Guided Hike to the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds

by phone

If you are new to the Burgess Shale and wish to see abundant and obvious Cambrian fossils, this is the hike to do. The site is strewn with rock slabs containing appendages of the Cambrian predator Anomalocaris canadensis; trilobites Ogygopsis klotzi, Olenoides serratus and Elrathina cordillerae as well as brachiopods and sponges.

The Mount Stephen Fossil Beds were discovered in 1886, after railway workers reported finding what they called "stone bugs" in the talus on the slopes of Mount Stephen. Learn about the environment in which these creatures lived and perished and why many of the species that are found here do not occur at the Walcott Quarry site. This is a great hike for kids who will enjoy studying the rocks to find relatively large, easily recognizable fossils.

See also the details and schedule for the Mt Stephen Family Hikes.

Please note: Although the trail to the Mt Stephen fossil beds isn't long, it is nevertheless classified as a STRENUOUS hike because the route is quite steep. The elevation gain is almost the same as for the Walcott Quarry hike, but the workout is intense as the climb is over a much shorter distance.

Download the guided hikes brochure and check out the Burgess Shale virtual tour.

Hike Details

Elevation gain
795 m (2,610 ft)
8 km (5 miles) round trip
Difficult — short but steep (7 hours)

2015 Schedule

Every Saturday and Sunday starting Saturday June 27
Every Saturday and Sunday
Saturday September 5 & 12, Sunday September 6 & 13

Meet your guide at 8:30AM at the gas station at the Trans-Canada Hwy and Field Access Rd, opposite the Yoho Visitor Centre in Field BC (the building with the blue roof). Parking available around the perimeter of the gas station site.


Youth (13-17 yrs.) and Student*
Child (12 and under)

Fees include GST.
No Refunds provided for no-shows. Please see our reservation refund policy.

*NOTE: Student rates are offered only for educational institution field trips and apply only for hikes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Are You Ready?

Every participant in the Guided Hikes must be sure to read and understand the guided hike waiver, and then complete and sign the waiver form and hand it to the guide on the morning of the hike. Please read our Reservation and Refund policy before you make a reservation.

The Field town-site is situated at 1,280 meters (4,200 feet) above sea level. Hikers will be climbing more than 760 meters (2,500 feet) to visit either of the destinations: Walcott Quarry and Mt. Stephen Fossil Beds. At this elevation there is considerably less oxygen than at sea level, and the fatigue of climbing and descending will be be noticeable if you are used to training at lower elevations. Although our guides pause for breaks along the way, you will not enjoy the trip unless you are fit and acclimatized to the altitude.

The trails are well-maintained by Parks Canada. Nevertheless, they are steep and may become slippery in wet weather. Portions of the trail may be snow-covered until mid-July. Hikers may find the descent is hard on the knees or that uneven surfaces are a test of ankle stability. In the event of injury, there is no easy way out and one must be prepared to hike out with minimal assistance. You should not undertake these hikes if you have any respiratory, circulatory or joint problems. If unsure, check with your physician. Please! Carefully read the advice and reservation and refund policy.

If You Go

The meeting location for the Mt Stephen and Walcott Quarry hikes is the Yoho Trading Post gas station (the intersection of Field and the Trans Canada Highway.) See individual hike descriptions for start time.

The meeting spot for the the Climate Change hike is the Takakkaw Falls parking lot, near the washrooms.

Please arrive a few minutes prior to the posted start time. Note that Yoho National Park is in the Mountain Time Zone and on Daylight Savings Time, the same as Alberta and Banff and Jasper National Parks. Sadly, visitors have been known to miss their hike because they mistakenly assumed that Yoho is in the Pacific time zone.

The Mt Stephen hike gets underway from the meeting location in Field.

Walcott Quarry hikers, once they have met their guide in Field, drive in a convoy to the Takakkaw Falls day use parking lot. The hikers reassemble and begin their trek.

Bring your own lunch and your favourite snacks for the trail. Bring lots of water, because exertion combined with altitude will make you thirsty. For the Walcott Quarry hike, two litres of water per person is recommended.

Your choice of footwear is critical. You should wear comfortable and sturdy hiking boots that give good ankle support. Running shoes aren't substantial enough and shoes with sandal-like openings are not acceptable footwear.

Hikers will be outdoors and on the trail for about 6 hours for the Mt Stephen hike and for about 10 hours for the Walcott Quarry hike. The weather conditions encountered on the trail can range from hot & sunny to cold, wet and windy - all on the same day. There is no shelter from the weather at the fossil sites.

Trail conditions courtesy Parks Canada

Weather Forecast courtesy Environment Canada

Unsure about the exposure to steep slopes along the Walcott Quarry hike? Here's a link to a Parks Canada video. At 1:02 you'll see hikers passing the trail section under the Wapta cliffs.

You must bring a day pack with extra layers of clothing: windproof/waterproof jacket with hood, fleece jacket, long pants, gloves, sun hat and sunglasses. A pair of hiking poles can be helpful on the steeper parts of the trail.

Protection and Security of Fossils

No collecting of fossils is permitted and no disturbance or damage to any natural object is allowed. The hikes are not research expeditions and consequently no one may break rocks at any time or location on the guided hike. These fossil sites are located restricted areas within The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site and are protected by the National Parks Act. Entry is permitted only to groups led by guides who are licensed to enter these protected sites. The fossil sites are monitored by motion detectors and cameras. Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation guides carry radios and they will immediately contact the Park Warden Dispatch to report any suspicious activities.

Mount Stephen Panorama
Kids splitting rock looking for half a billion year old Trilobites 005
Kids splitting rock looking for half a billion year old Trilobites 004
Kids splitting rock looking for half a billion year old Trilobites 003
Kids splitting rock looking for half a billion year old Trilobites 002
Kids splitting rock looking for half a billion year old Trilobites 001