Hamilton Falls, British Columbia

Hamilton Falls British Columbia (3)

Hamilton Falls in September 2014

Yoho National Park in British Columbia has a number of impressive waterfalls: Takakkaw Falls and Wapta Falls are two great examples. But there are a number of smaller, though still beautiful waterfalls in the park.

The hike to Hamilton Falls starts at a stunningly beautiful lake, Emerald Lake, which gets its name from the beautiful color of the water. Instead of heading toward the lake, which is still an easy stop, you’ll turn toward the mountains/hills and follow the trail to Hamilton Falls. The hike is rather short, and isn’t very difficult. The amount of water flowing over the falls wasn’t large, but there was something ethereal about the way the water carved a path through the rock. It’s not as impressive as some of the other waterfalls in the park, but I found it to be a worthwhile excursion.

Directions:

  1. From Trans-Canadian Highway 1 near Field, there will be a turn onto Emerald Lake Road. If you’re headed west, it would be a right turn.
  2. Once on Emerald Lake Road, continue to the very end of the road, where you’ll encounter a parking lot and Emerald Lake. You’ll pass by Natural Bridge Falls on the way.
  3. From the parking lot, head west toward Hamilton Falls.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 100′
Length of Hike: 0.9 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Hamilton Falls?

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Takakkaw Falls, British Columbia

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Takakkaw Falls in September 2014

I’m not even sure I can accurately describe the awesomeness that is Takakkaw Falls. At 1250′ tall, Takakkaw Falls is one of those waterfalls that’s stunning and yet difficult to capture it’s true height.

Takakkaw Falls is found in Yoho National Park, which is a stunningly beautiful park in British Columbia. (Banff National Park is right across the “border” in Alberta, and you should plan to visit both parks simultaneously.) In Yoho, there are a number of impressive waterfalls. While Wapta Falls is nowhere near as tall, it is much wider. Takakkaw wins in the height department, though.

The road to the falls is narrow and winding (and only open for a few months in the summer), with some surprisingly sharp curves. Once you get to the falls, though, it’s smooth sailing. There’s no real hike required to get to the falls, but you can walk on the trails to get a much closer view. If you look at the picture, you just might notice some red dots near the base of the falls, which are people getting a better look.

While you’re already rewarded with a great view of Takakkaw Falls, Whiskey Jack Falls is across the road. If you plan far enough in advance, you could even stay at the hostel near the falls. If you want to hike further (which I didn’t do), there are four other waterfalls along another trail that starts at Takakkaw Falls. (It’s a 10 mile round trip hike…)

Directions:

  1. From the Trans-Canadian Highway 1, take Yoho Valley Road north to Takakkaw Falls. (The signs for Takakkaw Falls are very obvious.)
  2.  The parking are for the falls will be on your right, and you’ll be able to see Takakkaw Falls from there. There’s a trail that leads you much closer to the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 1250′
Hike: not applicable

Where in the World is Takakkaw Falls?

Whiskey Jack Falls, British Columbia

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Whiskey Jack Falls in September 2014

Anywhere else, Whiskey Jack would probably be its own destination. But, understandably so, it ends up being second fiddle to the much larger and more impressive Takakkaw Falls. It’s best quality, though, is that even with Takakkaw Falls nearby, it’s still very easy to find.

The drive down Yoho Valley Road leads to both Takakkaw Falls and Whiskey Jack Falls is easy enough, though it is only open in the summer months. (Check Yoho National Park’s website for opening/closing dates. Takakkaw Falls is the main attraction, but Whiskey Jack Falls is almost as obvious. It’s just further away from the road and no trail leads to the falls (that I know of). It’s one of those falls I wouldn’t drive out my way to visit by itself, but it’s an added bonus to another amazing waterfall I would absolutely drive to.

Directions:

  1. From the Trans-Canadian Highway 1, take Yoho Valley Road north to Takakkaw Falls. (The signs for Takakkaw Falls are very obvious.)
  2.  Look for the falls on the left (if you’re heading north).

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: ~200′
Hike: not applicable

Where in the World is Whiskey Jack Falls?

Wapta Falls, British Columbia

I had somehow misread how far I was going to have to hike to view Wapta Falls. I thought it was a roadside waterfall, so when I arrived to see a sign that said it was a 2.4 km hike, I hesitated for a very brief second. But then I thought to myself, “It’s early, the first hike of the day…This shouldn’t be any issue.” And it wasn’t. There are parts of the hike that are more uphill and downhill that I might have expected, but it was totally worth it. The reward is a 330′ wide waterfall. The height is said to be 100′ tall, but I’m inclined to agree with the World Waterfall Database that about 60′ seems more like it.

Wapta Falls is still massive in size. I might not completely trust the sign at the trail head concerning water volume, but I would hazard to guess it’s in the top 5 in Canada. Just having a lot of water flowing over doesn’t necessarily make a waterfall interesting to me, though. What I found fascinating about this waterfall was the variety of different viewpoints that produced uniquely different photographs. When you’re above the crest of the falls, you’ll probably get the most complete view, except for the far right portion of the falls.

If you continue down to the base of the falls, you’ll struggle to completely see the falls, but you’ll get some interesting view of the falls with the mountains in the background. And if you climb the “rock island” directly in front of the falls, you’ll be able to see most of the falls in amazing detail, but you’ll have about 1 second to take a photograph before your camera and/or glasses are just completely covered with spray from the falls. There’s another point on the left side where there’s an opening in the “island”, and you can actually view the falls free from spray, though that may have been due to wind conditions. It’s a really fascinating waterfall, and with Takakkaw Falls (at 1200’+) nearby, it’s a great waterfall day.

A note about directions: I lucked out. The book I had made it clear that there was no access to the Wapta Falls Road if you’re headed WEST along Trans-Canada Highway 1. (If you knew the correct location, you might be able to turn, but there’s no sign in the westbound direction. I was in Golden, BC, so on the way back on the eastbound route, the sign was very clear. If you’re headed west, there is a place to turn around a few kilometers later.

Directions:

  1. Headed eastbound along Trans-Canada Highway 1, enter Yoho National Park. A few kilometers after entering the park, you’ll see a sign for Wapta Falls on your right.
  2. Turn onto the unpaved road to the Wapta Falls trail head. It’s a 2 km drive, and it isn’t terrible, though you will have to navigate some potholes. It’s a straight shot ending at the trail head.
  3. It’s a 2.4 km one-way hike from the trail head. It’s easy for the first half, and then suddenly starts climbing uphill and downhill for the second half. As you approach the falls, there is one brief portion that is moderately steep.
  4. Keep following the trail to the base of the falls. The trail is safer than I expected it to be, though as usual, be careful!

Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate)
Height: 58′
Length of Hike: 3.0 miles round-trip

Wapta Falls from above the crest (September 2014)

Wapta Falls from the base

Wapta Falls from the base

Where in the World is Wapta Falls?

Shannon Falls, British Columbia

Shannon Falls in August 2010

Shannon Falls just goes to show how deceiving waterfalls can be. Looking at pictures of the falls, it doesn’t look like an extremely tall waterfall, and yet Shannon Falls is actually one of the tallest waterfalls in British Columbia. At approximately 820′ tall, it’s a wildly impressive waterfall. Only when you’re standing near it do you begin to realize how small you are compared to this falls.

It’s a complex waterfall, and because of that, it can be somewhat difficult to photograph the whole falls. That is what likely makes it seem “shorter.” The lower portion of the falls is completely lost from view in the picture to the right. To get a better view of the lower portion of the falls, you sacrifice views of the upper portion. There are multiple different places to view the falls. A number of paths form what seemed like a loop that leads away from the falls and then comes back around near the base. The base of the falls allows for some exploring. Wedding photography was taking place near the falls when I visited, and I can’t deny that it was a really spectacular place to visit.

Directions:

  1. I want to say that this is a pretty hard waterfall to miss, though you might only be able to see it from BC-99 at certain angles.  That doesn’t change the fact that it is found right off of BC-99, approximately 58 km from Vancouver.  If you’re headed to Whistler, you’ll be passing by!  Heading north, the parking area for the falls will be on the right.  There is a $1 entrance fee for 1 hour (if I remember correctly), which was more than enough time to visit the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: ~820′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip (to viewpoint)

Where in the World is Shannon Falls?

McDonald Falls, British Columbia

McDonald Falls in August 2010

About 2 hours outside of downtown Vancouver, you can find Cascade Falls Regional Park. For mid-August, this park was relatively popular, though it does take some time to get to. The drive is really beautiful, though. If you’re looking for another waterfall that is relatively easy to visit, and yet has far fewer visitors, search for McDonald Falls. It’s only 2 miles or so from Cascade Falls.

After following the directions below, you’ll end up very close to the falls. You will have to hike downhill, and if I recall, there wasn’t an extremely clear, defined path. It was still not that difficult. I think there may have been two separate drops, and one of the drops was partially blocked by trees next to the creek. The other drop was far more visible. The photo next door may look different than what you experience, at least somewhat…I had a 55-200 mm lens that made it far more difficult to photograph the whole falls, and I had no wish to hike back up the hill, get the other lens, and repeat the process over again! It does require some effort!

Directions:

  1. If you’re coming from Transcanadian Highway 1, you’ll want to exit toward Mission onto BC-7.
  2. Drive east of Mission on BC-7 for about 6.5 km to Sylvester Rd.
  3. Turn left on Sylvester Rd. Head 13 km down Sylvester Rd.
  4. After a distance, you’ll see a sign for Cascade Falls. Keep heading down that road a short distance, where Lost Creek Forest Service Road starts. It’s a dirt road, so it’s pretty difficult to miss. McDonald Falls is about 1.3 miles down that road past the bridge over Munro Creek.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: 80′
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is McDonald Falls?

Moul Falls, British Columbia

Moul Falls in August 2010

I’m sure there are a number of more isolated waterfalls in Wells Gray Provincial Park, but of the most widely known falls near Clearwater Valley Road, Moul Falls might take the most effort to get to. Compared to Helmcken, Dawson, or Spahats Creek Falls, you do actually have to hike to get to the falls. It’s an almost 4 mile round-trip hike.

I don’t remember it being a difficult hike (which I usually remember if I suffered!). The bear signs at the beginning of the hike did freak me out for a second, but there were a number of other people on the trail, that I would have been surprised to see any bears. I do remember that as you get very close to your destination, you will have to climb down some rickety-looking stairs to get to the base, but it’s well worth it for the final view.

When I showed up, it was very sunny, so the falls were very bright. The spray from the falls created a rainbow near the base, but when I tried to capture it in the photograph, the falls became extremely bright. I think there’s a mild hint of the rainbow in this picture. It was really an enjoyable hike, and it is nice to be able to get closer to this waterfall than the others in the park.

Directions:

  1. From Clearwater, head north on Clearwater Valley Road for 13 miles.
  2. On your left, you will see the parking area for Moul Falls.  The parking areas not huge, but there’s probably enough room except on the busiest of days.  From there, follow the trail to the falls.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: 115′
Length of Hike: 3.6 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Moul Falls?