The Yoho Valley Trail is a beautiful trail in Yoho National Park with several beautiful waterfalls that lead up to the stunning Twin Falls. The Twin Falls share the same parking lot as Takakkaw Falls, 2 of the most popular waterfalls that are in the Yoho valley. The trail is an easy hike with many breathtaking views along the way. The trail reaches the Twin Falls and the historic Twin Falls Chalet (also known as the Twin Falls Tea House).
The Twin Falls Tea House was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1992. It was deemed for demolition in 1969 prior to its designation and thankfully was saved so that hikers can see its rustic antique beauty today. The tea house was extensively renovated ($1 million worth funded by Heritage Canada) in 2005 and now provides lodging and a place to rest and have some tea and food at the end of the Twin Falls trail.
The Tea House was originally constructed in 1908. Although it has been through extensive renovation, the teahouse still holds its rustic log appearance of the era during which it was built. In 1923 a separate 2 story chalet and lodge was built and between 1925 and 1928 the 2 buildings were linked together. No one is sure if the Canadian Pacific Railway built the first cabin in 1908 or if an outfitter that was associated with the railroad built the cabin as a rest station for tour groups as the “Twin Falls Rest”. The land was formally leased in 1922-23 to the Canadian Pacific Railway and they leased the land with the cabin through the 1920's, 30's and the 40's. The Tea House served meals since the beginning of its time and was able to accommodate 5 guests overnight. It was situated with perfect views of Twin Falls and is part of a circuit trail that can reach the foot of the Yoho Glacier if one chooses to hike to it!
The Tea House did close in 1953 since the tourism of the railway died down in favor of automobiles. The Tea House and the land that belonged to the Canadian Pacific Railway were sold to Brewster and Ford Mountain Lodges Ltd in 1954. The Tea House was reopened again in 1959. By the 1960's, the Tea House was in pretty bad shape with the absence of utilities and poor repair that had been done. Parks Canada considered demolishing the Tea House because of these reasons in 1969. However, when Fran Drummond, the seasonal proprietor of the cabin since 1962, heard of the proposal, he rallied support and did a letter writing campaign to stave off the demolition. He instigated repairs in the 1970's and by 1972 Fran Drummond took over the lease of the Tea House. Once the lease takeover happened, Fran continued with repairs and he installed a filtration system that was meant for the bucket fed stream water supply for the kitchen and laundry. The Tea House soon became classified as a Federal Heritage Building.
The Tea House's elegant design instills an atmosphere of sophistication in the outdoors. There is no electricity or running water at the cabin. The food is cooked outdoors on a wood-burning stove and the firewood is flown in by helicopter to reduce environmental impact. The balcony on the Tea House provides the perfect view of the Twin Falls. From the Tea House there is a footpath that leads to a narrow gorge below Twin Falls.
The Yoho Valley Trail is filled with many waterfalls along the way before you reach the final rewarding destination of the thundering 177m Twin Falls. One of the bigger ones that you encounter about 4.2km in is the Laughing Falls. Although it is not a very high waterfall at only 30m in height, it makes up for it in volume. The waterfall received its name from the way it illuminates the surrounding area. Early explorers gave it the name “Laughing Falls” because of how it “brightened up the area”.
From the beginning of the Yoho Valley Trail, the first waterfall you come across is “Angel Staircase”, a 300m cascading creek. Although it may be high, it is not a very voluminous waterfall. The next one is “Point Lace Falls” which is a 13.5m curtain waterfall. It covers a cliff face that is below Duchesnay Lake. The next one is the infamous Laughing Falls where the water explodes from a narrow gorge of the Little Yoho River. You finally get a glimpse of the Twin Falls about 5km into the trail. The Twin Falls received their names from the 2 streams that stem from the Twin Falls Creek and split into 2 spectacular waterfalls. When the left channel of the Twin Falls Creek became obstructed in the early 1900's, the CPR would send in crews with dynamite to open up the passage and have the waterfall thundering down again. For anyone interested in back country camping, there are 2 campgrounds at Laughing Falls and Twin Falls.
Laughing Falls and Twin Falls Trip Log
Once you have finished taking in the sites of Takakkaw Falls it is time to start the hike to the Twin Falls. You can get on the trail by taking the trailhead on the north east side of the northern parking area, or following the trail along the Yoho River if you are returning from Takakkaw Falls. Follow the paved trail until you reach Takakkaw Falls walk-in campground.
The campgrounds close proximity to the parking area makes it nearly unrecognizable to any other walk-in campground we have been to or passed by. It is only about 375 meters from the parking lot and there are numerous carts you can borrow to haul your goods to the camp. We saw everything from massive tents to small satellite dishes. Follow the wide trail as you make your way north through the camp.
Follow the trail as you make your way over a long wooden bridge. Past that, the trail is a little boring for just little while. It gives your head an opportunity to soak in the massive falls you just saw. For about 1.3km you head down a very straight paved pathway with no elevation gain.
When you reach the next trail sign you have the choice of checking out the Angels Staircase Falls or continue along towards the Twin Falls. If you decide to check them out, hang a right and follow the narrow rooted trail to the banks of the Yoho River.
The Angels Staircase Falls are the first falls you come across on the way to the Twin Falls. Neither us look much into the Angels Staircase Falls before going on this trip so it was overall a bit of a surprise as to what we were going to expect. When we emerged from the forest onto the banks of the Yoho, to say we expected more would have been an understatement! After seeing Takakkaw Falls and pictures from all the other falls along the trail we were left just a wee bit empty. It was merely a trickle for the most part, it was more so interesting to see the geology of the falls and that it actually really did look like a staircase from the bottom to top.
The good news is, all the falls get better from here!
As you return back to the main trail, almost immediately you are given the option to check out another falls. This time the Point Lace Falls, the side trail again is very short so if anything, worth the curiosity of a few minutes to check out.
The Point Lace Falls are a smaller waterfall, but no less beautiful. There is a numerous amounts of small debris and rock in the falls that make it look like the water is constantly going in this up and down motion living up to its Lace name.
As you leave Point Lace Falls, the trail wastes no time kicking into high gear. The trail narrows and starts off steep. You gain about 85 meters elevation over the next few couple meters. You end up losing about 25 meters you just gained as it goes immediately down before leveling off.
About 1.5km past the Point Lace Falls and Angels Staircase Falls you come to the massive rapids. There are a few good points to view the rapids from as the mighty Yoho River pummels through the canyon walls. It is mind boggling to think of the amount of force traveling through there and has to be one of the last places you would want to take a slip!
Roughly another 350 meters past the rapids you come to another bridge. Follow the trail across as you skirt along the Laughing Falls Campground. As you round the bend you are greeted with the sight of Laughing Falls.
It stands 30 meters tall and blows out of the mountain side with considerable force due to its narrow opening at the top. A good approach allows you to get basically right under the falls and considerably wet, quick. You have the option of viewing it from the opposite side of the bank as well. It requires doubling back to where the bridge was and staying on that side of the river. It is a very narrow and mostly unused trail so the going takes a few acrobatic steps to get over large fallen over logs.
Leaving the Laughing Falls, you have a couple ways to reach the main event, the Twin Falls. We left Takakkaw Falls around 13:00 in the afternoon and with having to stop and take the virtual tours at all the falls, we were falling a bit behind to say the least. The goal was to still make it to the Twin Falls and then back out to before sunset. We decided to head north at the sign as it appeared to be shorter with a little less elevation gain on the map. The other option is to go west towards Marpole Lake and Whaleback Mountain, or see both directions by doing the loop as a circuit. The Whaleback approach is apparently prettier but more distance and elevation gain discouraged the option that day.
Heading north, the trail continues to stay very well defined and wide enough that you can usually walk side by side. A few rooty sections slow you down a little but they are nothing difficult to step over. About 340 meters after Laughing falls, you come across another little wooden bridge that takes you onto the east banks of the river. It continues to head north once you cross over.
Once across the bridge the trail has a slight incline to it until you reach the single switchback about 700 meters after the bridge. From this point it is a straight slog up a very straight trail for just under a kilometer. You get to peak at the river below as you gain some elevation. The last 500 meters being the steepest before it levels off and begins to descend again at the 7.4km mark.
At about the 7.4km mark you reach another junction. Follow the arrow pointing Left (West) to Twin Falls Campground.
As you get closer you can hear the thundering sound of the Twin Falls echoing through the valley.From the junction the trail starts to go straight down with a couple switchbacks. You only loose about 20 meters in elevation though. You pass the backcountry Twin Falls Campground and at about the 7.7km mark the trail starts to ascend again. The pleasantries are not completely over, your greeted with some smaller waterfalls and rapids every hundred meters to keep your excitement high in anticipation of the grand finale.
A variety of steep switchbacks and long wide turns take you up the mountain side. As you get closer you can hear the thundering sound of the Twin Falls echoing through the valley. This is the last hurdle to overcome as you near the end. At times the trail is very heavily rooted.
Once you reach the top, you are greeted with a very welcoming sign; it is a map of the immediate area showing where you are in relation to the Tea House and the Twin Falls. Depending on when you have arrived, the year we went they were serving guests between 12:00 - 15:00. We came well after that so were not able to check it out unfortunately. The area itself has a trail that does a small loop and allows you to check out the Tea House and the Twin Falls from a few different angels.
As you make your way to the falls, the background noise is nothing but the sound of water crashing down 177 meters and cascading through the numerous falls below. It was one thing to see pictures and videos of them, but to see it up close it is amazing.
Next time the only thing we could ask for would be to start a bit sooner than 13:00 to give us the time to explore the area a bit more and possibly a little earlier in the year to experience the falls with more flow. Of the two, the one of the left did not have much water in comparison. Other than that, it was an amazing experience to see these mighty falls up close and personal. Both of us can agree that this was one of our favorite hikes!
Return is back the way we came up, or if you have the time and energy left, you can take the alternate route back along the Whaleback trail. The route is longer and more elevation is required.
GPS Plotted Route
One of the best things about hiking to Twin Falls is the numerous sights you see along the way. There are an amazing number of waterfalls besides the main named giants you get to see. The majority of the small falls you pass by are larger than most of the waterfalls you hike to as a destination in Banff or Kananskis. And on top of that, you barely have to go off the main hiking trail to see them! The route itself to the Twin Falls is very clearly marked and pretty straight forward. Only towards the end do you get a choice of taking a couple different trails to get to the Twin Falls.
There are a few steep pushes uphill. Most notable is one immediately after Point Lace Falls, it is a straight hike up, no bends and no switchbacks to help out. The other being towards the end, you can hear the pounding of the Twin Falls as you ascend.
Click here to download the GPS route in GPX format. You may have to right click and select "Save Link As" if your browser does not download it automatically. Be sure to save it as a .gpx file.
What were your experiences hiking Laughing Falls and Twin Falls?
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