Wapta Falls

Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

About Wapta Falls


Hiking Distance: 3.2km round trip
Suggested Time: 90-120 minutes

Date first visited: 2010-09-16
Date last visited: 2010-09-16

Waterfall Latitude: 51.18712
Waterfall Longitude: -116.57583

Wapta Falls was a wide river-type waterfall that pleasantly surprised Julie and I though we did get into a little bit of an adventure just trying to find it.

In any case, it’s said to be 30m high and 150m wide, which would back up our impressions that it was a pretty grand waterfall.

Wapta_Falls_037_09162010 - Wapta Falls
Wapta Falls

And since it was on the fairly sizable Kicking Horse River, for sure this waterfall would have year-round flow so even our late Summer-early Autumn visit in September 2010 didn’t disappoint.

In fact, the Autumn colors seemed to have added to our experience both on the trail and at the falls itself!

I recalled the hiking was about 1.6km each way (or 3.2km [2 miles] round trip).

It took Julie and I two hours to hike to the Wapta Falls, enjoy it, and hike back to the car park.

Hiking to an overlook of Wapta Falls

Wapta_Falls_014_09162010 - Looking along at the context of the fenced overlook as the trail descended above Wapta Falls and the Kicking Horse River
Looking along at the context of the fenced overlook as the trail descended above Wapta Falls and the Kicking Horse River

The hike to Wapta Falls was mostly flat (or with a slight uphill) for at least the first kilometer as we were flanked by pretty Autumn colors on the foliage of low-lying bush and trees.

The trail was mostly quiet until we got closer to the Kicking Horse River when we could start to hear the rush of water.

Eventually, the trail quickly descended along a fenced area with a view above and over the falls.

Even though we were able to see Wapta Falls somewhat from this spot, there were better views to be had further down the trail.

Julie stayed behind at this point due to the trail’s steepness.

Wapta_Falls_016_09162010 - Looking down over the top of Wapta Falls from the first fenced overlook. Note the eroded 'island' where the Kicking Horse River might have cut around the island's edges over the years
Looking down over the top of Wapta Falls from the first fenced overlook. Note the eroded ‘island’ where the Kicking Horse River might have cut around the island’s edges over the years

Typically she could do the rest of the trail with me, but since she was pregnant, it was wise not to take the chance of a bad fall.

Descending to the bottom of Wapta Falls

So a short distance further down the trail, there was a fork where the path on the left descended steeply in a narrow but well-worn path.

The path straight ahead seemed to be the official trail, but I opted to take the narrow path on the left.

But this time, the view was more of an angled profile perspective (see photo below) that yielded somewhat satisfactory views, but it left me wanting more.

So beyond this vantage point, the trail continued to descend where there was even an open outcrop that let me appreciate the width of the falls as well as the colorful pools left behind from its spreading mist (see photo at the top of this page).

Wapta_Falls_028_09162010 - Side view of Wapta Falls from the fenced area overlooking the Kicking Horse River and the waterfall itself
Side view of Wapta Falls from the fenced area overlooking the Kicking Horse River and the waterfall itself

I noticed from here that there was a hill blocking most of the mist from the Wapta Falls.

Thus, I could only imagine just how much wetter and mistier (and perhaps inaccessible) the base of the falls would’ve been had that hill not been there.

And after a few minutes of doing so (where there was some minor dropoff exposure), I reached another fenced overlook.

It looked as if that hill was actively being eroded away from a combination of the pounding that the Wapta Falls would give it on the side facing it as well as water channels that would cut around that hill when the river would be in flood.

Wapta_Falls_047_09162010 - Context of the spray bombarding the basin of the Kicking Horse River just downstream of Wapta Falls and its hill obstruction
Context of the spray bombarding the basin of the Kicking Horse River just downstream of Wapta Falls and its hill obstruction

In addition to the continuation of the river on the falls’ far right side, I noticed there was a notch near the left side of the falls that further attested to this constant erosion on that hill fronting Wapta Falls.

Continuing further downhill, I eventually made it to the bottom where a faint path continued on the left side towards the opening that was sheltered by the hill.

That misty notch on the left side of the hill was practically impossible to take a photo from (at least not without risk of water damage to the camera) given the funneling of the spray through that notch.

Meanwhile, with some minor stream scrambling, I was also able to scramble to the far side of the waterfall sheltered by the hill.

Wapta_Falls_050_09162010 - Broad and direct view of Wapta Falls mostly seen through the notch in the hill obstruction on its left side as seen from the basin of the Kicking Horse River after having made it to the bottom of the hike
Broad and direct view of Wapta Falls mostly seen through the notch in the hill obstruction on its left side as seen from the basin of the Kicking Horse River after having made it to the bottom of the hike

That was where I spotted another path scrambling up that side of the hill for a misty in-your-face view of Wapta Falls.

At least the mist there wasn’t as bad as the little notch opening on the left side of the hill.

As a result of that hill obstacle that helped to shelter me from the mist, I was never able to get that all encompassing frontal view of the Wapta Falls.

However, I can only imagine how the situation would change completely if that hill were to be gone.

Wapta_Falls_057_09162010 - Looking right at the front of Wapta Falls with some peaks momentarily revealing themselves amidst the cloud cover
Looking right at the front of Wapta Falls with some peaks momentarily revealing themselves amidst the cloud cover

I often wondered how much time it would take before that hill would completely erode away.

In any case, I went back up the way I came to rejoin Julie and complete the out-and-back hike.

However, I did notice other people who reached the basin area further downstream.

I believe this was where that path I didn’t take ultimately would’ve gone.

That path was probably the more official path judging by its width and gentle grade.

The one I took almost felt like a scramble and I figured it would probably be more prone to closure due to exposure to dropoffs, tree roots, and erosion.

Authorities

Wapta Falls resides in Yoho National Park near Golden or Field in the province of British Columbia, Canada. It is administered by Parks Canada. For information or inquiries as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Wapta_Falls_006_09162010 - At the official trailhead leading to the Wapta Falls
Wapta_Falls_009_09162010 - Nice Autumn foliage while Julie and I were hiking near the start of the trail for Wapta Falls
Wapta_Falls_010_09162010 - Given some of the foul weather we encountered on our Canadian Rockies trip in September 2010, there were puddles left behind that we had to navigate our way through to pursue Wapta Falls
Wapta_Falls_012_09162010 - Julie further along the forested trail to Wapta Falls, where this stretch seemed more open and less muddy
Wapta_Falls_022_09162010 - Sideways view of Wapta Falls as seen from the second fenced overlook, which was a bit below the first one
Wapta_Falls_029_09162010 - Broad profile view of Wapta Falls in long exposure from that second fenced overlook on the trail going down to the basin of the Kicking Horse River
Wapta_Falls_041_09162010 - Misty long exposure shot of Wapta Falls as I got closer to the bottom. That hill fronting the falls blocked a good deal of mist, but it also kept me from seeing the waterfall's entirety
Wapta_Falls_051_09162010 - Looking across a mist pool supplied by Wapta Falls, which is showing part of itself through the notch on the left side of the hill
Wapta_Falls_053_09162010 - Partial long exposure shot of Wapta Falls from the top of the hill obstruction
Wapta_Falls_061_09162010 - Last contextual look across Wapta Falls and the basin of the Kicking Horse River on my way back up to the trailhead
Wapta_Falls_063_09162010 - Back at one of the fenced overlooks revealing Wapta Falls' profile
Wapta_Falls_066_09162010 - Lots more pretty Autumn colors as we started hiking back to the car after having had our fill of the Wapta Falls

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


We reached the car park at the trailhead for Wapta Falls by driving about 25km south of the hamlet of Field.

Field was a short distance east of the Emerald Lake turnoff or 23km west of the Icefields Parkway [Hwy 93] junction with Hwy 1 just 3km north of the Lake Louise turnoff.

Wapta_Falls_007_09162010 - The somewhat spacious car park for the trailhead to Wapta Falls
The somewhat spacious car park for the trailhead to Wapta Falls

The unsealed turnoff for Wapta Falls was on the left side (as we headed south and west on Hwy 1) leading the final 2km to the waterfall’s car park.

Even though Julie and I thought Wapta Falls was pretty straightforward to see, we almost missed experiencing the falls the way we described it above in this write-up.

The reason why was because the signposted turnoff leading to the car park was not visible going west on Hwy 1 (i.e. the way we were headed), but it was definitely visible heading east on Hwy 1.

Initially, we ended up getting off at the unsealed Beaverfoot Road (another 5.7km west of the official turnoff for Wapta Falls), which seemed remote.

Ultimately, we ended up with a real distant and partial view of the falls after driving 10km on the unsealed road, which had its share of potholes.

Wapta_Falls_002_09162010 - Distant view of Wapta Falls from a picnic site after having taken the wrong exit onto Beaverfoot Road and following this remote road aimlessly
Distant view of Wapta Falls from a picnic site after having taken the wrong exit onto Beaverfoot Road and following this remote road aimlessly

This was an instance where it paid to not listen to the GPS, which led us here in the first place.

But it definitely didn’t help given the lack of signage in a particular direction of travel either.

For additional context, Lake Louise was about 57km (45 minutes drive) north of Banff, 182km (2 hours drive) west of Calgary, 232km (3 hours drive) south of Jasper, and 469km (4.5 hours drive) southwest of Edmonton.

Left to right sweep looking over the top of the falls as well as some pools accumulating from its mist


Fixated on the falls


Bottom Left to right sweep while getting blasted by its mist


Circular clockwise sweep starting from the right side looking directly at the falls from the top of the hill opposite the falls

Tagged with: yoho, national park, columbia, shuswap, british columbia, canada, waterfall, canadian rockies, lake louise, kicking horse river



Visitor Comments:

No users have replied to the content on this page


Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall


Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.