The Clearwater River Trail follows the river and lava flows all the way from the town of Clearwater up to the Canyon Creeks. Along the length of the trail area a number of access points that provide day hiking opportunities. We started at the trail to the Natural Bridge on the Wells Gray Corridor Road. There is no designated parking lot and the sign is a little hard to spot, but it is at 8.6km up the road from the Information Center. Flagging tape is currently hanging and a sign is visible on the trail. There is some shoulder parking, but there is more parking about 100m north. The trail enters the forest and a junction is reached in about 10 minutes of hiking.
The trail going to the south is the route to the Clearwater River Trail (Candle Creek Falls). The right fork drops down a steep rocky slope toward the natural bridge. This section is worth the effort to get down to a viewpoint. There are some short spur trails to various viewpoints, above and below. Two of scrambled over to the other side for a different view of the rock bridge.
We hiked back up to the junction to continue our hike along the lava cliffs south. The trail could use some maintenance with some windfall, debris, and rocks. We cleared what we could. Hikers should be prepared to get past some fallen trees along the trail. The section of the Clearwater River below had a lot of rapids running through Granite Canyon.
The trail descends a total of 300m in elevation down to a bench above the river. The longest part of the hike is along that bench, heading south. A side trail doubles back to the Kettle, a narrow part of the river with impressive rapids and ramps. This spur trail was overgrown and had some major deadfall so we went as far as we could before turning back.
At 6km, we reached another junction. The route to the left climbs back up the hill and the route to the right (south) goes to Dutch Lake, but we wanted to see Candle Creek Falls so we went south to Osprey Point for a view up the river, then continued south toward the falls.
We returned back to the junction and started the steep trail up toward the road. Along the way is a spur trail down to a viewpoint for Triple Decker Falls. This is an impressive sight in the spring melt as the creek cascades 60m in three distinct sections in a narrow gorge.
The final part of the trail climbs up to the road. At the top is a small parking area near a Woodlot sign, about 4.3km past the Info Center. With side trails to see falls, rapids, the natural bridge, the route is up to 10 km of hiking taking about 3 to 4 hours.
- First Canyon to Spahats Falls
- Natural Bridge Trailhead – N51 43.279 W120 00.726
- Triple Decker Trailhead – N51 41.041 W120 01.354