Distance: 17km (Heading north along the river), day trip, allow 4-5 hours.
Access: Follow the Trans-Canada Highway to the Yoho Valley Road junction which is 3.7 km east of Field. Follow this road 13km to the end of the Takakkaw Falls parking area. The trail begins at the end of the Takakkaw Campground, follow the trail along the river.
Tip: If you’re choosing to do the trip as a day trip, pack lightly with something for every kind of weather condition possible. Even if it looks like it’s going to be a nice day, bad weather can appear out of nowhere when you’re up that high! Check the trail report for closures and weather conditions before traveling.
Iceline Hike was one of the best hikes of my summer and certainly one of the most premier hikes. For such a high altitude hike it’s very accessible, though if you’re out of shape it’s going to be quite the huff. No matter which way you go it’s up, up, up. Our journey began in Jasper; we hit the road heading south along the Icefield Parkway around 5:30pm and arrived at the Takakkaw Falls parking lot around 10:00pm. It was pretty much dark by that time and we didn’t want to try and find the campground so we slept in the Kia. It was a good idea considering in the middle of the night it started pouring. We were warm and dry in the car and got to watch the full moon disappear behind Wapta Mountain.
In the morning we were awakened by tourists arriving to visit the falls. The parking lot was full before we even got hiking. After eating breakfast we did the mandatory trek to the bottom of Takakkaw Falls with the rest of the tourists, took the mandatory photo, then were on our way to Iceline. It was so humid my camera took a long time to adjust and my first pictures of the hike were pretty foggy.
The hike begins by walking through the campground which is at the northern most point of the parking lot. At the end of the campground the trail continues with a sign telling you where you’re headed. Along the entire trail there are many signs and lots of junctions so read the map before you head out or you could be hiking for a long time in the wrong direction. Some people begin the hike by starting at the Whiskey Jack Hostel parking lot which is just a little way before the falls. Friends of ours had told us ahead of time to avoid this starting point as it was straight up without any relief for a long time. So on our way we were treated to a nice wide path along the river. It was an overcast day and it rained for a lot of the time, the trail became quite muddy at times especially closest to the river. After a relatively easy 5 km you’ll reach a junction telling you to continue north the Yoho Glacier or west to Celeste Lake junction. Turn west and continue climbing steadily until you reach another junction sign. Turn onto the Celeste Lake trail heading south.
This is sort of considered a short cut if your begin the hike as we did. The lake has gorgeous colours and great places to stop for a little picnic and photos. You’ll pass through a small meadow with a lake and continue through the forest until finally reaching a beautiful alpine meadow. Climbing up along a moraine is where you’ll finally intersect with the Iceline Trail. Continue south-east along the trail, this is where the bulk of hiking traffic will be as most people take their time on this stretch of the hike to go off path and explore the alpine lakes. The summit of the trail is reached at 2210 m. Make sure you take a photo of yourself on the top with the Waputik Icefield across the valley in the background. Take your time, weather permitting, to explore this 5 km stretch of the highest part of the trail. The Emerald Glacier is constantly on your right as well as the peaks of the President and the Vice President. The highest part of the trail is where weather can sneak up on you the quickest. There really is no place to take cover so be prepared for anything and keep your eyes on the northern skies. We had a lot of rain on the way up but when we finally reached the Iceline trail after climbing up through Celeste, the clouds parted and the sun came out. 10 minutes later we were being pelted with marble-sized hail for about half an hour. Thank God for Gortex. I had a lot of sympathy for the poor people hiking towards the campground further north past the ACC Hut. After the weather ended we looked around us and were honestly amazed. The view is incredible and finally it feels worth it to have journeyed through humid rainy forest with a pack.
No matter the weather this hike is amazing, formidable, but an adventure to share with your best hiking buddies. After exploring the upper trail you will continue south towards the Whiskey Jack Hostel. The next 4.5 km will be all downhill through glacial debris than forested switchbacks. At this point you’ll be so glad you took the Celeste Trail up and not this one. It’s very steep and relentless, if you’re up for it though you will reduce your trip by about 4 km. The trail ends at the parking lot of the hostel and you’ll have to either walk along the road or continue the path towards the falls to get back to your transportation.
We met some really interesting people on our hike and learned a lot about ourselves surviving in the worst weather conditions. I’ve never been so glad to see sunshine. Our hike ended in a hot, sunny late afternoon with tourists slowly leaving the parking lot. There are nice bathrooms at the parking lot so you can clean up after your hike. I really recommend this hike if you don’t have a lot of time to do overnight trips. You’ll be rewarded with amazing scenery and spectacular alpine views with only moderate effort. There are lots of options along the trail for exploring further (Twin Falls, Kiwetinok Pass, Yoho Glacier, Yoho Lake). Check the weather and trail report before hitting up Iceline. Don’t forget your camera!