Tweedsmuir Provincial Park (South): Hiking
See Tweedsmuir Provincial Park (South) to check for important park notices before heading out on the trail.
A multitude of trails provide access to some of Tweedsmuir’s most notable features. In the following trail descriptions, please note that lengths, suggested hiking times (one way, unless otherwise specified), elevation changes and levels of difficulty are approximate.
From the Rainbow Range Trailhead:
Rainbow - Length, 7 km; suggested hiking time, 2-3 hours; elevation change, 300 metres.
This trail offers the shortest route to the alpine. The hike starts at Highway 20 just west of the park entrance near Heckman Pass, and leads through the forest to a small, unnamed lake. From here experienced backpackers may explore almost unlimited terrain. This hike is rated moderate. The trail has been cleared of deadfall and brushed as of June 2020.
Octopus - Length, 14 km; suggested hiking time, 5-6 hours; minimal
Trail starts at Highway 20 and passes through stands of lodgepole pine and open meadow before reaching a campsite by the lake. Intersects Tweedsmuir Trail about 3 km farther. The trail crosses two branches of Young Creek, which can be moderately difficult during spring runoff. The trail was cleared of deadfall in 2019 but please be aware that due to recent forest fires in the area, there could be more fallen trees on the trail and danger trees. Post-fire vegetative growth can occur rapidly during summer and may obscure the trail.
Capoose - Length, 12 km; suggested hiking time, 5-6 hours; elevation
change, 500 metres.
This is an extension of the Octopus Lake Trail that follows a network of lakes and waterfalls through the scenic Capoose Valley to Sitkatapa Lake and the Mackenzie Heritage Trail. This is a moderate hike. This trail has been cleared from Highway 20 to the intersection with the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease/Alexander Mackenzie HeritageTrail in 2020. Beyond this, the trail has been unmaintained by BC Parks.
Crystal Lake - Length, 20 km; suggested hiking time, 8-9 hours;
elevation change, 1,000 metres.
The trail branches northwest off of Octopus Lake Trail about 3 km from the Rainbow Range trailhead and leads through scenic alpine terrain to the Mackenzie Valley. This hike is rated as moderate. The trail has been partially cleared of deadfall in 2020 but please be aware that due to recent forest fires in the area, there could be more fallen trees on the trail and danger trees. Post-fire vegetative growth can occur rapidly during summer and may obscure the trail.
Trails Starting from the Bella Coola Valley:
Hunlen Falls - Length, 16.4 km. The trail starts at a parking area 12 km from Highway 20 along an old tote road that is suitable only for 4-wheel drive vehicles. Suggested driving time 1.5 hrs; suggested hiking time, 6-9 hours; elevation change, 800 metres. Stillwater Lake, 4 km along the valley bottom, is the last source of drinking water before Turner Lake so fill your canteens here. The next portion of the trail climbs 600 metres in 78 switchbacks. Hikers travelling along the 4X4 road must not camp along the road or at the parking lot. The road and the first three kilometres of the trail should be hiked between late morning and early afternoon, when bears are the least active. This hike is rated as difficult. From the parking lot at the end of the Tote Road to Stillwater Lake, there are some scree slope washouts on the trail. Use caution when crossing. Due to a forest fire in 2017 there is abundant regrowth of berries approximately halfway along the still water trail for about ½ a km. Hikers are advised to use extreme caution through here as this is high value Grizzly bear habitat. Travel in groups and carry bear spray. Stillwater Lake to Hunlen Falls has been cleared of deadfall in 2020.
Tweedsmuir Route - Length, 30 km; suggested hiking time, 2 days; elevation
change, 400 metres.
This unmaintained route starts at Highway 20, traversing the Capoose Valley and Deception Pass via Octopus Lake to Rainbow Cabin and the Mackenzie Heritage Trail (see below). The route is maintained between the Rainbow Cabin and Octopus Lake. This trail is rated as difficult.
Nuxalk-Carrier Grease/Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail - Length, 420 km; suggested hiking time, 25-30 days; elevation change, 1,800 metres. This famous trail originates at the Blackwater River near Quesnel and leads 300 km across the Interior Plateau and through the park to the trailhead on Highway 20 and then on to Bella Coola. From there the historic corridor continues over water for 65 km to Sir Alexander Mackenzie Provincial Park on the north shore of Dean Channel. The 80-km section of the trail that is contained within Tweedsmuir Park, which takes about 5-7 days to traverse, is considered by many to be the most scenic stretch of the entire Mackenzie Heritage Trail. The trail's major appeal is the opportunity for long-distance backpacking or horseback riding along a historic route that follows the footsteps of First Nations Peoples, Alexander Mackenzie, and other explorers and pioneers. Please contact the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail Association for more information. Box 425, Station A, Kelowna, BC, V1Y 7P1 (250) 762-3002.
Currently, visitor services are extremely limited, and the trail remains unmarked. Extended trips along the trail require both stamina, and a high degree of preparation. Hikers attempting the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease/Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail should be self-reliant and experienced in wilderness travel. Hiking the entire trail requires approximately 3 weeks; portions of the hike through Tweedsmuir (South) Provincial Park are isolated, so it is recommended that visitors hike in groups of at least three. Portions of the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease/Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail within Tweedsmuir Park have been cleared of deadfall in 2019 (Rainbow Cabin to Mackenzie Pass) and 2020 (Hwy 20 towards Hump Lake). The rest of the trail has been unmaintained. Arrangements should be made well in advance for food and supply drops; one drop halfway is essential. This hike is rated as difficult. An excellent trail guide is available for purchase from the Alexander Mackenzie Trail Association.
Trails starting from Turner Lake:
Ptarmigan Lake - Length, 12 km; suggested hiking time, 5 hours; elevation change, 600 metres.
This high-altitude trail starts near Hunlen Falls and climbs steadily through a mature pine forest to the alpine and a campsite at the north end of the lake. This is a moderate hike. The trail was cleared of deadfall in 2018.
Panorama Lakes Loop Trails - This trail system consists of two loop trails that can be hiked in either direction. The trails should be considered routes as there is no discernable trail in several sections. Connect Ptarmigan Lake with Janet Lake, Molly Lake, Echo Lake and Rosemary Pass. Since these routes are in high subalpine and alpine, they are marked by cairns, which may be difficult to find in some areas or see in bad weather. You should bring a topographic map and compass, and know how to use them. Please stay on route/trail wherever possible, to avoid damaging the delicate alpine vegetation. It is recommended that hikers allow sufficient time for route finding and be prepared for challenging conditions.
- Ptarmigan Lake/Echo Lake/Rosemary Pass - Length, 14 km. Moderate. This loop starts at the Echo Lake/Ptarmigan Lake trail junction, and climbs to the top of the ridge between South Goat Creek and Ptarmigan Lake. As the route descends toward Echo Lake, the hanging glaciers of Glacier Mountain dominate the view. The route is very steep in sections. Watch for cairns, especially the two large ones located on either side of a narrow valley just before Echo Lake. The route follows the north shores of Echo and Gem Lakes, leading to a long uphill traverse. Enjoy the views of Panorama Ridge with its hanging valleys, horned peaks, glaciers, and waterfalls. From Rosemary Pass the route/trail descends to the east side of Rosemary Lake, crosses the creek and follows the west shore of Ptarmigan Lake.
- Ptarmigan Lake/Molly Lake/Rosemary Pass - Length, 14 km. Moderate. This loop starts at the Ptarmigan Lake campsite and follows the cairns north towards Whistler Pass before turning west to Janet Lake. It travels southwest along the north side of Janet Lake, and then climbs to the boulder-strewn skyline of Janet Pass. Several small lakes are visible from here: Molly Lake is downhill and on the right. On the east shore of Molly Lake is a primitive campsite with spectacular views of the Talchako Mountains. To continue to Rosemary Pass, follow the cairns leading eastward. This is a steep climb. Return to Ptarmigan Lake as described above.
Kettle Pond - This is an easy one hour walk from the Big Rock/Kettle Pond picnic area around an interesting, glacially-formed “kettle” pond.
Burnt Bridge - This trail starts from the Mackenzie Heritage Trailhead and leads along Burnt Ridge Creek to a small suspension bridge, looping back down to the parking area. This trail has a beautiful viewpoint overlooking the Bella Coola Valley and can be completed in 1-2 hours.