Tikwalus Heritage Trail

Tikwalus Heritage Trail

Tikwalus Heritage trail - Walk through history Fraser Canyon, CanadaThe Tikwalus Heritage Trail is an incredible hike where you’ll get a good workout, see some great views and learn about the history of the Nlaka’pamux First Nation and the Fraser Valley. This is a teeny section of a longer historial trail, that wound through the mountains all the way to Kamloops.

Please note, I am not an expert in the Nlaka’pamux people or the history of BC, so the historical parts of this post are all from the various sign boards we read while hiking along this trail.  I really enjoyed learning about it all, so I hope you do too. If you would like to learn more about it all, there are links at end of the post.

Tikwalus Heritage Trail Map

Tikwalus Heritage Trail – the Basics

Distance: 11.7 km 
Cumulative Elevation gain
: 930m
Highest Point: 912m
Time: 5 hours (including breaks)
What to bring:
Hiking poles
Loads of water
The 10 Essentials
Facilities:
No loos at the trailhead, so if you need the toilet, stop at Alexandra Bridge on your way here. 
There is a loo, picnic table, food lockers and fire pits at the campsite on the bluffs route section of the trail.
Dogs: Dog friendly, but there are bears in the area, so keep them on a leash.
How hard is it? Intermediate.
I had read that this is done by local children on their annual camping trip, so I thought it would be easy. I was so, so wrong! The first part of this trail is very steep, gaining around 300m of elevation in a single kilometre! So the start of this walk is steep, hard and sweaty. Then it gets much more manageable for the rest of the way.

History of Tikwalus

Tikwalus was the name of the largest village of the Nlaka’pamux First Nation in the 19th century.  This trail was part of a huge network of trails that linked around 30 villages throughout their territory.

When the Hudson bay Company fur traders first visited this area at the start of the 19th Century, they would not have survived without the help from the Nlaka’pamux people. They welcomed the newcomers, gave them salmon & venison, and acted as guides in exchange for traded goods. In 1847 Chief Pahallak showed the fur traders this trail, and helped them prepare the path for brigades of horses to carry goods along it. Since then, this trail has played a part in the history of the Nlaka’pamux and the province.

Tikwalus Heritage Trail – Getting started

The trailhead is pretty easy to find. It’s 3km North of Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park on the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1), north of Hope. There is a big sign with information on the history of the trail; So you’ll know you’re in the right spot.

The hike starts by climbing steeply though Nlaka’pamux forest. When I say steeply, I really mean it! Once the trail starts to climb, it goes up over 300m in a single kilometre. We hiked up on a cloudy, but hot day. I even started to regret our choice of hikes as it was so exhausting.

Chief Pahallak Viewpoint

Chief Pahallak was the man who guided A.C Anderson (from the Hudson Bay Company) along this ancient Nlaka’pamux route. The chief and the villagers agreed to assist Anderson by widening the trail and adding in extra switchbacks to make it possible for horses to travel along here. So, the first really good viewpoint is named after Chief Pahallak. It’s such a good view that you can forget how tough the previous few kilometres felt.

The Hudson Bay Company planned to use this ‘fur brigade‘ trail to transport goods from Kamloops, to Fort Langley. From there they could load the goods onto boats, and float down the Fraser River to the Pacific Ocean. However the poor horses couldn’t find enough to eat along the trail (apart from pine needles) so they began to starve. 70 out of the 400 horses died along the trail on the first trip. Unsurprisingly this route was only used for a couple of years before they found an alternative way through the Cascades.

Quatqulhp – Cedar Trees

One of the next cool things you’ll find along the trail are Culturally Modified Cedar trees, or quatqulhp. The signboard said that the outer bark of these western red cedars was cut off to be used as roofing or flooring in people’s homes. They would then pound the softer inner bark to make clothing and mats. It’s pretty cool that they took just enough that the tree could continue to keep growing for another hundred or so years.

Junction – Bluffs vs Lakes

Just after you have walked for 4km, there is a junction that leads to a loop, so you can go either way. We started by following the higher, Lakes trail, then returned via the Bluffs trail. The Lakes trail was the route used by the Hudson Bay Company in 1847-49 while the Bluffs Trail was used by gold miners later in 1858-60.

Lakes route

The pathway that winds past all the lakes has some slightly eerie, but beautiful views. Back in 2004 a car accident on the highway below started a fire that decimated the forest on this part of Lake Mountain. Now the trees are starting to re-grow and fill in the gaps between the silver and black remains of the burned trees.

Foraging along the trail

One plus point about the fire, is before the young trees can crowd them out, the berry bushes have grown up in full force! We found countless juicy blueberries, thimbleberries and even some (incredible tasting) wild strawberries. If there were more berries on the trail back when the fur brigade attempted to use this route, they may have fared a little better…

Lake House

The Hudson Bay company gave up on this trail, but a decade later gold miners flooded back to this region searching for riches. Miners and mule trains carried tonnes of supplies along here. There used to be a cabin near the lakes where they could rest and have a drink. There was a squatter who sold liquor to people as they passed through. The local judge could not find anyone to testify about this, so he solved the issue by burning down the cabin!

We couldn’t find any trace of the cabin. But there was a pretty stream nearby as well as views through the trees to each of the multi coloured lakes.

Campsite

We loved the campsite along the Tikwalus trail. I hate the idea of lugging up our camping equipment up the steep sections; But it would be worth it if you get to sleep somewhere with such fabulous views.

The campsite is in the wilderness, so if you decide to sleep here, you need to pack out all your rubbish and leave absolutely no trace. However it is pretty well equipped. There is a picnic bench and a fire pit on one end, near the bear-proof food locker. Then there are several great spots for tents. It must be great fun for the school groups that still venture up here. Just be aware you should not have campfires if there are fire restrictions in the back country. You can check current fire bans and restrictions here.

We stopped and ate here to admire the views.

The Bluffs route

On our return journey we took the path along the bluffs.

The Gold miners who used this route were not interested in developing relationships with the Nlaka’pamux people. The brought their own food and traveled in large groups without guides. It sounds like they had some terrible behaviour – they dug up salmon spawning grounds and harassed Nlaka’pamux, even burning down five of their villages, including Tikwalus village. In the end the Nlaka’pamux people stood firm. The miners were forced to flee along this trail to Fort Yale (20km South). They had to return to formally plead with the Nlaka’pamux people to be allowed to prospect in this area.

This section of the walk may have the darkest history, but the views from the Black Canyon viewpoint are perfect!

You can’t really tell from my photos, but that rock I was sitting on has a long drop down, so you will be treated to views of the Fraser river as it carves its way through Black Canyon. Just around the next bend in the river is Hell’s Gate (one of my favourite spots when you drive through the canyon.) That is the narrowest part of the Fraser Canyon where the volume of water surging through the gap is double the amount of water that flows over Niagara falls. It is a spectacular area.

Once you have filled your eyes with these views, you follow the path back to the Lake route junction. Then you can return the way you came down the steep path back to the trailhead. Hiking down this trail can feel pretty tough on your knees, so if you have hiking poles, don’t forget to bring them. I have mentioned this before, but we find that jogging downhill seems to put less pressure on your knees – so if they start to hurt, try that.

Mushrooms along the trail

We love finding mushrooms as we hike. On this occasion we spotted one of the coolest mushrooms – puffballs. If you squeeze these, they send out a mini jet of mushroom spores into the air. You can see a video of Marc poofing one of these on my instagram here.

Alexandra Bridge

If you fancy a teeny bit more history before you head home, you should also make a quick stop at Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park. It is just a few minutes away from the Tikwalus Heritage trail, and it is another lovely area to explore. This is the original road bridge over the Fraser River.  It is no longer used by vehicles, but you can walk down to see it and peer into the churning waters of the Fraser River.

I found out about this historical trail by reading the 105 Hikes book. If you like the sound of it, you can buy it here. You can probably tell. but I really enjoyed this mixture of hiking, learning about the Nlaka’pamux history and foraging. This was also the quietest trail we have ever visited near Hope. We didn’t see a single other hiker the whole way.

Extra Links about the Nlaka’pamux:

As always, if you like the look of this, please click on the pins to save them.

Tikwalus Heritage trail - Walk through history Fraser Canyon, Canada Tikwalus Heritage trail - Great for views of Black Canyon and the Fraser river, Canad Tikwalus Heritage trail - Gorgeous hike near Hope, Canada

59 thoughts on “Tikwalus Heritage Trail

  1. Wow this looks like an awesome hike, and I love that you mentioned the Nlaka’pamux First Nations people as I always love learning about indigenous people. Also, that bagel looks so yummy!

    1. Thanks Yasmine, yeah I really like learning about this kind of history as well, although it is pretty depressing for me to learn about the British Colonial era. We did so much damage to Canada’s first Nations.

      Still, it is better to know and attempt to make amends.

  2. I’m all about history, trees and hiking so this sounds like the perfect hike for me! Would love to visit so pinning for future reference.

    1. Hehehe I keep thinking the same thing about your posts in the desert. We might have to meet up to hike once covid-19 calms down a bit more.

      If you ever do visit, please let me know!

  3. Wow, impressed that kids hike this for camping! There are soooooo many trails near Vancouver that I have yet to try. This one looks like a good workout with an amazing view!

    1. I know right!? Vancouver is so good for finding fun walks. I still have a massive list even after hiking at least once a week for the last three years!

  4. You always write about such wonderful hikes! I love it so much. This one seems super unique too, at least to me, because of it’s length combined with the history facts. All the historical information trails I’ve been on have been relatively short.

    Also, those mushrooms are cool and great on trails, but they grow in my parent’s yard and mess with my mom’s garden!! She hates them, haha.

    1. Oooh you should tell your mum to try eating them! When they are still firm (before they get to the poofy stage) you can munch them. You have to cut into them, to check they are still while inside…but if you cook them they are edible. 😀

      Yeah, I think they did a really good job with all the signboards to teach us history along this trail. It sounds like the Nlaka’pamux were involved, so for once it’s not just from the colonizer’s point of view.

    1. Yeah, that bridge was so pretty. Even if you can’t do the longer hike, I’d recommend the short walk to see that. I may add an extra post about it with a few more photos.

  5. You are the queen of finding the best hikes for the views and fascinating finds! I love that you added a bit of history showing how important the trail was for settlers. I’ve yet to try wild blueberries or strawberries but they look so good! And that puffy mushroom is the coolest thing!

    1. Thanks Vanessa. The wild strawberries were the best part. They are teeny (smaller than raspberries) but they tasted fantastic.

      I am glad you liked the historical parts too.

  6. We were just passing through Hope yesterday and I said to my husband that we need to explore this area. It’s so beautiful (well, when you can see something). Looks like a gorgeous hike. Thanks once again for sharing all these great finds.

    1. Thanks Caroline! Yeah we hadn’t explored much around Hope, Harrison Hot Springs or the Coquihalla Summit area until this summer, but it seems like there are plenty of fantastic places to hike out East! We have loads more to explore!

  7. I think we can all agree, these views are just breath-taking! What I appreciate even more is the thought and time you put into giving us the historical context of each spot. It’s always nice to have a back story and makes the hikes have a new meaning! Thank you for sharing!!

    1. Thank you for reading Sophia! I was a little worried as I don’t normally manage to fit history into my posts, but I am glad I could for this one. I am really chuffed that you enjoyed it.

    1. Lol yeah – we chose it because I thought it would be easier than the hike I’d originally chosen (that one would have been in the clouds with the weather that day.) In the end I think it was slightly harder! 🤣🤣

  8. What an amazing location! Some of these spots are the definition of hidden gems! That bridge is beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks Soham. yeah, we are always keen to get into the countryside since covid-19 took over all our lives. I hope you have good green spaces near you too.

  9. The Tikwalus Heritage Trail looks really interesting. Of course the natural beauty of the trail is enchanting, but what makes it more fascinating is its history. It must be a strange feeling walking along the same trail on which fur traders walked hundreds of years ago.

    1. It makes you wonder doesn’t it! They used to hike here for their livelihoods, and they could easily have died along the way. We do the (shorter versions) just for fun!

    1. I know right!? At least they had built really good switch backs, so it was not as steep as it could have been. To be honest, there is another hike (called cool creek canyon) that is also 300m gain in a single kilometer…but I think that was worse than this one.

  10. It makes me so happy that there was an attempt to honor the indigenous Nlaka’pamux people along this trail, both in the names of the lookouts and in the signage. Thanks so much for sharing this! Also – geesh, what a climb!!

    1. They did such a good job teaching along the trail. I honestly wish more trails had this kind of thing as most of us (even my Canadian friends) don’t know enough about the original inhabitants of the gorgeous places that we get to explore.

  11. What an incredible trail, you have so much wonderful scenery and wilderness all around don’t you? And I’m pleased that the jumping-for-joy photo is back in prime position. Was getting worried!

  12. I’m actually going back to British Columbia next year to shoot a documentary on the First Nations, soI will definitely be checking out the places you mentioned! The Tikwalus Heritage Trail sounds like a wonderful walk!

  13. Love the history behind this trail and how it played a role with the Nlaka’pamux First Nations people. And the various viewpoints that you see along the way are stunning! Never heard of thimbleberry before so I have to look at that one 🙂

    I would definitely take a pit stop at the bridge. It’s beautiful and the fact that no vehicle can go in there is a plus!

  14. That’s a very informative post on the Tikwalus Heritage Trail. Steep trekking is tough I’m sure, though the trails described in your post and the pictures do look very scenic and I’m tempted to try this out! The historical aspects of it are covered well too! 🙂

  15. Your photos are absolutely stunning! The Tikwalus Heritage Trail is a perfect hiking destination but not sure if I will. Reading your blog has certainly made me think of curating a future plan at some point.

  16. I feel like you could spend an entire lifetime hiking BC and STILL not see all of it!! Haha, another hike added to my list! Also thank you so much for sharing a bit of background on the hike and area – I really appreciate learning more and I feel like it makes the actual hike cooler too!

    1. Thanks Kay! Yeah I feel the same way. We’ve been hiking almost every week here for over three years and I still have a super long list of areas that I’d like to explore. It’s heaven for walkers. 🙂

  17. This might be a good one to try with overnight camping. I agree, that view would be pretty amazing to wake up to. I haven’t heard of this hike but thanks for the info on the local first Nations connection. I love learning about local history

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