The Takakkaw Falls are located in Yoho National Park, near the small town of Field, B.C. The highest point of the falls are 384 meters from the its base. This makes it the second highest waterfall in Canada. The falls are fed by the Daly Glacier which is part of the Waputik Icefield.
Takakkaw Falls can be reached from the East by following the Trans-Canada Highway for 23 kilometers past Lake Louise. 5km’s into B.C. the highway starts a steep descent and at the bottom of the hill watch for a sign that says Yoho Valley Road and Takakkaw Falls 1.5 km. The road will be on your right hand side, but there are no further signs marking that it is Yoho Valley Road. We ended up driving past it not knowing if it was the correct place to turn off the highway. If you end up reaching the town of Field you’ll know you’ve gone too far.
From the West the turn off will be on your left 2km’s past the town of Field. Again there is only the one sign on the highway indicating the turn for the falls is ahead. It also says Yoho Valley Road and Takakkaw Falls.
The Yoho Valley road has some narrow sections and two very steep switchbacks. It is not something you want to attempt in a large RV or with a long trailer. Even smaller RV’s and some large trucks have to navigate a portion of the switchbacks by driving backwards. There’s a sign at the base of them with picture instructions on how to do it. Trailers can be left at a designated drop off area near the start of the road across from the Monarch Campground. The road usually opens in the last week of June and closes for the season in October after the first snowfall.
The drive to and from the falls is quite scenic. It follows the river and offers views of the mountains along the way. You get a glimpse of the falls as you start to reach the end of the 13km drive. The first view is impressive and it improves as you get closer. From the parking lot area there is a trail that heads to the right. It takes you along the river and over a bridge to get closer to the falls. There are a number of other hikes in the area. Near the bridge there is a sign marking other trails.
Once across the bridge a trail takes you right up to the falls. It goes through some interesting looking vegetation. You might even see a few little squirrels along the way. As you get closer the thunderous sound of the water gets overwhelming. I don’t know if it is always windy and misty, but as we got closer we got soaked by the off spray being given off. It’s pretty difficult to take a picture when your entire lens coated in water droplets the second you face it towards the falls. We were here later in the day in the last hours of light. I think anytime of the day would offer good photo opportunities of the falls. When the sun is shining on the mist of the falls you can witness some spectacular rainbow effects.
Takakkaw Falls is unique in the way that the top of it blasts off of a rock ledge. If you get a side angled view of it you can see it actually projects outwards from the face of the cliff before plummeting downwards.
We didn’t stay for more than a few minutes at the end of the trail, the noise, wind and constant spray of mist are enough to make you feel dizzy. We made our way back towards the bridge looking like a couple of drowned rats. We giggled to ourselves as we walked past people coming towards the falls. Like us, they had no idea what they were in for up ahead.
On Yoho Valley road there are a few options for camping and accommodation. This might be a nice place to base yourself while exploring Yoho National Park. It’s also in close vicinity of Lake Louise and attractions of that area.
Take note that a fee is required to visit the park.
The Spiral Tunnels are not very exciting to see if your visit to them doesn’t coincide with a train going through them. However, they are an engineering marvel and the only tunnels of their kind in North America. Located 8 km’s east of the town of Field there is a pullout right off the highway that serves as a viewing spot for the tunnels.
The engineering designers for the Canadian Pacific Railway have to be given credit for designing this remarkable tunnel system that allows the trains safely through the steep grade of the Kicking Horse Pass. The route curves and spirals over itself inside the mountain. When a long enough train goes through the tunnels it actually criss-crosses under itself.
When the railway was originally built this section of it was known as the “Big Hill.” The grade was the steepest for any railway in North America at 4 percent. Most railway grades don’t exceed much beyond 2 percent. Four extra engines were required to push the trains up the hill and several runaway lines had to be put in at the bottom of it. Remains of the several accidents are still visible near the Kicking Horse Campground. The Spiral Tunnels were built adding an extra 10km’s to the route, but allowing the trains to safely navigate the pass by reducing its grade down to 2.2 percent.
We have driven past the viewpoint several times, but never made an effort to stop. The last time we drove past it a train was moving along side the highway near the town of Field. We knew we would make it to the tunnel viewpoint before it did, so we decided to stop. It is quite fascinating to see a train go through the tunnel system. There are some plaques and displays at the viewpoint telling the history of the railway and how the tunnel system works.