|Extreme Wells Gray for the
There are really two kinds of extreme
adventures you can do in the Wells Gray Area;
the ones for adrenaline junkies - death defying
feats of near stupidity; and the ones for
Trekkers - To go where no one, (or almost no
one) has gone before.
Probably less than a third of Wells Gray Park
sees human access in a year. That leaves
about 1400 square miles for those looking for
something beyond the boundaries of the
Not that you have to go Way Out to get to the
more extreme local recreation opportunities.
As many a kayaker has discovered, the lower
Clearwater River can keep them in thrills and
spills for days and is easily accessible from
right in town..
Whitewater kayakers can have about 25 km of
world class bumps and bruises, in holes and rapids
like "the Wall" the "German Basher" and
"Sabretooth" all known to flip rafts and chew
kayaks... and their occupants.
You really need to make friends with a local,or
buy a hungry raft guide lunch to get that lifesaving
local knowledge on this river - seriously! This is
not that forgiving Olympic Park waterway or a
wave pool. Some wrong left or right turns will
possibly kill you. Some river sections are better
than a Class 5 and have to be portaged. Scott at
Liquid Lifestyles (next to Dairy Queen)
is the guy to talk to.
We are really not there yet when it comes to
mountain biking, but there is a local informal group
trying to get an organized trail system together for
the future. We have lots of Cross Country Ski
routes and steep old skidder trails, so the future
The locals have a few spots... but this ain't no
Moab. Dunn Peak gets some local attention, as
does an area around Little Fort, but that's about it.
the Wild Edge of Wells Gray
Wanna see something almost no one has?
Want to put your new boots to the blister test?
Want to see just how high devil's club can
grow or just how bad the mosquitoes can get?
Then Wells Gray is your heaven.
Really, there are lots of places you can go in Wells
Gray that are off the regular park guides, but I'll
just go through a few that are done in an average
year by at least one person.
Allow at least 3 full days for most of these:
1. Hike to, and paddle, Hobson Lake.
I bet less than a six pack of people do this hike in a
The trail to Hobson Lake starts in the river channel
between Clearwater Lake and Azure Lake. This is
Topo map and GPS country, don't go without
some form of advanced navigation skills/gear. The
trail (not really a trail anymore) is about 13-14 km
with a modest elevation gain.
There are tricks to doing this trip the easy way:
A. Abandon any thought you had of portaging
your own canoe in, collapsible or otherwise.
Clearwater Lake Tours (who can also water taxi
you to the Trailhead) foolishly flew a handful of
canoes into Hobson Lake some years ago. Take
advantage of their foolishness and rent a canoe at
the other end for a surprisingly low rate. You will
need to pack in a paddle and a PFD.
B. Go late in the season. The one really
dangerous part of this trek is crossing Lickskillet
Creek, at about the 8 km mark. In June and July,
the run off may be too high to cross safely. You
will get wet and you will get cold here. You will
need rope and straps, etc.
2. Huntley Col - Garnet Peak Ascent
Quite a few people hike Huntley Col, trail starts at
4 1/2 Mile Campsite on Azure Lake (canoe or
water taxi to it), but not many actually go all the
way and do Garnet Peak as well. Think about it,
you get to climb a mountain that looks like the
Matterhorn, without flying to either Disneyland or
the Alps. Take lots of water!
The hitch on this hike comes from a snow slope
that melts during the summer. Come early, and with
a bit of ice gear, you can walk up it to the summit
route. Come later and you'll need climbing gear to
get up past the sheer rock face that lies under the
melting snow. The view from the top is
mindblowing. Find the cairn and sign your name to
the short list of people of have made it to the top.
3. Kostal Lake Route
Kostal Lake is stunning - check out the picture.
The problem is getting there, it's hard and it takes
The route starts at Clearwater Lake Campground.
It wouldn't hurt to find campground staff and have
them register your name, date in, date out, and next
The route is 24 km one way, goes over lava flows,
through forests of devil's club, swampy areas, up
switchbacks, and through sometimes hundreds of
blowdown. You need bug dope, a Topo map,
good footwear, a compass and or GPS. If you
venture further on to McDougall Lake, or onto any
of the local lava flows, you can expect to destroy a
new pair of boots on this trek. There is a rough
campsite on the lake near the cone. You're on your
own for firewood ,etc. But considering the number
of blowdowns, you should be fine on that. Bring a
fishing rod! A casting rod and a bobber might land
you something impressive for dinner!
The tricks: Start early and stop when it gets dark.
You need to do this trek in full daylight as the trail
is very easy to lose! People get lost out there on
this one, you can't see landmarks from the ground
easily, so you get disoriented...a compass and map
4. Stevens Lakes
This place gets overlooked all the time. Probably
because it's Grizzly country. I don't know enough
about this route to give accurate info, but I do
know that you can get to it via the Battle Mountain
Access, plus a couple of other roads. It has rustic
campgrounds on the lakeshore, and the fishing is
5. Whale Lake
This one you can do as a same day trip or an
overnight. The hike is long - 8 km - and starts near
Mahood Campground at the Mahood River
bridge. Just to see the colour of the lake is worth
the hike. There's a small campsite there that you
can camp overnight at as well. Last time I went up
there, there was almost no sign of human presence
there...way off the beaten path.
6. Battle Mountain
This gets more use by far than any of the above
mentioned areas, but does offer some good back
country hiking and camping, notably at Philip
Lake. Access road starts near Wells Gray Ranch.
7. Horseshoe Falls / Majerus Falls
The first part of this trail to the Pyramid mountain
volcanic cone is maintained, after that you're on
This trail is fairly level and your biggest obstacles
are blowdown and curious black bears. There is a
rustic campsite near Majerus Falls - about 7 or 8
km in. The two falls are spectacular. This is a great
overnighter to get away from the crowds.
8. Hike Murtle Lake
There are lots of great hikes on Murtle Lake,
Wavy Range being one, you're already in a remote
corner of the park, give up the beach for a day and
climb a mountain.