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

71 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

    • Hello Alex, could you please remove my posted question from your blog? I did not do this hike, but I occasionally get emails with questions about it that are probably meant for you. Best, -cat

  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

    • Hi Alex. I am impressed with the map L,Ball x Chakima Creek shown in this posting as it gives a real idea of where to go – I think. Are those traces from L. Ball Lake up that drainage and bearing toward Outcast Hill ?? routes ??
      As we are planning to do some exploring here in late June, would following that trace around Kuno peak and descending to the trace going to L. Arctic lake be a recommended route ?
      Comment ? Is there a GPX of that (and the other tracks on this map) as its a lovely traverse, if probably too hard for me and my buddy. We were thinking of 2 full days at L. Ball and just dayhike those, and then with lighter pack do this route to L. Arctic for pick-up.

      Mike

  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

    • Could you please send the GPS coordinates to me as well. Thanks.

    • Hi Alex, would you mind sending them to me as well? would really appreciate it!!

    • Would it be possible if I could please have a copy of these GPS routes as well please. Hiking summer 2019. Many thanks!

    • Hi Alex
      Planning on going Little Ball to Buckley Aug 2019 wondering if you can share your GPX route?
      Thanks

  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
    • Hi Dan, hiking Edziza this summer with my friends. We have watched the video that you and your daughter did. Thanks for sharing it!

      Would either of you happen to have GPS co-ordinates of your camps? We have a good understand where they are but nice to have someone’s points as well.

      Thanks for your time,
      Missy

    • Hi Missy, I had them, but can’t find them. Let me ask Sarah if she kept them.

  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.

  23. […] about the incredible hiking, we were getting really excited to go there.  We saw pictures of the Spectrum Range hike.  Who knew such a spectacular site existed in […]

  24. kristin

    Hi Alex,
    My friends and I are looking at doing the Buckley to Little Ball lake this summer. We have paper maps, but if you have the GPS map and you don’t mind sending it, that would be much appreciated. Do you know the distance roughly? We are getting so many different numbers looking at all the trip reports. It looks amazing though and we are super excited!

  25. Hi Alex,
    I am planning a trip in to the Spectrum range next summer, Little Ball to Mowdade. It would be much appreciated if you would share your GPS route with me! 🙂

  26. dave

    Hi Alex: Thank you for your information about Edziza. When I first read it several years ago, it was one of the few sources of information about Edziza and it definitely made an impression on me. Now, I’m planning my 4th trip into Edziza. Edziza is a special place. and the more time I spend in the region, the more I learn about the area and feel more comfortable visiting ‘off the beaten track’ areas (if there is such a thing in Edziza!). After a lifetime (50 yrs) of living in Victoria, I never thought I’d be visiting northwest BC. Now I can’t wait to go back — I think Telegraph Creek has become my favourite town! It’s an amazing area with lots of awesome hikes. If you have time, check out Level Mountain — the size of the volcano alone is awesome, let alone the Level Mountain Range (Mesah Peak, I think) sitting on top of the Level Mountain volcano (incredible to see from a distance). Thanks again!

  27. Pat

    Alex: Are you a guide? It sounds like you took a group of people into Edziza. If so, do you still take groups into the park?

    • If anyone is looking for a guide into Edziza, I doubt you’d get anyone better than Curtis Rattray (the guide in the movie, The Colours of Edziza).
      He’s got a website https://www.edzizatrails.com/tours.html

  28. Will Jopson

    Hello Alex,

    If you have been sharing the GPS waypoints for your Little Ball Lake to Buckley Lake route, I would appreciate a copy.

    Regards, Will

  29. Robin MacNearney

    Alex you’re a popular guy! Thanks for the great photos and trip report and helpful information! If you’re not sick of sharing your GPS coordinates for your route yet, we would love to have access to them 🙂 Thanks again!

    • Hello Robin, If you received waypoints for the route, or completed a hike and generated your own, can you share?

  30. Doron Erel

    Hi there
    I am planning to go to Mount Edziza next week.
    I am in Terrace, where can I get the maps and the rout?
    Thanks
    Doron Erel

    • Hi Doron,

      I didn’t get a reply and we only took waypoints at our campsites each night, and sometimes at lunch time. I can try to upload them, might need some time to figure it out tonight. We hiked from Buckley Lake to Arctic Lake over 9 full days (plus one day on each side for the in and out flights). We got a really nice map set from Hesperus Arts in Smithers – http://hesperus-wild.org/GIS_carto/edziza.html. This was a bit expensive ($99) but really worth it!!!! The government topos were turning out to be really cumbersome and would have been the same price in the end to print. I do not think using a GPS to navigate would be adequate, too small a screen and too hard to route plan. As a general tip, this time of year I would go prepared for serious weather. In August we had a couple nights where we woke to snow on the ground, and I think almost every night dropped to below freezing. The daytime highs were around 5-8 degrees C. We had a lot of rain. The wind was strong and relentless. Definitely bring a tarp for shelter and more layers than you think you need. We are experienced trippers and we under packed on clothes. Let me try to figure out the GPS coordinate thing tonight.

    • Give Mark a call / email at Speedy Books in Smithers — he should be able to get you the maps. Kinda late in the season to be heading to Edziza — hopefully, the weather will be better than when I was there in early August!

  31. Will Jopson

    Hello Doron,
    I did not get a reply from my post in May. Unfortunately, our trip was put off until next year. I do not have any information regarding the route north from Little Ball Lake. Once you complete the hike, I would like to hear about it.

    • Will, if you email me at danielmfine@live.com I will send you my GPX. We didn’t do Ball though.

    • Hi Will,

      Happy to share the gps waypoints of campsites (to conserve battery we didn’t keep a full track). There is not really an option to attach files here though….I just tried to make my Mt Edziza file public on Gaia GPS, but I am not sure it worked…I am awaiting moderation on another comment to Doron at the moment as well.

      Robin

  32. Robin MacNearney

    Ok I think I was successful- go to Gaia gps, make an account if you don’t have one, search Edziza, it will bring you to the park, and then hit the “waypoints” toggle and my campsites should be there. There is also a public track from Buckley to Mowdade lake on there already which is pretty much the route we followed. Also the maps by Hesperus Arts out of Smithers are expensive but fantastic resources. You will have no trouble navigating with them and a compass and GPS.

    • Thanks, I will go to Gaia.

  33. Dave

    I’m reading over these comments and wondering what the heck people need GPS coordinates for? If you’re going from Buckley to Mowdade, follow the trail and stay to the west of Edziza (you can’t miss it!) … Or alternatively, fly to Little Ball and follow the trail — the only part that’s difficult is through Raspberry Pass — otherwise, it’s pretty easy to figure out. I don’t think anyone has gotten lost in Edziza!

    • The area of question for me, is a route from the headwaters of Ball Creek to about 7km south of Raspberry Pass. From the 1:50:000 topos, the contours can be fairly tight across the ridge lines and I am looking to reduce my chances of retracing my route from a ridge because there was not an adequate route down the other side. Does this area really get enough traffic to make an obvious route? It would not have been my expectation.

    • Will – yes, that area was definitely the most technically challenging of our trip. We didn’t go over the very last ridge into Ball Creek/Valley, but the one just north of that towards Raspberry pass is called Yagi Ridge and it was really tricky coming from the north side. The south-facing aspect of the ridge is definitely the steepest, you won’t have trouble descending the north side, and if you’re travelling south to north you should be able to visualize a better approach than we initially did. From the top it was too steep with many cliff bands showing up that we couldn’t see our line to the bottom (it’s about a 600m elevation drop) – we got halfway down two different lines before encountering around 50 degree slopes with scree on hardpan. Too sketchy for us. We had to ascend again (twice!) before finding a more conducive way down. It was a long day. Luckily for us we were on day 6 or 7, with lighter packs. It would have been challenging at the beginning of our trip. You will encounter Nagha Creek to the north of Yagi Ridge which was our most technical creek crossing of the trip. Thigh-high for me (I’m short), fast, opaque water. I would plan to cross and camp on the other side, but if water levels are high you may have to camp and then cross in the early morning.

    • As said by others, you won’t have a problem navigating the Big Raven Plateau – there isn’t a trail but you don’t need one. The cones are obvious landmarks and when you get to Eve Cone there’s a trail to Buckley. We didn’t bother to follow the cairns.

  34. Dan Fine

    Hi Dave, sorry, I am going to disagree. When we were there, the majority of the time, we didn’t see a trail. We did see some cairns. And, after we got off the lava, we were lucky because we picked up horse prints. That horse saved us several times. Also, because of the rains the trail through the woods had changed the location of the trail.

    • Hi Dan — I hear what you’re saying, but to me, the trip from Buckley to Eve Cone, to Cocoa and Coffee, and then Walkout before heading down to Mowdade are pretty clear (there’s only one direction you can really go). A printed “google satelite” view is probably enough (for me). However, the cairns (even with binoculars) can be difficult to discern from the lava and the Mowdade Lake area (to me) is difficult to get out of because of the mess (or was in August) from the beavers. Edziza is a great place to go — I love spending time on the plateau — on a clear sunny day, the views are stunning — can’t wait to go back again next year. BTW — great video! THANKS!

  35. Dan Fine

    Thanks, Dave. We had some crazy weather, including an August blizzard at the pass. We definitely got turned around by those dang beavers. We were wading hip deep and then decided to retrace our steps. We crossed again…and found a hoof print. Yeehaw! It was a fun trip and I highly recommend it. The maps were not helpful, but we always rejoiced when we saw a cairn.

  36. Rob Hinchliffe

    Will, I have started compiling some information for the Little Ball to Buckley hike on a blog (https://hikingedziza2019.blogspot.com/). Mostly just photos and commentary right now (and I still need to post day one) but I do plan to post Google Earth screen shots with the route we took. The photos on my blog, and others, will give you a good idea of what to expect. Yagi Ridge and Nagha creek are really the only difficult obstacles on the entire trip.

  37. Dave

    The Alpine Lakes pilot who flew us out of Mowdade (Aug 7) said there was an “almost blizzard” down by Arctic Lake — we were lucky to make it out. I saw on the weather channel that the jet stream was hovering along the latitude of northern BC — hence, the abnormally awful weather in Edziza this year. The previous three years have been great — but this year wasn’t that great at higher elevations. That’s why I wonder about someone heading in there now — a sucker for punishment. https://www.facebook.com/100013879115227/videos/990853821387246/ — here’s a clip of Edziza this summer on my Facebook — not exactly “user friendly” … LOL

Your name and email are required. (Email will be kept private.)