Iceline Loop Trail – Best Canadian Rockies Day Hikes

#7 – Canadian Rockies Day Hikes: Iceline Loop Trail – With Iceline Summit & Celeste Lake Connector

Iceline Loop Trail
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  • Location: Yoho National Park
  • Trailhead: Takakkaw Falls
  • Type: Loop
  • Rating: Difficult to Borderline Strenuous
  • Total Distance: 12 miles
  • Trailhead Elevation: 4,940′
  • Total Elevation Gain: 2,800′
  • Recommended Time: Full-day
  • Recommended Season: Early-July to Mid-September

Everything But A Kitchen Sink

Iceline Loop creek
This is just one of the many creeks that flow from the snowpack on the ridge of the Iceline Loop Trail.

The Iceline Loop Trail is a hike we recommend as part of the larger backpacking journey of Iceline/Whaleback/Twin Falls Loop (aka: Takakkaw Loop). However, this is a trail that should not be missed even if you aren’t up for the much longer and more difficult backpacking circuit. The Iceline Loop Trail is a long and somewhat arduous day hike that has a little bit of everything Yoho National Park has to offer. Massive waterfalls, towering glacier laden mountains, turquoise-colored tarns/ lakes, precipitous cliff-side overlooks with stunning aerial views, and raging rivers all await the intrepid hiker that journeys onto this truly amazing path. This is without a doubt one of the best day hikes the Canadian Rockies has to offer.

Clockwise

Iceline Loop Trail
A map of the Iceline Loop Trail in Yoho National Park.

The Iceline Loop Trail is a complete circuit and consists of several trails cobbled together to make the circle. Being a circuit trail, the journey can be undertaken in either direction but we recommend a clockwise approach as the trail is much steeper at the start. I prefer a steep climb to a sharp descent. A sharp descent is too rough on these knees. If you have the opposite preference take this journey counter-clockwise.

The Iceline Loop Trail

Whiskeyjack Hostel
The Whiskeyjack Hostel is a great base camp for exploring the Takakkaw Falls area of Yoho National Park.

The journey for the Iceline Loop Trail begins at the Takakkaw Falls parking lot below the massive 992′ high Takakkaw Falls. The start is unassuming as the path parallels the Yoho River and crosses back over the Yoho Valley Road. On the other side of the road is the Whiskeyjack Hostel which is used by many as a basecamp for exploring the area.

The Ascent

Eyeline with Takakkaw Falls
Ascending the Iceline Trail provides amazing aerial views of Takakkaw Falls.

After the Whiskeyjack Hostel, the trail begins a massive uphill ascent that seems to climb endlessly. At first, the path is swamped in by the trees. Then it emerges onto the cliffedge that overlooks the Yoho Valley. The view of the massive Takakkaw Falls goes from looking up, to eye-level, and eventually, hikers look down upon the 992′ drop. This part of the journey is a brutal 1,900′ ascent in just over 2 miles. Luckily, the rest of the journey more than makes up for this initial effort. About halfway up the ascent, we recommend taking the short side trail to the Hidden Lake. This will add 1/2-mile roundtrip to the overall hike but it is flat and a nice break from the relentless climb.

The Iceline Trail

Iceline Summit
The view of one of the larger tarns from the Iceline Summit.

Once having climbed to the ledge the Iceline trail continues a much more moderate ascent. The path parallels the glaciers clinging to the side of the Presidential Range. The Iceline Trail follows this bouldery, treeless ridgeline for several miles, crossing over many glacial-fed streams careening through the rocky terrain. It also passes by several richly colored greenish-blue tarns. The pinnacle of the hike is the Iceline Summit. However, it has no sign so make sure you have a good map (maps.me is one of our favorite apps). The Iceline Summit is a small outcropping (not really a mountain summit) that overlooks the glaciers and several of the richly colored tarns. This 2.5 mile ridgeline trail is some of the most beautiful hiking terrain that Yoho National Park has to offer.

Iceline Summit
The Iceline Summit is more like a hillside then a peak. Even still, it does allow for some amazing views of the President Range and the Yoho River Valley.

Celeste Lake Connector

Celeste Lake Intersection
The sign at the intersection for the Celeste Lake Trail.

When the Iceline Trail is taken on as a day hike, we recommend backtracking from the Iceline Summit and returning to the Celeste Lake Trail. (There is a sign at the juncture.) You will see this trail diverge on the way across the ridgeline. It is located about 1/2-mile before reaching the Iceline Summit. The Celeste Lake Trail descends back into the trees, passing by Celeste Lake and continues its descent into the Little Yoho River Valley.

Little Yoho Valley & Twin Falls Trails

Little Yoho River
The Little Yoho River cuts through the forest in Yoho National Park.

The Celeste Lake Trail ends by crossing over the Little Yoho River and intersecting the Little Yoho Valley. The Iceline Loop Trail now continues the descent on the Little Yoho Valley Trail. It roughly follows the flow of the Little Yoho River on its way to meet up with the wider Yoho River.

Laughing Falls/ Twin Falls Trail

Laughing Falls
Laughing Falls on the Little Yoho River.

The Little Yoho Valley Trail intersects the Twin Falls/Laughing Falls Trail at the base of Laughing Falls. From here the Iceline Loop turns to the right and follows the Twin Falls Trail on its way back to Takakkaw Falls. On the way down, make sure to check out Duchesnay Lake which resembles a bog. Also stop at Point Lace Falls which is one of the many beautiful waterfalls found on the Twin Falls Trail.

Warning!

Iceline Trail
The Iceline Loop Trail, for the most part, is a wide and well traveled trail. But there are some areas like the little spur pictured here that are quite precarious.

The Iceline Loop Trail in Yoho National Park isn’t for the faint of heart. Some of the trail is precarious and the first few miles are strenuous. The trail is well maintained but there are a lot of junctures. Without a good sense of direction and map reading skills one could easily become disoriented and lost in the terrain. (It happens.) For those who come prepared, this alpine journey has some of the most stunning array of beautiful mountain scenery in the world.

Even Longer Options

Hidden Lake & Wapta Mountain
A view of the towering Wapta Mountain from Hidden Lake.

If this 12-mile long journey isn’t enough for you for one day, add a lake. In addition to Hidden Lake you could also add on Yoho Lake which is perched above Hidden Lake. The trail to Yoho Lake can be added as a small 3-mile loop. This makes the total journey of the Iceline Loop Trail nearly 15 miles long. There is also a backcountry campsite at Yoho Lake if you are up for a night in the wilderness. Some might also recommend finishing the Iceline Trail (so not taking the Celeste Trail) and following the path all the way to the Little Yoho—an awesome journey. This would add almost 5 miles to the journey and in our opinion is better done when overnighting at the Little Yoho Campground.

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