British Columbia is one of the most highly rated provinces in all of Canada. And with good reason. Helmcken Falls is one of the main tourist attractions of the province.
The water from the Murtle River takes a 141 metre (463 feet) plunge over the Helmcken Canyon and gives rise to one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the Murtle River.
Helmcken Falls: The Most Captivating Water Falls
Without any further ado, let’s take a look at all the things that make Helmcken Falls one of the best tourist spots in the entire province!
1. It’s The Fourth Tallest Waterfall in the Country
In fact, all the three waterfalls that are taller than the Helmcken Falls can be found in British Columbia itself. If you’re someone who’s excited by waterfalls, then British Columbia is where it’s at!
The waterfalls taller than Helmcken are:
- Hunlen Falls
- Takakkaw Falls
- Della Falls
As mentioned above, when measured from by the total height that the water covers without any break, the Helmckens gave a reading of 141 metres (463 feet). There’s only one drop in the waterfall, which is why the appearance suggests the water falling at a great speed.
Some go as far as to say that the pictures do not do the waterfall justice. The stills simply don’t capture the sheer magnitude and volume of the water gushing down from the canyon.
2. Getting to the Waterfall
The Helmcken Falls is the crown jewel of the Wells Gray Provincial Park. In fact, the sole reason that the park was constructed was to protect the waterfall from any sort of damage or pollution.
As nature has it, the falls are located in the heart of the park.
One of the best things about the waterfall is how easy it is to reach the area and catch a glimpse of the waterfall. This is something that has been appreciated by the people who are looking for an easy get-away.
But how do you get to the park itself? It’s a valid question after all.
The park is about an hour from Clearwater when you travel by car on the Clearwater Valley Road. You’ll find the park at the end of the road. There are no traffic signals on the road, so you should be careful while driving.
The parking lot is very close to the waterfall. The distance is just about a hundred yards from the car park to the viewing point.
The drive from Clearwater is a very pleasant one, to be fair. You might spot a deer or a bear on the side of the road. There are over 40 waterfalls in the Clearwater area, so there’s always something cool to check out.
3. Hiking Trails Along the Waterfall
Most of the people who take the time to visit the Helmcken Falls say that it is an absolute must-see tourist spot. You can spend your entire day here, as well. There’s plenty of things to do, and if you like hiking then you’re in for a big treat!
Gattling Gorge Trail
Here’s a secret for you.
If you’re a photographer, then make sure you come down to the Gattling Gorge Trail. If you stand at the point right before the start of the trail, then you’ll get the perfect view.
In addition to that, make sure you visit the falls after 2 PM. The morning sun makes it hard to see the waterfall, and you’ll surely not get a good shot.
This trail is found at the head of the Helmcken Canyon. It is the narrowest part of the Clearwater River. The width is only 20 metres (66 feet) across. It’s a little further upstream from where the Murtle and the Clearwater River meet.
The signs on this trail aren’t so well maintained, but you won’t have a lot of problems going through it. The hike takes about an hour and a half on an average. Of course, the time taken is going to depend on how fast you walk and how many stops you make along the way.
Brink Trail/South Rim Trail
The longest hiking trail along the Helmcken Falls, this trail takes about 1.25 hours going either way. The hike is easy but is a rather long one for amateurs at 4 kilometres long.
There are no fences along the edge of the trail, so you must be careful while hiking this trail. Especially with kids.
All that said, it is the most highly rated hiking trail along the Helmcken Falls, and if you have some time on your hands, then make sure you give at least one of these trails a shot.
The brink trail is very aptly named. It starts near the Dawson Falls and moves down south, to the southern brink of the Helmcken Falls. The view from the southern brink is an amazing one, to say the least.
4. History of the Helmcken Falls
The history of a tourist spot only adds to the charm of its natural beauty. That is most certainly the case for Helmcken Falls.
Robert Henry Lee was a land surveyor who used to work for the British Columbia Government. History remembers Robert Henry Lee as the man who discovered the Helmcken Falls.
On 24 July 1913, Robert found himself on the top of the waterfall while walking west along the Murtle River from his camp.
He was so impressed by what he saw that he wrote a letter to the Premier of British Columbia at the time, Sir Richard McBride. The letter was to request the Premier to name the waterfall the McBride Falls, after Sir Richard himself.
Sir Richard disagreed with Lee’s idea. He instead wrote back three weeks later, suggesting that the waterfall be named after Dr John Sebastian Helmcken i.e the Helmcken Falls.
Dr Helmcken was a renowned physician who worked with the Hudson’s Bay Company when they arrived in Victoria in 1850. Dr Helmcken was also known for being one of the people who helped bring the province of British Columbia into the Canadian Federation back in 1871.
Interestingly, Dr Helmcken never managed to see the falls for himself in the seven years between it’s naming in 1913, and his death in 1920.
5. Helmcken Falls in the Winter
Helmcken Falls is not very crowded when it gets colder.
The Canadian government has been trying it’s best to promote tourism to a lot of places during the winter. This is due to the almost non-existent tourist season during the latter half of the year. In fact, a lot of people will recommend that you visit the waterfall when the mercury drops.
One thing is for sure. The experience that you will have at the falls during the winter is very different from the one that you will have during the summer.
However, there are a few drawbacks to visiting the waterfall during the winter:
- The hiking trails are not well-groomed and it becomes a headache to try and walk on them.
- The roads leading up to the park can be a little challenging to drive on, but the effort is quite rewarding.
- Car parking is often limited during the winter due to the snow cover.
- If you want to see the water gushing down the Helmcken Valley, then you’ll be disappointed.
The water becomes entirely frozen during the winter due to the drop in temperature. A lot of times, this gives rise to a 50-metre ice cone from the base of the waterfall. If it gets cold enough, it often reaches up to 70 metres in height.
Sometimes, it also becomes a full-blown snow crater. Have a look at that here.
For the experienced ice climbers, the Helmcken Falls is an absolute treat. It is known as one of the hardest cliffs to scale on the face of the earth. If you’re someone who loves to dig into the snow, then be sure to give the Helmcken Falls a shot, but beware! It is not for beginners.
6. Places To Stay Near Helmcken Falls
If you intend to spend your entire day (and night) exploring the various trails and the beauty of the Helmcken Falls, then you shouldn’t spend a moment worrying about the lodging facilities.
There’s the Helmcken Falls Lodge very close to the falls themselves. They have plenty of cozy rooms and facilities for visitors to have a pleasant stay.
However, if you don’t like the idea of spending your night at such a remote place, then you can always head back to Clearwater. There are plenty of lodging facilities in the town for you to choose from.
If you’re flying in from somewhere, then you should consider taking the six-hour drive to Vancouver to catch a flight back to your local area.
Helmcken Falls is arguably one of the must-see tourist attractions in the province. If you were to rank all the places that a tourist should visit in the province, then the falls would certainly be somewhere at the top.
There’s plenty to explore and it’s very easy to get to. So, there’s no excuse for missing out!