In 2013, after living in separate countries, provinces, or cities for nearly 2 years, my best friend Kendra and I decided to meet up in New York City for a vacation together before we both made yet another move to opposite ends of Canada. This was the start of what we now call our annual "Best Friend Trip". Each year brings a new destination and new adventures as we make it a priority to be together without any additional friends or significant others for at least 2 full days. It seems like a simple task for two friends to coordinate but it hasn't always been that easy.
While planning this year's trip we wanted to go camping and hiking in the mountains but weren't exactly sure where. We pulled up google maps and somehow settled on the Takakkaw Falls walk-in campground in Yoho National Park, British Columbia. Kendra was able to get Thursday and Friday off work, and because all of the campgrounds in Yoho are first-come first-serve we drove to Calgary on Wednesday evening in efforts to get to the mountains early in the morning.
The drive through the rockies was as beautiful as ever and our excitement and anticipation only increased the closer we got to the BC border. Once turning off Highway 1 and onto the seasonal Yoho Valley Road at about 9:30am we pulled over to the Kicking Horse Campground to check that there was still room up to road at Tak Falls. The whiteboard outside the gate said there was vacancy up the hill but as we continued along the road a sign for the campground indicated it was fully occupied. As the winding road made it's way up the mountain we were both filled with a bit of anxiety not knowing which sign to believe and not wanting to search for a different site now that our hearts were set on this one. Finally, just as we were passing by the breathtaking falls themselves, we spotted the final sign for the campground and a Parks Canada worker removing the occupied sign that was accompanying it. There were vacancies!
We strolled the paths as campers were getting up for the day, some making breakfast and planning their hikes and others packing up their tents to move on. We first found an open site along the river with an extraordinary view of the falls but it didn't include a fire pit and we didn't have a stove with us. We could have used the communal campfire pit or cooking area to prepare our meals but we agreed that we would rather be able to have a fire right at our site and chose one a bit further from the falls. We registered for two nights (our plans for Saturday night were still undecided), set up our tent, packed our lunches, and got started on our first hike.
The campground itself is beautiful and set up very well. It consists of 35 walk-in sites (some with fire pits and some without), a sheltered cooking area, group fire pit, outhouses, food storage lockers and rooms, drinking water treated on site by their solar powered facility, garbage and recycle bins, and a trailhead with a map of the area. I would say the best part, though, was that you could see and hear the falls from almost every part of the site! The Parks Canada staff were also awesome, keeping the outhouses clean and checking the sites throughout the day to makes sure fires were put out properly and food was put away when people were not present. With the number of active forest fires in BC and bears known to be in the area, food and fire were two things we had to be very careful about throughout our stay. That didn't stop us from making some kick-ass fire-cooked meals though like these burgers on our first night.
We used Tak Falls Campground as our base for our daily hikes and returned in the evening to cook supper and get to know our fellow campers. The people were all so friendly and we quickly made acquaintances throughout the campground. It wasn't uncommon to start up a conversation while filling up water or browsing the trail maps and chat what one another had done that day or which hikes they have planned. One couple in particular we ran into on the trails two days in a row and ended up sharing drinks and stories around our campfire as the sun set on our last evening.
While we had a backcountry site booked near Canmore for Saturday night, we decided to cancel it and stay at Takakkaw for one more day. This was partly because of fire bans throughout the region and we needed a way to cook our food (the National Parks were still allowing people to have open fires in designated areas, likely due to increased monitoring by staff) but mostly because we loved this campground and the area so much. Everything from the trails to the outhouses were so well maintained and because it was a ways off the highway you actually felt away in nature rather than right in the middle of the tourist chaos. I would highly recommend this site to anyone who is wanting to tent in the Canadian Rockies but isn't quite ready for a hike-in site.
Takakkaw, meaning magnificent in Cree, is a glacial fed waterfall which is at it's most powerful in late spring or early summer while with winter snow is melting. Its runoff joins the Yoho River which then meets up with Kicking Horse. Late Saturday afternoon we decided to venture up the falls we had been admiring our entire stay and had some fun getting soaked by its mist. Have a look at some video clips from our stay at Takakkaw Falls below and stay tuned for more from our hikes and day trips in the area.