WELLS GRAY PROVINCIAL PARK is the equal of any Rocky Mountain parks: if anything, its wilderness is probably more extreme – so untamed that many of its peaks remain unclimbed and unnamed. Wildlife sightings are common – you may encounter black and grizzly bears, mountain goats, cougars, timber wolves, coyotes, weasels, martens, mink, wolverines and beavers.
Even if you’re not geared up for the backcountry, Clearwater Valley Road, the 63km access road to Clearwater Lake from Clearwater, opens up a medley of waterfalls, walks, viewpoints and picnic spots that make a detour extremely worthwhile. The road is paved for the first 42km into the park boundary, but the remaining 36km to Clearwater Lake is gravel. Most sights are well signed and you can see all obvious scenic landmarks in a day. The park road ends at the southern end of Clearwater Lake, location of some boat launches, a provincial campground and a series of short trails.
With some 250km of maintained trails and dozens of other lesser routes, the 1.3 million-acre park is magnificent for hiking. We’ve outlined short walks and day-hikes from the park’s access road (see Clearwater Valley Road), but serious long-distance hikers can easily spend a week or more on backcountry hikes, most of which are in the southern third of the park and link together for days of hiking and wilderness camping. Pick up a free BC Parks map-pamphlet at the Clearwater visitor centre; if you’re thinking of doing any backcountry exploration you’ll want to invest in their more detailed maps and guides. Steep switchbacks, muddy conditions, thick brush and large deadfall as well as tramping across sharp lava flow and loose rock make the going slow on many of the more remote trails. The longest one-way trail connects Clearwater Lake to Kostal Lake trail (26km) and begins on the main Wells Gray Park Road, just across from Clearwater Lake campground.
Another of the park’s big attractions is canoeing on Clearwater and Azure lakes. The former is at the end of the access road and can be linked with a short portage to make a fifty-plus-kilometre dream trip for paddlers; rent canoes ($55 day, $225 week) from Clearwater Lake Tours (t 250 674 2121, w clearwaterlaketours.com; mid-May to Oct) on the south end of Clearwater Lake. Several local operators run tours featuring whitewater rafting, riding, fishing, boating and floatplane excursions around the park; the Clearwater visitor centre has details.