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.
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.
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.
Grizzly Bear Grizzly Bear Paw
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.
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.
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.
Walking cautiously over raised roots and fallen stumps, we discover Devil’s Club, one of many amazing medicinal plants along the path.
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.
Peering at the falls at the edge of the cliff (Photo, Perry Rath) Peacock Falls (Photo, Perry Rath) Mysterious ladder on the other side of the river (Photo, houstonhikers.ca)
Despite your curiosity, the Society warns: DO NOT attempt to get to the ladder from the other side of the canyon. Not safe.
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
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.
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Travelled: August, 2021
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