The Allure of Emerald Lake in Ontario: Hidden Paradise

The Spectacular Emerald Lake in Ontario, Canada

Emerald Lake is a stunningly beautiful lake located in Yoho National Park in British Columbia, Canada. Known for its bright turquoise waters reminiscent of an emerald, this lake is a major tourist attraction and a pivotal feature of the natural landscape.

An Introduction to Emerald Lake

Nestled deep in the Rocky Mountains, Emerald Lake is surrounded by towering peaks, forests, and glacial features. The vivid greenish-blue color of the lake results from fine particles of rock dust suspended in the water, which reflect sunlight and create a bright emerald hue.

At a surface area of only 1.7 square kilometers, Emerald Lake is quite small compared to nearby massive lakes like Lake Louise. However, its picturesque setting amongst snow-capped peaks makes it a magnet for hikers, photographers, and nature lovers. It’s one of the most photographed lakes in all of Canada.

The lake was named Emerald by early tourists to the area because of its remarkable color. While the color does appear emerald green from afar, up close the waters are a distinctive turquoise teal.

The Surrounding Area of Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake sits at an elevation of 1,716 meters in a classic glacially-carved valley known as a cirque. Sheer cliffs rise over 300 meters above the lakeshore, including the iconic Mount Burgess which towers above the water.

A one-kilometer hiking trail encircles the lake, winding through a thick coniferous forest with spectacular views. The easy trails and proximity to Emerald Lake Lodge make this an accessible outdoor experience for most visitors.

Just beyond the lake, you’ll find some of Yoho National Park’s most interesting landscapes carved by ancient glaciers. This includes Natural Bridge, where the Kicking Horse River has eroded a solid rock bridge across its width.

The town of Field, BC with restaurants, shops, and accommodations is located only 7 km north of Emerald Lake. This makes it an easy side-trip for visitors staying or passing through the area.

Surrounding Area of Emerald Lake

Activities at Emerald Lake

With its stunning setting, Emerald Lake is a haven for outdoor recreation. Here are some of the most popular things to do:


The easy 1-km Emerald Lake Circuit Trail wraps around the lake with scenic outlooks along the way. For longer hikes, connect to trails like the 5-km Hamilton Falls Trail leading to a thunderous waterfall.

Canoeing and Kayaking

Paddle along the brilliant green-blue waters of the lake for a unique vantage point. Canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals are available through Emerald Lake Lodge.


Emerald Lake is stocked annually with rainbow trout and mountain whitefish, making it a popular spot to cast a line. An Ontario fishing license is required.

Winter Sports

In winter, the lake becomes a prime destination for ice skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Groomed ski trails surround the lake area.

Scenic Viewpoints

There are several lookout points with benches around the lake to relax and soak in the breathtaking scenery. Prime spots include the shelter overlooking the natural rock bridge.

Accommodations at Emerald Lake

While staying overnight in Yoho National Park requires camping, there are excellent accommodations just outside the park boundaries.

Emerald Lake Lodge

This historic lodge sits right on the shores of Emerald Lake. It offers charming cottages and suites with a full-service dining room and activity desk.

Kicking Horse Lodge

Located 7 km north in Field, BC, this lodge has cozy rooms and cabins. It’s a more affordable option close to Emerald Lake.

Cathedral Mountain Lodge

Set in an alpine meadow with panoramic mountain vistas, this lovely lodge offers both hotel rooms and individual cabins.


Two campgrounds are located near Emerald Lake, including the convenient Kicking Horse Campground only 4 km away.

Visiting Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake can be accessed along the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) by taking the turnoff for Field, BC, and following the signs for Yoho National Park. It’s about a 50-minute drive from the town of Banff.

Park entry fees are required and parking is available near the Emerald Lake trailhead. Summer is the peak visitor season, though winter offers a remarkably different experience.

Given its fame as a top destination in the Canadian Rockies, Emerald Lake can see crowds in summer. Visiting early or late in the day will beat the tour bus rush. The lake is magical at any time of day.

Why Visit Emerald Lake?

What is it that makes Emerald Lake such a magnet for tourists? Here are some of the top reasons to add it to your Canadian Rockies itinerary:

  • The incredible emerald green color is unlike anywhere else.
  • The perfect reflective photos with the surrounding mountain backdrops.
  • Easy access to breathtaking nature with short hiking trails.
  • A nice change of pace from the busier Banff National Park.
  • Launch point for exploring Yoho National Park’s natural wonders.
  • Historic and charming Emerald Lake Lodge is right on the lakefront.

No matter your interests, Emerald Lake is one of those iconic Canadian places you simply have to experience yourself to appreciate its magical allure. Don’t miss out on this gem in the Rockies!

Frequently Asked Questions About Emerald Lake

Where exactly is Emerald Lake located?

Emerald Lake is located in Yoho National Park in the southeastern corner of British Columbia, Canada. It sits about 50 minutes drive northwest of the town of Banff, Alberta.

How did Emerald Lake get its distinctive green color?

The bright blue-green color comes from very fine rock particles called “glacial flour” suspended in the water. These particles scatter sunlight and give the lake its emerald green hue.

Is it safe to swim in Emerald Lake?

Swimming is allowed but the lake is extremely cold! The average summer water temperature is only around 10°C or 50°F.

Can you take boats or kayaks out on Emerald Lake?

Non-motorized boats and kayaks are welcome on the lake. Paddling is a wonderful way to explore Emerald Lake up close. Rentals are offered through Emerald Lake Lodge.

Is there public transportation to Emerald Lake?

No public buses access the lake. You’ll need to drive or book a shuttle/tour from the town of Banff or Lake Louise to reach Emerald Lake.

How long should I plan to visit Emerald Lake?

Plan at least 2 hours to hike the full lake circuit trail, take photos, and relax by the water. Allow more time if you’ll do additional activities like fishing, paddling, or longer hikes.

When are the best months to see Emerald Lake?

May through September offer the warmest weather and broadest range of activities. July and August bring peak crowds. May/June and September/October are wonderful times with fewer people.

Leave a Reply

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