The Opinionated Hikers on Patrol for You
New Zealand has marketed itself to hikers more successfully than any country in the world. True, NZ is blessed with gorgeous scenery and has an enviable number of tracks (trails), but those aren’t the only reasons it ranks high on many hikers’ life lists. Kiwis are smart. Their nation’s natural beauty is an infinitely renewable resource, so they sell it—hard. In doing so, they sometimes exaggerate.
Case in point: the Tongariro Crossing. Kiwis convincingly tout it as “the world’s greatest day-trek.”
They’re entitled to their opinion. And, granted, it’s a subjective matter. But having hiked the Tongariro Crossing three times during the past 20 years, and meanwhile having also sampled a lot of the most spectacular hiking terrain elsewhere in the world (Patagonia, French Alps, Sierra Nevada, Alaska, etc.), Kathy and I can say with assurance there are many day treks more deserving of “the world’s best” label. We hiked one of them just last week: the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit, in Yoho National Park, in the Canadian Rockies.
Is the Alpine Circuit the best dayhike in the world? Perhaps. It certainly ranks among the supreme ten.
Compare the photos above. The top six are from the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit. The bottom three are from the Tongariro Crossing. Where would you rather hike? We believe most hikers will agree the Alpine Circuit offers a scenically superior experience. So why doesn’t Canada market the Canadian Rockies with anything approaching the cunning and savvy with which Kiwis market New Zealand?
We hope the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit is on your radar. Before you go, read Trip 14, page 89, in Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies, the Opinionated Hiking Guide. Meanwhile, here’s our advice…
If you’re reasonably fit, begin the day by ascending to Wiwaxy Gap. Next, follow the Huber Ledges to Lake Oesa. From there, descend back to Lake O’Hara. Allowing plenty of time to gaze and take photos, this abbreviated loop will take you about three or four hours.
You’re fit and keen? Continue from Lake Oesa, onto the Yukness Ledges, then down to Hungabee Lake. From there, descend the East Opabin trail to the south shore of Lake O’Hara. Total hiking time: five to six hours.
You’re very fit and super keen? Proceed west along the north shore of Hungabee Lake. Work your way onto the All Souls’ Traverse, beneath Schaffer Ridge. Ascend to All Souls’ Prospect for a new panorama of the entire region. Then descend the Big Larches trail to Lake O’Hara, arriving there about seven or eight hours after you began hiking.
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