9-Day Itinerary: Spruce Lake Park — The Jewel of the South Chilcotin Mountain Park and Big Creek Park

Wilderness Alpine Trek with pack horses

Hut-to-Hut to 4 permanent alpine camps (Spruce Lake, Warner Lake, Tyax Creek, and Paradise Creek)

DAY 1   Shuttle — Vancouver to Ranch — Historical and Cultural Tour of BC’s Fraser Canyon

On Chilcotin Holidays’ shuttle bus from the Guildford Sheraton Hotel in Surrey, BC (approximately a 5-hour drive) you’ll travel along Hwy. 1 — the gateway to north and east British Columbia — into the Fraser Canyon and learn about the beginning of the historic Gold Rush Trail. This scenic mountainous highway has been traversed by many travellers on foot, horse, rail, and vehicle and dates back to the first native peoples, fur traders, gold seekers, the building of the Canadian National Railway in the early 1900s, to the early pioneers that cleared and settled the land. It’s an enlightening and thoroughly educational ride to Gold Bridge where you’ll begin your incredible wilderness adventure.

After lunch, your group will receive a map orientation of the area and trails and then it’s off for a 2-hour hike on our nearby River Trail. Enjoy a hearty, home-cooked dinner (vegetarian menu available) at the ranch, and repack your gear into duffel bags provided, for we set out for the trail head the next morning.

DAY 2    Hike Leckie Creek Canyon to Spruce Lake

Hikers will travel by vehicle to the trailhead at Leckie Creek. It’s a 5-hour hike with an elevation gain of 1,310 feet (400m) as you traverse through Leckie Creek Canyon, feel the fine mist spray from the nearby waterfall, and hike onto Spruce Lake — our first camp. Spruce Lake Camp is located right next to emerald green Spruce Lake at 5,000 feet (1,524m) elevation, where wildflowers will be in full bloom. Canoe Spruce Lake or take a turn at casting a line to catch the evening’s dinner, like many a pioneer. It’s barbeque trout if you reel one in!

DAY 3    Sheba Ridge Hike from Spruce Lake to Warner Lake Camp

Spruce LakeWith 8 hours of hiking ahead, it’s an early start from Spruce Lake Camp exploring alpine high meadows along fairly easy, yet steep, sheep trails along Sheba Ridge for a total elevation gain of 3,280 feet (1,000m) and an additional 820 feet (250m) for those mountain enthusiasts who would like to summit the peak of Mount Sheba 8,740 feet (2,665 metres). There are great views of the surrounding wilderness, possibly the opportunity to spot some California bighorn sheep. Descending the summit, hike towards Warner Lake where the green-coloured lake is irresistible for those who want a refreshing dip before dinner. Our camp is located above Warner Lake at 6,300 feet (1,920m) elevation.

DAY 4    Hike from Warner Lake Camp to Deer Pass and into Tyaughton Valley

Today’s hike is half of yesterday’s and located along a heavily worn deer migration path called Deer Pass and then down to our third camp situated at the headwaters of Tyax Creek in Tyaughton Valley. In approximately 4 hours you’ll have an elevation gain of 1,640 feet (500m) along good trails and have plenty of opportunity to spot deer and other wildlife that inhabit the area. There are many wildflowers in bloom and natural mineral springs near camp.

DAY 5    Trail Ridge Hike

This spectacular ridge hike is approximately 8 hours with a total elevation gain of 4,100 feet (1,250 m). After an early start, you’ll hike along the trail to Lorna Pass for views over Big Creek Valley and the expansive vistas of the Chilcotin Plateau. Hiking the ridge from Lorna Pass, looking southwards at Trail Ridge, are spectacular views of Warner Ridge’s hanging icefields. Then hike back to Tyax Creek Camp to share the day’s adventures around the campfire.

DAY 6    Relax at Tyax Creek

Today you hike to Lizard Lake and get a first-hand look at the tufa deposits. That is, high concentrations of calcium carbonate that form into porous grey/brown heaps of rock in the natural spring water alongside Lizard Creek Trail. It’s a stopover / rest day so you can enjoy the many natural wonders at Tyax Creek. Spend the day fishing, soaking in the refreshing and soothing mineral springs, resting, or exploring the surrounding wilderness at camp.

DAY 7    Tyax Creek Camp to Purdy Fair Valley onto Paradise Valley

Today’s 8-hour hike takes you uphill, in good trail conditions, along the ridge and crosses the north shoulder of Mount Cunningham, or the summit of Mount Cunningham at 8,350 feet (2,546m), to Manson Creek. It’s here that you’ll hike down to Paradise Valley where the last camp is situated in a lush alpine meadow just behind Castle, Cardtable, and Fortress Peaks. The day’s hike is a 2,460 feet (750m) elevation gain, plus 656 feet (200m) on Mount Cunningham, with plenty of wildlife viewing options for mule deer and grizzly bear.

DAY 8    Castle Peak and Ridge Hiking in Paradise Creek Valley

This day’s hike has the option of two good trails to choose from, depending on the group’s interests and condition. Hike from Paradise Camp to Castle Pass and onto the peak of Cardtable Mountain. Or follow Fortress Ridge and explore the great basalt formations from the ridge or from Tepee Mountain. It’s an 8-hour hike on either trail with an elevation gain of 2,296 feet (700m). Return to Paradise Camp for the night.

DAY 9    Paradise Creek Valley to Trail Head

Decamp and head out on a 3-hour trail from Paradise Creek Valley to the trailhead at Relay Creek. A vehicle will be waiting to drive the group back to Chilcotin Holidays Wilderness Guest Ranch. You have the option of taking the Chilcotin Holidays shuttle back to Vancouver at noon, or staying on at the ranch to relax so you can enjoy the post-tour options on the ride back to Vancouver the following day.

Pre or Post Cultural Tours (optional)

Pre-Tour   Shuttle — Vancouver to Lillooet: Pre-Hike Cultural Tour (optional)

At 7 am travel approximately 4 hours on the Chilcotin Holidays shuttle bus from the Guildford Sheraton Hotel in Surrey, BC, along part of the original road to the Cariboo goldfields, to the small historic town of Lillooet — once a bustling boomtown during the 1860’s Cariboo gold rush. In Lillooet, visit the Historic Hat Creek Ranch where you’ll receive an interpretive tour of the original Hat Creek Roadhouse, visit the Shuswap Native Village, and have a stagecoach ride pulled by a pair of draft horses. You’ll also have a first-hand look at salmon spawning at the St’átimc Nation’s Lower Seton River Spawning Channel (also a birder’s paradise) and tour the Lillooet Museum where you’ll see relics from the gold rush and learn more about the people who settled the land. Overnight in Lillooet.

Post-Tour    Gold Panning/River Rafting

Try your luck at gold panning while visiting an authentic gold mine that operated in the town of Bralorne, when gold was first discovered in the area in the 1850s and mined until 1974. If you’re looking for a little more hands-on adventure tour, you can repeat part of explorer Simon Fraser’s adventure of 1808 and river raft the mighty Fraser River.