Takakkaw Falls was probably my favorite waterfall of our September 2010 Canadian Rockies trip. It's said to drop majestically some 258m in total height with even a waterwheel near its top (where the water actually would get thrown up before falling down). Watching this waterfall was almost like watching falling water in slow motion. For some reason, tall waterfalls with volume seem to have a tendency to do this to my mind, but I reckon it might have to do with that striking waterwheel that kind of force me to pay attention to the water's trajectory as it made its dramatic plunge.
Takakkaw Falls was fairly straightforward for us to visit. The drive was well-signposted (see directions below), and the mostly paved nature walk from the car park to its base was also very easy. I recalled that we took about 10-15 minutes even though we were taking our time. And going slow on this walk was real easy to do because we were able to see the waterfall for almost the whole time from beginning to end. Of course all this accessibility came at a price as it was real popular and busy. The only time it wasn't so busy was when we happened to be here when the weather turned real bad and was pouring.
Prior to crossing the bridge on the walk to its base, we saw an interesting relief map providing a sense of the terrain and how the waterfalls in Yoho Valley were fed (mostly by hanging glaciers or glacial lakes apparently). Even at the head of Yoho Valley, we noticed the Yoho Glacier. However, it was somewhat distant and even noticing it depended on the weather and how many trees would get in the way of the view.
Another sign nearby the map said that the word "takakkaw" meant "magnificent" in the Cree language (which I'd imagine was one of the First Nations People, or Native Americans in Canada). I reckoned that was a rather appropriate adjective, don't you think?
There was also a short path going up an incline to an alternate overlook from across the Yoho River with a nice contextual view of Takakkaw Falls towering high above the trees all around the basin (see photo at the top of this page).
Across the bridge, the path continued towards the rocky base of Takakkaw Falls where we could really get a sense of how puny we were compared to the falls. We were even able to look downstream across the valley at other mountains as well as another cascade.
Julie and I actually visited this waterfall twice during our Canadian Rockies trip. The first time, we had to contend with a heavy downpour. Even though we had rain ponchos on, we had lots of trouble trying to take photos with my DSLR camera (droplets would keep getting onto the lens and I feared moisture might get into the grooves of the zoom lens). It was also fruitless to take self-portrait couple shots under such conditions. Needless to say, the open air nature of this falls made it a rather difficult bad weather excursion.
On the next day, we showed up in better weather and were able to do the things we weren't able to do the day before. Moral of the story: give yourself time and be flexible in your trip planning in case you do run into some bad weather.
Directions: From the Lake Louise turnoff on Hwy 1, continue driving on Hwy 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) for 23km (bypassing the Hwy 93 turnoff in 3km north of Lake Louise turnoff). The highway will descend into a scenic valley where the road flattens out and there will be a well-signed turnoff on your right leading to Takakkaw Falls.
Take that turnoff and follow it for another 16km to the end of the road, where there's a large car park devoted to the falls. As you drive further into Yoho Valley, there is a set of two switchbacks that would test the turn radius of the car you're driving. It seemed especially apparent with RVs and campervans having to make these hairpin turns.
With less than 3km or so to go, you will be able to see the falls to your right high above the trees in the foreground giving you a sense of its scale.
However, as you're drawn to Takakkaw Falls and can't wait to get closer, keep in mind that there is another twisting cascade on the opposite side of the valley (to the left) known as Whiskey Jack Falls according to my map. There is some makeshift shoulders to stop the car and take photos of the falls, but given its twisting nature and unfortunate position near Takakkaw Falls, I think of this as more for waterfall collectors.
Note that for reference, the turnoff for Lake Louise is about 55km north of Banff (or 58km north of Banff to the Hwy 93/Hwy 1 junction).
Some beautiful mountains seen on the way into Yoho Valley
The falls from the rainy car park
Julie on the wet and rainy walkway to the falls
Julie crossing the bridge over the Yoho River before the falls
The falls in the heavy rain from the alternate overlook across the Yoho River
Approaching the falls in the downpour
Here's another look at the paved walkway just to give you an idea of how easy the walk was
This cascade is Whiskey Jack Falls. You'll pass right in front of it as you near the car park for Takakkaw Falls
Julie approaching the base of the falls under much better weather than the day before.
Looking downstream away from the falls. If you look closely, you might notice Whiskey Jack Falls across the valley
At the base of the towering waterfall. Julie and I noticed there was a dude dressed in orange who actually climbed quite a ways up the very steep wall. I wouldn't recommend doing it since the view of the falls doesn't improve. Perhaps, he was trying to improve his view of across the valley?