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A Tale of Two Trails

Northern British Columbia, Canada

Adventure on two trails

The two trails are:

1 – For the first 20 minutes we stumble/climb a steep trail of loose rocks in a coniferous wood, then nimbly cross the alpine above the treeline to glacial Crater Lake in the Hudson Bay Mountain area, Smithers, B.C.

2 – Careful, pick-up-your feet hiking on a newly-hewn magical trail through woods of tall and stately conifers leading to cascading Peacock Falls near Houston, B.C.

Trail 1: Crater Lake, Smithers B.C

Crater Lake, hidden from view, is the destination. Elevation: 1687m/5535 feet. It lies at the foot of a snow-smattered glacier partially surrounded by steep cliffs.

It’s a great 5.8 km hike in bear country to the east of the Hudson Bay Mountain ski-hill in Smithers.

A moderately difficult out and back trail.

Access

To access, we hike on a steep wooded trail left of the Hudson Bay Mountain ski lift for about 20 minutes towards the mountain ridge. Small ski cabins/chalets dot the landscape among the conifers.         

The beginning of the trail to Crater Lake
The beginning of the trail to Crater Lake
Looking down at the ski chalets from the alpine trail
Looking down at the ski chalets from the alpine

Onward to the glacial lake

From here, above the treeline, it’s a gradual incline across the alpine where we admire lofty views of surrounding mountain ranges.

Finally, we trek to a concealed glacial lake at the bottom of steep rocky cliffs.

And, since it’s mid-August, go ahead, dip your body in coooold refreshing water. 

Wildflowers on the alpine

Abundant, beautiful, colourful. Dotting the terrain above the tree-line. Wildflowers wave in the constant, sometimes strong, winds along the alpine slope to Crater Lake.

Fairytale names capture the essence of these wildflowers: paintbrush, mountain harebell, alpine speedwell, inky gentian, mountain forget-me-not, heather, monkshood, fireweed… Arranged on the alpine as deftly as on an artist’s palette.

Wildlife on the alpine

Keep an eye open for elusive mountain goats atop higher rocky cliffs.

Listen for the whistle and watch for the hoary marmot.

Grizzly bears. They are sometimes seen on this trail. In fact a grizzly sighting was reported just 3 days before our hike.

Crater Lake Claims to Fame:

-Our fifteen-year-old grandson scrambling/climbing like a mountain goat up and along Crater Lake’s impressive cliff backdrop

 -Five of our grandchildren sliding along Crater Lake glacial snow as if it’s a backyard rink

The hills are alive with the sound of music: In 2016, a helicopter flew in a piano to Crater Lake, resulting in much publicity. The piano, once the centre of country-wide attention, now sits alone and lonely on the front patio of Smithers Art Gallery.

-Two major motion pictures shot footage in the nearby Hudson Bay Mountain range: The Grey and Eight Below. Here is more information on Crater Lake.

Crater Lake - end of the trail
Crater Lake at the base of the summit of Hudson Bay Mountain. Once glaciated, some snow and ice remain in the heat of mid August. Evidence of global warming. Can you see the tiny figures in the centre of the photo?

Trail 2: Peacock Falls, Houston, B.C.

Peacock Falls is an impressive two step falls (meaning water descends a series of rock steps). The falls are the pinnacle to a winding, green trail.

The virgin Peacock Trail — blazed about a year ago by the Houston Hikers Society — twists and turns through tall, swaying balsam and spruce trees. When the wind whistles through their tops, the effect is ethereal.

Like Lilliputians, we tiptoe through the long legs of soaring tree trunks. Strange creaking noises prompt us to stop, peer around cautiously before carefully moving forward.

Weird holes and patterns in fallen stumps look like gnome homes. Green moss coverings lend an otherworldly appearance. Continuous reverberating winds, creaking tree tops add to the drama.

At times the silence is broken by our fearless leader. From his mouth comes a loud chant to frighten any unsuspecting bears in the area. The rest of us follow with noisy hand clapping to add an exclamation point.

We are the only hikers.  

Forest terrain along the trail
Forest terrain along the trail
Are there any bears lurking? Make noise on the trail.
Are there any bears lurking?

Distance

Although only about 1 km to the picturesque Peacock Falls, it takes our party of 5 about one hour to complete the sometimes-tricky loop. Our youngest hiker, very nimble, was 8 years old. Our oldest, two seniors, tread carefully over forest floor obstacles: tangled vines, tree roots barely visible, all inviting an unwanted trip.

Heather hiking to Peacock Falls
one of our group on the trail to Peacock Falls

Devil’s Club

Walking cautiously over raised roots and fallen stumps, we discover Devil’s Club, one of many amazing medicinal plants along the path.

Devil's Club plants were in abundance along the trail
Devil’s Club plants were in abundance along the trail

Do not touch!

Warned not to touch Devil’s Club leaves only increased our desire to learn more about it.

Touching Devil’s Club can cause a nasty skin rash reaction. This valuable plant is challenging to harvest because of unforgivable thorns covering its leaves.

Once the root and root bark are harvested, however, the reaper can produce a medicinal tea, plus healing ointments and salves. It can be used in the treatment of internal and external infections including cancer and arthritis.

Warning at The Falls

The trail gradually goes down from the entrance area, winding its way through the forest before the final turn to the viewpoint.

When we arrive at ‘the spot’, there is an ominous sign.

Stand Back, Do Not Lean Over the Cliff Edge.

And so, we gingerly peer over the edge at Peacock Falls, a cascading waterfall.

Surrounding slopes are steep. Watch your footing when creeping towards the edge. Stay back from the edge and take in the view.

To the River

Hikers can also proceed in the opposite direction down the tricky terrain to reach the river’s edge.

The Houston Hikers website notes there is evidence of old mining or tie-hacking in the area. The trail passes by the old ruins of a cabin. Even more puzzling is the existence of an old wooden ladder on the opposite side of the canyon.

Second Warning

Despite your curiosity, the Society warns: DO NOT attempt to get to the ladder from the other side of the canyon. Not safe.

Canadian explorers

It’s refreshing to learn there are still verdant, less populated areas where regular folks can share a discovery almost equal to those seen by early Canadian explorers.

Map of Northern BC

Map of Northern BC showing Smithers and Houston

COVID update BC

For the latest covid information for travellers click here.

Sights and Sounds of Northern BC

A hike to Crater Lake (from ourhomehas6wheels blog)

Music of the Wetʼsuwetʼen Indigenous people

How to get there

Air Canada has flights from Vancouver to Smithers (1.5 hrs). One can drive from Vancouver if time is not important. Driving time is about 13 hrs.

Where to stay

There are a number of accommodation options – hotels/motels, B & Bs, campgrounds, short term rentals. We suggest you start at Trip Advisor.

Smithers is very walkable so it is easy to choose restaurants.

Read another blog from Canada

Travelled: August, 2021

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. arlene turner

    Congratulations, another wonderful adventure and great writing and information. We always enjoy reading “Vamos travel blog”;

    1. heatherr1

      Thanks Arlene – always good to get your feedback. We need to talk soon!

  2. Adolf

    A crazy adventure and of course superb writing and information — a wonderful place for Perry to raise a family

    1. heatherr1

      You know the joys of living in the wilderness, Adolf!

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