Guided Hike to the Burgess Shale Walcott Quarry

by phone

First discovered in 1909 by Charles Doolittle Walcott, recent interpretation of these exquisitely preserved 505 million year old fossils has influenced the scientific view of the evolution of life on Earth. Visit this UNESCO World Heritage site and learn about our three themes: History of Life, Mountain Building and Glaciation & Climate change in the Canadian Rockies.

The publication of Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life in 1989 raised public awareness about the exquisitely preserved fossils of the Burgess Shale. Jean-Bernard Caron's February 2014 announcement about the discovery of the Marble Canyon site in Kootenay NP has further increased interest in visiting the Walcott Quarry. Due to the high demand, the dates for this hikes fill quickly. Please also consider visiting the Mt Stephen Fossil Beds, where Burgess Shale-type biota were first recognized in 1886.

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

Hike Details

Elevation gain
825 m (2,710 ft)
21 km (13 mi) round trip

Difficult due to length and elevation (11 hours)

2015 Schedule

Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday starting Friday July 3
Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday
Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday until Sunday September 13

Hikers meet at 8:00 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time at the gas station parking lot at the Trans-Canada Hwy and Field Access Rd, immediately across from the Yoho Visitor Centre (the building with a blue roof) in Field BC.

Unable to reserve for the date you want? You may be interested in guided hikes offered by Parks Canada


All Ages
$84 and offered only mid-week: Tue-Wed-Thu

Prices include GST.

*NOTE: Student rates are offered only for educational institution field trips. During the period from July 7 to September 12, the student discount applies only for hikes booked mid-week: Tue-Wed-Thu.
No Refunds provided for no-shows. Please see our reservation refund policy.

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.

Markus Ebner in the Walcott Quarry
Emerald Lake from the Highline Trail