Through the Hemp Creek Canyonlands
Posted on: June 11, 2019 10:39 pm
by: Doug Smith
There are a number of trails in the Hemp Creek Canyonlands, but most are done as a down and back hike. The most frequently hiked trail is the Moul Falls Trail on the south end of the Canyonlands. Other trails that see some hikers are the Flatiron Trail and the trail down to McDiarmid Falls. There are linking trails though, but all of them involve longer hikes and some route-finding. We wanted to hike down the Flatiron Trail, find Hemp Falls, then traverse over to Birch Bluffs, and return by the Moul Falls Trail. We knew that there were some tricky junctions to sort out and some overgrown sections so we had a backup plan which is what we ended up doing. When the Flatiron Trail crosses Trout Creek there are 3-4 successive unmarked junctions to figure out. We did the first 3 correctly, then we opted to go right instead of left at the last one and ended up going down to the Clearwater River rather than over Birch Bluffs. We were happy with the choice since we got to hike the Clearwater River Trail then take in McDiarmid Falls. In all, though, it was a long hike – 17.3 km, but a very scenic route.
We hiked down the Flatiron Trail starting on top of the plateau and hiking along the rim above the Trout Creek Canyon. We have hiked this trail before at least twice going all the way down to the river and back (a 20 km return route).
From the rim we could see the Dunn Range rising above the hills to the south.
The Hemp creek Canyonlands is a deciduous forest area. The trail comes off the lava flow rim down through birch forest all the way to to Trout Creek.
We hiked the side trail over to see The Flatiron.
At about 6 km the trail drops down to cross Trout Creek on a bridge.
After the bridge the trail winds up above the creek and three unmarked junctions need to be figured out. One trail went down to cross Hemp Creek and then it used to continue down the west side of Hemp Creek to the river, connecting to the Green Mountain Trail and the Clearwater River Trail, but there is now a piece of private property at the mouth of Hemp Creek. We followed the East Hemp Creek Trail and at the last junction we opted to go right down to the river instead of left up to the Birch Bluffs. At about 10 km, we arrived at the McMillan Cabin.
The origin and subsequent owners and users of the McMillan cabin is well-detailed by Roland Neave in Exploring Wells Gray Park.
The cabin sits on the shores of Clearwater River and the next section of our hike was along the Clearwater River Trail.
At 10.5 km the trail climbed away from the river and followed Grouse Creek upstream.
A side trail went across a steep sidehill to the base of McDiarmid Falls, our favorite spot on the route.
The trail continued up the north side of Grouse Creek and to views of the upper end of McDiarmid Falls
We crested the bluffs then descended down to the creek above Moul Falls, crossing a bridge to the main trail. We turned down the trail to the foot of the falls, always an impressive sight. At this time of year, there was lots of spray from both Moul Falls and from McDiarmid Falls below. Note the rainbow to the right of the falls.
The final 2.5 km of the route followed the Moul Falls Trail back to the parking lot. We had organized a three vehicle system to drive the drivers back to the start. This is a longer hike, but has many rewards along the way. We have found the Hemp Creek Canyonlands to be “buggy” in mid-June and for another month to follow. The reward for doing the hike in the spring include no bugs, lots of water in the creeks and over the falls, and lots of emerging spring growth along the way. It would also be a rewarding hike in autumn with fall colours, the emergence of fungi, and no mosquitoes.