Distance: 31km roundtrip Time: 9 hours Difficulty: Moderate
Lake O’Hara is an amazing place to see larch trees during the autumn season. While the bus ride to Lake O’hara will save you a lot of time and effort, they are unfortunately (or fortunately) not running in 2020 due to Covid-19 and since bicycles are not allowed on the trail, you are left with the 11km hike up the road to reach the lake. While the 11km road up to the lake is fairly unspectacular, the 22km roundtrip to and from the lake is worth all the effort.
Once at the lake go left (clockwise) around the lake. Pass by the turnoffs to Seven Veil Falls and Lake Oesa. Follow the signs to East Opabin trail as you climb up through the larch trees to Moor Lakes and Hungabee Lake. From there continue on the trail until you reach Opabin Lake. This is where you make the loop back towards the lake, so it’s a good place to stop, have a snack, and enjoy the views. From here there are great view points overlooking Hungabee and Moor lakes. This is a great place to stop and take pictures of the wide open landscape.
Once you’re ready to continue, follow the signs to West Opabin Trail on the other side of the valley. Up ahead at a fork in the road you’ll find a sign heading to Opabin Prospect. Follow that path as it will lead you to the Classic Lake O’Hara viewpoint. Soak in the sights on the rocky ledges, have lunch, and snap your photos before you make your way back to the West Opabin trail. The way back to the Lake on the West Opabin trail descends steeply on switchbacks but the views are still amazing. Be careful as it could be slippery on the way down.
Follow the trail along the lake and back to Le Relais to complete the loop.
The overall hike isn’t difficult. I have rated it as moderate only because of the distance covered from the Lake O’Hara parking lot and back.
Note: If your main objective is to get to Opabin Prospect and its lookout, you can head right (counter clockwise) at the lake and just go up and down on the West Opabin Trail. It will definitely save you some time but the climb up through the steep switchbacks might be killer on your legs.
We made the trek out to Lake O’hara on the last weekend of September, and while the larches were still out and visible, it was a snowy and cold day. Therefore we didn’t get a good view of Lake O’Hara at Opabin Prospect. So if you are planning on doing this hike in autumn make sure you are properly dressed and have an extra layer in your backpack.
Here is some gear that I would recommend to have on this trek: