A FEW FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Q: Where do the hikes start from?
A: Click here to see the meeting place for both the Walcott Quarry and Mt Stephen Trilobite beds.
2. Q: Can I collect fossils from either of the sites?
A: No, collecting of fossils is not 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 in restricted areas within The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site and are protected by the National Parks Act.
3. Q: Am I permitted to enter the sites on my own without paying for a guided service?
A: 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.
4. Q: What is the difference between the Walcott tour and the Stephen tour?
A: There are three sections to this answer. i) The difference in fossils. ii) The difference in scenery. iii) The difference in walking.
i) The difference in fossils.
Both the Mt. Stephen Trilobite Beds and the Walcott Quarry occur within the unit of rock called The Burgess Shale. However, not all sites in the Burgess Shale rock unit are the same.
The Walcott Quarry has exquisite soft body preservation. The soft tissues of the organisms have been replaced by minerals so that Paleontologists and Biologists can see the structure of the soft body tissues. Soft body preservation is extremely rare in the fossil record
The Stephen site has soft body preservation but only the hardest soft body parts were preserved. The species diversity is less at Stephen but the abundance of fossils is much greater at Stephen then at Walcott. Almost every second rock has a fossil on it. The fossils at Stephen are also bigger, with many in the 10 cm to 18 cm range.
The way I like to recommend where people ought to go is “If you’ve seen lot’s of fossils in your life but you’ve never seen soft body preservation then you should go to Walcott. If you’ve seen very few fossils in your life and/or you are travelling with kids, then you should go to Stephen”.
ii) The difference in scenery
Walcott has better scenery but they are both spectacular with views of high mountains, glaciers, rivers, and valleys. Walcott is better because you see the view of Takkakaw (the second highest waterfall in Canada) and the view of Emerald Lake from above. According to many guides in the area, Walcott is one of the most beautiful hikes in the Rockies.
iii) The difference in terms of walking
Walcott: 22km (round trip) and 800m elevation gain. Takes about 11 hours total from the meeting time until the end. The trail mostly climbs at a very gradual elevation gain but there are two steep and long hills at the beginning and end of the trail. If your weakness is steep hills then you may find Walcott easier than Stephen. The trail is in excellent shape with mostly hard packed dirt underfoot and with very few obstacles to navigate around. The last part of the trail is exposed and on loose talus (scree). There is a section of trail that passes under a rock wall where rockfall may be encountered.
Stephen: 8km and 800m elevation gain. Takes about 7 hours from the meeting time until the end. This hike has ridiculously steep sections on it. One section of trail is about 40 degrees with no flat spots to act as steps. When it is raining or snowing the steep sections become very difficult to go up and down.
5. Q: Are the Stephen Trilobite Beds on route to the Walcott Quarry.
A: No, the Stephen Trilobite Beds are South of the town of Field on Mt. Stephen while the Walcott Quarry is North of the town of Field on Mt. Field.
6. Q: What are the interpretive themes that will be covered on the hike?
A: The earth science educational hikes include the following themes:
History of Life on Earth - Where do the Burgess Shale fauna fit in the timeline of the evolution of organisms from simple bacteria to homo sapiens sapiens?
Mountain Building - How these incredible mountains came to be and how the Burgess Shale marine animals, that once lived at the equator over half a billion years ago, died and managed to be perfectly preserved and remain intact during the mountain building processes. As well as, the glaciations that scoured this area and how these precious fossils can be viewed in situ* at an elevation of 7,600 feet above sea level). * In geology in situ means a rock or fossil that has not been moved from its original place of deposition.
Landforms and Climate Science - The mountains are changing around us at all times due to erosion and other geological and biological forces. During the hike to the fossil sites, excellent examples of these forces and the changes that they are making can be observed.
The importance of this Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site that will ensure and provide Protection, Education and Interpretation of the Burgess Shale for future generations.
7. Q: Is there a Museum?
A: No, there is not a museum in Yoho National Park; However, there is an excellent Burgess Shale Fossil display at the Field B.C. visitor information centre. There is also a display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology www.tyrrellmuseum.com and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) www.rom.on.ca
8. Q: What are the accommodation options in the area?
A: Please follow this link
9. Q: Are there toilet facilities along the hiking trail?
A: On the Walcott Quarry hike, there are toilet facilities at the trail head, which you will be at around 8:30am. The next toilet facility is at Yoho lake, the hiking group will arrive there between 10:00 - 10:30 am, this is the last toilet facility on the trail, the group hikes down past the Yoho lake toilet between 4:00 and 6:00pm.
For the Mount Stephen Trilobite bed hike, the only toilet facility is at the morning meeting place (Yoho Trading Post).
For both hikes, breaks will be taken throughout the day where hikers can go to the bathroom in the woods, so long as they are 200 meters from streams, lakes or rivers. There will all so be regular breaks taken where males and females will separate for a bathroom break.
10. Q: What is the weather like, how should I dress for the hike?
A: Be prepared for temperatures to range from +30 to -5 centigrade (all in the same day). It can snow any time of the year, and is not unusual to get rain, snow and sun all in the same day. When it is precipitating at the elevation of the fossil quarries, 50% of the time that precipitation comes down as snow. The weather in the Canadian Rockies is very unpredictable and weather forecasts for this area can be unreliable. It is important to come prepared with a variety of clothing layers.
Click here to see the required clothing and equipment list for both hikes.
11. Q: Are dogs allowed on your hikes?