The Whaleback trail is a fantastic hike that will take you up above the amazing Twin Falls in Yoho National Park. You can then walk up high along a ridge with views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains. This starts from the Twin Falls Campground, but you could hike in from Takakkaw Falls and do this as a long day hike too (you’d just need to turn back to the car park at Laughing Falls.)
We hiked this on a cloudy day, so I imagine it would be even more impressive under blue skies!
The Whaleback trail from Twin Falls – the basics
Distance: 10.5 km (19.6 km if you do the whole thing in a day hike from Takakkaw Falls)
Cumulative Elevation gain: 711m (1150m if you do it as a day hike)
Highest Point: 2200m
Time: 4.5-5 hours
What to bring:
The 10 Essentials
Hiking poles were useful, especially during the descent
There are loos Twin Falls Campground and a chalet/tea house and a loo close to the falls.
The campground has bear hangs and picnic benches.
Dogs: Yes (on a leash)
How hard is it? Hard if you do it as a day hike. Intermediate if you start from the Twin Falls campsite.
Start at the Twin Falls Campground
We started this hike after 3pm, so we made sure our tent was all set up before we set off. We only really planned to hike up to the top of the Whaleback to see the views…just be aware, it is sooo pretty up high, that it might make you get out the map to find more adventurous routes back!
If you’d like to see more information and photos about the gorgeous hike to Twin Falls (via Laughing Falls) please take a peek at my previous post. The Whaleback trail was an extra bonus walk for us because there was still plenty of daylight.
First we took a short side trail over a pretty red bridge towards Marpole Lake.
Views from the Twin Falls Bridge
I loved the views into Twin Falls Creek from the bridge behind the chalet. You can see over the trees to the gorgeous mountains and glaciers on this side of Yoho National Park.
We hiked down to see Marpole Lake. It’s a pretty, green lake nestled in the trees not far from the waterfalls. However we actually passed this lake again later on our return journey, so next time I probably wouldn’t hike down to it twice!
Once we’d taken in the views at the lake, we came back to see the amaaaazing Twin Falls.
I mentioned this in my previous post, but you can get pretty close to the base of the falls to see them up close and get covered in spray. If you look carefully to the top of the waterfalls, there are little gaps in the cliff face. That is where we were planning to go next. You can peer down through that gap above each waterfall.
Next you follow switchbacks through the trees onto the real Whaleback trail. You’ll gain 240m in elevation over less than 2km. It feels like you are climbing fast, but it is not *too* steep.
I love that every time you turn on another switchback, the views look better and better.
As well as looking out at the views, look out for critters! We saw an incredibly cute, almost-white pika. This floofy-lady had some strong options, so stood by her hole and shouted at us for a while. Can you see her in the first photo? I zoomed in a bit to make it easier to see her swear at us. We also saw an incredibly chubby mouse-like dude as well as a relaxed marmot.
After about an hour hiking up, you’ll find yourself above Twin Falls on the shoulder of Whaleback Mountain. (I’m not sure if whales have shoulders, but it feels like you are high whatever part of the whale you’re on!) You can see Twin Falls Creek continues on further up with several extra bonus waterfalls in the distance.
View above Twin Falls
This may not look impressive in photos, but I loved being able to stand behind Twin Falls and peek through the gap as water spurts though this fantastic viewpoint. I got up close peeking down into the valley, until it stressed Marc out. Later I found out there are sometimes accidents with tourists falling from here, so I guess he was right to be worried.
Beyond Twin Falls
There is a bridge just above the falls, so you can cross the surging river easily. After that you hike up higher along the Whaleback Trail. At first there is a large boulder field (where you may see pikas and marmots). But soon you’ll find yourself in flower-filled high alpine meadows.
You just keep climbing up, with Whaleback Mountain looming over you on one side, and expansive view on the other side.
The highest part of the trail is the end of the ridge for Whaleback Mountain. I flipping LOVED the views here, but it was very windy and cold.
The mountain on the left is the Vice President, then the President is hiding behind it (to the right, in the clouds.) These all look amazing from Emerald Lake, which is in the valley behind them. My photo (below, right) shows the knobbly Mount Kerr.
Heading down the Whaleback trail switchbacks
By this point rain was starting to spit on us, so we figured we should rush down the switchbacks towards Little Yoho Valley.
This is the part of the walk that could be tough on your knees as you drop over 300m in 2km. We did our running trick as we find jogging down this kind of trail puts less pressure on our knees. It’s also good for a bit of extra speed to return to our campsite before dark!
We made it down into the valley in no time at all, and then had a big decision; Should we drop down to Laughing Falls and hike back to our tent at the bottom of the valley, or should we take the Marpole Lake Connector trail (half way up the mountain) back via the twin falls chalet? We went with the Marpole Lake Connector as we wanted to see more new views.
Marpole Lake Connector
This trail hugs the mountain just below the cliffs of Whaleback Mountain. Most of the trail goes through a bolder field, but there is a really well built path, so it is easy to follow. There are a couple of places where rock slides seemed to have obliterated the path. When that happens, follow the little cairns for find your way.
As you can imagine we were very happy to see Marpole Lake again! I didn’t take any photos from here back down to our tent, as we were both tired and hungry. It seemed more important to run down the mountain to where we had hung up our dinner!
Twin falls Campsite
Once we made it back, we retrieved our dry bag from the bear hang. You can’t keep any food (or anything with a smell, like lip balms, deodorant etc.) in your tent in case it attracts bears. However all the campsites in Yoho national park have either bear hangs (poles with ropes that can lift your grub up high) or food lockers.
We had brought camping meals, so all we needed to do was boil some water, pour it over our chili and wait a few minutes for it to hydrate into a tasty dinner.
Once we’d eaten, we had planned to stay out and watch the stars, but it was really cloudy aaaand we were cream-crackered (I mean knackered.) In the end we went to sleep pretty early cozily snuggled up in our tent.
The only problem is there are a lot of signs posts that you need to be wary of grizzlies, and some of the other campers cut short their hike up to the Whaleback because they heard a cougar whistle several times(!) This meant when I needed to go for a pee in the middle of the night, I was so worried about being eaten by a grizzly or a cougar. The loo is around 100m away from our tent, which sounds close, until you need to walk that far in the middle of the night while your heart pumps madly!
In the end, I didn’t get eaten (phew!) so we were off on more adventures the following morning!
Panoramas from the Whaleback Trail
You can’t really get a feel of how open and epic the scenery is in Yoho National Park, but hopefully this at least will give you an idea about the kind of views you will get along this walk.
Apart from the worry that I might be eaten on my way to the loo, I LOVED camping at Twin Falls and hiking along the Whaleback trail. If you’d like a rewarding adventure in the Rockies that is not particularly busy, this is a great option!
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