Bailey’s Chute is one of the easy, popular trails along the Clearwater Valley Road in Wells Gray Provincial Park. It’s about a five minute hike from the parking lot on one side of the road to the spectacular waterfalls on the other side of the road. The trail is wide and smooth and meanders through old growth forest to a viewing platform of Bailey’s Chute. We’ve hiked this trail and the longer West Lake Lake Loop on two of our trips to Wells Gray and thoroughly enjoyed it both times.
From the Bailey’s Chute Parking lot, cross the road to a small picnic area. A chain link fence runs at the edge of the water. A sign here explains more of the history and geography of Bailey’s Chute. The trail from here to Bailey’s Chute is wide enough for two or three people to walk side-by-side. It veers out towards the road and then back to the river, down the hill, and past a stand of beautiful old-growth cedars. Joey had fun playing peek-a-boo here.
A viewing platform at Bailey’s Chute lets hikers get a safe, up-close view of the powerful waterfall. The rocks nearby also show evidence of the river’s powers of erosion, with deep holes carved in them. Another sign here explains that the chutes were named for James Bailey, an engineer who worked on the bridges in Wells Gray.
West Lake Loop
Once we’d had our fill of the roaring whitewater, we continued down the trail towards the next two waterfalls. After Bailey’s Chute, the trail is not as wide and well-traveled, but the next falls are just as scenic and spectacular as Bailey’s Chute. There were some sections of mud to pick our way around. We also caught glimpses of the river to our left through the trees.
Marcus Falls is the second waterfall above Bailey’s Chute. It’s marked by a little brown sign and a chain link fence for the kids to lean on while viewing the falls. Like Bailey’s Chute, Marcus Falls isn’t a tall waterfall, but more a long section of whitewater on the river. (My mom kept looking at these and analyzing how she might run them in her canoe.)
The kids’ favourite part of the West Lake Loop hike was likely a wide, rocky beach we discovered just before the third cataract, Myanth Falls. The beach was dotted with standing stone and inukshuks from previous hikers. Joey knocked over several of these while Sunshine and Lily attempted to add to the collection. Here, the river flowed past, deep and smooth and oh-so-clear between its frantic white-water tumbles.
After Myanth Falls, the trail loops inland away from the river. While others have suggested that this part of the trail is less scenic, we enjoyed it. Many of the bushes and shrubs were dotted with berries and some flowers were still blooming along the trail. Bright red bunchberries huddled above the moss and devil’s clubfoot grew in a few clumps by the trail. We talked about bear safety was we walked, because all those berries would look good to a bear.
West Lake is nestled into a little hollow, a quiet, glassy-still body of water. Due to the hot dry summer, the bugs weren’t a problem this year but the kids (Jade in particular) were on a roll and didn’t stop long to admire the lake. There’s a board walk beside the lake, as the terrain here is swampy for a bit. Then the trail climbs up the next ridge, away from the lake, and meanders on.
Joey had picked up two rocks at Myanth Falls and marched along the trail happily with a rock in each hand. He hiked well over half of the trail by himself (after some complaining at the beginning, and me telling him he had to walk further before he got a ride) and was still going strong when I got tired of trailing way behind Mom and the other kids, and decided to put him up in the Ergo.
The trail finally descends from the ridge to meet with the main trail (in a rather muddy section, so we hadn’t noticed the Y the first time we passed it). We stopped to take a second look at Bailey’s Chute, and explored the rocks beside the chute. My kids resemble mountain goats at times, scampering around, and I still had Joey in the Ergo on my back, so I wasn’t worried about him falling into the water.
I’m used to checking out tide pools on the beaches we explore around Vancouver, and had to keep reminding myself that these weren’t tide pools with crabs, anenomes, and chitons hiding in them. The pools by Bailey’s Chute were all empty of vegetation or creatures, but their size and depth amazed me. One looked long enough to reach my entire arm into, yet was barely larger in diameter than an ice cream bucket.
Finally we said goodbye to Bailey’s Chute and the Clearwater River and hiked back to our truck.
Planning Your Hike
AllTrails notes that this hike is “a 5.3 kilometer moderately trafficked loop trail” that’s best used from June to September. I’d say the first kilometer of the hike (to Bailey’s Chute) is moderately trafficked and the rest of the hike is lightly trafficked. We saw several other groups of hikers around Bailey’s Chute, but met no one else on the West Lake Loop.
This trail has had some muddy sections each time we’ve hiked it. Bugs can be a problem around the lake, so pack bug spray. Berries are numerous and bears are common around Wells Gray, so I also recommend bear spray. Otherwise, it’s an easy hike that my 3-year-old had no problems with (as long as I didn’t mind walking at his pace).
There are washrooms located at the parking.
You can also view my Wells Gray video for some highlights of this hike.