Off the Beaten Path in Wells Gray

Written by Mark Rossi, Route 97

“Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to…”
Disregard this piece of catchy advice from 90’s R&B group TLC, and read this article about Wells Gray Provincial Park. Waterfalls, lakes, and rivers are just the beginning here. Wells Gray is perhaps the most underrated and spectacular park in Canada. Once you experience it you’ll be glad you chased waterfalls here to the North Thompson Region.

To take in everything that Wells Gray has to offer in one day is impossible, but when you are on a road trip you don’t have weeks at a time to explore one place. So we have done our best to condense a Wells Gray itinerary into one action packed day. But, feel free to spread it out and spend some time exploring at your own pace.

NOTE: This is an adventurous itinerary for those who are looking to get off the beaten path, who are physically fit, and who are looking to explore the natural wonders of this park in a more intimate way. If you are looking for a more accessible experience, check out this alternative itinerary.

Dawn to Dusk in Wells Gray:


Photo Courtesy of Interior Whitewater Expeditions


Waterfall Hike

Go chase those waterfalls!

8am

The district of Clearwater is a down-to-earth, mountain community that serves as the gateway to Wells Gray Provincial Park, and will be your starting point for the day. Take the scenic 45km drive up Clearwater Valley Road. Be sure to stop at the visitor centre on your way in and pick up a free map. Trail conditions change all the time so check in with the friendly and knowledgeable staff there before heading up.

9am

Start your day off nice and early with arguably the most spectacular waterfall in the country, the world famous Helmcken Falls. Feel, hear, and see the power of the Murtle River cascading 141 feet into the canyon below. Most people observe the falls from the safety of the main viewing platform, but you’re adventurous, so you’ll want to do the hike on the Rim Trail to catch a birds eye view of the fourth largest waterfall in Canada.
Hike: 2.5 Hours – Moderate Difficulty
Bring your hikers… and your camera!

11:30am

Head back down Clearwater Valley Rd. into town for some lunch at one of the many cafes or restaurants in Clearwater. If you have time, be sure to stop at the easily accessible, but no less spectacular, Spahats Falls, the signs are tough to miss.


Photo Courtesy of Interior Whitewater Expeditions


Tame the Rapids:

Don’t stick to the rivers and lakes you’re used to, try whitewater rafting the Clearwater River!

After lunch get ready for the ride of a lifetime! Grab your bathing suit, a towel, and some footwear that you don’t mind getting wet… because you are going to get wet. You’re going whitewater rafting on the famous Clearwater River.

Be there by 1:40pm

Meet up with your Interior Whitewater Expeditions guide in downtown Clearwater. They will get you suited up with a life jacket, a paddle, and a helmet.

The trip starts at the beginning of Granite Canyon on class 2 whitewater. Glance up as you quietly drift past towering canyons and cliffs of ancient lava that will humble and inspire you. Your guide will fill you head with as much information as possible about safety as you enter the start of the section called Mother Nature’s roller coaster. Following a short portage (take the boats out of the water and walk) around an unrunnable canyon, you’ll be back in the river and you’ll face notorious rapids like “The Wall,” “Tsunami,” and “Buckaroo.” It is the perfect ending to your 4 hour adventure. As you drift down towards the bottom of the canyon back towards town, you might even get to body surf in a class 2 rapid. Book in advance here.
This trip takes 4 hours and is an absolute blast.
Cost: Adult – $109.00+tax/pp


Photographer: Allen Jones


Alternative:

Left your bathing suit at home? Get into the mountains!

Pack a lunch when you head into the park in the morning and meet your hiking guide, Gy, from Discover Wells Gray. You will set off on a full day (10-20km) hike to some gorgeous crystal clear alpine lakes, and take in some of the best views in the park from the top of these mountainous ridges. Gy will share his in-depth knowledge with you of the biology, geology, and history of the park. This is a true wilderness experience. This solitude, purity, and vastness of this landscape and its creatures will remain with you long after your visit to the park. There are a ton of other hiking trips that Discover Wells Gray offers, from half-day waterfall tours to full-day frontcountry tours.
Lunch provided on all full-day hikes.
Cost: $70-115pp

If you are looking to get out on the trails on your own (Gy might be sad if you are), you can check out some of the more popular hikes here, and you can always talk to the fine folks at the visitor centre when you arrive. Tell them we sent you!


Photo Courtesy of Interior Whitewater Expeditions


Rest and Relax

You’re going to be hungry with all that adrenaline pumping through the system. Settle in for some Cedar Smoked Wild Salmon or another delicious dish at the Painted Turtle Restaurant in Clearwater. Grab a nice tall drink as you watch the sun go down over Dutch Lake.
 

Sleepy? You can spend the night with your RV, tent, or in a cabin on Dutch Lake. Or you can venture back into the park to pitch your tent at one of the vehicle accessible campgrounds. Lounge around the campfire as you reflect on your amazing and action-packed day in Wells Gray. Make reservations here.