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A Guided Rafting Trip on the Kicking Horse River
Hopi's Hole. Alarm Clock. Wave Train, Double Trouble, Townhouse Rock, Riptide, Shotgun and Nozzle: popular nicknames for the rapids and waves of the Kicking Horse River are good clues that this waterway is no place for a gentle float. If you raft this river, you can expect a natural high on one of Mother Nature's most exciting Rocky Mountain roller coasters.

With its made-to-order name, and its wild-west, bucking-bronco whitewater, the Kicking Horse provides the perfect crash-course in river running. In just half a day, first-time rafters can rocket through racing rapids, rolling waves and splashing spray on the Upper Kicking Horse. In the Lower Canyon, where the river really has its pedal to the floor, adrenaline addicts can ride 3 unwavering, unforgettable kilometres of rollicking, ripping Class IV rapids - all within the spectacular, snow-peaked setting of the scenic Kicking Horse Valley.


Ice Climbing in the Kicking Horse Valley

If you're familiar with toproping, belaying, leading, anchoring, and bouldering - or if you want to become familiar - the Kicking Horse River ice climbing centres of Field and Golden are ideal destinations. Single-pitch and multi-pitch waterfall climbs on Kicking Horse Valley routes draw ice climbers from around the world.

Kicking Horse Valley ice climbs range in difficulty from Grade 2-5, and most are just a short drive from town. Beer drinkers will have no difficulty in recognizing the theme associated with Field-area ice climbs: Guiness Gully and Guiness Stout are popular Grade 4 climbs. Others include Pilsner Pillar and Super Bock. Near Golden, further west on the Trans Canada Highway, climbers head for Pretty Nuts and Riverview. (Note: Golden-area ice climbing routes may be affected by local highway construction. Check with the Golden Tourism Association for current status.)

You don't have to be an experienced climber to try this increasingly popular sport. Guiding companies, staffed with certified instructors offer ice climbing beginners' courses that include all gear (ice tools, harnesses, ice screws, helmets and ropes), and provide instruction in knots, ice climbing safety, ice bouldering, belays, anchors, toproping techniques, multi-pitch climbing as a follower, and ice and avalanche hazard evaluation. Ice climbers should be prepared for cold weather, with temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius.

Gear Provided: The Kicking Horse was one of the first rivers in Canada to offer commercial rafting experiences, and it remains one of the most popular. Guided trips depart from the popular tourist centres of Banff and Lake Louise on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, and from Golden, British Columbia at the river's western end. Beyond the basics of a bathing suit, towel, a change of clothes, and a sturdy waterproof camera, you won't need to supply any special river-running gear: your rafting company will provide wetsuits, booties, gloves, spray jackets, life jackets, helmets and lunch.

Many trips begin on Class II sections of the Upper Kicking Horse, giving rafters a chance to become accustomed to the rhythm of the river before the rapids shift into a higher gear. Flat water floats offer ample opportunity for sightseeing and wildlife watching.

River Rocket: Full-day trips on the Kicking Horse usually take riders all the way to Class IV whitewater, the highest class allowable on a Canadian commercial rafting trip. You can begin your trip at this point, but if the Lower Canyon is on your agenda, you will need a Class IV warm-up. The turbulent V-shaped valley of the Lower Canyon is billed as the ultimate whitewater experience, residing firmly in the realm of extreme sports. This bottleneck run is short and sweet: you can earn you bragging rights in 1 afternoon.

Plan Ahead: Kicking Horse rafting trips deliver authentic thrills and chills (and downright drenching water), but they are carefully planned, safely conducted and suitable for rafting novices. Paddling is optional, and most rapids can be portaged. Trips run from June to September. Check with rafting companies for schedules, minimum age and weight requirements, and up-to-date river conditions. Water levels fluctuate, and may occasionally be too high or too low for rafting. You can obtain a copy of the Kicking Horse River Guide from the Yoho National Park office at the Field Visitor Centre.

Take A Waterfall Tour of Yoho National Park
· Takakkaw Falls - At the headwaters of the Kicking Horse River, this long, narrow, horsetail-shaped slice of glacial meltwater makes its spectacular, much-photographed plunge from a narrow channel fed by the Daly Glacier. Officially, Takakkaw Falls has a vertical drop of 254 metres, making it the 2nd highest waterfall in Canada after Della Falls at Della Lake, British Columbia. (Della Falls has a vertical drop of 440 metres. In comparison, the Horseshoe Falls of Niagara Falls drops 57 metres, but has a much greater volume of water flow.) Takakkaw Falls can be seen from the road (13 kilometres north of the Trans Canada Highway, near Field, at the end of Yoho Valley Road (open mid-June) but for the best view, hike the short, 1 kilometre trail to the base of the falls. The path is flat and paved, and is suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.

Yoho National Park Primer
• Yoho National Park was established in 1896.

• "Yoho" means "magnificent" in the Cree language.

• The Park has an area of 1,130 square kilometres. It is bordered by Banff National Park to the east and Kootenay National Park to the south, and is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, one of the largest continuous protected areas on earth.

• The town of Field, on the Trans Canada Highway, is the service centre of the Park.

• Yoho's natural highlights include Kicking Horse River, Emerald Lake, Lake O'Hara, Wapta Icefield, Waputik Icefield, Emerald Glacier, Takakkaw Falls, Wapta Falls, Mt. Stephen, Natural Bridge, Burgess Shale fossil beds, hoodoo rock formations.

• Outdoor activities include hiking, mountain biking (on designated trails), mountain climbing, ice climbing, fishing, boating, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, cross country skiing.

• The Park has over 400 kilometres of hiking trails and 40 kilometres of groomed cross-county skiing trails.

• There are 4 frontcountry campgrounds, 7 backcountry campgrounds, and 3 random camping areas. Campsite reservations can be made in advance, although some sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Field Visitor Centre. Backcountry camping requires a Wilderness Pass, and rules are stringent: fires are not permitted, food must be properly hung to avoid bear problems, waterside and trailside areas must be avoided, and no trace camping must be practiced. Registration for backcountry use is voluntary, but if you register, you must check in with park authorities when you return. All regulations are included in the Backcountry Guide to Yoho National Park.

· Laughing Falls and Twin Falls - See 4 distinctly different waterfalls on a half-day hike beyond Takakkaw Falls. The final climb to Twin Falls, on the Little Yoho Valley Trail, is a steep one, but on the way you can take short side trips to view the Angel's Staircase, a 300 metre cascading creek, and Point Lace Falls, a 13.5 metre curtain waterfall covering a cliff face below Duchesnay Lake. Just about halfway to Twin Falls, you will reach Laughing Falls, a 30 metre high burst of spray exploding from a narrow gorge of the Little Yoho River. After about 5 kilometres, you will get your first glimpse of Twin Falls, and will reach its base after passing the intersection with the Yoho Glacier Trail, about 8 kilometres from your starting point. The Twin Falls are 177 metres in height. They pour down in two spectacular streams from Twin Falls Creek. In earlier times, when the left channel of the creek became obstructed, Canadian Pacific Railway crews were sent in to open the passage with dynamite! For overnight hikers, there are 2 small backcountry campgrounds at Laughing Falls and Twin Falls; campsites should be reserved in advance.

· Wapta Falls - About 24 kilometres southwest of Field, near the town of Golden, the Kicking Horse River drops 30 metres at its full width. Wapta Falls has the largest volume of water of all waterfalls in Yoho National Park; they also have the distinction of being close to the spot where Kicking Horse Pass explorer James Hector was knocked unconscious by his horse. You can hike to the thundering water from a road just off the Trans Canada Highway, on an easy-going 7-kilometre round-trip trail.

As an increasingly popular variation on traditional and alpine mountain climbing, ice climbing makes use of specialized ice tools such as crampons, ice screws and ice anchors to help climbers make their way up frozen waterfalls. Ice climbing requires physical stamina, excellent sensory perception, and a good knowledge of the nature of ice in all its forms. Successful ice climbers must develop a feel for the bite of their picks into the ice.

Hike the Iceline Trail
In a land of scenic superlatives - soaring, snow-capped peaks, surreal lakes and sparkling glaciers -Yoho National Park's Iceline Trail is a stand-out hiking route, offering an eye-popping kaleidoscope of mountain views, aquamarine waters, tumbling waterfalls, fresh green forests, wildlflower meadows and rocky moraines.

The trail begins near Takakkaw Falls, at the end of Yoho Valley Road, just east of the town of Field on the Trans Canada Highway. It skirts the edge of the Emerald Glacier, meeting it in 4 places, and winds through alpine heaths lined with heather, mosses and Douglas Fir.

Golden Adventures: Hang Gliding, Paragliding and Mountain Biking
Cross-country flying, or steep single-track downhill riding - if you're looking for extreme mountain adventure, head to the town of Golden, at the confluence of the Kicking Horse and Columbia Rivers.

Paragliding Pinnacle - In the mountains surrounding Golden, thermals created by a combination of warm sun and steep mountains attract hang gliders and paragliders from around the globe. Mount 7, the area's flying centre, is one of the world's Top 10, feet-launched, hand gliding and paragliding sites. Each year, the centre hosts national and international championships; Mount 7 pilots have flown record-breaking distances of up to 300 kilometres!
First-time flyer? Novice paragliders can book a short tandem flight with a licensed instructor. Transportation to and from the launching site, and all flying equipment is provided. You supply good shoes, warm clothing - and nerve.

Extreme Mountain Biking - Paragliders aren't the only extreme sports enthusiasts to fly from the top of Mount 7. At least 15 trails on the mountain range from intermediate to expert, with jumps, boulders and major steeps. Mount 7 is host to the annual Mt. 7 Psychosis Downhill Race; most trails are one-way only, and shuttles to the top are available. Challenging cross-country single track is also available on the Moonrakers Trail System, south of Golden near Nicholson. Trails are rated beginner to intermediate.

Several lookouts along the trail provide views of the area's outstanding landmarks, including Takakkaw Falls, Mount Ogden, Wapta Mountain, the President and Vice-President Peaks, Cathedral Mountain, Mount Stephen, Mount Burges, Daly Glacier and the Waputik Icefield. Just past the 10-kilometre point, the Iceline meets the Little Yoho Valley Trail, following the Little Yoho River to a junction with the Celeste Lake and Whaleback Trail junctions. Hikers can choose to take an extended hike on the steep switchbacks of the Whaleback Trail to Twin Falls, or return to Takakkaw Falls via the Celeste Lake Connector and the Iceline Trail.

The Iceline Trail, with a loop back to Takakkaw Falls via the Celeste Connector, is a 20.7 kilometre hike of moderate difficulty. The elevation gain is 725 metres, reaching a maximum elevation of 2,200 metres. Backpackers can expect to complete the Trail in 2 days, with an overnight stop at the Stanley Mitchell Alpine Hut (operated by the Alpine Club of Canada) or the Little Yoho Valley Campground operated by Yoho National Park. Hikers should be prepared to encounter changeable weather, fog, mud and snow at higher elevations, even in July and August. Check at the Field Visitors Centre for daily weather forecasts before setting out.

More Hiking Trails: There are over 400 kilometres of hiking trails in Yoho National Park, ranging from easy walks, such as the Lake O'Hara Shoreline Trail, to steep, uphill climbs, such as Hoodoo Creek. At the height of summer, some routes become congested and quota systems may be applied.

Mountain Biking: Mountain biking trails include the fire roads of Ice River (65 kilometres, moderate/novice), Kicking Horse (30 kilometres, novice), Moose Creek (22 kilometres, novice), Otterhead (21 kilometres, moderate/novice) and Ottertail (57.6, difficult/intermediate). Most mountain biking trails are rideable from late May to mid-October, and are located near the town of Field.