At 1,310 square kilometers, Yoho National Park is the smallest of the four connected national parks in the Canadian Rockies (the three others being Banff, Jasper, and Kootenay). One of the advantages to it's relatively smaller size is the close proximity between trailheads. Making it possible to do totally crazy things like hiking three different trails from three different start points across the park in just one day. On our second full day in the park, we had no plans to conquer this many hikes - but just ended up filling the daylight with as much exploration and adventure as possible.
4 kilometers round trip | 90 meters elevation gain
Our first hike was just a little teaser and left right out of the trailer circle of the Kicking Horse Campground. At the trailhead you should find a set of pamphlets with interpretive information about the track. Pick one up to bring with you because all you'll see along the trail are number markers - for you to refer back to the pamphlet you should have picked up at the trailhead.
After a short climb up a few switch backs and over Yoho Valley Road, the trail dumps you out right on the active railway running through the park. If you time things right, you'll get a front row seat to this picturesque mountain and train view.
Carefully crossing the tracks and walking along an old road, you can follow the signs towards the carcass of an abandoned narrow gauge locomotive used to build the Spiral Tunnels. Seeing the live train pushing along the tracks was a bit more interesting than the abandoned one, at least for me.
5.2 kilometers round trip | 325 meters elevation gain
Let me start off with a warning for this hike; it's incredibly steep. The Yoho National Park hiking guide mentions this and we were warned by some friendly hikers on their way down - but this is probably one of steepest hikes I've ever taken, at least in certain sections.
Beginning in a shutdown campground, which was incredibly fascinating to wander through - think abandoned places where nature is reclaiming the land, the hike meanders softly along the degrading road and over a river. Then, the switchbacks begin - steep but reasonable through an area recovering from a wildfire. Higher up, you'll begin paralleling a canyon through a dense forest with a steep drop and a few landslides to navigate your way over. If you're hiking with dog, you'll want to make sure your furry friend is leashed for this portion to avoid tragedy from chasing a squirrel or pinecone off the edge.
After spending this whole time gaining elevation, you'll finally reach a bench to take a break on. From here a sign will point you towards either an upper or lower viewing point of the Hoodoos. Take the path to the upper view point, but bring those trekking poles! This trail scared me - steep, covered with gravel with sheer drops along the side. I didn't even want to hold the camera, so all the Hoodoos photos were taken by my husband. On the way back down, I'm not to proud too admit I did some sliding on my bum.
If you're wondering about the view from the lower view point, it's rather unremarkable compared to the upper one.
Wapta Falls Hike
4.6 kilometers round trip | 30 meters elevation gain/loss
This was the last hike of the day, and one we never planned on doing but with a break from all the rainy weather we had on this trip - we just had to squeeze in one more hike. Of all the beautiful waterfalls we saw during this visit to the Canadian Rockies, Wapta was my favorite. A short straight hike through a remarkably dense forest leads to a few great overlooks of the river and falls - with a chain link fence blocking off the sheer cliffs.
Continue to follow the downward trend of the trail to a forested area until you reach a fork. Take the left fork and follow the trail down past the falls to the lower portion of the river. From here you can walk out freely along the rocks and as close to the waterfall as you want depending on how willing you are to get dampened by the serious spray coming off the pounding water.