Backpacking in Wells
Gray Provincial Park
Spectacular backcountry trips in British Columbia
©Outdoor Adventure Canada
Gray Provincial Park, named after Wellesley Gray (BC Minister of Lands
in the 1930's) is located in British Columbia between Kamloops and the
BC-Alberta border, not far from Clearwater. Wells Gray is a large park,
spanning 540, 000 hectares which is about 1.9 million acres, and has
much to offer for outdoor enthusiasts. Although paddling is among the
main pursuits because Wells Gray is part of the Clearwater watershed,
there are also wonderful hiking and backpacking opportunities.
Wells Gray hosts more than fourty sites
that were home to First Nations cultures in ancient times, some dating
back 5,000 years. Shuswap (Sepwepeme) Indians battled with the Chilcotins
over caribou hunting grounds and most of the archaeological sites in
Wells Gray belong to the Shuswap tribe. Evidence of native presence
can be found in the pictographs of Mahood Lake. The area was explored
by railway surveyors and then became busy with gold prospectors late
in the nineteenth century, following that, farming was attempted. In
the early part of the 1900's great waterfalls were discovered and in
1939 the area was made into a park.
There are many waterfalls in Wells Gray
making it known as "the waterfall park". The impressive Helmcken
falls it the fourth largest in the country and was discovered in 1913.
Water plummets 142 metres or 466 feet into the river below. The Helmcken
Falls Rim Trail is only 8 km and can be hiked in a day.
The Horseshoe Falls Trail can be combined
with the Pyramid Mountain Trail for a multi-day excursion. This route
is an arduous one even though it is only 34 km (21 miles) round trip.
Wilderness campsites can be found at the top of waterfall.
The Flourmills Trail has wilderness camping
in a beautiful meadow. The campsite isn't far from a pretty creek. The
Flourmill is an extinct volcano and there is a lake at the base of a
50 meter deep volcanic crater. The trail is 25 km return and would make
a nice weekend backpacking trip.
you are interested in wildflowers and mountain lakes then Wells Gray
is the place to be. The Trophy Mountain area is ideal for a wildflower
walk. Wildflower meadows are plentiful in Wells Gray and are most beautiful
in the late summer months. A trip in the Battle Mountain area is rugged
and strenuous, but the scenery makes the work worthwhile. There are
alpine huts available through a local company, Wells Gray Adventures.
Speaking of Wells Gray Adventures, what
better way to explore the area than with a guided hut to hut hike? Wells
Gray Chalets & Wilderness Adventures, run by Ian Eakins and Tay
Briggs, offers many different opportunities. The Wells Gray Traverse
is a 3 to 7 day trip that includes your guides, your stay at wilderness
cabins, and all meals. The advantage of hut to hut hiking, beyond the
obvious benefits of a guided trip, is an environmental one as it reduces
impact on the region. Both Ian and Tay are experienced guides. Ian has
spent twenty years as a mountain guide and has taken many groups into
the Himalayas. Tay was raised in the Wells Gray area and is a well informed
naturalist. Wells Gray Chalets & Wilderness Adventures has been
in operation since 1988.
No matter how you choose to explore Wells
Gray Provincial Park you will be rewarded with spectacular scenery,
beautiful wildflowers and pristine mountain lakes. Wells Gray is a backpacker's
paradise and was rated "one of the great North American Hikes"
by National Geographic Adventure magazine.
For more information on Wells Gray Provincial
Park please visit the Park
Special thanks to Tay Briggs for her assistance
with this article. Please visit the Wells
Gray Adventures website for more information on their Hut-to-Hut
Hikes and other adventures.
Written by Laurie March
Waterfall photo courtesy Wells Gray Provincial Park
Wildflower photo courtesy Wells Gray Adventures