During an earlier trip to Murtle Lake in 2014, we had intended to backpack the Wavy Crest Trail in Wells Gray Provincial Park and spend a night in the alpine. On that trip, however, the weather had different ideas and for the days we had planned to do that, we instead spent them huddled out of the wind and rain down on the lake.
Fast forward five years, and we opted to make a trip into Murtle Lake for the sole purpose of doing the Wavy Crest Trail. Our plan was to start early, get the portage and the paddling out of the way, and make our way to the alpine for a night. Once again, we stayed in Blue River the previous evening where we woke up to heavy rains. A dreary start to our trip but not a show stopper.
With three of us and only bringing along backpacks and canoe gear, it didn’t take us long to do the portage and get underway to the trail head. Unfortunately, this being Murtle Lake, a storm rolled in and forced us to stop at Strait Camp for a couple of hours while we waited for the weather to mellow out.
Since we were stuck at Strait Camp for a bit, we cooked up some lunch and then proceeded to the trail head.
What can I say about the next two hours of hiking? It was very wet, it rained (a lot), and it was buggier than hell! For the first bit, it’s quite a nice interior rain forest on the trail until we reached the ridge in the trees. At that point, it was a steep trail with very few switchbacks and a lot of elevation gain. The trail itself is in good shape with little dead fall but does have a lot of brush right along it. It didn’t take before I was soaked from head to toe from the wet brush. In any case, it’s a heads down sort of hike as there isn’t much to see until you get above treeline.
Once we got onto the ridge above treeline, the elevation gain dropped substantially and the hike become a lot more pleasant. The rain hit us intermittently and there were clouds rolling along but for the most part, it wasn’t too bad. We also saw the mother of all ground squirrel burrows right at the treeline with dozens of them watching us hike by.
With our goal being the alpine where there are a few lakes, we kept going up into the clouds.
Eventually we reached a series of ridges where we descended down to an unnamed lake to find a place to camp. It wasn’t very difficult but there is a bit of scrambling and route finding required. We were also a bit surprised how much snow was remaining which resulted in a lot of the ground still being quite wet. After wandering around a bit, we did find a find place to camp near one of the lakes. About this time, it started pouring rain and the wind picked up so we opted to set up shelter first and once again wait out the weather. We took advantage of the lulls to set up the rest of camp. But at least there were no bugs this high in the alpine.
As sundown approached, we finally got a break in the weather after hanging in the shelter for a couple of hours and wandered around to explore a bit. There are a lot of exposed rocks and some excellent scrambling opportunities to be had around the lakes. We had hoped to go up Wavy Crest Peak itself but that’s going to have to be another trip, another day when we have more time.
In any case, we enjoyed the late evening before heading back to camp where we crashed shortly after dark. I was quite happy it wasn’t raining as I crawled into my bivy as I had chosen to skip carrying up a tent for myself.
Morning brought sunshine although it was filtered through low clouds that lingered around us. But no rain! That was a win and we could actually get up in somewhat dry conditions and enjoy our morning before packing up. With the clouds adding a surreal ambiance to the area, we took lots of photos and lingered for a few hours before hiking down to the canoe. A second night would have been great.
With a quick scramble back up the rocky ridge to the east of us, we were back on the trail and made great time going down. It was much more enjoyable as we did not get rained on but it was pretty humid once back in the trees. And the bugs were waiting for us. We were a sweaty bunch once we got back down to the lake, where we paddled back over to the Strait Camp to make some lunch. It was a pleasant surprise to meet a group from Clearwater who offered us some cold beers to go along with our lunch. Hard to say no to that!
We had a windy and wavy paddle back to the portage as the afternoon winds flowed down the west and north ends of the lake. Within a few hours, we were loading the canoe back on my truck to prepare for the long drive home.
The Wavy Crest Trail is a fantastic hiking opportunity for anyone who is paddling on Murtle Lake. As a day trip, it’s well worth the effort for the views but to really enjoy it, pack along a tent and spend a night or two in the alpine. It’s pristine and there are few traces of people once you get off the main trail. Be aware, though, that there are no facilities; no food caches, no toilets, and no established tent pads. You’re on your own up there.
And please practice leave no trace ethics when visiting this wonderful alpine retreat.
A Youtube video of our trip.
GPS track and map
Max elevation: 2165 m
Min elevation: 1067 m
I am one of the founders of campingcanucks.com. I was lucky enough to grow up in Golden, British Columbia and have been camping, backpacking, and skiing pretty well all my life. I started climbing a few years ago which has opened up even more backcountry and alpine opportunities.
These days, I’m a systems administrator by day and a SAR volunteer operating as a ground search team leader, rope rescue member, swiftwater rescue member, and avalanche response team leader with Kamloops Search and Rescue.