whom the Grassi Lakes above Canmore are named for. With great skill, he moved rocks to create a trail that defies imagination.

Lake OHara 081 Hiking Lake OHara

Starting out at Lake O’Hara under cloudy skies

The Lake O’Hara alpine circuit is a loop so it’s easy to eliminate sections. If you hate exposure – ledges, cliffs and paths clinging to the mountains then perhaps you’d want to give the Wiwaxy Gap and Huber Ledges Alpine Route a pass; the same goes for the All Souls Alpine Route. The Yukness Ledges aren’t nearly as difficult or as airy as they appear from afar.

Lake OHara 087 copy Hiking Lake OHara

The higher you go the better the views

The Route

You can hike the circuit in any direction. My daughter and I chose to do it in a clockwise direction to get the bulk of the climbing over early in the day.

Starting from the Lake O’Hara outlet bridge across from Le Relais day use shelter, hike just a few hundred meters on the trail until you see the sign for Wiwaxy Gap. Veer left and begin a stiff climb of close to 520 meters (1700 feet), at times on narrow ledges. You top out at a saddle – Wiwaxy Gap at 2703 meters (8868 feet).

Lake OHara 092 copy Hiking Lake OHara

The start of the ledges

Lake OHara 111 copy Hiking Lake OHara

The saddle at Wiwaxy Gap

Lake OHara 127 Hiking Lake OHara

Looking down the other side of the saddle

The next two kilometers are challenging and as my daughter said – I hate this, I hate this…we could die if we trip.

So watch your footing very carefully. Concentrate, especially early on in the descent from the saddle. Take time to breathe and when you feel secure look around for mountain scenery doesn’t get much better than this. It’s very airy at times but very doable if you don’t have an extreme fear of heights and exposure. Otherwise give it a pass.

It took us an hour to descend to Lake Oesa – and the last 20 minutes were much less scary.

Lake OHara 114 copy Hiking Lake OHara

Views from Lake O’Hara to Lake Oesa

Lake OHara 133 copy Hiking Lake OHara

Looking across to the Yukness Ledges

Lake OHara 139 copy Hiking Lake OHara

Incredibly steep drop-offs on the Huber Ledges

Lake OHara 147 copy Hiking Lake OHara

The jaw dropping Lake Oesa

Lake Oesa is breathtaking but it’s popular and busy as there is an easy 3.2 kilometer trail to it from Lake O’Hara. You’ll find slabs of rock, perfect for stretching out on so plan to stop here for lunch. Keep an eye on the aggressive chipmunks as they’ll be in your knapsack or bag of food in seconds.

Lake OHara 166 Hiking Lake OHara

Aggressive chipmunks will come after you at Lake Oesa

From Lake Oesa look for the sign pointing to the Yukness Ledges route. Descend, cross a small stream, then a boulder section and pass by the small lake in the photo below. In another few minutes reach a signed intersection. Stay left to continue on the alpine circuit or if you’ve had enough you can call it a day and descend to Lake O’Hara from here.

Lake OHara 173 copy Hiking Lake OHara

Pass by a small lake near Lake Oesa on the way to the Yukness Ledges

Lake OHara 175 Hiking Lake OHara

Looking up at the hikers on the saddle at Wiwaxy Gap

The Yukness Ledges are much wider and less airy feeling than the trail up and down from the Wiwaxy Gap. Kids in runners were hiking it with no problem.

Its 2.3 kilometers on the Yukness Ledges trail from Lake Oesa to the junction with the East Opabin Trail – one of your options to return to Lake O’Hara and the one we chose to do. Your other option is to hike 1.4 kilometers along the meadow filled Opabin Plateau to the West Opabin Trail and descend to Lake O’Hara from there. Eventually both trails meet up on the shores of Lake O’Hara. (Pick up a map for a donation at Le Relais day use shelter.)

Lake OHara 187 copy Hiking Lake OHara

Me on the Yukness Ledges section of the alpine route

Lake OHara 211 Hiking Lake OHara

The Opabin Plateau

Lake OHara 215 copy Hiking Lake OHara

Hiking by this small lake on the East Opabin Trail

Lake OHara 224 Hiking Lake OHara

It’s back into the woods

Lake OHara 225 Hiking Lake OHara

Back at Lake O’Hara – and just 20 minutes from the lodge

Lake OHara 241 copy Hiking Lake OHara

The circuit is complete

We chose to descend on the East Opabin trail – steeply at times. In a short 0.8 kilometers you reach Lake O’Hara and from there it’s an easy one kilometer walk to Lake O’Hara Lodge. If you time it right – between 3 pm and 4 pm – you could stop in and have tea and goodies for $10 per person – if there’s space.

We hiked a total of 8.8 kilometers (5.5 miles) – not much by my hiking standards but when you have to concentrate on your footing for kilometers at a time it can be slow going. It took us 4½ hours to hike it plus another ½ hour for lunch at Lake Oesa.

Getting into Lake O’Hara is always an issue. You have to reserve a seat on a bus – or pick up a cancellation on the morning you plan to hike. You can make a reservation four months in advance. Most people come in for at least a night – to camp, stay at Lake O’Hara Lodge or at the Elizabeth Parker hut. However it is possible to walk the 11 kilometers up the road and do the hike. We met a couple who had done just that. Allow 2 ½ – 3 hours to get to Lake O’Hara and 4-6 hours to hike the alpine circuit. Then you can take the bus back down – as reservations aren’t required for that- just a fee. The buses leave at 2:30, 4:30 or 6:30 pm.

Hike Bike Travel Website

The pictures are absolutely stunning aren’t they? I don’t know about you but hiking Lake O’Hara is now firmly on my list  of things to do. My list is really starting to grow now. We would love to hear about your favorite hikes or spots to go camping so please do share them with us. Here is another hike that I can’t wait to doHiking in New Zealand.

pixel Hiking Lake OHara

Tags: , ,

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

There is 1 Brilliant Comment

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. jawdropping! that is just gorgeous Kelly! adding this to our bucketlist!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Top