The wide, shallow Kicking Horse River will concentrate at Wapta Falls
There are waterfalls, interesting places to stop and snack on the way to a summit. And there are WATERFALLS
, awe inspiring objectives in there own right. Wapta Falls is one of the latter – primeval, tremendous, and one that allows unmatched close up inspection of its grandeur.
The approach hike is trivial, a flat meadow and forest affair that looks more like the Canadian Plains than the Canadian Rockies.
But the payoff for so little effort is jaw dropping: The Kicking Horse river collecting its shallow wide spread self into a rock destroying torrent. Wapta is the third largest in Canada, by water volume.
While a perfect hike any time you have 2 hours or so, this is a perfect rainy day hike, as you will get wet anyway if you choose to get close to the falls.
North of Lake Louise take the Trans-Canada Highway west toward Yoho and Golden. The road that leads to the trail head is on the south side of the highway, about 15.5 miles past the town of Field. Look hard because I missed it once - it is not well signed in 2004. Follow the dirt road to the end where the trail begins.
Park, get out of your car, and saunter down the flat, mostly straight trail (1.5 miles one way). For most this will be disappointingly non-descript. The second time I did this hike, I told my friend Dennis that this trail lead to ’a pretty little waterfall’ to setup a surprise. But very soon the roar of the falls builds just as you reach the overlook: Wapta Falls' huge bulk of water slamming down, its force leaving large cleaved off sections of rock as it eats its way up stream. I have seen no other falls that had the evidence of its power so readily displayed. The falls are just shy of 100 feet high and are 490 feet wide.
Wapta Falls tremendous flow and the rock sections it has cleaved off over time.
But to truly experience the falls, do not stop at the overlook. Locate the small forest path that winds its fragrant, forested way down from the overlook to the river downstream of the falls.
Wapta Falls from downstream, near where the small trail found at the overlook leads.
From here it is easy to walk back upstream to the falls, and ‘summit’ the cleaved off chuck of rock closest to the falls. You will get very wet if you are not dressed for rain. The force and power of these falls is fun and exciting to experience so close up.
Wapta Falls 'Summit'
This is a memorable hike that I have found worth repeating.
Rain gear to 'summit' would be advisable, other wise nothing else required.
I first saw this hike listed in the book 'Don't waste your time in the Canadian Rockies' by Kathy Copeland. Highly reccommended.