Beautiful Hike to Wapta Falls Yoho National Park British Columbia

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In July I took a solo road trip from Calgary to Golden BC and enjoyed 10 days exploring the area. There are lots of great hiking and biking trails in and around Golden. The town is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and the location provides easy access to several national parks in BC and Alberta. I chose Wapta Falls as my first hike – it’s about a 30 minute drive east of Golden.

And Wapta Falls is gorgeous!

So worth the effort to hike to the waterfall!

Just do it :)

Keep reading for all the info you need to hike Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park.

Wapta Falls Hike Yoho National Park Prettiest Waterfall in BC

Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park

The waterfall is in Yoho National Park – one of seven national parks in BC. It’s an easy hike to Wapta Falls and so worth it!

This waterfall is amazing. While hiking this trail you get to see the waterfall from above and from the shoreline of Kicking Horse River.

Wapta Falls at Kicking Horse River BC

Wapta Falls at Kicking Horse River makes a perfect day trip from Golden or Field BC

Wapta Falls facts

  • Largest waterfall on the Kicking Horse River
  • 30 m (98 ft) high
  • 150 m (492 ft) wide
Wapta Falls trail sign

Wapta Falls trail sign in Yoho National Park

Getting to Wapta Falls

From Golden

Take BC-95 N for 2 km then turn right onto the Trans-Canada Hwy 1A eastbound and continue for 30 km (18 miles)

Watch for the Wapta Falls sign and turn right – continue about 1.5 km to the parking lot.

From Banff

From Banff to Wapta Falls is 110 km (68 miles) and takes about 75 minutes to drive. Take the Trans-Canada Hwy 1A west to Yoho National Park west boundary, turn around and drive eastbound on Hwy 1A for about 3 km, watch for the Wapta Falls sign.

NOTE: There is no signage for Wapta Falls when heading west on the Trans-Canada Hwy 1A because there is no left-turn lane for westbound traffic.

View of Wapta Falls BC from above

View of Wapta Falls BC from above

Hiking Wapta Falls Trail

  • Duration: 4.6 km (2.9 miles) round trip
  • Type of hike: Out and back
  • Elevation gain: 30 m (98 ft)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Are dogs allowed on Wapta Falls trail? Yes dogs are allowed but must be on leash at all times
  • Facilities: Pit toilets at trailhead
Wapta Falls Yoho National Park

Beautiful Wapta Falls is your reward on this hiking trail in Yoho National Park

Along with the 10 essentials that you should bring on every hike I would also take insect repellent to the Wapta Falls hike. The mosquitoes can be relentless, especially after rainfall.

On my hike there was a short rain shower followed by mosquitoes in abundance.

Also bring shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty because sections of the trail will likely have some muddy areas. And bring a picnic lunch for the perfect picnic by a waterfall.

Muddy trail to Wapta Falls in Yoho park

Muddy trail to Wapta Falls in Yoho park

The Wapta Falls trail is a beautiful hike through the forest with little elevation gain at the beginning.

Towards the end of the hike there is a section of moderate elevation gain and a fenced area overlooking the Wapta waterfall.

Moss and mushrooms on Wapta Falls trail

Moss and mushrooms on Wapta Falls trail

Take in the scenery and then continue down to the river – there are two trails to choose from.

The trail to the left descends sharply and gets you to the river quick. The trail to the right includes a switchback so the descent is mild, and it only takes a few minutes longer.

Pebbles at shoreline Kicking Horse River

The pebbled shoreline of the Kicking Horse River

Now the views of the waterfall are even more spectacular by the river. Wapta is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Canada.

It’s my favorite in the Rockies – I like it even more than Johnston Canyon, my former fave waterfall hike in the Canadian Rockies.

View from across the Kicking Horse River to Wapta Falls

View from across the Kicking Horse River to Wapta Falls

What I love about Wapta Falls is the width of the falls, it’s really a grand sight to see! Most of the waterfalls around BC and Alberta are punchbowl or plunge waterfalls, although Takakkaw Falls is an amazing horsetail waterfall – also close to Golden.

Wapta is a block waterfall – the falls drop from a wide section of the Kicking Horse River and creates a thunderous sound with large amounts of spray.

Beautiful Wapta waterfall Yoho park Canada

Beautiful Wapta waterfall Yoho park Canada

Bring a picnic lunch. After hiking down to the river there is a lot of room to enjoy a picnic lunch with the waterfall in view.

There is even a little sandy beach towards the end where you cannot go further alongside the river. A couple of logs make great benches for your picnic or rest spot.

Beautiful waterfall in BC Canada

Wapta Falls is a beautiful sight in the Yoho National Park

I’ve seen photos of Wapta Falls in the winter so you could hike this trail in the snow. Remember to bring crampons if you hike in winter. Check the trail conditions at Parks Canada before you drive to the trailhead.

Kicking Horse River Yoho National Park

Kicking Horse River Yoho National Park

Be careful with Google’s directions

If you use Google Maps and you only enter “Wapta Falls” you may get directions to the logging road like I did. Google Maps had me turning at the Beaverfoot Rd and driving on a dirt and gravel road then announced “you’ve arrived” while in the middle of nowhere basically. I thought that I should take a side road that I just passed so I returned to take the turn-off but only drove around 200 m when a huge pothole filled with water caused me to turn around.

I saw a couple of tents setup along this road and there is a view of Wapta Falls from this side evidently. While I suppose I could have hiked to the falls from this location, although nowhere to park without blocking the road. Also, I didn’t care to hike alone in bear country on a backcountry trail.

Looking at the Google Maps again I noticed the error and searched again with “Wapta Falls trailhead” and received the correct directions. On Google Maps it’s listed as “Wapta Falls Main Trail” so make sure you pick that one from the search results if you are looking for directions to Wapta Falls.

Back on the gravel road a grader was leveling the recently dumped sand/gravel mix on the road. I drove in the oncoming lane because I thought my little Yaris would get stuck in the dirt. After getting back on the Trans-Canada it was a short drive to the Wapta trailhead.

Plant growing from Burgess Shale

Plant growing from the shale. The Burgess Shale in the Rocky Mountains is loaded with fossils

Full day trip from Golden

When I hiked Wapta Falls I chose to make a day of it and drive onward a few kilometers to Field BC to enjoy an excellent lunch at Truffle Pigs Bistro. I always stop at Truffle Pigs when I get a chance – great food and the location is gorgeous! Field British Columbia is one of the prettiest towns in Canada.

After my lunch of mixed berry pie and Poke salad I drove back westbound on the Trans-Canada highway and took the turnoff for Emerald Lake and Natural Bridge.

These are two of nature’s best sites in the Yoho park. You can hike around Emerald Lake for wonderful views of the mountains and mirror images reflected onto Emerald Lake.

The Natural Bridge at Kicking Horse River is an amazing spot. The flow of the water eroded away much of the rock at one point – leaving a natural bridge across the Kicking Horse.

Both Emerald Lake and Natural Bridge get crowded with tourists in the summer high season. Your best bet to avoid crowds is to visit midweek, early in the morning or around dinner time.

Have a look at this map of Yoho National Park from Parks Canada to familiarize yourself with the area.

Island within Kicking Horse River BC

Island within Kicking Horse River BC

What to Bring Hiking to Wapta Falls

Wear hiking shoes or sneakers with good grip on the sole. The trail is often muddy.

Bring your refillable water bottle – I always bring two stainless steel water bottles. One is small so I have a reserve 40 oz water bottle in my backpack.

Bug Spray– or the mosquitoes may enjoy a picnic lunch at your expense. I have tried the non-DEET stuff and it didn’t work at all. So I went back to using the DEET insect repellent. Remember that using DEET insect spray also protects against ticks!

Sunscreen – especially on sunny days but also for overcast days too – protect your skin from UV rays.

Sunhat or baseball cap is always a good idea when hiking – protection from the sun, rain, and ticks.

Pack something to eat at the waterfall or along the trail. I like to bring pumpkin seeds, also beef jerky, crackers, fruit, and cookies. But you may want to pack a full picnic lunch.

Bring a small backpack to carry your picnic lunch and other supplies for the hike. It’s best to buy a waterproof backpack or bring a large plastic bag to cover the backpack if it starts raining during your hike.

Remember it’s always a good idea to pack the 10 Essentials on every hike. You don’t want to get caught off guard – lacking the basic supplies like waterproof matches or a compass when you really need it!

Bear spray is another essential when you are hiking in bear country. I carry mine clipped to my backpack waist strap so that I can access it easily. Remember that you cannot bring bear spray on an airplane. So far I’ve been okay bringing it in my car while crossing back and forth at the USA-Canada border.

Tip: If you are staying at a hotel ask at the front desk if they have any extra bear spray. A lot of travelers will leave theirs behind since they can’t take it on a plane.

Summary of Wapta Falls hike

Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park is an easy hiking trail and good for solo hikers or families with kids. Allow 90 minutes to 2 hours to enjoy some time at the waterfall by the Kicking Horse River.

Related posts about British Columbia hiking trails:

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Wapta Falls Hiking Trail Yoho National Park Canada

Wapta Falls Yoho National Park Prettiest Waterfall British Columbia

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling solo around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 5 of a solo road trip around the USA and Canada, living a nomadic life, and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

2 Replies

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  1. Jo Harmon says:

    Absolutely gorgeous mountains and waterfalls.

    • Hi Jo! Thanks for stopping by the blog. The power of the waterfall was amazing – all those negative ions put you in a good mood for sure – and the scenery is stunning in Yoho National Park. I hope to get one more visit there this summer before I head south again. Cheers, Susan

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