Parks Canada offers several guided hikes to see fossil beds in Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. In Yoho you can hike to the Walcott Quarry and Mount Stephen fossil beds, whilst in Kootenay you can see recently discovered Burgess Shale fossil sites. For these hikes you go with a Parks Canada heritage interpreter who explains the history behind the discovery of the fossils as well as how they are found and how to identify them when you are there. If you want to hike to these sites you have to go with a guide and it is necessary to book – through the Parks Canada website or alternatively the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation.
We were able to do the hike to the Walcott Quarry in Yoho National Park in September (2014). Even though it’s a long day it is really worth it – you meet at 7am at the Takakkaw Falls parking lot so it means about a 6am departure if you’re travelling from Banff. It was still dark when we reached the parking lot, so it’s a good idea to bring a head torch.
There’s quite a lot of elevation gain during the day, and the steepest part is from the Takakkaw Falls parking lot to Yoho Lake. However as you are doing the hike with a guide, they set it at a reasonable pace for the group and make sure that you take regular water and snack breaks!
Yoho Lake is very beautiful and it was a good place for a break. It’s also the site of the first Summer Camp of the Alpine Club of Canada and there’s a monument in the clearing by the lake dedicated to this.
From the lake we carried on over Yoho Pass gradually climbing out of the tree line. Here we had a few glimpsing views of Emerald Lake through the cloud.
Reaching the Walcott Quarry we had a little bit of time to explore and see the fossils which were almost on every stone you turned over! There were also identification charts so you could try to determine which fossil you were looking at.
The hike back to the parking lot is the same as on the way there, but again with plenty of breaks and set at a good pace.
We were lucky coming back as the cloud lifted coming down and we had a great view of Takakkaw Falls on the opposite side of the valley.
Though the weather wasn’t the best we could have hoped for, it was a really great hiking day. Hopefully I’ll be booking on to do some more guided hikes with Parks Canada in Yoho and Kootenay National Parks soon. In total the hike is 21km (13 miles) with and elevation gain of 825 metres (2710 feet).
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