Valhalla Provincial Park is a magnificent world-class wilderness, encompassing 49,893 hectares of natural landscape and 30 kms of pristine shoreline along Slocan Lake. Three biogeoclimatic zones are found within Valhalla: interior cedar/hemlock, Engelmann spruce/subalpine fir and alpine tundra. Due to a moist climate, interesting plant communities such as yellow cedar, Engelmann spruce/fern associations, and coastal fern communities are important features of the area.
According to Norse mythology, Valhalla was a palace roofed with shields, wherein lived the bravest of the slain Norse warriors. There, under the leadership of the god Odin, they lived a happy life waiting for the day when they would be rallied to march out of the palace and do battle with the giants. The spirit of Valhalla lives on in the splendour of this portion of southeastern British Columbia, where great palaces of rock call forth majestic images with names such as Asgard, Gimli and Thor.
The Valhalla Range is a dramatically diverse area in the Selkirk Mountains. Deep river valleys, large subalpine lakes and granite peaks of up to 2,827 metres grace this park. Both Evans Lake and Beatrice Lake are uncommonly large for high elevation lakes in BC. Surrounding the lakes are numerous mountains with castellated peaks. The peaks are truly magnificent. In the northwest, New Denver Glacier at 2,758 metres dominates the landscape, while the block-shaped Devil’s Couch at 2,667 metres and Hela Peak at 2,717 metres define the central area.
Along the southwestern boundary is an outstanding group of spires including Mount Dag, the Wolfs Ears, Gimli, Asgard and Gladsheim – all over 2,660 metres. Numerous cirque basins, several larger deep lakes and chains of small lakes surround the ridges. Slocan Lake sits at 537 metres, well below most of the park, forcing waterways to cut deeply into the landscape as it descends some 2,000 metres before reaching the lake. Numerous cascades and waterfalls are scattered throughout the park.
Mountain caribou, mule and whitetail deer, mountain goats, cougars, black bears and grizzly bears roam Valhalla Provincial Park, and smaller mammals like marmots and pikas can occasionally be seen scurrying among the rocks. Alpine ptarmigans and golden eagles are among the favourite birds to watch for out when hiking in Valhalla Park.
Backcountry wilderness hiking and camping are the main recreational activities in this park. Camping is restricted to designated sites along established trails and on Slocan Lake beaches. Campfire pits are provided on the beach areas. Only some sites provide pit toilets. There are some overnights cabins available in the park. Evans Lake Cabin and the Cove Creek Cabin serve as public shelters and offer accommodation for a maximum of four persons in each cabin. Camping facilities are provided at Gwillim, Wicca and Cahill Lakes.
Visitors are reminded that this park is a rugged wilderness area without supplies or equipment of any kind. Campers need to be fully self-sufficient and practice “no trace” camping. The hiking trails that cover a variety of distances and terrains lead from the six main drainages from the mountain heights to Slocan Lake below, and from the Hoder Creek Logging Road past Drinnon Lake and Gwillim Lakes in the southwest. Hiking ranges from short walks to wilderness treks and mountain climbing. Higher elevation lakes have been stocked to provide good fishing.
Visitors who opt to canoe to the beaches and trails should note that strong crosswinds may blow up suddenly. Early morning starts are recommended. The shoreline of Slocan Lake is for the most part a rugged combination of bluffs and large rocks interspersed with beautifully isolated pebble and sand beaches. Pictographs on the rock bluffs overhanging Slocan Lake are reminders of early native inhabitation of the area by the Kootenai and Salish First Nations.
It wasn’t until the 1850s that prospectors and surveyors came into the area, and Slocan Lake became a highway of commerce for early towns in the Kootenays. Overgrown trails and logging flumes mark the passing of the local mining boom that brought Europeans to this area.
Valhalla Provincial Park is located on the west shore of Slocan Lake, north of Slocan and Castlegar, and encompasses most of the Valhalla Range of the Selkirk Mountains. Boat access across Slocan Lake is required to reach this wilderness – from Highway 6 between Slocan and New Denver. The closest communities of Slocan, Silverton, and New Denver all have boat launches. Commercial water taxis will also take visitors across Slocan Lake to the various trailheads. The park can also be accessed from forestry services roads and wilderness trails from the west side of Slocan Lake. Helicopter and floatplanes can access the park at Evans Lake.
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