Cascading 141 metres down into a breathtaking canyon, the waterfall offers one of the most stunning photo opportunities in B.C.
Helmcken Falls South Rim Trail offers a chance for waterfall-enthusiasts to get an up-close and personal view of the triumphant rapids. Photo: @mounntaingoat / Instagram
Helmcken Falls looks like it was transported out of a whimsical fairytale.
Cascading 141 metres down into a breathtaking canyon, it offers one of the most stunning photo opportunities in the province. What’s more, it is the fourth-largest waterfall in Canada, making it a highly sought-after destination for travellers.
Situated in Wells Gray Provincial Park on the Murtle River, the statuesque rapids fall from the top of a soaring rock face with a thunderous roar. Lush forests coat the surrounding area, and the pristine waterway continues down through the canyon.
Running from a glacier in the Cariboo Mountains, the Murtle River stretches an impressive 18 kilometres and is home to a number of other waterfalls including the Mushbowl, Dawson Falls, Majerus Falls, Horseshoe Falls, Meadow Falls and McDougall Falls.
Helmcken Falls South Rim Trail offers a chance for waterfall-enthusiasts to get an up-close and personal view of the triumphant rapids. Considered a moderately difficult hike, the trail takes adventurers on a three-hour round-trip journey close to the falls. However, there are no barriers to keep hikers from falling, so hikers should exercise caution. Alternatively, visitors may drive up to the waterfall and observe it from above. Clearwater Valley Road leads up to a large parking area near the platform, which affords an accessible, fantastic photo opportunity.
In the winter, the trail is also suitable for snowshoeing, and visitors will have the chance to observe the waterfall when it’s completely frozen. A truly awe-inspiring sight, the base of the falls form into a volcano-shaped ice cone up to 50 metres high. The best time to view the cone is in January and February, as it begins to collapse after this time.
Taken a couple years ago, this was an extraordinary trip to the bottom of Helmken Falls in Wells Grey Provincial Park. Note: I hired a professional mountain guide to assist getting here. It involved negotiating a 100 ft ice wall and deep crevasses to get here.. so not something you can just hike to!
Located 35 kilometres from Clearwater town, Hemcken Falls Lodge is a rustic, family-run accommodation away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The 20-acre property offers 22 rooms in eight buildings as well as a campsite. What’s more, the campsite is located one kilometre from the entrance to Wells Gray Provincial Park. It has seven Grass Tent sites and 13 Grass RV sites that offer an ideal base to explore the wilderness from. *Note: Helmcken Falls Lodge is now closed for the season, but it fills up quickly. You can pre-book for 2021 to reserve a spot.
Clearwater Springs Ranch and Spa offers an alternative accommodation that is surrounded by pristine wilderness. Considered a luxury accommodation, Helmcken Falls is just ten minutes away and the ranch offers rustic, cozy rooms as well as a hot tub, gym, sitting room with a large open fire, comfy sofas and telescopes.
Situated in the heart of Clearwater, Dutch Lake Resort offers 1000 feet of waterfront on Dutch Lake with cabins, RV/camping sites and a restaurant.
Nakiska Ranch is also located in Clearwater and boasts spectacular views of the Trophy Mountains. According to its owners: “All rooms and cabins are the original Cedar structures from the time of the first pioneers of the Wild West.”
There are also a plethora of individual charming cabins for rent in Wells Gray Provincial Park that are close to Helmcken Falls. For example, the “Country Cabin in the Wilderness at the Entrance to Wells Gray Park” is just over a 15-minute drive from the waterfall, and offers a rustic, adult-only accommodation that sleeps six.
Be sure to check current weather, terrain, and wildlife conditions prior to embarking on a hike. In addition, make sure that you know your physical limitations, tell someone where you are going, bring enough food and water, wear appropriate clothing, and never hike alone. Don’t attempt dangerous poses for photographs.