Clearwater BC is a nice little town that is often only vaguely remembered as one of the few places you pass through on the highway between Kamloops and Jasper, but it has plenty more to offer if you take the time to spend a few days. Surrounded by phenomenal natural scenery and the most impressive collection of waterfalls this side of Vancouver Island, Clearwater BC is a worthy destination in its own right.
Whatever your particular outdoor passion, chances are you’ll find it near Clearwater. From hiking and biking to canoeing and kayaking to swimming and fishing, the entire region is a wonderland of outdoor pursuits. And even if a lot of that sounds like way too much work, well, there are several less adventurous activities to entertain you as well. Here is our list of best reasons to set aside a few days in Clearwater BC on your next road trip:
Clearwater Highlights Map
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Hiking in Wells Gray Provincial Park
The beautiful, pristine wilderness in Wells Gray Park is prime hiking territory. Along with the hikes to all the different waterfalls described later, there are many other excellent trails to mountains and alpine meadows on the gorgeous Wells Grey country for avid hikers to enjoy.
Trophy Meadows Trail (10 km / 3.5 hrs / 500m elev gain / moderate)
Great views on this medium difficulty alpine hike. It is particularly good early in the summer when the wildflowers are in full bloom.
West Lake Loop (5 km / 1.5 hrs / 170m / easy)
A nice walk around pretty West Lake that passes Bailey’s Chute, as well as Marcus and Myanth Falls.
Table Mountain and Discovery Cabin (25 km / 8 hrs / 1250m / difficult)
This all-day excursion treats you to some superb scenery and world-class backcountry camping. If you choose to do it as a day hike be sure to give yourself plenty of time and make you are prepared using our day hike packing list.
Waterfalls Around Clearwater
Wells Gray Provincial Park is absolutely brimming with fantastic waterfalls. You can find all sizes and shapes and, while they tend to be at their best in winter and spring, most are impressive year-round. There are 39 named waterfalls in Wells Gray Provincial Park alone and many more that they haven’t bothered getting attached to yet. While you would need weeks to see them all, here are the main highlight waterfalls near Clearwater that shouldn’t be missed.
Truly postcard-worthy, extraordinary Helmcken Falls should be on every BC visitor’s shortlist of things to see. At 141 metres high it is the 4th tallest waterfall in Canada. It is located along the Murtle River and was actually the main reason behind the creation of Wells Gray Provincial Park. It is found along the Clearwater Valley Road. It is obviously stunning from the easy-to-reach viewpoints or you can explore farther by following along the Helmcken Falls Rim Trail (8 km / 2.5 hrs / 200m / moderate).
Spahats Creek Falls
Although “only” 75 metres high, Spahat Falls are arguably just as impressive as Helmcken Falls, providing a slightly different angle and overall look. Reached by a short, easy 3 km trail, Spahats Creek Falls should also be on the list of can’t-miss Clearwater attractions.
Triple Decker Falls
Offering something completely different, Triple Decker Falls are very close to town but a little trickier to access. The short trail starts just off the highway and involves a steep, occasionally slippery descent to the river. Once there, though, depending on the water level you may be able to scramble pretty close to the three tiers of this fascinating waterfall. When we visited late in the day it was practically glowing with evening sun. There is also a trail that continues on all the way to Clearwater if you’re looking for a longer walk.
This big, wide set of shallow falls offer yet another different look and is worth a stop to keep checking highlights off your Clearwater waterfalls list. The walk is short and shaded and the views are expansive.
Another gorgeous set of falls with one specific unique feature – you can actually scramble in behind the waterfall (as long as you don’t mind getting a bit wet). The Moul Falls hike is also quite pretty and relatively easy (5.5 km / 2 hrs / 200m). If you have time, you can continue on a bit farther to McDiarmid Falls.
Clearwater Trout Hatchery
This impressive hatchery serves as the stocking source for over 300 lakes around British Columbia. While it was originally built in 1985 to raise salmon, it now produces over 3 million trout and kokanee every year. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the hatchery and rearing containers, with staff available to answer questions.
Clearwater Farmer’s Market
A Clearwater rite of passage, this popular Saturday tradition offers a wide variety of vendors, stalls and activities. From fruit and vegetables to sausage and bannock to crafts and jewelry, there is plenty to keep you occupied among the friendly collection of weekly regulars.
Serenity Performing Arts Centre
This great outdoor concert venue offers a peaceful natural location with amazing views as a backdrop for a wide range of shows and entertainment. Obviously, the exact schedule and lineup changes all the time so be sure to check what’s on tap during your stay (250-319-5688).
Even though this pretty little lake is literally just off the highway, it is down a bit of a hill and mostly protected by forest, making it seem much more remote. There is a decent beach, several docks, a day-use picnic area, a boat launch, public washrooms and a highly photogenic island in the middle. It can be pretty busy in summer but the clean water and tremendous scenery are well worth it. At any time of year it is a nice place to hang out and enjoy the scenery.
North Thompson River Provincial Park
Popular with fishermen and mountain bikers, in particular, this handy little park just south of Clearwater was created where the Clearwater River meets the North Thompson River. It also has a good day-use area, some nice hiking trails and excellent spots for stand-up paddling.
Emar Lakes Provincial Park
For something a little different, head down to nearby Emar Lakes Provincial Park to enjoy the spectacular wetlands and its series of terrific little lakes. People love the area for fishing, canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding but it is also worth a visit just to enjoy the immaculate wilderness.
Experience the Salmon Run
Every year in late August and early September, you can get a good look at this amazing natural phenomenon from the Raft River viewing platform. There is even a handy picnic area where you can relax and enjoy the beauty of this traditional Simpcw First Nations area. If you enjoy fly fishing there are some good choices along the Clearwater River. Or get a boat and enjoy the calm waters of Dutch Lake.
Whitewater rafting or kayaking on the Clearwater River is bound to get the heart rate up. Riverside Adventures offers an exhilarating 3 hour trip in the Wells Gray Park through the canyon scenery and you can add on hikes to see some waterfalls.
You have a couple choices if you want to add some horseback riding to your itinerary. You could choose a ride that lasts a couple hours to all day with Battle Mountain or try western life out by an immersive stay at Wells Gray Guest Ranch.
How to Get to Clearwater
Located on scenic Highway 5, Clearwater is about 1.5 hours north of Kamloops, 3.5 hours north of Kelowna and around 5 hours from Vancouver.
Heading the other direction, Clearwater is on the main northern route between British Columbia and Alberta. From the town it is roughly 3.5 hours to Jasper and 7 hours to Edmonton.
Where to Stay: Clearwater BC Hotels and B&Bs
The fantastic Grizzly Paw B&B is a little out of town but has comfortable, fully-equipped suites and a highly recommended breakfast. This is the perfect place for a peaceful break from the city.
The Jasper Way Inn is conveniently located right on Dutch Lake and has a range of suites and a nice outdoor picnic/bbq/fire pit area.
A good budget choice, the Overlook Inn has good value rooms with kitchenettes and larger cabins not far from the centre of Clearwater.
And if you are looking to camp the KOA in Clearwater BC is always a good choice and the Overlook Inn has a few campsites down by Dutch Lake.
Where to Eat: Clearwater BC Restaurants
The Hop N Hog Tap and Smokehouse is an amazing classic Canadian barbeque, ideal to fill up after a big day of waterfall hopping. And if you just want a quick stop, check out The Piglet, the food truck that can be found right next to the main restaurant.
The Wild Flour Bakery Café is a good choice for lunch, snacks, coffee and baking, offering hearty sandwiches and several good vegetarian options.
The quick (and occasionally amusing) eats at Clearwater Stop are popular with locals and passing tourists alike. Whether you opt for a sweet snack or a “loadet” burger, chances are you’ll come away raving about this Clearwater institution.
Although it isn’t nearly as well known as some of main tourist hotspots in British Columbia, wonderful Clearwater is far more than a handy place to break up a long drive. With dozens of superb waterfalls nearby, some of which rank among the best in Canada, those who find themselves mesmerized by scenic cascades could stay busy for days. Throw in some fishing, hiking, general sightseeing and a bit of time to enjoy the beach and weekly market and suddenly Clearwater becomes a worthy destination in its own right.
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