Driftwood trees that have been carried by the Clearwater River create a large pile downstream from the Horseshoe.

Driftwood trees that have been carried by the Clearwater River create a large pile downstream from the Horseshoe.

Exploring the Horseshoe in Wells Gray Park

Time to start planning hikes for when the snow is gone

  • May. 5, 2018 11:30 a.m.

By K.A.Pendergast

The day dawned bright and beautiful for our trip.

Now, some of you may not know what the Horseshoe is in Wells Gray Park. Typically, a horseshoe is something that helps a horse walk. I happen to know this since my dad was a farrier and my brother a jockey before he later became one as well.

So, we had a lot of horseshoes around our house. Well, around our house and barn and car/truck and wherever, haha. We even painted a few and used them for games and ornaments. Those ones were usually old and used and bent ones, though since the better ones were actually, on the horses!

But, I digress. The Horseshoe in Wells Gray Park is a section of the Clearwater River that is shaped like a horseshoe. I know, two totally different types of horseshoes, right?

My husband and I decided we would head up for a look. This was in late summer in 2014.

We had checked out the information about it in the Exploring Wells Gray Park book, as we always do before our hikes up there. We had asked a few friends as well and none of them had gone so we were more curious than ever.

READ MORE: Book-signing for park guide (Dec. 13, 2016

The hike is three km each way, which didn’t sound too bad for an afternoon walk, if we took breaks for photos, slapping mosquitoes, and a drink or snack.

We drove up to the parking area near Ray Farm, got our supplies out of our vehicle and headed to the trailhead. The Clearwater River, which normally runs a generally straight line with the odd bend had made a really interesting formation in this area.

Parts of the river actually come super close to each other but going in opposite directions, even though that seems impossible.

There had been a bit of a fire there in 2003 as in many areas. A strike of lightning had burned up some of the greenery in the middle of the formation to actually make the viewing of it easier to those of us who care to take the journey.

Apparently because of the interesting sights to behold there had at one time been a proposal to put campsites there. The idea was nixed and the other sights in the Clearwater Lake area were used instead.

We had a fairly easy walk to the lookout area and although it seemed the trail leading out farther was tougher to follow we felt it was worth it.

After taking a few photos and a break we decided the river was quite low and we could venture down the side of the hill to have a closer look. There are, of course, two directions that you can follow. Neither is all that well worn.

You can go upstream or downstream … basically right or left. The trail to the right or upstream seemed to be too faint and hard to see, so to make sure we didn’t get lost we decided to head back to a small trail we had seen going down off to the left. The trail was not really easy to follow but we prevailed.

Once we got down through the swampy area filled with mucky spots and roots we did a bit of scrambling on the rocks and got to the river’s edge.

It was gorgeous! We wandered around for awhile to look at cool rocks and the sun glistening off the water, which always brings extra peace to my world.

We headed back in the direction towards the lookout area but below it in our travels. We then figured we may as well head back as it would take a bit of time.

For some reason, I was feeling super adventurous. I decided that we should just take the quickest route back.

As the crow flies that would be straight up the side of the hill! It had been quite a trek down and long. I figured it would be faster.

Whew! I am not sure it was, but we tried it anyway. My husband had to use my walking stick to pull me slightly up the hill a couple times since my footing slid away from me but eventually we did make it!

When we did get back up there I was pretty hot and tired and wishing I was near all that cool water again. But feeling pretty proud for attempting it. Silly idea that it was in the first place. Yes, I know it was my idea! Haha.

Luckily, we had no major mishaps along the way. It may not have been the smart choice for the return journey but we had made it. For those of you who like horseshoes, it is one you don’t want to miss!



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Intrepid explorer Kim Pendergast holds her sturdy staff as she explores the Horseshoe in Wells Gray Park during the summer of 2014.

Intrepid explorer Kim Pendergast holds her sturdy staff as she explores the Horseshoe in Wells Gray Park during the summer of 2014.

The Clearwater River flows gently through the Horseshoe in Wells Gray Park. Just visible on the left is where the meandering river almost touches itself flowing the opposite direction.

The Clearwater River flows gently through the Horseshoe in Wells Gray Park. Just visible on the left is where the meandering river almost touches itself flowing the opposite direction.