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  • Peter Scott & Monica Kong


Updated: Feb 2

13 years ago we fell in love with Lake O'hara, and we knew one day we would be back. It seemed like a hidden gem back then, especially compared to nearby Lake Louise. But the word is definitely out because with only 30 available sites, it is a lot harder to book a spot here nowadays, though not impossible. If you do, you will be rewarded with what we believe are some of the prettiest hikes in B.C.

There are not many backcountry camping opportunities where you have the option of taking a shuttle bus instead of hiking in, making it very favorable for families. There is even a day use shelter (Le Relais) where you can buy snacks, including fresh baked carrot cake with cream cheese icing! And if you are a glamper with some money to burn, for (gulp) $1000/night you can stay at one of the cabins by the lake.

Quite a different experience for our kids as they weren't used to communal eating areas, cook shelters and fire pits. Thanks to the terrible weather, that continued to follow us since we left Vancouver, we couldn't help but mingle with others. Conversations are hard to avoid when everyone is huddled around the fire or wood stove to stay warm and dry. Wearing toques and thermals all day was the norm. Tiny stoves, freeze dried packages, sporks and tin cups all a common sight during meal times. People were either conversing with one another, out on hikes, or quietly reading a book. No one was looking at their phones. And what are the odds that in this small, relatively remote campground, we would meet 3 other couples who have also taken a year off to travel the world at some point in their lives? We got to know some fine folks during our 3 night stay, making the rain much more tolerable.

Communal fire pit and eating area. No eating or cooking allowed at your site. Stairs leading to path where the sites are. (For more private sites, head up the stairs, turn left and go all the way towards the end)

Even though you must book ahead, you can only choose your site when you get there. If you are picky about your campsite, then book an early bus in. Ingoing buses leave from the main parking lot at 8:30am, 10:30am, 3:30pm and 5:30pm. (The last two times are for overnight campers only) Also keep in mind this is MOUNTAIN TIME, so if you are coming from B.C., don't forget to change your time.

Bear-proof metal lockers. 1 of 2 shelters with picnic tables and wood stoves, seen in the back. Washrooms (pit toilets) to the right, with 2 sinks outside for dishwashing, etc.

A well stocked, covered wood shed. Large hatchet available.

We were lucky to witness this gorgeous sunset when the skies cleared.

Our hike to LAKE OESA was the highlight. There was one dry day and we took full advantage of it. It was probably the longest hike we have accomplished as a family so far, about 9km total. (Lake Oesa: 6.4km return; Lake Ohara shoreline trail: 2.8km circuit). Impressive stone paths, wooden bridges and waterfall crossings...the scenery changed at every corner and you couldn't take a bad photo from any direction. This was one of those hikes where the journey was as awe-inspiring as the destination.

Lake Oesa

If you are interested in visiting Lake O'Hara, you can camp or take the bus for a day trip. Reservations are necessary, even for just the shuttle bus on a daytrip, but last minute cancellations do happen, especially when the weather is poor. There is one person taking reservations by phone only, so you have to just keep hitting redial at 8am (Mountain Time) 3 months prior to the date you desire.

NEXT STOP: The ROCKIES: Lake Louise, Jasper and Banff