Distance: 17+ km
Elevation Gain: 710 meters
Time Required: 6-8 hours
Location: Yoho National Park
The Iceline Trail is a spectacular and challenging hike in Yoho National Park, that takes you high up into the ice line. The hike starts from the spectacular Takakkaw Falls, then steadily climbs to the top of a range overlooking a gorgeous mountain valley. There are a number of glaciers along the edge of the trail as well as fantastic views of Takakkaw Falls across the valley. It’s a fantastic summer and early fall hike, but come prepared for a full and exhausting day filled with epic mountain scenery.
To access the trailhead, drive to Takakkaw Falls and park in the day-use parking lot (avoid the hostel parking lot). Spend a few minutes admiring the falls (one of Canada’s highest waterfalls) before starting your hike. Walk towards the Whiskey Jack alpine hut and find the trailhead adjacent to the hostel. The hike will begin with a grueling set of switchbacks, where you gain most of your elevation from the start. It is a slow and painful slog with occasional views.
Keep right at all junctions to reach Iceline Summit, except the junction to Celeste Lake right before the summit, where you continue straight ahead to the pretty lake (at the 5.7 km mark). Once you reach the summit, the views are incredible, as are the looming glaciers touch the trail and mountain peaks fade away into the far distance. The terrain becomes quite rocky and varied with huge boulders and numerous glacier fed ponds.
Find a nice spot anywhere along the trail to stop and have lunch. When I was there, several people had built inuksuks along the top which added to the ambiance and provided a few nice photo ops. The views are incredible, and it was amazing to play in the snow in the middle of August!
Continue hiking along the ridge until you reach the trail that you want to take to descend. There are several trails, so make sure to take a map and plan your route carefully. We took one wrong turn and ended up hiking an extra 6km! Be prepared for all weather up here as well, it can change in an instant. Once at the top, a lightning storm rolled in and we had to make a rushed decent.
It’s also possible to plan an overnight trip in the area. There is Little Yoho Campground or the Alpine Club’s Stanley Mitchell hut (reservations required). If you are looking for a little more luxury, the Emerald Lake lodge is also close and a great place to spend a night.
As always stay safe and happy hiking!