Distance: 22 km
Elevation gain: 1050 mView mapDownload GPS track
This is a remarkable hike that, with a short extension, affords views of the most popular hiking areas in Yoho National Park. The trailhead is located in a small, easy to miss, parking area just 400 m west of the West Louise Lodge on the north side of the trans-Canada. It is before the merge lane for the lodge disappears, so stay right.
The trail begins next to the outhouse and climbs through mature forest to Sherbrooke Lake, 200 m higher and 2.8 km distant. A rough trail follows the eastern shore to the head of the lake, then begins ascending beside the inlet stream. Shortly, approach a large cascade and the only real challenge of the trip - a surprisingly steep and muddy scree slope that the trail traverses above the raging stream. While we managed this, we met another hiker who endured a difficult bushwack up higher to avoid it. Shortly past this point the trail enters a large level area with several converging streams and avalanche debris, then begins ascending again.
The next several kilometers of trail ascend through mature forest, passing several cascades and waterfalls and crossing several streams (one of which requires rock hopping, debooting, or good balance as the bridge is broken) before arriving at Niles amphitheatre, a medium sized meadow enclave at the base of Mt. Niles. Many hikers refer to this as Niles meadow and stop here, but the actual meadow referenced in hiking books lies 200 m higher to your right (northeast). While the approach looks daunting, it is actually shockingly easy and well worth the extra effort. The trail is excellent and well-switchbacked the entire way up and the start is marked by a large cairn most easily found by walking about 10 m into the amphitheatre and turning 90 degrees to your right. The cairn should be at the base of the slope directly in front of you now. Here is a photo
The view from the meadows is great, but it should almost be a requirement that you continue just 1.2 km further (200 m higher) to the col to the west of Mt. Niles. The going is rough through the rubble field (budget 45 minutes one way), but the views to the north of the col make those you have already attained seem minor. Directly in front of you will be Daly Glacier (part of the Wapta icefield) and it's lake, the source of Takkakaw Falls
. Equally interesting is the view to the west, which gives you an aerial view of nearly the entire famous Iceline trail
and equally scenic Whaleback route. Twin Falls is also visible as well as countless glaciers. It's fascinating to look down on a trail you have done previously.