#GetOutside: Wells Gray Provincial Park
I'm intending for #GetOutside to be a recurring series of posts about my ventures into the wilderness. This week's instalment takes us to beautiful Wells Gray Provincial Park in the BC interior north of Kamloops.
We're so spoiled in British Columbia. There are literally more beautiful places to explore and camp than you could visit in a lifetime, and if you're ever stuck for ideas, just look at a map or your trusty Backroads Mapbook and pick a patch of green to explore.
That's how this August 2016 camping trip got its start. But it could have been a disaster almost before it began, as it turned out.
Wells Gray Provincial Park is a massive, 5250 square kilometre wonderland located an hour and a half north of Kamloops, BC, on the Yellowhead Highway toward Jasper.
It's about five hundred kilometres from Vancouver, and the last sixty-five kilometres are off the highway on a long, winding backroad.
Drive-in camping spots are limited within the park, and all of the pre-reservable spots were filled for our target dates. So I figured we would leave early, get to the campground in the mid-afternoon and snag one of the few First Come, First Serve spots that remained.
Best laid plans, though.
We were late leaving Vancouver by an hour. And that hour put us behind a multi-vehicle crash in Chilliwack that closed the Trans-Canada Highway for two hours.
But luckily, the highway reopened (there were no fatalities, thank goodness) and we were able to bomb up the Coquihalla and through Kamloops and up into Clearwater country, then into the park and up the full length of those 65kms to the last drive-in campground and one of the very last available sites.
We'd made it.
Our campsite was in the Clearwater Lake campground, across from a short trail and lookout to Osprey Falls. Wells Gray is known as the Waterfall Park for good reason, and it seemed fitting that we'd fall asleep that night listening to the sounds of rushing water.
The jewel of Wells Gray Park is undoubtedly Helmcken Falls, at 141m the fourth-highest waterfall in Canada. You can drive to a scenic overlook on the north side of the falls, but we decided to hike the four kilometre Brink Trail that takes you to the brink of the falls on the south side.
It was well worth the effort, though if you have a fear of heights, I'd take caution. There are no barriers at the edge on this side, just uneven ground and a sheer drop.
We kept a tight reign on Lucy, and trod carefully!
After the hike, we found a lake to cool off in, and retired to the campsite for dinner and 'smores.
The next day, we set our sights on exploring the beautiful Trophy Mountain trail, an amazing hike into a vast expanse of subalpine meadows and beyond.
First we had to get up the gravel road to the trailhead, which was never an easy process in my eight-year-old Jeep, which tended to overheat at anything above a moderate grade.
Nothing like being passed by a Honda Civic going uphill while you're parked on the side of the road spewing smoke. #ItsAJeepThing.
Anyway, the hike was well worth the headache. We ventured about two hours up into the meadows and beyond to Sheila Lake, where the view across to the surrounding peaks was panoramic.
Lucy found some marmots to harass, and we took a hell of a lot of pictures of the scenery and marvelled at how this amazing park with its stunning vistas and ever-changing terrain hadn't even been on our radar a few weeks before. Now, we were driving past ranch property wondering if we should put in an offer.
Another refreshing dip in the lake and another cozy night by the shore of Osprey Falls and we were packing up the Jeep and heading back toward civilization, though not before pulling over to gawk at 60m-high Spahats Creek Falls, another insanely scenic and easily accessible jewel of the park.
Basically, if you like waterfalls, you should visit this park.
The park is also really well-known for its backcountry camping and canoeing. One of these days, I would like to go back and try a portage trip into the less-explored parts of the park.
But even if you're just car camping, like we were, Wells Gray is a place that is not to be missed. Just probably try and reserve a campsite beforehand.