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Narrow window of opportunity to visit glacier-fed Takakkaw Falls in B.C.

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TAKAKKAW FALLS, B.C. - Sometimes spontaneity is the best trip adviser.

After years of seeing the sign for Yoho Valley Road near Field, B.C., a long-delayed 13-kilometre journey up a narrow, steep and winding road led to an unexpected gem at the end of the trail.

Takakkaw Falls can be seen from kilometres away, but its loud roar is the first thing you notice when you step out of your car. It is 384 metres (1,260 feet) from its base, making it the second highest officially measured waterfall in Western Canada after Della Falls on Vancouver Island. However, its true "free fall" is only 254 metres (833 feet).

"Takakkaw" translates from Cree as "it is magnificent."

The falls are fed by the Daly Glacier, which is part of the Waputik Icefield. The meltwater keeps the volume of the falls up during the warm summer months, particularly in late spring after the heavy snow melts, when the falls are at peak condition.

"It's a popular, enjoyable place and people really do love it. It's a spectacular view. You've got the blue greens of the river. It's just fantastic," said Karin Smith, the promotions officer for Yoho National Park.

"At Yoho our little slogan has always been Rock Walls and Waterfalls."

From the parking area a paved path less than a kilometre away leads to the bottom of the waterfall. The water is ice cold and mist hangs in the air.

Smith said a visit is really getting away from it all.

"You can feel it even as you're driving up and getting further and further away from the highway and the traffic noises. It's a really neat drive."

The day use/parking area for Takakkaw Falls is also the staging area for hikers exploring the Little Yoho Valley.

It's an eight-kilometre trek one-way to Twin Falls and the Twin Falls Tea House, which was built in three phases between 1908 and 1928 as a stopover cabin for trail ride tour groups.

It was designated a national historic site in 1992 and commemorated as an example of the Rustic Design Tradition utilized in early National Park architecture as well as its role in early recreation and tourism endeavours in Yoho National Park.

The water source of Twin Falls is the Glacier des Poilus, which breaks into two streams above the cliff, creating the unusual spectacle of two waterfalls side by side.

About 500,000 people visit Yoho National Park each year, but Smith said it's hard to calculate how many people visit Takakkaw Falls. She said access to the area is severely limited by the weather.

"The road generally opens the end of June and is open from mid- to late October depending on how quickly the snowpack melts in the spring and returns in the fall," Smith added.

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If You Go ...

How to get there: From Lake Louise, Alta., it's about a half-hour drive. Head west for 25 kilometres along the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1). You'll cross the Continental Divide, which separates Alberta and British Columbia as well as marking the borders between Banff and Yoho National Park. Exit right onto Yoho Valley Road and follow for about 13 kilometres to the end of the road.

While you're in the area, backtrack to Lake Louise, well worth a visit, and take the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93N) to the Columbia Icefields.

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