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Backpacking in Wells Gray Provincial Park
Spectacular backcountry trips in British Columbia

©Outdoor Adventure Canada

Wells 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.

If 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 website.

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

masthead photo courtesy




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