Mt. Edziza / Spectrum Range Hike

One of the most beautiful treks in BC.

This is a relatively unknown trek in British Columbia, maybe receiving around 30 visitors each season. Every day of the trek is different from the other, passing through mountain valleys of incredible orange and red mineralizations to volcanic plateaus littered with cinder cones and fine sandy pumice. Mt. Edziza and the Spectrum range are located in the Mt. Edziza Provincial Park in the Tahltan First Nation territory of northern British Columbia, 35 km. west (by air) of Highway 37 at Tatogga Lake. From the air, you can see where the lava poured across the plateau and down through the trees to the lakes and creeks below. Normally, trekkers undertake one section at a time – either a 5-day trip along the Edziza plateau or a 5-day trip through the Spectrum range. For either one of these 5-day treks, most people fly out from Mowdade lake which is roughly the dividing line between the Edziza and Spectrum regions.

Routes

Kelly, you’re in for a surprise. Edziza has to be one of the most beautiful and diverse places in BC yet even people that live in the area don’t know about it.

There are two hikes that people generally do, both lying inside the park. As Wendel mentioned, definitely read up on the BC Parks’ website. The more popular route that most people do is across the Edziza plateau, from Buckley Lake to Mowdade Lake, and takes 4-5 days. The other hike traverses the Spectrum Range from Little Ball Lake to Mowdade Lake, also 4-5 days. People sometimes combine both going from Little Ball to Buckley which takes around 8-10 days but involves carrying heavy bags at the out set.

Both routes are great hikes, and if you can combine both then all the better. If you’re trying to visualize it, the Edziza route is more volcanic with flat walking and the Spectrum route is full of colourful mineralizations and dips in and out of valleys as your cross over ridge lines. Google Earth has high-res imagery around LIttle Ball Lake in the Spectrum Range and will give you a good idea of the overall topography of the park.

An average distance of walking per day is 10 km. If you come through Smithers, you can order a map through Interior Stationary and have it waiting for you when you arrive. They don’t always have it in stock so best to order ahead of time.

This route through 270,000-hectare Mount Edziza Provincial Park, in BC’s northwest, is best done mid- to late-summer — local weather starts to get very dodgy by the end of September. Accessed via foot, hoof or, preferably, floatplane from Telegraph Creek (Highway 37), Edziza is characterized by otherworldly, volcanic terrain — lava flows, basalt plateaus, cinder fields, pumice rock and 2,787-metre Mount Edziza, a dormant volcano surrounded by barren, 1,300-year-old cinder cones. This multi-day route — the only marked trek in the park — requires total self-sufficiency; at times, even water is scarce. The pack-in-pack-out, north-to-south Buckley Lake to Mowdade Lake route will take you about seven days.


Comments

37 replies
  1. Cat, Chris, & Simone

    Hi Alex,
    Thanks for your trip report.
    We have a few questions as we’re preparing for hiking Spectrum.

    Did you find that the ground was unusually hard on your dog’s paws? We’re concerned about sharp lava rock and wondering if we should bring booties for our dog.

    What’s the water situation? Could you find water at each camp and along the way each day? Did you use a filter?

    What month did you go?

    Could you e-mail us back? cdworak@gmail.com

    Best,
    Cat, Chris, & Simone

  2. Julia

    Hi Alex,
    I am wondering if you have info on the best route to take from little ball to cocoa crater. We have hiked the north section from buckley to mowdade a couple of years ago, and now would like to do the other half.
    If you have infor regarding routes, please email me back.
    Thanks Julia

  3. Moderator

    Hi Julia,

    Are you in Smithers, by chance? Would be happy to sit down and go over the map with you.

    There’s no real trail through the Spectrum Range. You head southwest from Little Ball and over a pass to get on the western flank of the Spectrum Range (Day 1). From there you head north, descending down into valleys and climbing up ridge lines to gain the plateau. It’s a bit tricky at times to know the best route, so having the route marked down on a map is the best way to go.

    It’s a great hike. especially when combined with the Edziza section. It’s more challenging than Edziza given the ridge lines you have to cross.

    Are you going all the way to Buckley or getting flown out from Mowdade?

    From Little Ball lake to Chakira Creek.

    • Hi Alex,
      Just received the topo maps in the mail today and starting to plan out a route from Little Ball Lake to Buckley Lake. Will likely go in 2018 or 2019 if I can find a few adventurous people to go with me (I usually hike solo but my wife is not comfortable with me doing this one on my own). I would like to get a hold of routes others have used to help with the planning. The Spectrum Range map above helps. Do you have something similar for the northern leg of the trip? Any other route information you could provide would be most appreciated. PM me at troutfoddergmail.com

  4. Julia

    Hi Alex, thanks for the reply and the map. It is helpful.
    I live in Prince George and will be hiking Edziza with friends from Terrace. We have a fly date of Aug 15th into Little Ball.
    Did you get all the way from Little Ball to Kitsu Platau in one day? I don’t see any other camps along the way.
    Maybe I can stop by to chat on my way through on August 12 or 13 or we can chat on the phone.
    Thanks
    Julia

  5. Moderator

    Hi Julia,

    You gain Kitsu Plateau on the 3rd day (I don’t have the camp markers on the map for nights 1 & 2). Most people camp by one of the small lakes east of Tadekho Hill the first night, and in the valley just below Nagha Glacier on the second night. Your bags are heavy the first couple days and you’re crossing up and down ridge lines, so you won’t be going too fast.

    Would be glad to chat when you come though town. I’ll send you an email now as well.

    Alex

    • Hi gang, great post. Did buckley to mowdade last year Aug 2015. Saw caribou on northside of eve cone, charged by enormous griz sow around tsekone ridge, saw stone sheep near cartoona peak, hike out to mowdade was brutal, wading through waist deep over grown fast flowing creek. Rate this top hike in BC better than robson, skyline, rockwall, strathcona, sunshine coast divide, spat, garibaldi, wct etc. This year Aug 2016 plan on little ball to buckley. Thx for info, you still in Smithers, Im in Terrace and would like to stop by some time for info.

  6. Sam McEwen

    Hi Alex, great trip report. I am planning on hiking through the Edziza Complex this summer from Little Ball Lake to Buckley Lake. Wanted to ask if you wouldn’t mind sending me your gpx route?

    Thanks,
    Sam

    • Hi Sam, glad to. Give me a few days, and I’ll send you a link with some more information along with the route.

    • Hi,
      Would you mind sending me the link too.

      Thx

      Chris

    • Hi Alex, thanks for your helpful report to all of us here… We plan to do Buckley–>Mowdade route This August, and would really appreciate your gpx route link too…
      How did you protect food, scented items? Bear-proof container once you were above treeline?

      Thx a lot, Barbara

  7. Darren Davies

    Hi Alex, didn’t hear a response from my message, could you please also send it to me, thx Darren

  8. Pete

    Hello,
    I am planning on doing little ball lake to buckley lake this August. Just wondering if I could get a copy of your route? Also wondering how going from Buckley to Little Ball would be. Seems like you would have lighter packs going through the spectrum range that way.

    Thanks

  9. jacek Luc

    Hi All
    Planning hiking Little Ball Lake to Bucklay Lake August 2016. Time available 20 to 25 days with heavy back pack. Could any body provide me please with info on the most difficult ascends and areas with critical route finding.
    Thank you
    Jacek

    • Just so readers know, Jacek is unlikely to brag about it but he did an almost 3 week solo full traverse. Awesome!

  10. Aaron

    Hi Alex, thanks for the great report.
    I would love to do this hike but can’t afford the flights in and don’t drive. Do you know another way to get to littleball/buckley from Smithers?

  11. Emily

    Hey Alex 🙂 I’m heading up to tackle Edziza this week. Leaving Vancouver on the 26th, just wondering if you’re still in Smithers and would be interested in meeting up when we are on our way through. Cheers 🙂

  12. Dan Fine
  13. Rob

    Hi Alex,
    Just received the topo maps in the mail today and starting to plan out a route from Little Ball Lake to Buckley Lake. Will likely go in 2018 or 2019 if I can find a few adventurous people to go with me (I usually hike solo but my wife is not comfortable with me doing this one on my own). I would like to get a hold of routes others have used to help with the planning. The Spectrum Range map above helps. Do you have something similar for the northern leg of the trip? Any other route information you could provide would be most appreciated. PM me at troutfoddergmail.com

    • Hi Rob, just read your post. I would be interested in joining your trip in 2018 or 2019. Usually I travel alone but also my mate rather have me go with others. I would like to do the northern leg as well. maybe stay in touch?

    • Hey Rob – I am planned no for Edziza as well and looking to gather a group…if you’re seeking adventurous souls still we should connect and possibly gather a group!

    • Yes, I am still looking to get a group together to do the full traverse from Little Ball Lake to Buckley Lake. Unfortunately I do not know many people who are up for an adventure like this. My original plan was to do it in 2018 but I only have 2 people interested so far, and nobody fully committed. 2019 may be a more realistic target unless I can get enough people committed for 2018 over the winter. The ideal group size I am looking for is 5-6 experienced people. If you (or anyone else perusing this site) is interested in joining the expedition I can be contacted directly at troutfodder(at)gmail.com. Please contact me and let’s see if we can get something rolling.

  14. Amelia Birch

    Hey alex,

    Trying to choose between a late June 2017, or late August/early sept hike. Would like to do June, but wonder if there would still be snow pack. Do you think its too early?

    Feel free to email me! I would love any input.

  15. Hey Alex. Amazing trip you went on and actually very similar to what I’m planning this summer.

    Do you by any chance have a GPX of the route you took from your GPS?

    Also, I’m having troubles finding maps online. I think I found one but see what everyone used or what works the best.

    Thanks a bunch.

    Bryan

  16. sarah duncan

    Hey, thank you for these postings. We are planning this hike this coming August and would love any information you have? Maps, route plans… whats the trail like? I am finding it difficult to get any information online at all…
    I was planning on ordering a map from that store in Smithers, but am unsure of the map number?
    Thank you for any information you can share. and if there is anyone out there that would like to chat about this, great. Thanks so much
    Sarah

    • National Topographic Series Map Sheets 104G/7/8W/9W/1014E/15E/15W and 16W, all at a scale of 1:50,000, cover the Mount Edziza area. They don’t show the trails. A GPS would be good, but again, you’d have to get a BC map from Garmin.

  17. Rob

    Sara,

    Another good overview map to have that covers all of Edziza park is the 1:250,000 series #140G (Telegraph Creek) – I purchased (and would recommend) the waterproof polypropylene version from CanMaps.com. Depending on the route you choose you may not need all of the 1:50,000 scale maps listed above. As for trails, there are not really any official trails – only general routes that most people tend to follow. Some are partly marked with rock cairns while others are somewhat worn and easy to follow. But you will still need some route finding skills to navigate through the park. In the Spectrum Range (if you plan to go that far south) routes are less evident and you will need to rely on route finding skills alone.

    In my opinion August is the best month to do the trip. Glacial melt is starting to subside making stream crossings a little safer, and the weather is still reasonable.

    There are a few trip reports online that will give you an idea of what to expect. Some are hard to find but they are all great resources.

    Cheers,
    Rob

  18. Lynn VanCadsand

    Hi Alex we are scheduled to hike from Little Ball to Buckley
    August 15,2017. Do you live in Smithers we would love to sit down and talk about best route.

  19. Lynn VanCadsand

    Hi Alex we will be hiking from Little Ball to Buckley in August. Do you live in Smithers. We would love to sit down and talk about the best route. Thank you

  20. Erin

    Hi Alex, Thanks for posting this trip report. A small group of us are finalizing our trip this summer from Little Ball Lake to Buckley Lake. I was just wondering if I could use a GPS copy of your route. We managed to secure paper maps, but a GPS route would also be appreciated. Thanks, Erin

    • Will the plane hold that many people?

    • Alpine Lakes Air flies a Cessna 206 out of Tatogga Lake. It can take 4 people with gear up to a maximum weight of 850 pounds – so if all 4 are lighweights (210 pounds including loaded backpack) it could all be done in one trip. 6 people would most certainly need two trips.

    • Alex, we took Alpine when we did the hike. Just a heads up. We had 1% battery left on our InReach. When we got to our destination, we were trying to communicate with them. They told us , no problem on the pick up at 8am. That morning, no plane until 10. Then the pilot looked at us and asked if there was a guy with a horse. We said we were alone. He had supplies. We helped him unload. He told us he was 21 runs behind because of the weather. We asked him about our ride back. He said he had taken the seats out for the supplies. We told him we would sit on the floor. Thankfully, he agreed. Otherwise, we would have had to wait 2-3 more days. Weather is a bitch up there.

  21. Hi Alex, just wondering if you have posted a GPS of your route anywhere, with all of the people asking? 🙂 I too would love to take a look at it, as I am planning my route through the spectrum range this summer. Thank you! Beautiful photos.

  22. Steve Willis

    Hi Alex.
    How many days would you suggest for the Arctic Lk to Buckley Lk hike?
    Thanks, Steve.

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