All you need is half a day to hike to Lake McArthur, one of the true gems in the Lake O’Hara area of Yoho National Park.
The lake itself isn’t that big – just 1.5 kilometres long but the sapphire blue colour will mesmerize you as will the setting. The lake is 85 metres deep and is responsible for the intense blue colour.
The hike begins on the north side of the Le Relais shelter and is well signed. This is a popular area used as a bus stop and is not difficult to find.
Head out on a generally flat trail to reach the Elizabeth Parker Hut in under a kilometer. It’s owned by the Alpine Club of Canada. As a side note it’s very difficult to get a reservation and it’s done via an online lottery every fall.
From there make your way up, steeply at times to Schaffer Lake. Walk around the lake and pass the McArthur Cutoff junction on your right. If you take the left fork you begin climbing again on the McArthur High Level trail.
Once you’ve passed beyond the boulders you end up in beautiful alpine meadows.
Then it’s a short descent down to the lake. Unfortunately on the day I was there it wasn’t as beautiful as it would be under sunny skies. From the lake you can retrace your steps or continue on the McArthur Low Level trail which is what I chose to do.
We passed the intersection of the low and high level trails in 1.2 kilometres and from there retraced our steps back to Schaffer Lake. At the lake you have the option of going back the same way you came up but we elected to hike the Big Larches and then past Mary Lake to return to the shelter.
The Odaray Highline Trail is one that is accessed off of the McArthur Pass cutoff. This area is prime grizzly habitat and should be avoided if possible. They have voluntary restrictions in place.
The hike to McArthur Lake is a total of 6.3 kilometres and will likely take you no more than a few hours.
Planning your hike to Lake McArthur
Doing any hike at all in the Lake O’Hara region takes some planning. If you’re going to stay the night – either camping, staying at Elizabeth Parker Hut or at Lake O’Hara Lodge you must start planning at a minimum of three months in advance.
How: Book a bus and a camping reservation three months to the day that you want to go by phoning 250-343-6433. Phones open at 8 am MST.
***UPDATE: Aug 25, 2015 Book a bus online or call 1-877-RESERVE.***
Cost: $9.80 per night camping fee, $14.70 for a return bus ride, $9.75 one way bus ride, $11.70 non–refundable reservation fee, $9.80 per day National Park Pass fee
Don’t forget: Book the minute the phone lines open and be prepared to be on hold for 30+ minutes. Have your credit card ready and be flexible with your dates. Group size is limited to 6 people, and only 2 campsites with one tent/campsite are permitted.
Have you ever been lucky enough to hike in the Lake O’Hara area?