We’ve been on many a camping trip the past few years, usually Jasper, Banff, or somewhere in the eastern Rockies. Since we live in Edmonton, it’s just convenient, and who could really complain about being “limited” to a place as beautiful as Jasper?? Believe me, I’m not. But sometimes its nice to find that place that’s a little less developed. A place away from the regular tourist rabble.
That place is Wells Gray Provincial Park in the interior of British Columbia. I read many great things about Wells Gray and it looked very intriguing: beautiful terrain, towering waterfalls, ancient (extinct) volcanoes, tons of back country opportunities. We had to go! So we loaded up the truck and went for it!
Now, it would obviously take more than a weekend to fully explore a place like this. If you’re short on time, here are a few “must do’s” for your trip to Wells Gray.
1. Hike to Trophy Meadows
This excursion begins about 12 km north of Clearwater on the Clearwater Valley Road.
You’ll come to the Spahats Creek Forest Service Road on your right. There are a few roads that branch off, but the road that is most well defined will take you to the Trophy Meadows staging area. It’s a gravel road, but still smooth enough for any car to make it up.
Once at the trail head the adventure begins! The meadows themselves are a relatively easy 2 hour hike from the parking lot. This is a beautiful alpine meadow with wildflowers blooming from late June to August. The meadows themselves are actually world renowned and quite popular with European travelers. But don’t worry, this place is too far out of the way for tour buses and swarms of peoples, so you still get a sense of tranquility and solitude. On the weekend that we went, we only encountered two groups of people in the meadows. If this is all you have time to see, then it is still well worth it.
If you have an extra 3 to 4 hours to explore, I would highly recommend continuing on the trail. It weaves it’s way through beautiful alpine meadows and small picturesque lakes to the base of Long Hill (Trophy Ridge). Continue your climb to the top of the ridge, then travel east to its summit. Once you’ve reached the top, take a deep breath and bask in one of the most amazing views you will ever see on a hike. It’s a 360 degree view that is absolutely stunning, and is still one of my favorite day hikes. The best part is the view is all yours.
2. Go Whitewater Rafting
If you’re planning a trip into interior BC, whitewater rafting is a must. We booked our trip with Interior Whitewater Expeditions in Clearwater, BC. They offer a wide range of excursions from a few hours of wild rapid fun to multi-day trips into the Wells Gray back country, all on the majestic Clearwater River. We chose a four hour, 14 km trip.
A great choice if you’re restricted for time, but still want to get a taste of the action.We were promised top class whitewater and we were not disappointed. It was powerful and it was definitely the rush we were looking for. We’ve been on other rafting trips in the past and this one is still my top pick. Very professional staff and world class rapids. I highly recommend it.
3. Check out a few of the many Waterfalls
Wells Gray has an abundance of great waterfalls. Many are easily accessible from the Clearwater Valley Road. Helmcken Falls is probably the main attraction, but there are several others. They are unique and well worth a visit! Here’s a few that we viewed on our trip.
4. Spend some time on Clearwater Lake
Clearwater Lake is found at the end of the Clearwater Valley Road. It is a great place for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and boating. It is also an excellent starting point for back country adventures with several campsites that can only be accessed by water. There are also boat tours that leave from the lake as well.
5. Set up a tent and relax
There are two vehicle accessible campgrounds in the Wells Gray: Pyramid and Clearwater Falls Creek. We chose to set up camp at Pyramid for three nights. Its a central location to most attractions in the park and it’s less than an hour from the nearest town making it convenient if you forget to pack a few things… as we usually do. It was very clean and not crowded at all. There are no showers, but Murtle River runs along the east side of the campground. We found a calm, shallow section and waded in to wash off and relax. Very refreshing on a 30 degree summer day!
Of course, this isn’t a list of the only things to see and do while in Wells Gray. We barely scratched the surface. To fully appreciate this beautiful place you would need weeks, maybe more to explore. There are so many back country opportunities, trekking, mountaineering, wildlife, and I didn’t even mention Murtle Lake! If all you have is a few days and you love adventure, follow this small list. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed with your trip to Wells Gray Provincial Park: a true gem of the British Columbia Interior.