We'll call this the site that almost got away from us - the one we spent the previous night in the cab of the truck in an overflow parking lot hoping to get. The biggest downside with Kicking Horse Campground is that all the sites are first-come first-serve. So if you're planning to arrive on a weekend during the summer high season, you'll have to cross your fingers and hope for the best! There is a small overflow campground just down the road and the parking lot takes over after that. It's a decent enough place to stage and wait to pounce on a good spot in the actual campground.
All that being said, Kicking Horse is worth the risk for a campsite in Yoho National Park. We had some absolutely brilliant views from our site, the facilities were plenty good, there's a hike that leaves directly from the campground, and there is also an interpretive program provided.
About Yoho National Park
Yoho often get's over shadowed by it's more famous neighbor to the east; Banff National Park. However, Kicking Horse Campground is actually just over twenty minutes from Lake Louise, and there are oodles of sights to see and lots of day hikes within minutes of your campsite. After having visited and hiked in all but one of the national parks in Canadian Rockies (I'm still missing Waterton Lakes), I have to say I'm most impressed by Yoho's selection of achievable day hikes. I came away thinking of it as a day-hikers paradise!
If I had to pick just one of my favorites, the five plus kilometer loop around Emerald Lake would be it. Amazing views in every direction and an incredibly easy walk to do - there's even an spur trail up to Emerald Basin to make it a bit more challenging if you're looking for something more.
Like I mentioned, all the sites here are first-come first-serve - so you may not have much of a choice. If you do have a choice there are two different options for tent camping; very shaded sites or open unprotected sites. I don't like feeling closed-in or damp, so we opted for a site on the edge of the unprotected area which backs up to the river. These open sites just near the entrance to the campsite also have this fabulous view you see above of the glacier on the mountain top.
Each site has a picnic table and fire ring with a wood pile also located in the campground. Keep in mind you'll need to purchase a permit to have a fire and use wood from the wood pile. If you're planning to string up a few tarps for extra shade or rain protection, you'll want to go for one of the more wooded sites. There was really no good way to do this in the unprotected sites, however our pop up shelter filled that need nicely.
Kicking Horse has the best facilities of any campground in Yoho National Park - most importantly, it's the only one hot showers and flush toilets. The restrooms facilities are a bit on the older side but really in good condition. Similar rules apply to this as with most campsites, get to the shower early in the morning and you'll probably be the only one in there!
- Arrive early and preferably not on a weekend in the high season. Remember, all sites are first-come first-serve.
- If you hope to grab an unprotected site backing the river with that fabulous view - make sure you have a free standing shelter of some variety unless you want to huddle in your tent when it rains.
- Be prepared for cool winds rolling off the glacial covered mountains all around you.
- If you're into trains, take the Walk-In-The-Past trail out of the RV loop to see some old wreckage and cross over the active railway.