Takakkaw Falls in  Yoho National Park Location Profile


Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies showing the correct use of a circular polarizing filter in landscape photography.  © www.brianmerry.ca


Takakkaw Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in Canada and it is a perfect destination to include in a landscape photography tour of the Canadian Rockies.  But, this location has a few access restrictions that you need to know about to avoid disappointment.

First of all, Takakkaw Falls is located in British Columbia, about a 40 minute drive from Lake Louise, Alberta.  It is a half day trip from lake Louise and is best included with a trip to visit Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge in the same day.  If you are on a tight schedule you may not be able to fit this location into a fast paced landscape photography tour of the Canadian Rockies.  Yoho National Park has a lot of beautiful locations to photograph though.  One of the best is Lake O’Hara, which is probably the best little mountains Valley for hiking photographers in the Canadian Rockies, especially during the pak of yellow larch trees around the third to fourth week of September.  Opabin Plateau is the best place to shoot in Lake O’Hara too.

However, the photograph above is truly spectacular and you only have to walk a few hundred meters on a paved “hiking” trail from when you park your car to stand in the same spot where I stood to take the same photograph included in this post above.  The following is the lowdown on how to get this shot!

Where to go:

The Takakkaw Falls access road is 23kms west of lake Louise on highway #1, the Trans Canada Highway.  You’ll get there in about 15 minutes if there is no traffic delays.  A word of caution though.  There are highway crews working on widening and rerouting the road down kicking horse pass in 2017.  Road work is likely to continue on this project for 3-5 years so factor in some time delays for that.  drive west from lake Louise and about a one minute drive East from Field, British Columbia.  Once you turn onto the access road simply drive 25kms to the parking lot at the end of the road.  You’ll start to see the Falls about halfway down the road when you’re still about 10kms from the parking lot.  They are that high!!

When to be there, and what weather is best:

The best time to shoot the waterfall is between 11:00 am and 2:00pm daily.  At this time the Sun is side lighting the cliff creating an interesting textured relief.  If you visit Takakkaw falls before 11:00am the cliff and the waterfall will be in dark shadow with a bright sky above and behind the cliff, on a sunny day.  If you visit the waterfall after 2pm you’ll still have front lighting on the cliff and the waterfall, but you’ll be sacrificing the dramatic texture in the cliffs created when they are sidelite from the Sun.

On a cloudy and rainy day I would probably give this location a miss too.  Most of the time the rain and clouds shroud the cliff and waterfall because they are so high, about 400m from the valley bottom to the top of the Falls.  Also, the density of the falling raindrops usually renders the cliff and waterfall in a diffuse white haze compared to it’s usual splendor when it’s sunny out.

So, in summary, the best time to be here is mid-day on a bright and sunny day.  This is one of the few landscape photography locations that is best to photograph in the middle of the day in bright sunlight!

Where is the best vantage point/view and what gear should you use?

About 200m after after the parking lot on the paved “hiking” trail you’ll come to a steel pedestrian bridge crossing the fast flowing Kicking Horse River.  Don’t cross the bridge.

The best location to photograph the Falls is about 50 meters farther along the trail and up a small hill.  The trail will end a viewpoint within sight of the bridge.  This viewpoint is the best place to photograph the whole waterfall and the surrounding environment.   A tripod is useful at this location too.  I would recommend using a polarizing filter on a mid range zoom lens for the camera format you’re using.  This will frame the waterfall vertically like I did in the photograph above.


Then snap away and capture your own photograph of this very cool place!

Do you like this tip?  I have a lot more local knowledge I can share with you…