Hiking to Wapta Falls in winter is the perfect way to spend a chilly day in the Canadian Rockies. The Wapta Falls hike is in Yoho National Park which is close to Banff and features a gorgeous frozen waterfall.
Some other notable stops in Yoho you can make when you hike Wapta Falls this winter are the Natural Bridge, Morant’s Curve, and Emerald Lake.
Now, let’s go hiking!
- How to get to Wapta Falls trailhead
- About Wapta Falls winter hike
- Hiking Wapta Falls in Winter
- Where to stay in Yoho
- Essential winter hiking gear
- What to wear for winter hiking
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How to get to Wapta Falls Trailhead
Wapta Falls is in Yoho National Park which is located approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes from Banff and half an hour from Golden.
The road leading to Wapta Falls is closed in the winter – you can check the Parks Canada page for more information regarding road closures.
There’s no shuttle that takes you to the Wapta Falls trailhead, so you’ll have to drive. If you don’t have a car you’ll need to rent one.
About Wapta Falls Winter Hike
- Distance: 4.8km (+3.6km in the winter)
- Elevation gain: 125m
- Rated: easy
- Type of trail: out & back
- Estimated time: 2hrs
The alternate Route to Wapta Falls Lookout via the South Loop is 4.5km with 140m gain. I didn’t hike this way, but the Alltrails reviews say you can’t hike down to the falls from this point. I imagine you might be able to find a way to hike over to the falls during winter because the river is frozen, but I can’t confirm whether this is true or not.
This trail is easy, well trafficked (moderately trafficked in winter) and easy to follow. During the winter months you’ll have to hike an extra 1.8km both ways due to a road closure. It’s totally worth the extra few kilometres though!
If you’re hiking Wapta Falls in winter I’d recommend waiting until mid January to hike to ensure the falls are frozen. This makes for much more dramatic scenery.
Hiking Wapta Falls in Winter
The Wapta Falls winter hike starts on a long road with no views. If you’re hiking after a fresh snowfall, I’d definitely recommend wearing snowshoes or cross country skiing to the Wapta Falls trailhead.
After hiking 1.8km down the road with some (minimal) elevation gain you’ll reach the actual trailhead which leads directly into the forest.
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The Wapta Falls trail gently gains elevation via switchbacks. You may cross a few fallen logs/trees along the way, but for the most part the path is clear in winter. You can expect some roots in summer.
Wapta Falls Viewpoint
You’ll come to a viewpoint overlooking Wapta Falls. Hike down from here then up the small hill in front of Wapta Falls to get the full, unimpeded view of this frozen beauty. Be warned though – the hike down is very slippery! My brother hiked this trail with me and we were sliding all over the place. We had to hold onto trees to pull ourselves up and just slide down on our butts.
I’ll talk more about essential winter hiking gear and clothes next, but I’d recommend bringing micro-spikes on this hike for sure. They’re especially useful when you hike up close to the waterfall as the spray freezes all the snow.
Wapta Falls in winter is by far the most scenic hikes in the snowy Canadian Rockies. If I could recommend one winter hike, it would surely be this one!
Where to Stay in Yoho
There are plenty of places to stay in Yoho National Park. The cheapest option would be to camp; here’s information for camping in Yoho.
Aside from camping, you can check out hotels within the Field region (map pictured below). Alternatively, you can look at hotels in Banff (located about 45 minutes away), or hotels in Golden (located about 30 minutes away).
I’ve also personally stayed at the Dreamcatcher hostel in Golden, which was fantastic for the price! Great amenities, friendly staff, and very clean.
For those of you wanting “THE Yoho experience,” check out Emerald Lake Lodge.
Looking for More Adventures in British Columbia?
The Holistic Backpacker is full of hiking and travel resources for destinations all over the Canadian Rockies.
The following are a few of my personal favourites, but you can find all my BC guides here:
- How to spend 1 day in Yoho National Park
- Best ski resorts in British Columbia
- Paget Peak scramble
- Stanley Glacier hike
Alberta is British Columbia’s next door neighbour and is home to incredible National Parks and Wildland areas like Kananaskis Country, Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Waterton National Park, etc.
You can find all my hiking guides and travel resources for Alberta here.
Essential Gear For Winter Hiking
Who says hiking is just for the summer months!? Winter hiking can be absolutely exhilarating and it offers the chance to see some pretty spectacular frozen wonders.
Before you set off for your next winter hike though, it’s important to note that you’ll need extra gear and you’ll definitely need extra layers to stay warm! I’ve outlined exactly what you’ll need for a typical day-hike during the warmer months here, however I’ll quickly break down some winter hiking essentials.
Micro-spikes are chains with grips that attach to your boots. These help you navigate slippery and icy terrain. Micro-spikes can get quite expensive, but these ones seem to be of good quality and are priced affordably.
Ice cleats are a version of micro-spikes, but they have less grip. These are ideal for hikes that aren’t overly icy and when you only need a small amount of grip to avoid slipping.
Snowshoes are necessary only when you’re breaking in a fresh trail with new snow. If the trail you’re hiking is already packed down there’s no need for these. If you’re hiking in fresh snow though, snowshoes are a lifesaver.
What To Wear Winter Hiking
Now that we have proper footwear covered, let’s quickly go over a few clothing essentials for winter hiking. The most important thing is layering. I’ve found the best combination for lower body to be leggings or merino base layers under a pair of soft shell pants. For upper body I’d recommend wearing a long sleeve dry-fit/merino top layered with a puffer jacket and waterproof jacket. The following are the clothes I always wear for winter hiking:
Softshell pants are durable and warm. They’re like a thin and more mobile version of snow pants. I have these ones (men’s version) and I’ve been using them for years for winter hiking, skating, and doing errands in the cold months.
A water proof jacket in my opinion is the most important layer when it comes to hiking. A waterproof jacket traps your body heat and it protects you from wind and rain/snow. I use this one (men’s version) which is lightweight, compact, and its easy to pack as an extra layer because it folds into it’s own pocket!
Additionally you’ll also want to pack a toque and warm mittens. I have these mitts (men’s version) which have become my favourite mitts for skiing, backcountry camping, and winter hiking. They’ve got tons of fun features and they come with glove liners which keep your hands extra warm.
Explore my extensive gear guide for day-hiking
Read my guide for exactly what to wear hiking
Find all my hiking trail guides
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About The Author
Hey! I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.
After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.
I’m now focused on travelling the world and seeing everything our beautiful home has to offer.
I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.
I am also an advocate for the environment and do as much as I can to take care of our planet.
Get to know me and my story more here 🙂
I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!