|Trail in Google Maps|
|creator:||Jan Alsen (CanuckMariner)|
|Dates:||Aug 1-2, 2009|
|Distance:||50 miles / 80 kilometers|
|Trail time:||10-12 hours|
|Difficulty (1-5):||rating (2.0 - 3.5)|
|Vehicle classes:||High-clearance, 4x4, limited slip differential or lockers, large tires >32" suggested, winch and /or tow strap maybe be required.|
Western Canada, British Columbia, SW British Colombia, Princeton, Trailhead ~ 13 kms south of Princeton on Highway #3 look for Whipsaw Forestry Service Road on right.
Topo Maps: Princeton, BC 92 H/7 (1:50,000), Manning Park, BC 92 H/2 (1:50,000)
Time Zone: PST
Most of the trail is driven close to tree line but in several places it goes into alpine meadows where views from the top are breathtaking on a clear day. The Falcon Hill Climb can be trying for some trucks, but the result is exhilarating. Rough spots start after about 24 kilometres of forestry road access. There are a number of rock shelves/ledges but all can be accomplished in dry weather. The Ditch can be the most difficult impediment to cross depending on precipitation. Highest clearance 4x4 with lockers should go first to recover those that get stuck. The east end of The Ditch has a 50-60 centimetre wall that can be difficult to surmount. Numerous attempts to bypass the most direct crossing have resulted in a large quagmire which extends extensively to each side of the trail.
The trail can be done in one day depending weather/trail conditions and experience of the driver. It is suggested that one leaves at least 1.5-2 days to do this trip as there are many ponds, cabins, mine sites, side trails to explore at a relatively leisure pace. • Trail Head - the start of the trail (south to north direction) comes after about 6.5 kilometres of forestry access road. Most trucks stop to air down before heading out onto the rocky trail. • The Grave - shortly after heading out on the trail, off-roaders find themselves at a single gravesite surrounded by a meadow and trees. • Granite Mountain Meadows - At the highest point of the trail there are open meadows with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. • The Pond - Many off-roaders stop at this serene spot near the meadows to rest and have some lunch before heading toward the more difficult area of the trail. • Shelf Climb - the trail has a number of rock shelves that are slightly difficult in dry weather but can pose a threat when wet. • Falcon Hill - legend has it the hill was named after Skip Marsh, who in 1979, successfully drove his 1966 Ford Falcon two-wheel drive up the hill. • The Ditch - Varies in depth, depending on the time of the year. Add snow to the mix and it will prevent some off-roaders from making it across. Last difficult part of trail. • Load Stone Lake - Heading down the mountain, off-roaders will experience a series of sharp, steep, downhill turns before reaching the lake. • Granite City Ghost Town - the area just south of Granite Creek is often used as a campsite by off-roaders. The creek flows into the Tulameen River.
The Whipsaw Creek Road (km 0) or Whipsaw Forestry Service Road (FSR) leaves Crowsnest Highway 3 about 13 kilometres south of Princeton. Logging trucks use this road and the first few kilometres, through the interior Douglas fir, appear to be purposefully narrow to deter casual back road explorers who fear a collision with a loaded truck. The road does widen beyond the lower canyon.
Signs mark the Lamont Creek logging road to the right 2.5 km from Highway 3 — keep left to follow Whipsaw Creek. (Note that there is a new section of road between km 2.5 and km 4.2, bypassing a narrow section along Whipsaw Creek.) Watch for the telltale dust plumes of approaching logging trucks.
A roadside sign and some buildings well off the road to the north near km 4.0 mark the only sign of active settlement along Whipsaw FSR. The Paradise Valley Guest Ranch main lodge and guesthouse offers rooms with a great view of the valley and horse pastures. The ranch also offers five-day horseback mountain trips.
Keep left at the two junctions near kilometre 4.2 and cross the creek at km 4.7. The topographical map marks the first major stream as Twelve Mile Creek, likely based on measurements from Allison’s (near Princeton) on the old trail. Another bridge, near km 7.9, marks Fourteen Mile Creek and when present, distances and conversions are taken into consideration; the measurement is remarkable close to the actual distance from Princeton.
After the climb along the canyon wall, the valley widens near km 13 and the road parallels the creek, offering several sheltered spots for the self-contained camper to park for an evening — or a week. Another junction near km 15.2, marks a possible diversion, but if the source of Whipsaw Creek is the planned destination, keep right here and left at the logging road junction near Fortyseven Mile Creek (km 17.8).
Mineral claim stakes among the trees are the first hint that this road may have served other uses in addition to logging, but the mill foundation and scattered diamond-drill core boxes at km 19.7 may come as a surprise. The mill equipment once served the Golden Contact operation on McGillvray Creek, west of Lillooet, and was moved here in 1967-68 by Roy Huff of Princeton.
According to the BC Mines and Petroleum Resources 1968 Annual Report, “The construction of the mill was completed, a tailings dam built, and a trial run made of 150 tons of ore. An adit was collared and driven 32 feet, and some ore stockpiled at the mill site.”
Huff set up Silver Tip Explorations Ltd. to mine copper, zinc, silver and gold on nearby claims, but problems, including a shipment of concentrates that went astray in Vancouver, kept Huff from successfully mining the mineral deposit.
Beyond the mill remains, the Whipsaw Trail climbs westward, crossing Fortythree Mile Creek near km 21 before reaching another junction. Although the better looking road swings to the left, the “deactivated” road to the right is the route to the Hope Pass Trail and the upper reaches of the Whipsaw Trail. In mid-October, 2008, the road was rutted in places but still quite passable with a 4x4 pickup truck to the Corral Creek cabin (km 22.8). If you are driving a low-clearance vehicle or pulling a horse trailer, this could be the end of the road for you.
The “Hope Trail” sign at km 23.5 marks a potential destination as well as possible diversion. Beyond the Hope Trail signpost, the gravel road winds up through the timber to the alpine meadows of Kettle Mountain. A decaying cabin on the east brow of Kettle Summit (km 27.2), built in the 1920s with a high and low level entrance, serves as a landmark for the nearby gravestone of Richard Holding (1901-1976).
Dick Holding (a.k.a. Holden) was a distinguished looking outdoorsman and trapper who made Princeton his base, but enjoyed life on the mountain ridges. It is said that his father was a Hudson’s Bay Company man who came to the area when Dick Holding was a young lad.
The remains of this mountain man were laid to rest amid a lush garden of Hellebore and Western Anemone that stretches for several kilometres along the windswept ridge. Just behind the cabin, a rough road leads down to a small pond and an excellent spot to camp for the night and watch the deer drink in the morning mist. Dwarf huckleberries and wild strawberries provide a tasty addition to the morning pot of porridge when the season is right.
Beyond Dick Holding’s cabin, the main road (now little more than a trail) follows the ridge north through the alpine meadows of Granite Mountain, offering a spectacular view of the Cascade Mountains to the southwest before beginning the descent to Wells Lake and the headwaters of Arrastra and Blackeyes creeks.
Parts of the trail can be washed out and 4WD vehicle may be required beyond km 31.5, making the remainder of the trail to Wells Lake, Lodestone Lake and Tulameen beyond some adventurers. Several rock ledges and The Ditch are the only really serious impediments to some drivers. Once past The Ditch, the trail becomes increasingly better in quality and width until finally it is a well graded gravel road.
Terrain type / brush factor
Although the trail is not difficult in its entirety, there are some steeps sections, rock ledges 20-40 cms, loose stone hill climb at Falcon Hill. a rather large quagmire at The Ditch and the rest of the trail is relatively easy.
Elevation change is from approximately 800 – 1890 metres above sea level. Portions of the trail can be narrow, limiting passing oncoming vehicles and adding pinstripes to your vehicle. The trail goes from wide open road through densely wooded areas to high alpine tree line.
Permits? Fees? Seasonal closures?
Must have a street legal vehicle, Depending on weather or time of year, trail maybe impassable. No permits is required.
Numerous opportunities exist for open camping, fire bans (no open fires) maybe in place during summer dry season. Fishing/hunting license required with limitations.
1990 Toyota Hilux 4x4 (RHD, JDM) - Kyle Alsen
2003 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab TRD 4x4 – Peter Hartl
2008 Jeep Sahara Wrangler - Chris Collard
1990 Toyota Land Cruiser HZJ73 – Jan Alsen
We began the trail on a Friday at ~ 17:00, leisurely pace, camped at 19:00 hours about 1/3 of trail completed and finished on Saturday 18:00 at Granite City.
History, geology, etc.
The present route of Highway 3 — the Hope-Princeton Highway — was wilderness in 1860 when Sgt. W. McColl and Cpl. C. Sinnett of the Royal Engineers explored and mapped a more northerly route through the wild Cascade Mountains, bent on connecting Hope with the rich gold gravel at Rock Creek. In later years, much of this route became known as the Dewdney Trail, but a portion of it lasted barely a year before Capt. J. Grant, RE, was given the task of building a more direct route from the Skagit River to the Similkameen. Capt. Grant’s route followed the Skaist River upstream to Hope (Grant’s) Pass and then down Whipsaw Creek to the benches above the Similkameen River, south of present-day Princeton.
Many of the names of the tributaries of the upper reaches of Whipsaw Creek reflect the distance to Hope while numbers on the lower tributaries mark the original trail mileage from Princeton, or more correctly, Allison’s (an establishment at that time in Princeton), east of Princeton.
Gold and platinum placer deposits have been found on Whipsaw Creek, but attempts to mine them have not met with appreciable success. Rock hounds may be interested to know that fossil insects as well as plants have come from the banks of Lamont and Whipsaw creeks. Be prepared to slog through the water to get upstream as the banks of these creeks are often too steep to climb.
The Whipsaw Trail as it is known today didn't actually exist by this name up until recently. Instead, it was part of a network of trails used by the Hudson's Bay Company's fur brigade. It is now called The Whipsaw Trail, primarily because a portion of it follows close to the Whipsaw Creek, and the name, being catchy, has stuck.
Blackeyes was a local Indian Chief when Alexander Caulfield Anderson first explored the region in 1846 in search of an all- Canadian route for the Hudson’s Bay Company fur brigades. Blackeyes’ trail led from his camp north of Otter Lake, across the Tulameen Plateau to his hunting grounds in Paradise Valley. A.C. Anderson’s HBC Brigade Trail was the main route of commerce to the BC Interior from 1848 to 1860.
The original brigade trail in British Columbia ran from Fort St. James, Fort Alexandria (just north of Williams Lake), Kamloops, then on the west side of the Okanagan lakes and down to Okanogan, WA, where it eventually joined the Columbia River for a final destination of Fort Vancouver, WA. This was the primary method to transit furs up until the mid 19th century, and it also became a northward re-supply route for the fur traders, when it was determined that it was quicker to send supplies by sea than to haul supplies east-west across the entire continent. The use of this route stopped in 1846 with the signing of the Oregon Boundary Treaty, establishing the 49th Parallel as the Canada/US Border. Fear of taxation, combined with indian warfare, caused the government to look for alternate routes to the sea.
The trail we call the Whipsaw is part of this alternate route which went from Kamloops southward along the south shore of Nicola Lake, then southward again through the Tulameen Valley. It then connected with the Hope Bridge Trail and meandered towards Fort Hope. The Hope Trail, which joins up with this interior trail along what we now know as the Whipsaw, was used for the first time in 1848, and while barely passable, was the only available route to the coast at the time.
The Dewdney, Whatcom and Hope Pass trails were built in 1860s by men trying to find a passable route to the rich gold creeks of the Cariboo and the Kootenays through the inhospitable Cascade Mountains. These trails also served as the major route to the Okanagan and Boundary districts until the early 1900s and the construction of the Kettle Valley Railway.
At the same time as this route was being used for the fur trade, Royal Engineers started construction of the Cariboo Wagon Road through the Fraser Canyon. In 1863, the Fraser Canyon route was completed and the Hope Bridge Trail/Whipsaw Trail route into interior of British Columbia was abandoned as a primary fur route.
However, in 1885, a major gold strike at Granite Creek (near Coalmont) swelled the settlement to over 2000 people. By the turn of the century, this bonanza was long gone, but in the early 1900s the boom moved over to coal. Coalmont, Blakeburn and the surrounding hills were again mined for coal. Most of this coal production ended in 1957; but, a new coal operation has started up again close to Lodestone Lake, at the northern end of the Whipsaw.
From the mid 1900s, the trail fell into total neglect and was not used recreationally until the 1970s, other than the occasional hunter or trapper. With the advent of 4x4s and off-roading enthusiasts, it has been cut through again and is now a regular destination for recreational use. Approximately 10 years ago, the Tread Lightly campaigns began to impact the way people used the trail and much of the damage that the higher meadows received from early 4x4ers is now healing.
An interesting point along the trail is the infamous Falcon Hill, which got its name from Skip Marsh, who in 1979 drove his 1966 Ford Falcon (a 2-wheel-drive vehicle) up the hill. Many 4x4 enthusiasts have raised their eyebrows at the thought of a 2-wheel-drive Falcon driving up this hill, as it has stumped many 4x4s and required hours of winching for some to get up the hill depending on weather. Generally, any truck with good articulation can make it up.
Selection of this trail by BF Goodrich for their Outstanding Trails Program has put more attention to this area.
• Best time of year is July-August (driest and least amount of snow at higher altitudes) or early September before the rains begin. Insect repellent maybe required. • No services are available and the trail is no patrolled regularly except for random patrols by forestry wardens and fish and wildlife. • As both ends of the trail are maintained for active mining and logging concerns, be aware of large vehicle traffic that have right of way. Frequency 163.32 can be monitored for road transportation activity.
• A 4x4 with appropriate recovery equipment (winch and tow strap), driving skills and at least one other vehicle similarly equipped, is recommended. Lockers would be a plus. These back roads/trails are not patrolled or supervised.
• Cellular phone coverage is marginal or non-existent.
• Always carry appropriate supplies and maps.
• A compass, maps and/or GPS will be helpful.
• If using electronic equipment, be sure to have spare fresh batteries.
GPS units/laptops used for tracking/navigation: Garmin StreetPilot C320 with Ibycus Canadian Topography (available from http://www.ibycus.com/ibycustopo/#Download)
Navigation software used for planning/navigation: Garmin MapSource and nRoute (both free from http://www8.garmin.com/support/mappingsw.jsp and http://www8.garmin.com/support/agree.jsp?id=575 respectively.
Books/maps used for planning: Topo Maps: Princeton, BC 92 H/7 (1:50,000), Manning Park, BC 92 H/2 (1:50,000)
BTW: if anyone would like to see more photos: http://cid-ab9ed883d618c57a.skydrive.live.com/browse.aspx/Whipsaw%20Trail^J%20BC%20Aug%201-3-2009
Important waypoints as coordinates
Ref: WGS 84
Km Description Latitude Longitude Elev.
0.0 Whipsaw Cr Rd & Hwy 3 N49.36915 W120.57722 821 m
2.5 Lamont FS Road N49.36585 W120.60392 989 m
4.2 Paradise Valley Guest Ranch N49.35336 W120.61079 993 m
4.7 Twelve Mile Creek N49.35008 W120.61515 987 m
5.2 5.0 Km Marker N49.34913 W120.61026 1008 m
7.9 Sunset FSR / 14 Mile Creek N49.33087 W120.62876 1037 m
9.3 Whipsaw-Kennedy FSR N49.32352 W120.64222 1087 m
10.0 10.0 Km Marker N49.31784 W120.64551 1121 m
10.7 ATV Trail to Left N49.31267 W120.64875 1142 m
12.5 Laverne Road to Right N49.29805 W120.65786 1146 m
14.3 Camping Area N49.28672 W120.67562 1189 m
15.0 15.0 Km Marker N49.28392 W120.68143 1228 m
15.2 Garrison Cr. FS Road N49.28175 W120.68548 1229 m
17.8 Dewdney Trail N49.27938 W120.71744 1317 m
18.0 Whipsaw FSR to Left N49.27902 W120.71980 1338 m
19.7 Silver Tip Explorations Mill N49.27258 W120.74143 1444 m
20.0 20 Km N49.27316 W120.74602 1480 m
21.1 43 Mile Creek N49.27257 W120.75999 1528 m
22.0 Road Deactivated Sign N49.26893 W120.76910 1556 m
22.8 Corral Creek Cabin N49.27017 W120.78084 1609 m
23.5 Hope Pass Trailhead N49.27157 W120.78996 1651 m
+2.8 Hope Pass N49.27897 W120.82162 1830 m
29.5 Kettle Mountain N49.29815 W120.83566 1890 m
37.8 Granite Mountain N49.33962 W120.85984 1890 m
43.3 Wells Lake N49.37018 W120.88732 1600 m