The trail to Emerald Basin begins 1.6 KM (1.0 mile) from the Emerald Lake Circuit trailhead on a clockwise route from the far end of the Emerald Lake Lodge parking lot.
It is well marked and the first 0.6 KM (0.38 mile) is flat on well-travelled gravel before entering forest on the left to a fairly stiff 130 m (427 ft) climb, on more challenging rocky trail, up an ancient, heavily forested, lateral moraine. As the trail levels a bit, it travels through a short section of incredibly beautiful, old-growth forest of Douglas Fir, Cedar and Spruce, and then climbs another 90 m (295 ft) into gorgeous, tight, and heavy shrubbery.
Along this section there is a lot of bear scat: some of it is reasonably fresh on this particular day. Hiking solo in close quarters, I am making plenty of noise above the ever-present din of fast-flowing water. Throughout the entire trip I neither see nor hear any bears, which is a bit disappointing. A nice bear photo is always exhilarating. I pop out of the dense and aromatic growth into wide-open Emerald Basin.
The floor of the huge amphitheatre is scree, routinely swept clean throughout the winter by avalanches from the steep walls of Mount Marpole (2,997 m; 9,833 ft) on my left, The President (3,138 m; 10,295 ft) and The Vice President (3,066 m; 10,059 ft) encasing Emerald Glacier in front of me, and Michael Peak (2,696 m; 8,845 ft) to my right. As I hike into the broad, spectacular bowl, the glacier view diminishes and the sound from waterfalls and streams intensifies as it echoes within. Emerald Glacier, once hanging down the mountain sides, has retreated over past years, so the farther I hike into the basin, the more the view of the glacier above me becomes less inspiring. The camera cannot capture the expanse of surrounding mountains.
The reverse hike is quick and I pass a few people on their ascent. The continuation of the Emerald Lake Circuit offers nice views across Emerald Lake towards Emerald Lake Lodge under heavy skies and there are occasional drops of rain. The return drive to Calgary gets me home about 6:30 PM and ends two excellent days of hiking in Yoho National Park. I plan to return in another year, when the majority of tourists are gone, to hike the Iceline Trail, the high altitude Niles Meadow Trail and some of the incredible trails in and around the Lake O’Hara area. Yoho National Park is a gem in British Columbia, and still enough out of the way to be substantially less frequented than Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.