A long drive to Smithers, and hiking to a glacier at Twin Falls

After weeks of putting few or no miles on the motorhome each day, Day 54 of the trip – Monday, June 18th – would be a long one. The plan was to get from Tumbler Ridge to Smithers, 777 km to the west. There, I would spend 2 nights, with the main goal to hike the Glacier Gulch Trail at the Twin Falls Recreation Site.

The route was simple – Highway 29 took us west to Chetwynd, Highway 97 south to Prince George, and Highway 16 west to Smithers.

Map - Tumbler Ridge to Smithers
We pulled away from Tumbler Ridge just after 08:00. I made one stop along Highway 29 to get some photos of the rest area seen in the first photo, where interpretive panels describe the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark I’d spent the past 3 days hiking in.


I didn’t take any other photos along the way, though I made a few stops for the dogs. They weren’t comfortable stops, as the temperature had climbed to 34°C (93°F) along much of the route. A stop to make the fur-kids dinner almost became an overnight stop, but I decided that I really needed an electrical hookup so I could run the air conditioners, so pushed on another 3 hours.

We reached the aptly-named Glacier View RV Park at 7:30. I was very surprised that they only had 2 sites left. I took a grassy site with 20-amp power – that would be sufficient for one air conditioner.


From the RV park, I could see the next day’s goal – the twin falls and glacier on Hudson’s Bay Mountain. I couldn’t figure out where the trail might run, except that I knew in a broad sense that it’s to the left of the left-hand waterfall. I was both excited and rather intimidated by that sight.


On Tuesday morning, I took a drive a few miles to the west just to enjoy the scenery. I love the Bulkley Valley in any season. The forecast was for the temperature to hit 34°C again.

A calm scene below Hudson's Bay Mountain at Smithers
The next photo shows the approach to the recreation area on Lake Kathlyn Road.


Just before 11:00, I reached the Twin Falls Recreation Site. The map shows the trail to the Twin Falls viewing points clearly, but just shows a faint dotted line for the Glacier Gulch Recreation Trail, as few people hike it. The map notes that the Glacier Gulch Trail is “Difficult – very steep rough terrain – 2 hrs each way.”

Map of the Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
I decided to start by hiking up to the Twin Falls viewing points – the trail to the right in the next photo. That would be a good way to get limbered up.

Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
There were a rather surprising number of people for a weekday morning. Most of us were tourists.

Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
When I first visited Twin Falls in 1985, this was a fresh logging clear-cut. It’s pretty cool to have seen the transition from industrial to recreational use. I expect that even most locals don’t know or have forgotten the area’s history.

Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
The waterfalls don’t seem to have individual names. This is the right-hand one.

Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
Somewhere to the left of this waterfall is the trail I wanted. “Very steep rough terrain” indeed!

Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
Several signs in the parking area and along the trail noted that an avalanche had done a great deal of damage recently. I was surprised by the size of the avalanche area, and by the size of trees that had been knocked down. There obviously hadn’t been an avalanche there in many decades.

Avalanche damage at Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
This memorial plaque now marks the end of the trail. The plaque honours 40-year-old Eric Paul Buss, who died in an avalanche here on November 27, 1991. The plaque includes a lengthy quote by George Leigh Mallory about why people hike and climb this mountain.

Memorial plaque at Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
The trail used to go beyond the memorial, but the creek has now re-routed itself right up to the cliff at this point. The amount of snow was a surprise, and didn’t bode well for the high trail.

Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
This is tough country to be a tree.

Tree growing on rocks at Twin Falls Recreation Site at Smithers
At 11:30, I was back down at the trail junction, and started up the Glacier Gulch Trail.

Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
The Glacier Gulch Trail gets steep and rough immediately.

Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
I met 4 young people coming down, but they hadn’t gone very far beyond where I met them.

Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
Even in the deep forest, the temperature was climbing rapidly, and I had soon stripped down to just my quick-dry shorts. In my pack, I had warm gear for what might come up in the alpine, though.

Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
I was seeing a few frogs and toads – more than I remember ever seeing on a trail anywhere before.

Frog on the Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
The trail gains altitude quickly – just 20 minutes from the start, I was already higher than the top of the right-hand waterfall. The other one was hidden in the forested canyon below.

Waterfall on the Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
A cable has been installed to help hikers get over one outcropping of granite.

Hiker using a cable on the Glacier Gulch Trail at Smithers, BC
Just 45 minutes from the start, the trail ended at an avalanche chute. The snow was too wide, steep and long to even consider trying to get across or around without proper equipment and a partner. Someone had been across it, but the faint footprints looked like they’d been there for quite a while – weeks, I expect.


Well, that was disappointing to not even get above treeline – I really expected to get at least that far. There hadn’t even been many views, though the next photo shows the view from a small break in the forest just below where I turned around.


Going back to the scene shot from the RV park, I’ve added an arrow to show the avalanche chute where I got stopped. It wasn’t nearly as far as I had expected to get. Now I know that the Glacier Gulch Trail is a hike for August.

Glacier Gulch Trail, Smithers, BC

The rest of that day was spent in the air-conditioned motorhome – it was simply too hot to do anything except take Bella and Tucker for short walks. That night was miserable, too – tiny mosquitoes were getting in somehow, making Tucker and I nuts. As much as I love Smithers, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough – cooler weather wasn’t far ahead. The next stop was Stewart.




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