Thirsty for majestic waterfall viewpoints and fine wine that is just as exquisite? Maybe you didn’t quite get all the adventures you were looking for this summer and need to fill in some gaps this fall. With some of British Columbia’s most spectacular waterfalls and award-winning wineries, the Thompson Valley is the fall road trip retreat you don’t want to miss. As the season changes, grape harvests begin, the pace is slower, the weather is unbeatable, foliage vibrant, and there is ample space to get away from the city crowds.
Within just 4 hours of Vancouver, you can be in one of the newest and best-kept-secret wine regions in the province. Just beyond that, lies one of BC’s most awe-inspiring provincial parks with over 41 named and unnamed waterfalls. A vacation out here promises the blend of relaxation and adventure you’ve been craving, so while you get planning the road trip playlist, we’ve got you covered on the go-to wineries, waterfalls and places to stay along the way!
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, please check the websites or call and check ahead prior to visiting any overnight accommodation business.
Depending on which direction you arrive from, start or finish your road trip in the beautiful city of Kamloops. Mineral-rich soils along with sunny days and brisk evenings create an ideal environment for grape growing and are the reason behind the crisp natural acidity you’ll notice in the wines here. All of the vineyards are in close proximity so you can either visit them in one day or spend the night somewhere, like the romantic South Thompson Inn and explore the wineries over a few afternoons. If you can’t pick a designated driver, there are also plenty of guided wine tours to choose from, but please make sure that you check ahead for COVID-19 restrictions.
Being Kamloops’ original winery, the folks at Harpers Trail have been delivering exceptional tastings in an amazing location for years. Just outside of the city, nestled on the banks of the beautiful South Thompson River and surrounded by golden rolling hills, this winery is known not only for its countless awards and quality wines but also for its laidback picnic patio and impeccable service.
Privato Vineyard & Winery + Woodward Cider Co.
This next family-owned boutique winery is located about 20 minutes outside of Kamloops and is known for its handcrafted award-winning, Burgundy style wines. Privato’s idyllic destination has exceptional charm and a relaxed vibe. Make sure to also visit the adjacent Woodward Cider Co. for an array of delicious cider made from 100% BC apples.
The next winery on our list is a very small family-owned and operated boutique vineyard with award-winning wines and informal, friendly service. Situated on the north banks of the picturesque South Thompson River and surrounded by sage bearing hills, Sagewood Winery is a local favourite that is perfect for a relaxing afternoon.
Monte Creek Ranch Winery
This architecturally amazing winery is known for its sustainable approach, farm-fresh cuisine, as well as its private tastings. The industrial-style building contrasted against the natural mountains and valleys gives this place a certain elegance, whilst still being welcoming and warm. Enjoy the surrounding view as you dine on locally inspired dishes created by their inhouse chef. With their award-winning wine selection and outdoor patio restaurant, Monte Creek Ranch Winery is a must-visit while in the Kamloops area.
From the spectacular wineries of Kamloops, it is time to pour yourself a glass of adventure and continue the road trip onto Wells Gray Provincial Park. While the park is a doable day trip destination from Kamloops, we highly recommend staying somewhere along the way so that you can really immerse yourself in all that the area has to offer. Choose from rustic fishing and lakeside lodges such as Knouff Lake Resort and Pinantan Lake Resort, comfortable campsites like Pine Grove or spectacular guest ranches like Jandana Ranch or Wettstone Guest Ranch on the Fishing Highway 24. There are tons of different accommodation options to suit your needs and preferences.
WELLS GRAY WATERFALLS
Once in the park you have access to a huge array of waterfalls and one of the best aspects is that 8 of them are found off of one picturesque road. Doing a self-guided tour, you can follow Clearwater Valley Road up into the park and stop off at multiple jaw-dropping viewpoints. If you are looking for a bit more exercise, there are also waterfalls that require you to hike to them. We advise stopping in at the Wells Gray Park Visitor Information Centre for directions and a road condition report before exploring.
This park packs a big punch, so we recommend staying multiple days to fit it all in at a relaxed and adventurous pace. A couple places we recommend that have availability for the 2020 season include the chic and mountain-luxury log cabins or glamping tents of Cedar Haven Resort, and the unique log cabins of Wells Gray Guest Ranch.
From south to north, here are 6 of our favourite Wells Gray waterfalls! And for even more, check out our hiking page!
Triple Decker Falls
Despite being the waterfall closest to the Wells Gray Visitor Centre and one of the most impressive in the park, Triple Decker Falls is rarely visited. As the name implies, water tumbles down three levels and has a combined drop of nearly 60 metres. While the hike is short, it is very steep and can be slippery so we advise wearing grippy shoes and use hiking poles if you have them.
After a 10.2km drive from the Visitor Centre, you’ll reach the magnificent Spahats Falls. After taking the short, easy walk from the parking lot you’ll find yourself standing on the magnificent canyon rim. From there you’ll hear the water plunging 80 metres into the volcanic rock canyon and then rushing down a stream that meets the Clearwater River. Follow the fence and path around to the wooden viewing platform where you will be rewarded with an epic view of the falls.
This next waterfall is reached by hiking and although it is rated as moderately difficult, it is the tallest waterfall (non-continuous drop) in the park so it’s worth the effort! Dropping down from the Trophy Mountains, the gushing water cascades down multiple tiers before collecting in a huge pool. This is an absolutely stunning waterfall that few people tend to visit.
Further up Clearwater Valley Road you’ll find a sign for the Moul Falls trailhead parking lot. While it is not the tallest waterfall in the park at 35 metres, it is one of the most spectacular as you can actually walk right behind it. It is a 6km relatively easy roundtrip hike to the viewing platform at the top of the falls and then you can continue down some stairs to reach the trail leading behind the falls.
The next waterfall on your journey is one you definitely do not want to skip. Nicknamed ‘Little Niagara Falls,’ Dawson Falls is similar to its Ontario namesake but on a bit smaller scale and with far fewer visitors. This powerful waterfall is 90 metres wide and crashes over ancient lava rock. From the parking lot, it is just a short forested stroll to the first viewpoint. We suggest following the trail to the second viewpoint where you can feel the power of water as you stand beside the tipping point of the falls.
No list of Wells Gray waterfalls is complete without the mention of Helmcken Falls. As Canada’s fourth-largest waterfall and one of the most powerful on the planet, Helmcken Falls is the park’s centrepiece and it cannot be missed. Not only is the 141 metres drop magnificent, but the surrounding natural amphitheatre carved out by ancient rivers is also breathtaking. With a photo-ready viewpoint located just a short walk from the parking lot, Helmcken is definitely worth the 40-minute drive from the Wells Gray Park Visitor Information Centre.
From wineries to waterfalls, guest ranches, lakes and forests, the Thompson Valley is a relaxing paradise perfect for your next fall road trip. With tons to explore and very few other people around, this beloved BC region has everything you need for a luxurious, laidback vacation.
Please be sure to always practice safe, respectful, and responsible travel while in the Land of Hidden Waters. Visit our responsible travel page for more info.