Kicking Horse to Amiskwi Trail in Yoho National Park – BC, Canada
Length of our walk: two hours, including time for a simple picnic and photos
Distance of our walk: 3.4 kms (return) for the Kicking Horse/Amiskwi trail plus another 1/2 km on the Emerald River trail for a total of about 4 km walked.
I’m not nearly as athletic as the rest of my family but I do enjoy going for walks. Nothing that has me dangling precariously off the side of a cliff mind you, just a nice stroll in the mountains with the kids scampering ahead and my husband pointing out the signs of human construction he always manages to find no matter how remote we seem to be (he loves bridges and cranes and railroads, oh my!)
We bumped into an unexpectedly wonderful walk in Yoho National Park the other day. We stopped at the Natural Bridge to take a look (and use the potty). It’s a very interesting natural phenomenon where the Kicking Horse River has carved into the rock creating a natural bridge. A pretty spot right off the highway… lots of tourists stop there as it’s very accessible (paved) with nice photo ops.
Right beside the washrooms there is an old fire road. There are a few concrete blocks and some chain across the road to prevent people from driving on it. Just step over/past these and you will see the sign for the start of the trail.
It seems a little odd to step past these barriers but it’s ok… they are there to stop cars not hikers.
I love old fire road trails. They’re wide enough for a family to walk comfortably together and are also a clear enough trail that you don’t risk getting lost – especially good for those new to walking in the forest.
We packed our little day bag with a couple bottles of water, small first aid kit, bear spray, trail mix, cheese and crackers and set off on our walk. It was a little rainy earlier in the day but was lovely and sunny by early afternoon. There were lots of wildflowers blooming by the side of the trail as well as strawberries, raspberries, bunchberries and thimbleberries. Also lots of birds, butterflies, dragonflies and a few ground squirrels.
We chatted and enjoyed the walk for the first couple of kilometres, barely noticing the time pass as we enjoyed the day together. Toward the end of the trail there are two bridges. The first goes over the Emerald River. True to its name, the water of this river is a beautiful emerald green.
We stopped awhile to watch the waters of the green-blue waters of the Emerald River mingle with the greyer waters of the Kicking Horse River. It was beautiful, I thought, and there were lots of river stones of all shapes and sizes for skipping rocks. Darren likes to throw rocks into water – men never grow up!
We walked a little further to discover another bridge. Again, it was blocked off with a no crossing sign that is meant for cars not for foot traffic. This bridge went over the Amiskwi River.
It too merges into the grey waters of the Kicking Horse River but the Amiskwi River is a little more blue than the Emerald River.
Just after the bridges there is a large meadow with one, single picnic table. We enjoyed our little snack of cheese and crackers with some wild strawberries from the meadow. Yum!
At this point we had a few choices… Either to walk a ways along the Amiskwi Trail or the Emerald River Trail. Both were too long for casual walkers like us to complete but we ended up following the narrow Emerald River Trail for a little ways. It was very pretty, right through the forest but along the river. We were careful to turn back when we still had enough energy to make our all the way back to our car parked at the Natural Bridge parking lot.
Along the way we didn’t see a single soul despite it being a lovely summer day. I mention this because I’ve had a number of people comment on how crazy busy and full of tourists it is ‘everywhere’ in the Rockies. They aren’t wrong if you stick only to the main attractions that the tour buses roll up to every hour. Hordes of people get off, snap photos, reboard and head to the next stop.
Whether in Canada or elsewhere, if you’re brave enough to rent your own car or you splurge to hire a private driver for a day you can escape the crowds, see some beautiful scenery and experience a little bit of solitude.
If you do venture into the wilderness:
– pack out your garbage!! There are garbage bins at the beginning of most trails.
– NEVER feed any wildlife. I don’t care if it’s a chipmunk, a deer or a bear… don’t feed them. Wild animals that are fed by humans end up being killed by the park rangers (or in the case of smaller animals like chipmunks, by extermination companies). If you use food to lure a wild animal in order to get that ‘perfect’ photo, you may as well just take a gun and shoot the animal. Within the year, they’ll be dead either way because of a choice you made. I can’t emphasize this enough — a fed bear is a dead bear.