Most of Wells Gray Park’s 530,000 hectares is remote wilderness that you can only view after a vigorous hike or canoe. However, in the southern quarter of the park, a road runs 34 kilometres from the park entrance to Clearwater Lake. From this road corridor, you can explore many fascinating geological, cultural and natural features that make one of British Columbia’s largest provincial parks so special.
Backcountry camping is allowed; no facilities are provided. Information about backcountry sites in Wells Gray
This park offers vehicle-accessible campsites, both reservable and first-come, first-served.
Vehicle Accessible Camping Fee: $16.00 per party / night
BC Senior’s Rate (day after Labour Day to June 14 only): $8.00 per senior party/night. Read the fees section for information on senior camping discounts.
Dozens of walking and hiking trails lead you into natural and cultural oases. Guided walks are offered free through the park's interactive program between June and September and on a commercial basis through several local businesses.
Trail conditions and updates will be posted on the Wells Gray Park page under the Advisories and Hiking sections.
Watch for parking lot on west side of road at 30.6 km. This trailhead provides access to a network of trails including Trout Creek, Hoodoo Rim, West Rim Tote, Clearwater River and White Horse Bluffs. These trails are popular with horse riders (this is the only trail system in Wells Gray where a letter of permission for horse use is not required), and with hikers.
Numerous points of interest and excellent views towards the Battle and the Trophy Mountains make this one of the most interesting trails in the southern portion of the park. A refreshing swimming hole at the base of Hemp Creek Falls, the Green Mountain Hoodoos, a volcanic cave and impressive views of river valleys and creek canyons make for a rewarding day trip. When crossing the south slopes of Green Mountain, note the well-browsed willows, a reminder of the large concentrations of moose and mule deer that spend the winter on these balmy slopes. Camp spots on the Clearwater River invite an overnight stay for a restful evening of casting for rainbow trout and dozing off to the rhythms of a wild river.
Just past the entrance to the park is a road that winds is way up to the top of Green Mountain. The road terminates at a tower which offers a panoramic view of the southern quarter of Wells Gray Provincial Park. On a clear day, you can see the rolling mountains and plateaus of the Shuswap Highland, framed to the north by the jagged peaks of the Cariboo Mountains. Pyramid Mountain, Trophy Mountain, Mahood Lake, Battle Mountain and other prominent features of this part of the park can easily be seen from the shelter of the tower.
A 45-minute walk from the viewing tower will take you to Foot Lake. Keep your eyes and ears open for some forest birds common in this area. Warbling vireos, western tanagers and Swainson's thrush are present in the nesting season.
A sharp bend on the road to the Green Mountain viewing tower marks the trailhead to White Horse Bluff. The initial part of the trail goes through a young forest of white birch and trembling aspen. This is good habitat for mule deer and black bear so be alert.
After about 40 minutes of walking, you come out onto the south flank of White Horse Bluff. The bluffs were formed when a volcano erupted under a lake that occupied the Clearwater Valley about 600,000 years ago. The surface of this lake would have been 250 metres above the current river level. From the bluff, you can enjoy spectacular views of the Clearwater Valley to the north and the forested slopes of Green Mountain to the south. This forest was purposely burned in 1971 to provide more winter habitat for moose. Keep a lookout for red-tailed hawks and bald eagles.
A parking lot located at the base of Green Mountain Road is the trailhead to Placid Lake. The trail passes huge cottonwood tress at the forest's edge before meandering through an old-growth forest of large western redcedars and the occasional Douglas-fir. The trail continues through a much younger forest that has regrown since the great fire of 1926.
The trail opens up at the edge of Placid Lake. The lake is in transition, changing from a fen to a sphagnum bog, a process similar to that unfolding at Chain Lake. Enjoy the colourful aerial display put on by the nearly 50 species of dragonflies found here, or catch a glimpse of the occasional common loon or Barrow's goldeneye floating on the lake's surface. Watch your step in mid-summer because the area will be alive with newly hatched baby toads.
Walk beside the Murtle River and gaze at the impressive profile of Pyramid Mountain on the north side of the river. Pyramid Mountain is a tuya, a volcano that exploded under a glacier. You will pass by the Majerus Farm, one of several abandoned farmsteads in Wells Gray. Notice how the forest is reclaiming the land.
For the summer adventurer, this trail can be hiked or mountain biked, but take insect repellent as the mosquitoes can be ferocious. During the winter, this same trail is mosquito-free and groomed for cross-country skiing. The Wells Gray Birchleg (ski race) occurs along this trail in February.
The Majerus Farm Trail begins beside the warming hut just south of Dawson Falls. From the Majerus Farm, you can continue east along the Blackwater Creek Trail, which makes a loop back to the start
If you want a very different and spectacular view of Helmcken Falls, this is the walk for you. But be warned; the view is not for people who are afraid of heights.
The first part of the walk takes you through a young Douglas-fir forest. You will see a number of low shrubs in the understory, many of which are falsebox, one of the few evergreen bushes in the park and a favoured winter food of moose. Watch for piles of moose droppings, which are oval and brown and resemble compressed sawdust.
As the trail winds closer to the Murtle River, you begin to hear a thunderous roar. Soon you will be standing at the edge of the canyon, with Helmcken Falls plunging 145 metres to the rocks below Standing atop the fourth largest waterfall in Canada, you will see where the water has eroded away several layers of lava rock. Be extremely careful here; there is no fence and the ground can be slippery.
The trailhead is located at Ray farm parking lot. This large bend in the Clearwater River is where the river has meandered and cut through the gravel beds. Eventually the river will take a short-cut, cutting off the bend and creating an oxbow lake.
If you take the right-hand trail, you will get a commanding view of the Clearwater River. Watch the gravel beds for spawning chinook salmon in August and September.
Look to the right along the edge of the river's flat meanderings. This is the edge of the Moose Meadows where moose are often present from November to April. In the nesting season the willows, spruces and cottonwoods along the opposite river bank provide habitat for yellow warblers, northern waterthrush and western wood pewee.
The Ray farm is one of the park's few signs of the homesteading past. Built in the 1920's, the farm consists of split rail fences, a farmhouse and two barns. The surrounding untended farm fields are home to Columbian ground-squirrels, red-tailed hawks and tree swallows. The farmhouse has since collapsed in the winter of 1998. Do not enter the building, as it is unstable.
Two approaches can be made to the Ray farm site. The most direct route follows an easy gravel path from the main parking area. The path passes several mineral springs which attract numerous mammals and birds; look for mammal tracks. By mid-July, the edge of these springs are often carpeted with yellow monkey flowers and white rein-orchids.
The second approach to the farm starts at the trailhead beside the Alice Creek parking lot. A gentle walk through a second growth forest will lead to the Ray mineral spring, a small (50cm high) volcano-shaped cone that bubbles with mineral water. Listen for summer songbirds like magnolia warblers, winter wrens, and American redstarts. Or, if you prefer, you can make the loop along Alice Lake Trail returning to the parking lot of choice.
Bailey's Chute (2km)
Foaming water races by you in a series of rapids at Bailey's Chute. From the viewing platform, an easy walk from the parking lot, you can see massive chinook salmon trying to catapult themselves over the Chute from late August to early September. If you are here in late July when the water level is low, look for holes in the bedrock. These holes are carved by pebbles that get caught in the current's eddy causing them to spin round and round, eventually drilling through the rock.
The trail continues through an impressive mature forest of western redcedar and western hemlock. A wide variety of mushrooms can be seen along this part of the trail, especially after a late summer rain. Further upstream, the trail wanders past two small waterfalls, Marcus and Myanth Falls. Watch the river for spotted sandpipers, water dippers, common mergansers and harlequin ducks.
Norman’s Eddy: A “catch-all” pool in the Clearwater River, popular with fly-fishermen. remember that the Clearwater River is catch and release only.
The campgrounds of Falls Creek and Clearwater Lake are on the riverside, with the Chain Meadows trailhead on the east. This trail can be taken in short sections (to the Dragon’s Tongue lava beds and Sticta Falls on Falls Creek) or the entire 17 km loop. Caution: Beyond the Dragon’s Tongue, a strenuous route extends 24 km to Kostal Lake. Wilderness travel experience is required.
From the picnic area at the north end of Clearwater Lake campground, hikers can follow the lakeshore trail past the government wharf, skirting the lakeshore all the way to the public boat launch. This can be walked as part of the Chain Meadows loop trail.
The corridor area is popular with canoeists and rental canoes are available on Clearwater Lake. Contact the Wells Gray Information Centre as 250 674-2646 for more information.
In addition to the opportunites listed above, a number of companies offer guided trips on Clearwater and Azure Lakes. Contact BC Parks for more information.
Bicycles must keep to roadways. Bicycle helmets are mandatory in British Columbia. Specific trails are open to mountain bikers; ask at the Wells Gray Information Centre.
Please note that bicycles with electric assist motors (e-bikes) are not allowed on the trails within the park. E-bikes are restricted to park roads and areas where motorized use is permitted. The only exception to this policy will be for authorized and identified trail maintenance bikes conducting work on behalf of BC Parks.
The Green Mountain trail system is open to horse use. Some other trails are available by Letter of Permission when conditions permit. Please refer to the horseback riding section of the main Wells Gray Park page for information.
Guided horse riding is offered by thre companies located along the Wells Gray Park Road, south of the Park entrance. Contact BC Parks for more information.
Best-known of the access routes into Wells Gray Park, the road north from Clearwater takes visitors to a choice of three campgrounds, several picnic sites, many trails, spectacular scenery, birding, and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Before leaving Clearwater, visit the Wells Gray Information Centre at the junction of Hwy #5 and the Wells Gray Park Road. InfoCentre staff offer up-to-date information on trail conditions, campsite availability, guided activities, and local accommodation for the non-camping visitor.