This was the summer of adventure around British Columbia. We had been trying to make time to get up to Wells Gray Provincial Park after hearing how many waterfalls are in the area and having to stay closer to home gave us that chance. Everything you hear about Wells Gray is completely true – it is a total waterfall paradise. Best of all, a lot of the iconic waterfalls are located along Clearwater Valley Road and are just a small stroll from the car. We spent a few nights camping at Wells Gray Provincial Park and still did not have enough time to explore all of the waterfalls that we wanted to. Wells Gray is a place that will make you want to return again.
Make sure you make a quick stop at the information center to get a park map — we found it really helpful to visualize our plans for each day. The visitor center is a fantastic resource for information and questions.
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About Wells Grey Provinical Park
Wells Gray park is called the “Waterfall Park” for good reason. With 41 named waterfalls, there is always something new to discover. Wells Gray Park is British Columbia’s fourth largest park with 5000km² of Canadian wilderness. Located in the Thompson Nicola Region of Interior BC, the park protects most of the southern regions of the Cariboo Mountains.
Getting To Wells Gray Provincial Park
We entered the park through the main corridor that has access to the main waterfalls, via Clearwater, BC. There are also two other entrances to Wells Gray from 100 Mile (Mahood Lake) and Blue River (Murtle Lake). We started out on Highway 1, and then took the Coquihalla (Highway 5) to Kamloops, and continued on north to Clearwater.
It takes five hours to drive straight from Vancouver to Clearwater, BC if you do not make any stops. Take a look at these Google Map directions.
Note: If you’re staying at Clearwater Lake campground, expect it to take an extra hour plus to get to the campsite from Clearwater. Wells Gray Provincial Park is HUGE!
The road is paved for the first 42.2 km to the Helmcken junction, then it becomes a gravel road. It is a really decent gravel road that should be easily used by any vehicle. We had no issues with our family van. Keep in mind that though the park is open year-round, in winter the Clearwater Valley Road is ploughed only as far as Helmcken Falls.
How Are There So Many Waterfalls?
The Clearwater River valley is rich in volcanic and glacial history. The combination of layers of lava from volcanic eruptions, paired with carving from glacial activity, have carved the mountains while leaving behind breathtaking waterfalls. The volcanic rock deposits left centuries ago make for some incredibly dramatic waterfalls.
A ten minute drive into the park and up Clearwater Valley Road, you’ll find the first waterfall, Spahats Falls. After an easy five minute walk from the parking lot, you will see the falls from 80 metres above Clearwater River, cascading through a keyhole in the rock.
There is a fantastic viewing platform with gorgeous views, but do be sure to walk along the fence for a couple different angles. This was the first waterfall that we stopped at, and it really got us excited for what we would be experiencing after.
From our research, we were especially excited to see Moul Falls. It is not one of the biggest at 35m high, but it is the one waterfall in the park that you can climb down to the base and can slip between the falls and the canyon. The falls were so impressive when we saw them and when you walked behind, you could feel the incredible power of mother nature. It was such a humbling and incredible feeling. The water was COLD and oh so refreshing. Prepare to get soaked!
We did not take the kids behind the waterfall, as the path was a bit sketchy. Teenagers should be fine, but we recommend to just let the little kids admire the falls from the base.
To reach the falls is not quite as simple as a quick walk from the parking lot, but it was still an easy hike that is about 3km each way. We did not run into any bears, but passing bear scat on the trail at several points, it was a great reminder to stay bear aware. Give yourself a couple of hours to hike to the falls roundtrip and enjoy some time there.
The most popular waterfall in the park, Helmcken Falls cascades 141m to the canyon below. You can reach the fourth largest waterfall in Canada from great angles and a viewing platform that are just steps from the parking lot. If you’re more adventurous, you can also take the one-hour hike along the Rim Trail. We were told at the visitor center to not do the Rim Trail with little kids because of the huge open cliff drop-offs, so that is on our list for another visit. There’s a reason that Helmcken Falls is the most popular waterfall in Wells Gray!
At 20m high and 90m across, you will think that you are looking at a miniature version of Niagara Falls. The waterfall cascades over a layer of lava that is over 200,000 years old and sits on a gravel bed that predates this eruption. ¹ How impressive is that!
Dawson Falls is another short walk from the parking lot – it is so convenient to have such easy access to the most popular waterfalls! There are two different viewing platform areas.
We discovered this little ‘falls’ as we drove over Murtle River at the Clearwater Valley Road bridge. You can see the Murtle River split in two around Cambrian rock formations. There’s plenty of space to pull over after crossing the one-lane wooden bridge, just be careful for any oncoming vehicles as you walk onto the bridge. You’ll find the Mushbowl 40 kms up the Clearwater Valley Road.
Where To Stay
We stayed at the Clearwater Lake campground. It was a quiet campground and a short drive from our campsite to Clearwater Lake. There were also two other campgrounds: Falls Creek and Pyramid. Clearwater Lake had some river-view campsites and you could hear the rushing water all night; it was amazing to fall asleep and wake up to. You can make your reservation using BC’s Discover Camping website.
There are also several RV parks and lodges just outside the main entrance to Wells Gray. Plus, there are some great options on airbnb if that is more your style.
Time To Plan Another Visit
There are still SO many waterfalls we did not have time to discover during our visit in Wells Gray. An outdoor lovers paradise, we loved all of our outdoor experiences chasing waterfalls, hiking Trophy Mountain and swimming in Clearwater Lake. There is definitely more to discover in Wells Gray than can be fit into one trip.
What are some of your favourite waterfalls?