Want to visit Lake O'Hara? Bus reservations now up to random draw
Published Thursday, November 21, 2019 4:15PM MST Last Updated Thursday, November 21, 2019 9:19PM MST
A hiker looks at Lake O’Hara, located in Yoho National Park, in this undated handout image. (The Canadian Press/HO-Parks Canada-Zoya Lynch)
YOHO NATIONAL PARK — Parks Canada is making changes next year for people hoping to visit a highly sought after destination in British Columbia's Yoho National Park.
Visitors to Lake O'Hara, which has a quota system in place to protect the sensitive alpine area, are required to advance book for a bus that takes them up an 11-kilometre road for day hiking and overnight camping.
“It's a high-elevation alpine ecosystem that Parks Canada has been working hard to preserve and protect ... ever since Yoho National Park was established,” said Jed Cochrane, acting visitor experience manager with Yoho National Park.
“This system that we have in place, that is one of the main reasons it stays in the pristine shape that it is in.”
The quota system, which has been in place since the 1980s, means only 32 day-use visitors and 90 campers are allowed to take the bus into the area each day. Others are permitted if they have overnight reservations through an Alpine Club of Canada hut or Lake O'Hara Lodge.
Cochrane said more than 20,000 people have logged on to the online system to book the day-use spots available through Parks Canada each summer.
“It's a really popular experience,” he said. “Normally the just over 3,000 seats that we have for the summer are sold out within the first few minutes. That pressure is causing visitor frustration.”
'Take the rush and panic out'
The changes will see a random draw that will give day hikers the month of February to submit a $10 application for the bus through the Parks Canada reservation system.
“There's no rush, people can go on, they can register, they'll pick their options in terms of how many seats they want and which days they want to go,” he said. “Then they'll be drawn and, if they are selected, their first choice will be picked or their second choice or whatever.
“It's just meant to open it up and have the opportunity for everyone to apply to have the opportunity to go up to Lake O'Hara for a day.”
Visitors will then be given two weeks to confirm and pay for their spot on the bus.
“It's all meant to take the rush and panic out of it for everybody,” said Cochrane.
Overnight camping spots will now be offered through the Parks Canada reservation system on a first-come, first-served basis starting Jan. 24.
“Historically you phoned in,” he said. “That creates some frustration for visitors because they get a busy signal. There was no way to see if sites were reserved.
“It just generally makes it easier for folks to get on there and do their reservations.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2019.