Wapta Falls

Yoho
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Wapta Falls

Distance: 4.8km
Elevation: 83m
Time: 1-2h

Difficulty Rating:

Wapta Falls is a family and pet-friendly hike in the quiet, west end of Yoho National Park. The easy, well-maintained trail to Wapta Falls travels gradually through the forest to the “Niagara of Yoho,” a 150m wide, 30m high, thundering waterfall on the Kicking Horse River.

Getting there

Head west for 24.4km from the turnoff to Field, BC. Cross Kicking Horse River. Look for the turnoff on the south side of the Hwy. The turnoff is not marked going west. Going east, the turnoff is 30.4km east of Golden. Continue 1.7km down a gravel road to reach the trailhead.

About

When to do

Spring to fall

Backcountry Campsites

No

Toilets

Yes, at trailhead

Family friendly

Yes

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

Moderate

Route Type

Out and back


Elevation


Detailed Description

The hike to Wapta Falls begins from the south end of the parking lot. The trail travels along the edge of a clearing originally intended as a road to the falls. The trees frame the far-off ridgeline of Mt Hunter very nicely, and the open forest here is home to many different tree species: aspen, black cottonwood poplar, Douglas fir, western red cedar, and white birch. A nearby wetland to the east of the trail provides good fishing for birds of prey, so keep your eyes on the skies for a glimpse of a bald eagle, osprey, or kingfisher.

After about 1.0km, the trail narrows and enters a cool, shady pocket of montane forest. Natural blowdowns are present along the trail, and you may pass many freshly cleared logs. An interesting feature in this section is a tree with a large burl (a deformed growth caused by injury, bacteria, insects or mutation). The trail gradually ascends until the roar of the waterfall makes itself known.

From the upper viewpoint, you’ll look down over Wapta Falls, the largest waterfall by volume in Yoho National Park (255m3 per second). Most of the water in Yoho passes over this 30m high cascade. You might be able to feel the spray from Wapta Falls all the way up here. The word “wapta” comes from the Stoney word for river; although, it is usually combined with another word (e.g. Sunwapta means turbulent river).

Continue your walk downhill along the fence line for more viewpoints of Wapta Falls (some viewpoints are more sheer than others, so take care). Follow the hike down some switchbacks until you reach a junction. The trail to the left switchbacks downhill, while the trail to the right continues straight off into the forest. Take the trail to the left, which can be a little steep and eroded in places.

At the base of Wapta Falls, the trail leads to a gravel bench alongside the river. Here, the view of Wapta Falls is somewhat obscured by a large outcropping of rock. At low river levels in late summer and fall you can cross over a riverbed of lovely, flat, red, and green stones. Once over, you can climb up for a better view, but do not attempt this during high water. The river here is thick with rock flour, ground up by glaciers from the surrounding mountains, giving the river a milky grey green look. Along the river there are some nice pockets of sand, excellent for a little riverside picnic in the sun.

When you’re finished you can return the way you hiked in.

Insider Hints

  • If you are visiting in winter or shoulder season the access road to the trailhead is not maintained and may be closed, so be prepared to walk an extra 1.7km down the road.

  • This hike makes a great stop on a road trip along the TransCanada Highway - stop in either Field or Golden to grab snacks.

  • Finish your day with dinner at the Truffle Pigs Bistro in Field - a little restaurant with a great vibe and delicious food.

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