Twin Falls, Yoho National Park – A Backpacking Weekend

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Playing with slow shutter speeds – so glad I hauled my tripod in my backpack!

My friend Jody loves hiking but had never backpacked before so I picked an easier weekend route so she could try it out without me breaking her. This last part was particularly important. If I broke her she probably wouldn’t want to go again. We also needed a route where we could do the whole thing in two nights because she couldn’t take time off work. After looking at routes in the Monashees, Manning Park, and other areas close by I discovered Twin Falls in Yoho National Park and realized it would be perfect, and it was. 20160812_134625

I reserved for one night at the Twin Falls backcountry campground but the Takakaw Falls campground, a ‘sort of’ front country campground, can’t be reserved. When I talked to Parks Canada staff ahead of time they thought on a hot Friday in August it might be full by 2:00 pm or so. As a result, Jody and I were out the door by 6:00 am to make sure we got a spot.

We got there by about 11:30 and proceeded to get

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Takakaw Falls

a bit lost. Parks Canada isn’t known for their excellent signage. We got to the falls and drove through a maze of small roads crowded with cars and tour buses. Then we went through a parking lot that indicated it was for overnight parking but we couldn’t find the entrance to the campsite. We continued driving, thinking it would be further ahead, but ended up accidentally driving 10K back to two incredibly tight switchbacks on the main road before we turned around and tried again. It was only when we saw two people with big black wheelbarrows that we asked about the campsite. It turns out it’s not like most front country campsites in that you don’t park at your site. The campsites are about 500m from the parking lot. Now it made sense. We walked in and grabbed a site, leaving my jacket there to mark it. There is no attendant there, it’s all self registration. Now that we had that cleared up we set up camp and went for a walk to Takakaw Falls. There were tonnes of people visiting the falls but it was nice to get out and stretch and the falls and the river were spectacular.

The Takakaw Falls campsite has no map so it’s hard to see where there are empty spots and a lot of people were wandering around looking for space when we got back. We were very glad we got there when we did. The campsite is a good spot to stay for a few days and enjoy day hikes to Twin Falls, Laughing Falls, Yoho Valley, and the Whaleback. The campsite has running water that is drinkable and bear lockers, which were a nice feature.

Since it was hot that weekend we got up early the next day and set out for the Twin Falls campsite. It was only a little under 7Km so we took our time and enjoyed the amazing views. Basically any time I’m near water I’m a happy camper and the gorgeous white rapids we were following made my heart sing.

One of the small side trails led to the Angel’s Staircase. The trail was a bit muddy and we had to crawl over some logs so we decided not to continue with it. If we felt like it we could try on the way back. We got back on the trail and made our way up the steepest part to Laughing Falls. This part of the trail was a long uphill that looked like it was never going to end but I think it was only two kilometers or so. We saw lots of day hikers along that part of the route.

When we got to Laughing Falls, about 4 Km in, we were delighted. There is a lovely campsite there so we took off our packs, had lunch, met the Parks Canada warden who checked our trail passes, and enjoyed what is to me one of the most perfectly designed waterfalls ever. Good job mother nature! The falls are wonderful and it would be very well worth a day hike from Takakaw Falls. We pumped some water – Jody’s first time doing it, and kept going.

The trail is a bit steep but in no time we were making a short descent into the Twin Falls campground.

I think the Twin Falls campground is one of my favourite campgrounds ever. There are only maybe 10 sites and they are tucked in the trees so they feel very private even though they are close together. They are also right next to the river and the cooking / eating area. Nothing like Egypt Lake that required a hike to get to anything. The river itself is spectacular, a cascading series of rapids in a picturesque location. The sound of the water created a soothing backdrop that made everyone at the site, all friendly and relaxed, want to sit out at the picnic tables and just stare at the view. People talked, played cards, read, wrote, and enjoyed the good company and the beautiful scenery. I loved it. I could easily make the short(ish) hike to that site and stay for a few days just reading and writing.

The only problem I have with the campsite is the outhouse. It was pitch black, even in the middle of the day. We noticed the same thing at Laughing Falls. It’s not rocket science Parks Canada! Just poke some small holes in the top along the sides! I shouldn’t need a head lamp to go to the washroom on a bright sunny day!

Once we set up camp we made the 1.1 km hike on the steep uphill trail to Twin Falls. We had thoughts about doing the Whaleback trail, which would have been a few hours on extremely steep trails, and decided to save it for another time. It was hot and remember, I was trying not to break Jody. The hike up to the falls was enough. When we got there we decided to treat ourselves to tea at the Twin Falls Chalet.

The Twin Falls Chalet is a delightful oasis in the middle of the back country. It’s a historical gem and it’s perfect that you have to put in a bit of work to get there. The only way you can enjoy its wonders is to hike in. Originally built by the CPR as a tea house in the early 1900’s, the chalet has been operated by Fran Drummond since 1962. She and her staff treat guests to what I would call ‘rustic hospitality’ and it was one of the most memorable places I’ve ever been to. While we didn’t stay there, we did go in and enjoy the best butter tarts I’ve ever had – cooked on a wood stove. I had lemonade and Jody had tea. It was perfect. Then we explored the falls for a while before heading back down to our campsite. If you go, make the effort to go in and enjoy the atmosphere. It’s a bit pricey but since they backpack most supplies in, with some brought in by helicopter as well, it’s completely worth it.

The falls themselves are enormous and beautiful. I was really glad I had hauled my tripod on this trip. I took over 500 photos over the 2 days.

When we got back down to the campsite we soaked our feet in the icy water for awhile. I got foot freeze after about two seconds. This is similar to brain freeze but it happens in my feet. Jody has more tolerance for foot freeze than I do because she stayed in a lot longer. I just kept dipping my feet. We pumped more water and she read while I wrote and took pictures. The afternoon was hot and sunny and it was perfect. We had a nice hot supper and enjoyed the evening on the rocky beach before going to bed early.

It rained overnight but the weather was nice going out. It seemed to take us no time to get back to the car and we even stopped at Laughing Falls again for a snack and more pictures (just in case the first 100 didn’t turn out… right???).

We were back to the Takakaw Falls campsite by about 10:00 am and back in Kamloops by 3:00 pm. It was a great weekend getaway and Jody is already planning more trips for next summer.

Edited: I forgot to mention our outstanding wildlife sightings – 2 squirrels, 2 chipmunks. Good thing we were carrying bear bells, bear spray, bear bangers, bear bags for food, etc.!

 

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