Wells Gray Provincial Park is the fourth largest park in the province of British Columbia, covering a vast area of wilderness that stretches for 1.3 million acres, or 5,250 square kilometres. It provides a wonderful place to get out and experience the wilderness of Beautiful BC, yet it has convenient access from the town of Clearwater and so its highlights can be enjoyed just in a day trip. Of course, if you come with your tent or travel trailer there are many places to stay in campgrounds within the park itself, and if you really want to enjoy what Wells Gray has to offer this is the best way to do it!
Being a wilderness park, most of Wells Gray is inaccessible by vehicle, but if you’re bringing your car or trailer with you, you can enter the park via the Clearwater Valley Road. This is an asphalted road all the way into the park from Clearwater so access is very good. In order to explore the remaining more northerly sections of the park you will have to do this either by hiking or canoeing/kayaking as there are numerous lakes and plenty of nature to explore. Murtle Lake is one of the largest and most popular, and you can get to within 1 kilometre of this lake by car. The rest of the way you’ll have to portage your canoe and other equipment, but once you arrive the trek is worth it! Along the lake shores there are sandy beaches and 20 designated campgrounds that provide a total of 69 individual camping sites, and there are eight magnificent trails to hike from the lakeshore when you’ve had enough of paddling around!
The main attraction in Wells Gray is Helmcken Falls, and it can be reached by vehicle, making this a popular destination for a day trip. There’s a large parking lot, and several trails around the falls area of the park, some taking you down to the bottom of the falls, or you can simply view it from a distance and still get some great photo opportunities. Helmcken Falls is the fourth highest waterfall in Canada and is a beautiful site, and while most visitors come to the falls in the summer it’s almost more spectacular in the winter when a snow cone forms at the bottom of the falls from the mist that freezes. Because the water is moving so quickly and with such volume from the top, the falls themselves do not freeze so you will almost always see and hear the water thundering over the top, whatever time of year you come.
A less spectacular waterfall, but popular all the same, is Spahats Creek Falls, closer to Clearwater and the Yellowhead Highway than Helmcken. Like at Helmcken there are a number of trails to explore around Spahats, with the most popular being the 5 minute walk to the viewing platform.
Another popular waterfall is Moul Falls and it’s on one of the park’s shorter hiking trails (approximately one hour each way). The falls are the third highest in Wells Gray but what makes them popular is the fact that you can stand and walk behind them, making this a pretty cool experience! Sylvia Falls on the Mahood River are also popular – at 20 metres high they’re by no means the tallest, but what makes these falls spectacular is their width – measuring 90 metres across!
This is really just an introduction to all the amazing wilderness and scenery you can see while visiting Wells Gray Provincial Park and while you can see some of the highlights in a day trip, camping and staying several nights at least is a far better way to explore this great wilderness park!
Photo and article copyright Claire Bolgil. Claire is a freelance travel writer based in Beautiful BC. Find out more about her at www.clairebolgil.com.