Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC

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Hiking in Wells Gray Provincial Park
Helmken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial ParkBritish Columbia

Wells Gray Park is British Columbia's fourth largest provincial park, and located in the east-central part of the province. This park is known as waterfalls park because within the park boundaries are more than 40 different waterfalls. The most famous and spectacular are Helmcken Falls, at 142 m (466 ft.) it is Canada's fourth highest.

The 540,000 hectares or close to 1.9 million acres of land is well known as one of North America's finest wilderness parks that encompasses mountains, lava beds and rocks, valleys, rivers, lakes and of course the waterfalls. The diversity of Wells Gray Provincial Park, is due to the fact that different types of terrain border and meet within the park boundaries and this is the main reason you will find changes in climate and vegetation throughout. In the northern region there is more rain and snow and it's colder during the winter, in the southern section it's drier and tends to be warmer. Estimates claim that Wells Gray Park features more than 500 different types of plants, some 200 varieties of mushrooms, over 150 different birds, 50 species of animals and it's home to the largest remaining herd of mountain caribou in southern B.C.

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There are approximately 50 known aboriginal archaeological sites within Wells Gray Park. The Shuswap (Sepwepeme) tribe left behind most of the sites that date to about 5,000 years ago. This coincides with the arrival of chinook salmon in the area after the glaciers retreated. Another tribe that made summer visits to the region was the Chilcotins. These two tribes at times fought over possession of the hunting areas, particularly the caribou hunting grounds. The names "Battle Mountain", "Fight Lake", and "Indian Valley" received their names as a result of one such battle that occurred in 1875, at a time when the caribou herds were declining. Both tribes only utilized the park in the summer months, frequenting Battle Mountain, Clearwater Lake, the Clearwater Valley and Mahood Lake areas. Other regions were too mountainous, heavily forested and lacked food supplies. Interesting sites that can be viewed today are pictographs found on the shores of Mahood Lake. Members of the Canim Lake Indian Band created these pictographs that can be accessed by boat.

In 1862, the Overlanders were among the first Europeans to see the Clearwater River, and named it for its clear coloring. The Canadian Pacific Railway sent in surveyors into this region in the 1870's, in search of a possible rail route through the mountains. Once the railway route was decided and the Kicking Horse Pass was chosen, the area around Clearwater was almost void of any activity until the early 1900's. Around this time, a few adventurous people started homesteads in the Clearwater Valley. Between 1911 and 1914 surveys were done by Robert Lee, and in 1913 he discovered Helmcken Falls. Over a number of years, to protect the falls, a park was discussed and finally in 1939 Wells Gray Provincial Park came to be, it was named for the Hon. Arthur Wellesley Gray, the provincial Minister of Lands.


Wells Gray Provincial Park, is located just north of Clearwater which is on the Yellowhead Highway ( Hwy. # 5). The park is 505 km (303 mi.) northeast of Vancouver and approximately 120 km (75 mi.) north of Kamloops.

There are five different routes into the park, but the most popular and common, is the Clearwater Valley Road (the Wells Gray Park road), that starts at Clearwater and takes you to Clearwater Lake.

The Clearwater River Road leads to Mahood River.

To get to Mahood Lake and Canim Lake, turn off the Yellowhead Highway at Little Fort to Inter Lakes where you turn north.

To reach the Murtle Lake trailhead, travel the Yellowhead Highway to Blue River.

The fifth access is to the Flourmill Volcanoes that are located on the park's western boundary.

The park can also be accessed by turning off Hwy 97 at 100 Mile House. It's an 88km drive from 100 Mile House. Be sure to fill your gas tank in advance.


This park is a very popular region with canoeists, anglers, cross-country skiers and hikers. There are a number of great hikes in the Clearwater Valley. You will find more than 30 different hiking trails ranging from a distance of 1 km (.6 mi.) to over 30 km (18 mi.), varying from easy walks to difficult hiking. A number of them are day hikes, but there are several that are interesting wilderness hikes that will take you three to four days to complete and enjoy. If you are planning on going trekking one of the longer hikes or on an overnight hike, check in/out is your responsibility at the Wells Gray Visitor Centre in Clearwater.

View Helmcken Falls:

Take the Clearwater Valley Road for 42.2 km (26.2mi.), where a short side trip will take you to Helmcken Falls. The view point is only a few minutes walk from the parking area.

Battle Mountain's Caribou Meadows:

The moderate hike to the Caribou Meadows of Battle Mountain means you will enjoy blossoming summer flowers at their finest. This is a good five hour hike, and can be achieved in one day. From here you can hike to Battle Mountain Summit, Table Mountain and a few other very interesting side trips, so take your camping gear and equipment for a three to four days hiking trek. To reach the trailhead, take the Clearwater Valley Road for 26.4 km (16.4 mi.) and turn right at the Battle Mountain Access for 7.2 km (4.5 mi.). Approximately the last five kilometers of the Battle Mountain Access is a four wheel drive road that is very difficult to get a car up. The trail starts on the left side of the parking lot, and for the first while you make your way along a path that switches back and forth. At Philip Lake, there is a wilderness campsite. If you take the right fork, it will take you to Table Mountain. Turn left at the campsite, and an hour later and you will be at Caribou Meadows. Fight Lake, surrounded by pleasant meadows, is another hour's hike.

Fight Lake, is a great place to overnight, as the site offers a tiny public hut, tenting sites, an outhouse and a bear-proof cache. From here you can take a side trip to Branta Lake.

Battle Mountain Summit:

Fifty-Two Ridge and the Summit of Battle Mountain are north of Fight Lake. Continue your hike to the summit by following the path around the left side of the lake to the base of Fifty-Two Ridge. As you make your way along the ridge you will notice about 20 small craters which were created by a small volcanic eruption. The higher you climb Battle Mountain, the smaller and more scarce the trees become. From Fifty-Two Ridge, make your way down into Bull Valley, and on the opposite side are the final peaks of Battle Mountain. Stay to your left, it's an hour-long climb to the summit, where you will find an old forest fire lookout cabin, from here it's an easy half-hour hike to the central summit, but the true summit is further east. On a clear day you can see the Cariboo Mountains some 30 km (18.5 mi.) in the distance and the Rocky Mountains that are about 125 km (77 mi.) away, and to the south you can see the nine peaks of the Trophy Mountains.

Table Mountain:

Table Mountain is situated between Battle Mountain to the north and the Trophy Mountains to the south and rises 2219 m (7278 ft.). This is above the treeline, with a sweeping view of the surrounding area and alpine meadows. This trailhead is the same as Battle Mountain and so is the trail, until you reach Philips Creek. At Philips Creek, turn right after crossing the bridge and you are on your way up Table Mountain. Soon, the trail starts to climb as you work your way through a forest of balsam and old-growth spruce, this section takes about half an hour. When the climbing becomes easier, the trail forks, and to the right is a mountain top viewpoint of the Clearwater Valley. The trail turns south and you make your way to the west ridge. When this trail joins a well-used horse trail, you turn to your left. About 45 minutes after the two trails join, the spectacular view to the north takes in Philip Creek, Caribou Meadows, Mt. Philips and Battle Mountain. You have reached the flattest part of Table Mountain, this large alpine is grizzly country, so always be alert. In the middle of this meadow, there's a sign that directs you to a "Campsight" or to "Moul Basin" or to a cross country loop on Table Mountain that will take six hours.

To reach the summit, you hike through the meadows and piles of rock, which should take you about 45 minutes. The view from the summit is unbelievable. To the south are the Trophy Mountains, to the east you can see the Monashee Range, to the west is Mahood Lake and to the north is Battle Mountain (which you have just hiked). The hike back down to the parking lot should only take a couple of hour.

Wilderness Area:

Wells Gray Provincial Park is a wilderness area, there are no facilities within the park boundaries, be prepared to be self sufficient and take in needed gear and supplies. Once you leave Clearwater, there is limited groceries and fuel at one commercial facility between Clearwater and the park. Outside the park there are 3 private campsites in the "Corridor" area of the park. Tourist services you will find along the Clearwater Valley Road are boat rentals, guides, horseback rides, gift shops, a couple of camping sites, a sani dump, picnic areas and a boat launch. There's plenty to see and do in Wells Gray, and it is very popular during the summer months of July and August, but with so many different trails to hike, you should not find the park too crowded.

For more information on Wells Gray Provincial Park:

BC Parks: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/wells_gry/

Clearwater Travel Infocentre
416 Eden Rd, Suite 201
Clearwater, British Columbia, V0E 1N1
Phone 250-674-2646 Fax 250-674-3693
Website: http://www.clearwaterbcchamber.com
Email: info@clearwaterbcchamber.com

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Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC