7.1 miles, Half day
This trail is the Rockies at its best. It combines a circuit of a green glacial lake surrounded by mountains, with a diversion to Emerald Basin through forests and avalanche chutes to see the glacier that created it all.
In the warmer months, you can add canoeing to the activity list. The hiking will be more limited in winter, but you have skating, snowshoeing & cross-country skiing options to make up for it.
I've rated the trail as moderate because of some steep sections in the climb to Emerald Basin, but you can just stick to the lake circuit if you want an easier level stroll. The hike to the basin is rewarding not just for the views - it also gets you up close with friendly colonies of ground squirrels and marmots.
It is popular by Yoho standards, but you are not going to get the pedestrian traffic jams of nearby Lake Louise or Banff. The good news is that even on busy summer days, most Emerald Lake visitors don't venture too far from the car park at the start of the trail to capture their photo opportunity. And once you are off the lake circuit, the basin trail feels like true wilderness.
You need a pass for entry to any Canadian national park and these can be purchased from the visitor information centre at Field (on the Trans-Canada Highway about 2km north of the Emerald Lake turnoff). It may work out cheaper to buy an annual pass if you are staying for a week or more or are planning other park visits.
The Emerald Lake Lodge is a great place to stay but if the budget doesn't stretch that far, the visitor information centre can provide details of local B&B and camping options.