Helmcken Falls is located in Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia. With 141 meters (463 ft) height, Helmcken Falls is the fourth highest waterfall in Canada. The falls are fed by the Murtle River and cascade over a beautiful canyon, carved by slow moving glaciers in the past. Thanks to the protection of Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park was created in 1939. This resulted in more facilities which makes it possible to walk from the parking lot to the viewing platform of Helmcken Falls. But you can also hike along the Helmcken Falls rim trail to get a birds-eye view of the cascading water deep into the canyon below. It’s a truly spectacular sight and absolutely worth a visit! Read in our complete guide everything you need to know before visiting Helmcken Falls.
Where is Helmcken Falls?
Helmcken Falls is located in Wells Gray Provincial Park and can be accessed through the town of Clearwater which serves as the gateway to the park. Follow Clearwater Valley Road for 46 km until you get to the parking of Helmcken Falls. The spacious parking lot has toilet facilities as well as picnic benches. The road to Helmcken Falls is paved and can easily be accessed with a camper.
How to get to Helmcken Falls?
Helmcken Falls is easily accessible from the parking lot. It’s only a few minutes walk to the viewpoint which makes it a wheelchair friendly waterfall to visit. But if you want to see more vantage points of this incredible waterfall, then I highly recommend to explore the Helmcken Falls Rim Trail for panoramic views.
How high is Helmcken Falls?
Helmcken Falls is a dramatic and straight drop of 141 meter (463 ft) high. It is the fourth highest waterfall in Canada and a very spectacular and powerful sight. Helmcken Falls is classified as a plunge waterfall which is characterized by water dropping vertically without contact with the underlying rock surface. This type of waterfall results in a powerful and spectacular display of cascading water which is definitely the case at Helmcken Falls. The beautifully shaped canyon and lush greenery of pine trees contributes to the picturesque setting of this place.
Best time to visit Helmcken Falls
If you want to see Helmcken Falls in full glory, the best time of the year to visit is in spring and summer. In late spring, you can witness Helmcken waterfall at its peak flow, thanks to the melting snow that comes from the mountains. Autumn is a great time too as crowds thin out and the green foliage changes into golden hues.
The best time of the day to visit Helmcken falls is in the afternoon, as the position of the sun is then better. In the morning, the sun is behind the canyon, while in the afternoon the sun comes from the side, giving a beautiful warm glow to the surroudings.
In winter, Helmcken Falls undergoes a fascinating transformation. The cold temperatures gradually build up layers of ice around the base of the waterfall creating an ice cone. This results in a surreal and magical winter wonderland, perfect for photography. So if you want to capture the Helmcken Falls ice cone, the winter months are the best time to visit.
Helmcken Falls hike
Besides enjoying the stunning view of the falls from the main viewpoint, it is recommended to follow the Helmcken Falls rim trail. This 8km return hike takes you along several other viewpoints and gives an even better view into the rugged canyon. However if you are short in time, a visit to the main viewpoint gives you a great perspective of how tall and beautiful the waterfall is.
Can you get to the base of Helmcken Falls?
Theoretically it is possible to get to the base of Helmcken Falls, however this is not an official trail. If you are really determined to get to the bottom of Helmcken canyon, then be prepared for a 4 hour scramble one way! The trail is very hard to find and is only advised to do with a local who knows the way. With other words, just don’t do if you’re a tourist visiting Wells Gray Provincial Park on a day trip.
Is Helmcken Falls worth visiting?
Yes, absolutely! It is one of the most beautiful, and easily accessible waterfalls in Canada. Although it is a bit off the main touristy path, visiting Helmcken Falls won’t disappoint. I would advice to stay at least one night in Wells Gray Provincial Park or Clearwater to explore more of the natural beauty that the park has to offer. It is a perfect stop on a road trip from Vancouver to Mount Robson National Park for example. We camped for 2 nights at Helmcken Falls Lodge and RV park which was a great base to explore the stunning Wells Gray waterfalls.
How many waterfalls are in Wells Gray Provincial Park?
An impressive total of 41 named waterfalls can be found within Wells Gray Provincial Park. Therefore is Wells Gray also known as ‘Canada’s Waterfall Park’. Ancient volcanoes and slow-moving glaciers carved the rivers and lakes that nowadays fuel the park’s waterfalls. The Clearwater River, along with the Murtle River, contributes to the overall hydrological system of this region and influences the formation of Wells Gray waterfalls.
Other waterfalls in Wells Gray Park you must visit!
Wells Gray Provincial Park is the place to be for waterfall lovers. With so much natural beauty around, it is a must to explore some other Wells Gray waterfalls. Here are some of the best to add to your itinerary.
Although Dawson Falls isn’t the tallest waterfall in Wells Gray with 20 meter (66ft) height, the impressive width of 90 meters (295 feet) allows a large volume of water flowing over the lava ledge. This results in an impressive sight while the water descends over the cliff and roars further along the Murtle River. The short walk from the parking to the viewpoint of Dawson Falls takes you along the river and through the forest until you get to the viewpoint.
Another must visit is Moul Falls which is a single drop waterfall of approximately 35 meters (115 feet). The 5.5 km out-and-back trail through the forest leads to the base of the falls and offers a stunning view. The distinctive part of Moul Falls is that you can walk behind the curtain of water. This unique experience also provides a different angle for photography.
Early morning light will shine through the pine trees, creating a magical atmosphere at Moul Falls when the golden light hits the water particles. Definitely worth it to walk behind the waterfall to get a different perspective.
Silvertip Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in Wells Gray Park at 168 meter height. The 2.1 km muddy trail over tree roots, rocks and streams brings you to the base of the waterfall. To get to the trailhead you need to follow an active logging road. Although it’s not a super steep road, I wouldn’t recommend it with an RV. We had a 4×4 Ford Duty truck camper and could easily make it along the road. But in case you have an RV, you’re mostly not insured driving a logging road, so keep this in mind.
Spahats Creek Falls
Another Wells Gray waterfall to visit is Spahats Creek Falls. With a drop of 75 meters (246 feet), Spahats Creek Falls is one of the taller waterfalls in the park. When we visited in autumn, the power of the waterfall wasn’t at its highest. But I’m sure that in late spring Spahats Creek Falls must be at its peak flow due to the melting snow.
Where to stay in Wells Gray Provincial Park?
Wells Gray Provincial Park offers various accommodation options, from hotels and motels to campgrounds and cute cabins and lodges. Clearwater is the gateway town to the park and has the most options. But if you have an RV, I would highly recommend to book your campsite inside the park. Find here your accommodation in Wells Gray.
More Canada travel inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Park. For more travel inspiration of British Columbia and Alberta, head over to our other Canada travel guides.