Most Beautiful Spots in Wells Gray Provincial Park
Wells Gray Provincial Park is one of British Columbia’s best kept secrets. Close to more popular destinations such as Jasper National Park helps keep the tourists away and so far up north from Vancouver that even locals rarely visit.
I personally loved Wells Gray Provincial Park, it is known as the land of waterfalls and is a great detour to escape the crowds and go on beautiful trails. There are many wonderful photography opportunities, from the falls themselves, to the landscapes, and the animals that roam the forests.
Of course, the Helmcken Falls are the major attraction in the park and a place you’ve probably heard of before, but there is so much more to the Wells Gray Provincial Park. To be more specific, hundreds of trail networks, 9 mountains, and 41 named waterfalls.
What you need to know before visiting Wells Gray Provincial Park is the following: You will need a vehicle as the park stretches a lot of kilometers and there is no public transportation. You have to be prepared to walk a little bit to get to the hot spots. You should also bring some bear spray as there is a large bear presence in the park. Finally, bring snacks because otherwise to eat you will need to make it back all the way out of the park to Clearwater. In Clearwater, there are many restaurants and grocery stores.
The purpose of this post is to show you all the wonderful and most beautiful places you will find in the park. You can use this post to start to plan your day or two in Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Here are the most beautiful spots in Wells Gray Provincial Park:
A towering giant, Helmcken falls is the 4th tallest waterfall in Canada. It is the main attraction in Wells Gray Provincial Park and for a reason.
At any time of year, you are able to park in the parking lot next to the viewing platform that overlooks the waterfall. This viewing platform offers the most photogenic angles of the 141m waterfall.
A distinctive feature of the waterfall is the effect created during Winter. In Winter, the waterfall doesn’t freeze over and creates a volcano like cone in the snow below it painting a very unique looking scene. If you can make it out during winter, you’ll have an amazing picture guaranteed.
If you’d like to get closer to Helmcken falls, you can do the Rim Trail which is considered a moderately difficult trail. This trail will take you right to the very edge of the waterfall where you will be face to face with the sounds and sights of the towering giant. However, from a photography perspective, the views on the rim trail are quite tight which means that you’ll have some trouble getting really good shots of the falls. I’d recommend bringing a wide angle lens if you have one. The trail is 8km out and back and you are allowed to bring your dog on the trail.
In my opinion, the best time to visit Helmcken Falls is either in the early morning or in the late evening and into the night. If you stay long enough, you may be lucky and see the milky way above the waterfall. Although you will have to composite your photos as the waterfall is unfindable in the dark.
I was pleasantly surprised by Dawson Falls. I am not a huge fan of wide waterfalls as I often find them hard to capture and not as impressive as their taller counterparts, but make no mistake, Dawson Falls is a must stop waterfall when visiting Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Getting to Dawson Falls is only a short 10 min walk by the main road and down a small trail to a clearing with a fence around the waterfall. Just follow the signs from the parking lot and walk 700m to the waterfall and you should find it no problem.
Once you get to the falls, you’ll have two main vantage points (one is hidden). First, you’ll be able to look at the falls from the side through a clearing in the woods, from there you can maybe get a cool looking long exposure if your tripod is tall enough. The second vantage point, I found myself; you’ll have to follow the waterfalls down a small trail to the side of the fence where you’ll find a rock you can walk on that has moss all over it and gives you the absolute best view of the waterfall (see the picture above!).
Overall, you can spend a good 30 minutes at Dawson Falls and I would absolutely recommend it if you visit the park.
Spahats Creek Falls
Spahats Falls is another incredible location in Wells Gray Provincial Park. It is a 197ft tall waterfall that shoots out from a cliffside tunnel that overlooks an epic valley. If that doesn’t sound like a dream location then I don’t know what does.
When you first get to the Spahats Creek parking lot, you’ll only have to walk 1.5 kilometers to reach the lookout point for the waterfall. If you’re like me, you’ll get a bit of vertigo as once you reach the falls, the trails edges against a cliff that looks down into an epic gorge surrounding the waterfall. You’ll have views of not only Spahats, but also the river it falls into and the mountains that surround the park.
If you want a really good looking spot for sunset or sunrise pictures with a splash of stars, then this Spahats Falls is a great place to go. There are so many wonderful photo opportunities here you won’t regret it.
If you’re up for it, you can walk 1km further from the falls unto the trail and you’ll have an awesome view of the valley below. It’s a view that most hikers have to work hours for and you’ll get it by only walk 2-3 kms so I would definitely make my way to the end of the trail.
Keeping up with the trend of waterfalls (Wells Gray Provincial Park is the land of waterfalls after all!), we have Moul Falls. This waterfall is very different from the three previous waterfalls and a very worthy addition to the list.
Getting to Moul Falls is relatively moderate, you’ll have to do a 5.5km in-and-out trail but that’s a small price to pay for the gorgeous views you’ll be able to take in once you reach them.
Moul Falls itself is gorgeous. Once you reach it, you’ll be intimate with the waterfalls and you’ll have the ability to walk behind the falls and into the cavern behind it. It is both and adventure and a prime photography spot.
You can get some great pictures from the flowing water at the bottom of the falls, behind the falls themselves, or in the cavern behind it. You can also get pictures of the Moul Falls when you first see it on the trail overhead. We stayed here at least an hour because of all the photo fun we were having. Moul Falls truly is the most photogenic waterfall of Wells Gray Provincial Park.
There is a black bear presence on the trail, so make sure to bring your bear spray and continually make sound as you adventure through the trail. We were told by other hikers during our day at Moul Falls that a black bear had been spotted in the morning, we were scared and excited by the possibility of a face to face encounter with the mighty black bear but didn’t have the opportunity.
Another beautiful spot in Wells Gray Provincial Park is Bailey’s Chute. It is a 1.3km in and out trail. It is a series of small waterfalls on the Clearwater River.
What is very interesting about Bailey’s Chute and makes it stand out from the rest is during the salmon run season. The salmon run is the time when salmon, which have migrated from the ocean, swim to the upper reaches of rivers where they spawn on gravel beds. Now what happens at Bailey’s Chute is these salmons try to jump the ledge of the falls when they get to this point in the river, which means that onlookers on the viewing platform nearby will assist a show unlike any other. Hundreds of salmon attempt to jump out of the water and over the falls all day long trying to reach the upper part of the river. If you’ve got a good telephoto lens, you’ll be able to snap up awesome pictures of this natural phenomena in action.
Another cool thing about Bailey’s Chute is the wildlife presence. Bears especially know that the salmon is easy to catch at Bailey’s Chute and will regularly come in the early morning or late evening when there is little human presence to feed on the river. If you’re lucky, you might just spot one!
Murtle Lake from Wavy Ridge
The Murtle Lake trail from Wavy Ridge is an extremely underrated and almost unknown trail in British Columbia. To access the trailhead, you will need to use a kayak or a canoe (no motorboats).
The trailhead starts off at a nice little sandy beach with beautiful views of Murtle Lake. You’ll quickly ascend a difficult hike up to a plateau in the Wavy Range where you will be greeted with many unnamed lakes, beautiful alpine meadows, and epic overhead views of Murtle Lake.
Plan at least a full day if you’ll attempt this trail all at once. Otherwise it is recommended to bring camping gear and just set up shop anywhere on the trail overnight. You’ll be rewarded with stars and a splendid sunrise for your effort. Best part is you’ll probably be on your own on the trail as very few people come here due to the remoteness and lack of popularity.
Trophy Mountain is the most popular mountain in the Wells Gray Provincial Park. It is known for it’s beautiful alpine flower meadows in the summer. It has a height of 2,575 metres and has eight other peaks standing next to it in what is called the Shuswap Highlands.
To get to the trophy meadows, you’ll need to hike 10.5 kilometers (in and out). It is recommended to come here in the summer from June to August to see the most color out of the flowers in the meadows. In September, it will be too late to see any flowers and the trail will likely not be worth the strenuous hike (at least not for a photographer).
If you have it in you, I recommend making the hike all the way to Sheila Lake past trophy meadows for epic views of the surrounding mountains and including Trophy Mountain. You’ll also have a nice place to set up camp by Sheila Lake which is a beautiful alpine lake.
Hopefully you enjoyed this article and found it informative for your next trip to British Columbia. Wells Gray Provincial Park is worth the detour and there are so many lesser known jaw-dropping spots in the park as shown in this article that make it a very attractive destination.
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