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

18 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.

  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

  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

  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.

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