Leaving the Canadian Rockies as you pass the highest mountain: Mount Robson, 4663 meters at the summit. From Mount Robson you continue to a “Waterfall Park” known as Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Wells Gray Provincial Park
Wells Gray Provincial Park, located north of Kamloops (130 km), is British Columbia’s fourth largest Provincial Park. It covers an area of 5,400km². Wells Gray Provincial Park is one of our favourite places. I like to describe Wells Gray as an all-round park. There are so many things to see and to do. And there is no way to compare Wells Gray with the Canadian Rockies. You can enjoy a majestic view from the volcanic cone at Pyramid Mountain, visit the magic Easter Bluffs or see the Helmcken Falls, the most famous place in Wells Gray. There are numerous trails that you can enjoy all through the park, many leading to waterfalls or creeks. Wells Gray Park was created in 1939 named after the Arthur Wellesley Gray, Minister of Lands for British Columbia from 1933 to 1941.
During the early glacial periods, there was a lot of volcanic activity in area. The eruption of the lava caused the ice above it to melt, sometimes resulting in big explosion. The effects of these explosions and the powers involved are demonstrated in today’s rare landscape and rocky shapes. At some points, those forces resulted in the creation of rugged canyon-valleys with impressive waterfalls. These waterfalls basically are the result of unstable layers of soft lava. The rivers that started to flow eroded the unstable layers around the stable layers and it resulted in the deep, narrow gorges you can find throughout the park. The big lakes in the park are the result of the ice paths that moved and formed deep lake basins.
Wells Gray Provincial Park is a really large reserve with high mountains, waterfalls, pristine forests, thundering rivers, big lakes, and lots of wildlife and plants. The Park protects a very large diversity of landscapes and eco-systems: it contains over 56 species of mammals, over 200 species of birds and over 700 species of vascular plants. You can find in the park many interesting beautiful animals including caribou, deer, mule, moose, mountain goats, black bears, grizzly bears, weasels, martens, minks, wolverines, beavers and coyotes. Wells Gray is absolutely great for boating. There are five large lakes in Wells Gray Park (Clearwater, Mahood, Azure, Murtle, and Hobson). There are also two large river systems and numerous small lakes, waterways, rapids, streams and waterfalls.
How to get here:
The most frequent used road by visitors to Wells Gray Provincial Park is the Clearwater Valley Road (also known as Wells Gray Park Road). This road starts at the junction of the Highway nr 5 junction with Clearwater Valley Road at Clearwater and ends 70 km further north at the Clearwater Lake in the Park. The exit is clearly marked at the highway. There are 2 other roads to Wells Gray Park, to mention:
- From Direction 100 mile House to Mahood Lake; This is a gravel road. You have to first drive up to 100 Mile House, this is a far ride when coming from the East.
- From Blue River to Murtle Lake. This road is a gravel road to the parking lots at Murtle lake. From the parking lots it is a 1.6 km hike to the campgrounds (no vehicle/tent camping). Murtle Lake is considered one of the most beautiful wilderness lakes in British Columbia and in case you really are interested in camping at this lake, you need to stop in Blue River to get a camp permit.
The Clearwater Valley Road is paved until the Helmcken Falls Junction (at approx. 43 km from the Highway nr 5). Note that Wells Gray Park does not have any inhabitants and from the junction at the Yellow head Highway, you will not find any grocery store or gasoline station. There is a grocery store in Clearwater (Safety Mart). Along the Clearwater Valley Road there are Restaurants and Motel/lodges.
When you arrive at the Highway nr 5 junction with Clearwater Valley Road, be sure to stop at the Wells Gray Information Centre. You can buy here detailed topographic maps of Wells Gray Provincial Park and they can provide you with up-to-date information about Condition of roads, trails & information about the campgrounds.
Provincial Park Campgrounds
Wells Gray Provincial Park has 4 provincial campgrounds you can drive to from the Clearwater Valley Road. All campsite and group site reservations must be made through Discover Camping. When reservations are not available all campsites function as first-come, first-served.
1. Mahood Lake
At the south-western tip of Wells Gray Park, accessed either via 88 km of paved and gravel roads from 100 Mile House and along the south shore of Canim Lake, or via 65 km of gravel road from the Interlakes corner on Hwy 24, or across TFL 18 via logging roads from Clearwater. The nearest communities to this park are 100 Mile House, Lone Butte, Interlakes, Bridge Lake, Hathaway Lake, Forest Grove, Canim Lake and Sheridan Lake. 32 campsites + 2 Group Campsites (minimum 15 people, maximum 25 people). For bookings online: https://secure.camis.com/DiscoverCamping/WellsGray
Campground is open from May 16 – September 12. Fees 18.00$ (2016).
2. Clearwater Lake
This campground is located near the south end of Wells Gray park. Turn off Highway 5 and the Clearwater Info centre and proceed 67 kms north on the Clearwater Valley road. 40 campsites. For bookings online: https://secure.camis.com/DiscoverCamping/WellsGray
Campground is open from May 13 – September 30. Fees 18.00$ (2016).
3. Falls Creek
Sister campground to Clearwater lake. This campground is also located near the south end of Wells Gray park. Turn off Highway 5 and the Clearwater Info centre and proceed 67 kms north on the Clearwater Valley road. 40 campsites. For bookings online: https://secure.camis.com/DiscoverCamping/WellsGray
Campground is open from May 13 – September 30. Fees 18.00$ (2016).
4. Pyramid campground
First come first serve - Pyramid Campground is located just past the Mushbowl bridge and about 1km from the Helmcken Falls turn off. It has This 32 campsites within the campground, and is a great base for exploring Dawson Falls and the Pyramid Mountain are. It has basic facilities such as a hand pump for water, pit toilets, picnic tables and fire rings.
Campground is open from May 13 – September 30. Fees 18.00$ (2016) - Offseason gate is open, and no camp fees.
Private Campgrounds close to Wells Gray (Clearwater)
If you want to really enjoy the Wells Gray park the above mentioned provincial campgrounds are the best, though the campsites are with basic facilities only (no showers, no electric hook-up, no playground). If you are looking for some more facilities (hot shower, electric hook-up) you may consider the following campgrounds in Clearwater.
1. Clearwater Valley Resort & KOA
373 Clearwater Valley Road, Clearwater, BC V0E 1N0 Phone (250) 674-3909 Nice campground with 80 sites for tenting, RV, rental of Cabins, motel rooms. There are electricity hook-ups, hot showers, playground, fire pits and there is a heated pool. The campground is open from May-October.
Directions: Campground is located at the road to Wells Gray Provincial Park, one block up from the Visitor Information Center just off Highway #5.
2. Dutch Lake Resort & RV
361 Ridge Clearwater, BC V0E 1N0 Phone (250) 674-3351 RV park (65 sites) and lake-side cabin rental (9 units) on nice location. As of 2009 no tent sites available. Open from April-November.
Directions: In Clearwater approximately 1 km off highway 5 (on North-side). www.dutchlake.com
3. Clearwater Country Inn & RV.
Park 449 Yellowhead Hwy 5 East, Clearwater V0E 1N0 Phone (250)-674-3121 Luxury RV Park with family units, seasonal heated outdoor pool, full hook-ups, free showers, picnic tables, firewood, laundry, barbecue pits, playground. Directions: On the Highway 5 near Clearwater. www.clearwatercountryinnandrvpark.com
. Wells Gray Golf Resort & RV Park
6624 Clearwater Valley Rd, Wells Gray Park, phone (250) 674 0009 RV sites, tenting, Golf course, 50 Sites, electric hook-ups
Directions: Clearwater Valley Rd near entrance of Wells Gray Park (approx. 35 km from Clearwater).
Must-sees at Wells Gray Provincial Park
1. Helmcken Falls
Helmcken Falls is the major attraction in Wells Gray. A short walk brings you to the 137 meter high falls, the fourth highest in Canada or you can take the Helmcken Falls Rim trail. Directions: The trailhead of the Helmcken Falls Rim Trail is located approximately 42.4 km from Clearwater, off to the side of the main road just before the Pyramid Campground intersection. Park your vehicle in the parking lot provided. Follow the signs to the trailhead. You can also drive to the Helmcken Falls viewing platform (47.3 km)
2. Spahats Falls & Spahats Day use area
At 10.2 km exactly from the start of the Clearwater Valley Road, you will come to Spahats Falls. This is the viewpoint of the Spahats Falls and you will also find here the Spahats picnic area. The Spahats Falls is a very nice waterfall, almost 80 meters high. It is smaller than the Helmcken Falls but still a really beautiful waterfall, and easy accessible from Highway 5. At the Spahats Falls you can clearly see how the deposits of volcanic rock were build layer by layer during the time period of the ice age.
3. Dawson Falls
Another great waterfall is the 90 meter wide Dawson Falls, with a vertical drop of 20 meters. Directions: At the 42 km point on the Clearwater Valley Road. Pyramid Campground (45 km) The largest campground of the park along the Murtle River with 50 sites at a marvellous location in Wells Gray Park. From here it is a great walk via the Helmcken Falls Rim Trail to the Helmcken Falls waterfalls or to the Dawson Falls.
4. Pyramid Mountain Trail
A trail to the Pyramid Mountain starts at the entrance of the park (moderate, reserve approx. 4 hours for the total trail (2 hours one way), elevation approximately 250 meters). The trail leads to the summit of Pyramid Mountain, from where you will enjoy a spectacular view. The trail is full of fascinating volcanic shapes and characteristics.