Wells Gray Provincial Park is a large wilderness park in east-central British Columbia.
The park protects a good portion of the southern Cariboo Mountains and spans over 5,250-sq-km, making it Canada's fourth largest park. It is open all year-round and each season comes with its own special activities. Here is a guide to exploring Wells Gray, year round:
Wells Gray is a hiker's heaven. From its ancient volcanic fields, glacier-fed lakes, jagged mountain peaks and wildflower-speckled meadows, there is something to please everyone. During the warmer months, the park is rife with all sorts of wildlife and scenery that just begs to be explored by the avid hiker. Visitors should be sure to visit the homesteads built in the shadow of Pyramid Mountain. Before the park was created, pioneers ventured here and staked their claim. The land has long since reclaimed much of their settlements, but some ruins still remain to give adventurous hikers a unique peek into history.
There is a whole slew of hotels, resorts, cabins, ranches and B&B's around Wells Gray Provincial Park, but for those that want to commune with nature, there is no shortage of campsites either. For those that plan to spend a day at Murtle Lake, they will find many camping spots along its sandy shores. Birch Island Campground also lies just at the base of the mountains in Wells Gray. For those looking to spend time by the Clearwater River, the Clearwater Falls Campground is the place to stay; for those who want a centrally located campsite, North Thompson River Provincial Park Campground is the granddaddy of all the camping grounds.
Canoeing & Kayaking
The Clearwater River and its various lakes are some of the most interesting places in British Columbia to canoe-trip. Murtle Lake is one of the most popular destinations for canoeists and kayakers and is the largest non-motorized, paddle-only, lake in the world. Many of the lakes, including Murtle, have campsites and picnic tables on their shores as well as beautiful sandy beaches, which paddlers can enjoy after exploring the waters. The park also has canoe and kayak rentals at Murtle Lake. For those looking for some great whitewater, the Clearwater River has beginner- to intermediate-level rapids to get the adrenaline pumping as well.
Alpine Hut-to-Hut Hiking
Alpine hut-to-hut hiking (or cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in winter) is one of the best ways to see Wells Gray Provincial Park. Visitors to the park, no matter during what season, can spend three, five or even seven days or more hiking or skiing to one (or more) of 12 different huts along the various routes. Each route offers up beautiful peaks, ancient forests, serene high mountain lakes and beautiful rolling meadows, which are covered in wildflowers during the summer months. If you don’t want to go it alone, there are quite a few tour operators willing to escort groups along any one of the alpine hut-to-hut paths.
There is no place that makes one want to burst into song and frolic through the fields quite like the meadows of Wells Gray Provincial Park. They are absolutely full of more than 250 different varieties of wildflowers. This is a popular side-attraction for hikers and other warm weather explorers, but some head down to Wells Gray Provincial Park just to see the flowers themselves. Park staff ask visitors to practice respectful wildflower viewing and not pluck too many of these beautiful treasures.
Fall Foliage Viewing
Like with the wildflowers in the summer months, the autumn season brings a thrill and a beauty all its own — fall foliage. While much of the park is home to evergreens, there are plenty of trees that change colour once the temperatures drop. The once intensely green landscape becomes a flurry of oranges, yellows and reds as the trees prepare for winter. Many people take advantage of this beautiful change by going on fall foliage tours, guided or self-guided.
Wells Gray didn't get the nickname "Canada's Waterfalls Park" without reason. It is home to 39 waterfalls that are magical during the warmer months. However, when the temperature drops, these behemoths freeze solid and the ice climbers show up. For the particularly experienced climber, Wells Gray is famous for giant Helmcken Falls, which is three times as high as Niagara Falls. (But there are shorter climbs too.)
The southern portions of the Cariboo Mountains, in Wells Gray Provincial Park, are some of the highest peaks in this particular mountain range. So there is some great skiing. The area is renowned for having relatively stable snow, but it recommended for intermediate or advanced skill levels. Throughout winter, this park is perfect for backcountry ski touring.
Snowshoeing Wells Gray Provincial Park is quickly becoming a major draw. When it comes to snowshoeing on-trail — there is only one route to take, the Clearwater River Trail. This beautiful trail starts by Dutch Lake and follows the Clearwater River, guiding visitors to beautiful vistas along the way. While The Clearwater River Trail is a brilliant walk, Wells Gray is well suited to the backcountry fan. Many guide themselves around the park to view the frozen waterfalls. Wells Gray treats snowshoes and cross-country skiers to thrilling landscapes to explore, making winter a time full of adventure.