Back Road Hiking & Parks
Driving off the highway, up mountains & into hidden valleys is best done in a 4-wheel drive vehicle. (For vehicle rentals, click here)
Most of the roads are packed dirt or gravel & must be driven with care. Watch for other traffic & drive slowly to enjoy the surroundings & not to damage your vehicle or the road surface.
As always, keep alert for signs of Wildlife & Beware of Bears.
Legend Reference Number
The Bella Coola Valley boasts many incredible hiking trails, from easy to moderate.Enjoy a relaxing stroll through an old growth forest, climb a glacial waterfall or wander the flower strewn alpine meadows of the coast mountain range.
Base map created by Doug Baker. Trail description compiled by Doug Baker for Bella Coola Valley Tourism, graphic design by Terra Firma Digital Arts. Due to major flooding in 2010 some of the following trails may not be accessible, please email or phone 250-982-0092 for updated information.
How to get there: Take the Clayton Falls Forest Service Road, as described on the next page, to access the M Gurr Lake Trail. Continue up and over the pass then another 3.6 km downhill to Blue Jay Lake, where parking is available at the rustic campsites. The trailhead for the Grey Jay Lake/ North Bentinck Lookout trail is between the first two camping sites above Blue Jay Lake.
Description: This trail and boardwalk wind through alpine forest along Grey Jay Lake and then wanders through open meadows and wetlands to end at a viewpoint overlooking North and South Bentinck Arms. It offers a nice afternoon stroll and on return there is the option for a refreshing swim in Blue Jay Lake. Views of the Coast Mountains are spectacular, although somewhat limited compared to the ridge above M Gurr Lake. Alpine flowers are abundant in the summer. Blue Jay Lake is much warmer than M Gurr Lake and uniquely, this high elevation lake contains trout.
How to get there: To access the trail, drive west beyond the government wharf onto the North Bentinck Forest Service Road. At 1.5 km, take the Clayton Falls Forest Road to the left. Although there are a number of steep View of upper Clayton Valley from M Gurr Lake sections along this road, the steepest is the first 200 m. Drive slow and steady to minimize road disturbance
on the hills. This road has been deactivated with numerous water bars or cross ditches for water maintenance. A high clearance 4×4 vehicle is recommended. The trailhead is at about 17 km from the start of Clayton Falls Forest Road. Park adjacent to the large boulder, just below the last switchback. The trailhead is just ahead on the opposite side of the switchback. Before leaving, make sure to continue 200 m up the road beyond the M Gurr Lake Trailhead to the summit pass – a great place to take in the grand panoramic view. Even if you choose not to hike, the drive alone is spectacular!
Description: This is an easy access trail that winds through stunted sub-alpine forest to a crystal clear, emerald jewel alpine lake. You may want to go for a quick swim, although the neighbouring pond east of the lake is warmer. Wildflowers are abundant and provide colourful blooms in July and August. Beyond the lake the trail is not as distinct, but still easy to follow. Once on the rocky part of the ridge, pick your own way to the highest point. The viewpoint above the lake provides awesome views of the coast mountain peaks rimming North and South Bentinck Arms, Burke Channel and the upper Clayton Falls Valley.
How to get there: From the government wharf, follow the gravel road 1.8 km west and downhill either turning right to the parking area at the Clayton Falls Recreation Park sign or parking to the left just past the BC Hydro generating station. Beware of industrial traffic on the road. The falls trail is along the fence on the upper side of the generating station. The park trail is on the lower side of the road.
Description: With a great shoreline picnic site and a viewing platform of the falls cascading through a canyon of cliffs scoured smooth by water and glacial action, the Clayton Falls Recreation Site is one of the most popular sights in the valley. Depending on the season or the current weather, the falls can be a full apron or narrow streamlets flowing through ancient grooves. Pink salmon spawn at the bottom of the falls between late July and September. Look for them attempting to jump up the falls. Salmon also use the spawning grounds created by B.C. Hydro below the outflow from the generating station. The park has picnic tables and outhouses. At low tide there is even a small stretch of sandy beach.
Watch the boats coming and going and maybe even a sailboarder, yacht or ferry. Note the old cannery across North Bentinck Arm. Seals hang out at the mouth of the creek and from the bridge over the creek you can sometimes see seals chasing down salmon at high tide.
Caution: Stay away from the falls and cliffs in the canyon! Do not attempt to swim near the falls or in the canyon as the base of the falls has a deadly undertow where many people have drowned.
SNOOKA TRAIL SYSTEM – EAST LOOP
How to get there: Turn on to the Snooka Forest Service Road, approximately 8 km east of Bella Coola (across from Barb´s Pottery) on Hwy 20. Follow the forest service road for 0.5 km to the parking area. A signboard has a map of the area trails.
Description: This trail undulates through second growth forest and was developed for mountain biking but provides a pleasant shaded walk on a hot day. The East loop takes off from the south loop and heads east on to private land and ends at Hwy 20. The trail is maintained by the property owner so please respect their goodwill by practicing courteous trail etiquette.
SNOOKA TRAIL SYSTEM – SOUTH LOOP
How to get there: Same as the East Loop.
Description: A pleasant shaded walk on a hot day, this trail provides more vegetation variety than the East Trail as it starts in second growth forest then meanders to an old growth cedar stand. It crosses Snooka Creek at a narrow bridge and then loops back to the parking area.
How to get there: Same as the East Loop.
Description: The west trail features scenic views of Bella Coola and the Four Mile residential area, historic Tallheo Cannery and North Bentinck Arm. The viewpoint also looks down on Thorsen Creek and the site of the petroglyphs. The lower trail is an old road but cattle and horses use this area and the trail is therefore only for hiking.
SNOOTLI CREEK PARK
How to get there: Turn north onto Walker Park Road,10.5 km east of Bella Coola on Hwy 20. Drive straight on to the gravel road at 300m. Follow this road around the loop to the beaver pond then continue around to the small pullout near the end of the loop. This is the beginning of a series of trails. Small signs guide you around the park.
Description: This trail system provides an interesting walk as it offers a variety of natural sights and historic features. The first trail branches off to the left to an ancient grove of culturally modified cedar trees. This area requires respect not only for the forest but also for the First Nations people that used this area for acquiring bark and lumber from these sacred and special ´trees of life´. Look for the distinct scars left after planks were cut and split away from the living tree. This grove also features huge cottonwood, Sitka spruce and Douglas maple. Back on the main trail, carry on past the cottonwood grove through second growth to the rodeo grounds, hike through the cottonwood grove or loop back along the beaver pond to the road and the parking area. A variety of water fowl can be seen at the pond and look for beaver gnawing signs on shoreline trees. These trails are for hiking or biking.
SALOOMPT FOREST TRAIL
How to get there: Turn north on Saloompt Road, 19.5 km east of Bella Coola on Hwy 20. Follow this road, which crosses the Bella Coola River, for 2.6 km. Veer left, at the ´Y´, down the Saloompt River Road. The trail parking area is 1.4 km from the ´Y´.
Description: This is an interpretive trail with unique forest features and valley bottom ecosystems. There are three different trails within this park. Each has its own special features. There is an ancient forest stand with massive Douglas-fir, cedar and spruce intermingled with hemlock, cottonwood, alder and maple. There are eagle nests, bear scratch trees, fast-growing second growth forest, an old homestead site, springboard logging stumps and lots of lush temperate rainforest undergrowth.
A side channel of the Bella Coola River flows along the south side of the park. Once back out on the road, walk to the bridge over the Saloompt River. This a great place to see salmon spawning during August and September.
Caution: This area is frequented by bears during spawning season. Use with caution.
LOST LAKE TRAIL
How to get there: Access from Hwy 20 is the same as for the Saloompt Forest Trail, except at the ´Y´ junction on Saloompt Road, keep right. This road turns to gravel at 1.3 km, the start of the Saloompt Forest Service Road. At the next ‘Y’ junction (another 1.0 km) continue right, up the hill for 0.5 km., then right again at the top of the hill. Follow this road for about 3 km. to the parking area and the trailhead near the base of Saloompt Peak.
Description: This trail winds uphill through old growth forest to a small lake and great view spots looking over the valley and mountains to the south. The trail begins in second growth forest but quickly climbs up a rocky slope into a peaceful, moss carpeted old growth Douglas fir forest. Lost Lake is quite small, but the views from the trail end are rewarding. The two lookouts here offer a great picture of the glaciated u-shaped valleys of the lower Bella Coola and Nusatsum Rivers. The first lookout is to the right of the lake and the second one is beyond the lake on a trail that leads slightly downhill. At the first lookout you can easily identify Hagensborg and the airport. Look a little closer and you may even see the Augsburg Church. At the second lookout, the view to the south is the Nusatsum valley with its regenerated logging areas and the road to Odegaard Falls. In the foreground, Nusatsum Mountain is on the left and Schoolhouse Mountain on the right. Looking out over the Bella Coola River to the east, you can see the edge of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park beyond the small community of Firvale.
SCHOOLHOUSE MOUNTAIN FALLS TRAILS
How to get there: Park at the Sir Alexander Mackenzie Secondary and Nusatsum Elementary School parking lot located in Hagensborg (16.5 km from Bella Coola on Hwy 20). Walk between the schools to the south side of the sports field. The trail starts at the edge of the forest near the center of the field at the boardwalk.
Description: These trails offer a moderately strenuous uphill effort to the tall, cascading falls. The first part of the trail goes through a unique and interesting forest swamp ecosystem and the trail is elevated on a pleasant 250 m long boardwalk. The west falls trail veers right and the east falls trail goes to the left. The trails are identifiable by ribbon and use. At the end of both trails
are great views of the Hagensborg area, lower Bella Coola Valley, the massive granite faces on the opposite side of the valley, including Saloompt Peak and Salloompt River valley opposite right, Mill Creek opposite left and Four Mile Ridge above the airport. The east trail is somewhat steeper and cruder but the falls are more impressive than the west falls. You can edge out at the bottom of the falls and this is a great finish if you do want to carry on and scale the steep rock near the top of the falls. The West Falls trail is a mixed difficulty trail with easy sections and a steeper climb at the end. The falls at the end of the trail are a series of small cascades.
ODEGAARD FALLS TRAILS / NUSATSUM RIVER TRAIL & ODEGAARD FALLS
How to get there: Follow Highway 20 east from the Saloompt Road for 3.3 km to the Nusatsum River bridge, which crosses at the short but dramatic vertical canyon (23.3 km east of Bella Coola). The Nusatsum Forest Service Road starts at the west end of the bridge. Follow this road for about 24.6 km as it criss-crosses the Nusatsum River a number of times and steadily climbs into the Coast Mountains. The road has a few steep, rough sections, and while it is usually accessible with a two-wheel drive, a 4×4 vehicle
is recommended. Drive slowly and steadily to minimize road disturbance. A roadside lookout to Odegaard Falls signals the start of the Nusatsum River Trail. The trail is a short hike downhill and ends at the confluence of the Nusatsum River coming from the Falls and a no-name creek coming from the summit pass. To access the Odegaard Falls viewpoint trail, drive 0.5 km up the road to a parking area located just across the next bridge. The trail begins along a steep narrow canyon of a no-name creek that cascades to meet the Nusatsum River further down stream. From the foot bridge over Nusatsum River, it is a 500m uphill walk to the viewpoint near the base of the falls.
Description: The Odegaard Falls area in the Nusatsum Valley is a must-see attraction as it is in the heart of the Coast Mountain wilderness with its spectacular peaks and glaciers. The falls are very impressive, especially in early summer when it swells with snow melt. The trail to the falls passes through an old mossy forest of western hemlock, Sitka spruce and amabilis fir. You get the first view of the falls from the foot bridge crossing the Nusatsum River. There is a great viewpoint at the base of the falls that have a vertical drop of approximately 175m.
HAMMER LAKES / APE LAKE TRAIL
How to get there: Start at the Odegaard Falls viewpoint trail parking lot, then drive an additional 2.9 km. There are a couple of slide areas that are sometimes impassable due to snow and debris. If this is the case, you can park and walk to the Hammer Lakes trailhead. On your way, keep an eye out for mountain goats grazing on the slopes on the opposite side of the valley. Look for a sign marking the start of the trail above the road just before a bridge. Follow the easily discernable trail and boardwalks to the meadows where the lakes can be seen a few hundred meters below the trail. You can leave the main trail and take a swampy walk down to the lakes.
Description: This trail route leads into the heart of the Coast Mountain wilderness through dense high elevation forest to more open sub-alpine parkland and then onto lushly-flowered alpine meadows that lead to imposing jagged peaks. The trail starts off through a subalpine forest of Engelmann Spruce, Mountain Hemlock and Subalpine Fir where huckleberries are plentiful in season. The trail can be quite wet at certain times of the year or during/after prolonged wet weather. There is a large section of boardwalk closer to the lakes where the trail opens up into subalpine meadows. The views of the surrounding mountains are impressive. Pearl Peak with its glacier plastered on the side can be seen beyond the meadows and lakes.
An alpine viewpoint is the final destination with amazing views of Iroquos Ridge and its glacier ice fall over the Noeick River. South-east is the route to Ape Lake and the peaks of the Monarch Icefield, including the looming pyramid of Mt. Jacobsen. Beyond the viewpoint the route to Ape Lake requires a map and compass and should only be attempted by experienced, well prepared hikers. There is no flagged trail yet.
MEDBY ROCK LOOKOUT
How to get there: Cross the bridge over the Nusatsum River about 3.3 km. east of Saloompt Road on Highway 20 (22.8 km from Bella Coola). Drive 100m past the hairpin corner to a large parking area on the west side of the highway. The trailhead is the East Nusatsum Forest Service Road on the other side of the highway. A sign marks the start.
Description: This trail leads to the site of an old forest fire lookout so you can bet the view is panoramic. The trail starts along the main logging road for about 300 m then veers left onto a branch road. Follow this for another 300m to the top of the hill and across the flats. Then follow ribbons to the right as a smaller road eventually turns into a trail near a small creek. The trail climbs steadily from here through second growth forest, some of which has been juvenile spaced. Eventually the trail enters an old growth forest with some large Douglas-fir. The trail veers left and then switches back and forth up to a cliff, along its base and then out on to the old forest fire lookout site. Only the cement footings remain as the building burnt down many years ago. Evidence of the telephone line can still be seen along the trail though. There is much to see from this spot named after a local painter, Carl Medby, who painted from here in the 30´s. There are excellent views of the lower Bella Coola Valley looking west towards Hagensborg and Bella Coola, north into the Saloompt River Valley and south into the Nusatsum River Valley.
CAPOOSE SUMMER TRAIL LOWER LOOKOUT
How to get there: The trailhead is about 37.2 km east of Bella Coola just past the long straight stretch that parallels the Bella Coola River. This area is known locally as Canoe Crossing. The trail takes off from a small treed road just west of the big bend in Highway 20 between hydro poles #507 and #508. If you drive to Assanany Creek you have gone too far. There is a parking pullout at the south side of the road but don´t block access to the river as it is a boat launch. The first part of the trail goes through private property so please respect the owner´s goodwill by practicing courteous trail etiquette.
Description: The trail is part of the ancient network of ´grease´ trails that climb onto the plateau above the valley and make their way into Tweedsmuir Park and join the Alexander Mackenzie / Nuxalk Heritage Grease Trail. This is a steep steady climb that passes through a number of different ecosystems (second growth, fire-scarred old growth and higher up, subalpine and alpine). For a short hike of about one-half to one hour one way, you can get to a spectacular viewpoint looking east to Firvale and south to Glacier and Cacoohtin Creeks. Defiance Mountain is due south with its glacier shouldering the steep north face. Nusatsum Mountain is to the west. At the start of an old burn, the trail is overgrown and difficult to follow and therefore is not recommended for day hiking.
HAGENSBORG LOOP TRAIL
How to get there: Access is the same as for the Schoolhouse Mountain Falls trails.
Description: This trail begins by following the Schoolhouse Mountain Falls trail to the west falls. At the point where the west falls trail heads up hill the loop trail veers westward slightly downhill to a ford crossing of the creek. If the water is too high this crossing may be difficult and you may need to return the way you came. Beyond the creek, the trail follows an old logging road.
The mixed deciduous and coniferous forest here is second growth. This road carries on to the pit that was used to quarry granite for the highway and river diking material. Once at the quarry you can walk the road about 1 km out to the highway and the bridge across Nooklikonnik Creek. Stop here for a fabulous view of Mount Saugstad to the south or during late July and early August stop here to watch the Chum or Dog salmon spawning. The rest of the loop is along the highway back to the school. Walk well off the road, facing traffic.
Safety Note – Be bear aware.
PURGATORY LOOKOUT / NOEICK RIVER FOREST SERVICE ROAD
How to get there: Access to the trailhead is the same as Hammer Lakes/Ape Lake Trail. Then continue to follow the road approximately 5 km to the lookout. Depending on conditions, this road may or may not be passable. Beyond the lookout, the road has been fully deactivated and is not drivable.
Description: This route offers spectacular alpine views as it winds between meadows, ponds, talus boulder slopes and snow avalanche brush tracts and is an ideal mountain bike excursion. Originally part of a road that connected all the way to South Bentinck Arm, it can still be driven in a 4X4 to the lookout, depending on the level of debris from the previous winter´s snow avalanches, roadside brush encroachment and cross-ditch water bars. The lookout is spectacular with a fabulous view of the Noeick River valley, Styx Mountain and Purgatory Glacier directly across the valley. It is possible to continue walking the old forest service road downhill for more views; however, the road is brushing in quickly. If you do make it downhill to the river, just remember it´s a long way back up to the vehicle. The Noeick River valley was washed out a few times by a jokulhlaup (a glacial phenomenon where the rising waters of Ape Lake broke through the receding Fyles Glacier ice dam, dumping a wall of water down the Noeick River valley and wiping out forests and roads all the way to South Bentinck Arm).
BURNT BRIDGE LOOP TRAIL
How to get there: The trail starts on the north side of Hwy 20 across from the Mackenzie Heritage Trailhead parking lot at the west boundary of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, about 50 km east of Bella Coola.
Description: Segments of this trail are part of the ancient grease trail network and it was likely used by Sir Alexander Mackenzie on his historic expedition across Canada by Land in 1793. The trail straddles the Tweedsmuir Park boundary and while the viewpoint is in the park it overlooks the beautiful Bella Coola Valley outside of the park. It is only a short 10-15 minute walk from the parking lot to the viewpoint. The trail then continues along Burnt Bridge Creek to a small suspension bridge,looping back down to the parking area. The trail has a great selection of tree types including Douglas fir, cedar and cottonwood. Watch for great views of Stupendous Mountain. This trail can be ompleted in 1-2 hours.
How to get there: The trailhead begins across the road from the Big Rock/Kettle Pond Day Use Area area within Tweedsmuir Provincial Park about 64 km east from Bella Coola just a few kilometers past Stuie.
Description: This is an interesting walk that begins along a medial glacial moraine consisting of ´till´ and giant boulders which were left behind between two lobes of a glacier that retreated at the end of the ice age. The trail then meanders downhill to a unique glacial depression called a “kettle” pond. The perimeter of the pond is a unique bog with rare plants. There are also ancient Douglas firs, orchids and water lilies to look for. The large boulder at the parking lot is an erratic left behind by the glacier. It split just a few years ago. If it´s cloudy down valley it just may be sunny up here.
TWEEDSMUIR TRAIL – LOWER LOOKOUT
How to get there: This trail starts across from the wide highway shoulder on the west side of Mosher Creek about 70 km east from Bella Coola.
Description: This section of trail is part of a larger network of trails in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. The trail beyond the lower lookout is not maintained and therefore not recommended for travel. The lower section, however, is a nice walk through a predominantly pine and Douglasfir forest to a couple of vantage points above the Atnarko River Valley floor and Mosher Creek´s steep sidewalls. Look across the valley and check out the old slide. These large boulders tumbled down some time ago and now are beginning to establish a forest. Look farther up valley to see the route to Hunlen Falls, Lonesome Lake and the Turner Lake Chain.