Yoho National Park’s tea houses steeped in history

Teah houses constructed in Yoho National Park

Lindsay McPherson


With the railway complete and tourists flocking to the Canadian Rockies, Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) recognized the need for a place where visitors could relax and take in their surroundings. This resulted in the construction of tea houses throughout Yoho National Park as a rest spot for travellers at major scenic points. Some of these iconic structures are still in use today.

The first of these structures to be built was the two-storey Twin Falls tea house in 1923, and on December 1, 1923, a 21 year lease was issued. In the same year, CPR applied to the Dominion Parks Branch (later re-named Parks Canada) for a permit to build another tea house above Yoho Station between Mt. Burgess and Mt. Cathedral, overlooking the Spiral Tunnel. This became known as the Kicking Horse Rest House and construction began on it in spring of 1924.

Both of these tea houses offered light lunches to travellers and overnight accommodation. A third, and much smaller, tea house was constructed by CPR near the Natural Bridge on the way to Emerald Lake.

The Kicking Horse Tea House served visitors over the next four years, and in addition to selling meals, it acquired a hotel license, allowing the sale of souvenirs. The tea house was boarded up between 1932 and 1935 due to a lack of visitors, and when it re-opened in 1936 CPR transferred its lease to a private holder. During the war years, the tea house was once again closed, but re-opened in 1945. The lease for the building transferred hands a few times during the late 40’s and early 50’s. The fate of the Kicking Horse Tea House was sealed in 1956 when then lease holder Angileno Corradetti was informed the land was required for the widening of the Trans Canada Highway. Today, the Spiral Tunnel lookout on the Trans Canada east of Field, BC, occupies the site of the former Kicking Horse Tea House.

Although the chalet at Twin Falls wasn’t constructed until 1923, a basic log structure had sat on the site as early as 1908.

Construction of the chalet, along with improvements to the trail leading from Takakkaw Falls to Twin Falls, encouraged visitation to Yoho’s back-country. The chalet has since underwent a series of overhauls and even overcame a threat of being demolished in 1969.

Named a national historic site in 1992 for its role in early recreation and tourism endeavours in Yoho National Park, Twin Falls Chalet commemorates the rustic design tradition utilized in early national park architecture.

Today the tea house is owned by Parks Canada, and is operated on a seasonal basis by the holder of the license of occupation, Fran Drummond, who has been running the tea house since the early 1960s.

Keeping true to its roots, the Twin Falls Chalet has no electricity or running water, making it the perfect stop for those who wish to get away from the daily grind and take in the unspoiled views of the falls and Fran’s comfort food. For more information about escaping to the Twin Falls Chalet, visit http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/bc/yoho/activ/activ17.aspx