Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.
Exploring Waterfalls at Wells Gray Provincial Park
A lifetime is too short to explore all of Canada’s amazing parks. I will never see them all. Still, I take every opportunity I get to discover a park I haven’t been to before.
This time I was doing a trip to Clearwater, British Columbia for a Thermomix cooking event at a beautiful home close to the turn-off for Wells Gray Park. This was my chance to get a taste of the area and the waterfalls at Wells Gray. The experience was amazing.
If you are planning a road trip in Western Canada, I suggest you check out spectacular Wells Gray Provincial Park and work it into your travel route.
You could easily spend all of your vacation at the Wells Gray, but when travelling on Highway 5 North, you’re probably on the way to somewhere else. If you are heading for Jasper, Alberta and don’t mind a short detour you can turn off Highway 5 at Clearwater to find the entrance to Wells Gray Provincial Park and check it out yourself.
The road into the park is paved as far as Helmcken Falls and in good condition. Half a day is all you need for a short visit to see three of the most spectacular waterfall of Wells Gray. The park has 39 named waterfalls, and hundreds more are unnamed and hidden in the wilds.
Take a break from travelling the highway; visit at least a couple of the falls and enjoy beautiful vistas to take your breath away.
Helmcken Falls is the best known of the many waterfalls in Wells Gray Park with a dramatic 141 m vertical drop into the canyon below. As the fourth largest waterfall in Canada Helmcken Falls is nearly three times the height of Niagara Falls. The sight is impressive at any time of year. During the off-season, you miss the crowds.
Access to Helmcken Falls viewing platform is only a few minutes walk from the parking area.
An easy 10-minute hike through an old-growth forest lets you watch water thundering over 200,000-year-old lava beds. The parking spot on the other side of the road is reserved for buses only, which means lots of tourists come through during the summer month.
The first platform gives you an excellent view of the falls. Follow the trails to the second platform to view the falls from the top.
Spahats is the First Nations term for bear; the stream was long known as Bear Creek. Because of the large number of Bear Creeks in the province, Bear Creek changed its name to Spahats Creek (like the falls) in the late 1960s.
Spahats Falls are impressive and truly a natural wonder. Formed from volcanic rock deposits centuries ago, the falls cut through a deep canyon.
An easy stroll takes you to the viewing point on a cliff overlooking the falls. Walking along the guard fence lets you see different views of the falls as well as the Clearwater River.
How to get to Wells Gray Provincial Park and the Waterfalls
Most people enter Wells Gray Park via the town of Clearwater on Highway 5, 123 km north of Kamloops. From Clearwater, a 36 km paved road takes you to the park’s south entrance. Another 29 km partly gravel road runs into the centre of the park and ends at Clearwater Lake. From this road, you can access hiking trails and all the waterfalls mentioned in this blog.
During my visit to the park in April, the road to Clearwater Lake was still closed.
Wells Gray Park and Clearwater Visitor Centre
The Visitor Centre is a must stop if you are heading into the park. Get a park map and all the information you need to explore the area. White-water-rafting tours and accommodation can be booked here as well.
Travel Guide for Exploring Wells Gray Park
For an extended stay at Wells Gray Park, I suggest investing in Roland Neaves’s 6th edition travel guide “Exploring Wells Gray Park – The complete roads and travels guide to Canada’s waterfalls park”. The book is available at the Clearwater Visitor Centre.