Takakkaw Falls

Yoho National Park is the smallest of the four National Parks within the Canadian Rockies. It is directly west of Banff National Park. More specifically, the park is just across the Continental Divide from Lake Louise, in the neighboring province of British Columbia. While Yoho is considerably smaller in size than Banff and Jasper; it is more wild, rugged, and isolated. The park boasts jagged peaks above dramatic U-shaped valleys, one of Canada’s tallest waterfalls, and a couple of lakes that rival the most beautiful ones in Banff.

We left Lake Louise and headed west along the Trans-Canada Highway straight towards some of the largest mountains in the Rockies. It was a short, but scenic drive between forests and mountains. After about fifteen minutes we reached Kicking Horse Pass, where we traversed the Continental Divide and entered British Columbia. Once we were on the western side of the Continental Divide we were inside Yoho National Park.

After a few more miles we turned north onto Yoho Valley Road. As expected, the road took us deep into Yoho Valley. The narrow road wound its way around tight switchbacks and hairpin turns far into the heart of the Yoho wilderness. The peaks that enclosed the valley were tall, steep, and covered with snow. The lower reaches of the mountains were heavily forested. For much of the road’s eight and a half miles it paralleled the surging Yoho River. We drove past a couple of campgrounds and a few scenic turnouts before ending at a parking lot.

Takakkaw Falls, the main attraction within Yoho Valley, can be seen from the parking lot. The waterfall is the second tallest in all of Canada. It is a powerful thread-like fall that propels off a steep mountain cliff. We got out of the car and embarked on a brief hike to the foot of Takakkaw Falls.

The path is short and paved. Most of it is even wheelchair accessible. It hugs the churning Yoho River on the way to the base of Takakkaw Falls. We eventually crossed over the foaming river on a long wooden bridge.

Our leisurely walk toward the waterfall was enjoyable. The hike was very easy, the mood was light and fun, and we joked around and acted goofy together. It was a little bonding moment for us that was so simple and silly, but at the same time quite memorable. We laughed and sang below the enormous waterfall.

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Takakkaw Falls reminded me of the tall thin waterfalls in Yosemite Valley. It was especially reminiscent of Ribbon Fall and Yosemite Fall, the way it plunged off a high cliff in a magnificent free-fall. The fall is over 1,200 feet tall, but the majority of it comes in its 833 foot open-air plunge. It violently crashes into a cluster of boulders far below, creating a thick mist above the area. The boulders were massive, some even larger than cars. They made us look and feel so small next to them.

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What sets Takakkaw Falls apart from most other waterfalls is the way it shoots off from the cliff and bursts into the sky. The fall races through a narrow chute atop the cliff then plummets about 100 feet onto a large boulder that extends out from the nearly sheer mountain wall. That sudden and chaotic impact of the rushing river upon the huge rock creates an explosion of water that can launch more than 100 feet away from the cliff face. Then after the spectacle hundreds of feet in the air, it floats the long distance to the ground.

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We admired the fall and the way the volatile river tore off in the opposite direction through the boulders and thick forest of Yoho Valley. After a short while by the fall we casually strolled back to the parking lot. Then we took Yoho Valley Road south, back to the Trans-Canada Highway.

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