Today was a rainy day and I wasn't sure of hiking. I started driving towards Pemberton and somehow I ended doing the loop to Hope. After reaching Yale I decided to have a quick stroll and I stopped at Spirit Caves Trail.
This is a very easy hike to access, all you have to do is just drive east on Highway 1 through Hope, stop when you see the sign "Welcome to Historic Yale" next to "Pioneer Cemetery" and cross the highway if you park on the other side. Behind the sign and facing south you will see another sign "Spirit Caves Trail"
This hike has a lot in common with Mount Lincoln (2 km or 1.2 miles north from this trailhead) with the only difference that it lacks the exposed rock scrambles and angling. At the beggining you will cross one small bridge and the first of two creeks where you can fill your bottles.
This area is generally considered to be on the dividing line between the Coast and the Interior.
After 15 minutes you will cross the BC Hydro transmission line, here it is the first viewpoint of the Fraser Canyon. Then you will go into the forest and after one hour you will reach the viewpoint where most people end the hike.
The Fraser River is generally considered unnavigable past this point, although rough water is common on the Fraser anywhere upstream from Chilliwack, and even more so above Hope, about 20 miles south of Yale.
Fraser River looking south
Yale played an important role in certain events of the gold rush period which threatened to throw B.C. over to American annexation, the Fraser Canyon War and McGowan's War. Yale maximum population during the gold rush was in the 15,000 range, although typically it housed 5-8,000. The higher figure relates to the evacuation of the Canyon during the Fraser Canyon War of 1858.
Being the head of river navigation also meant being the best location for the start of the Cariboo Wagon Road (as there were no usable roads between Yale and the settlements nearer the Fraser's mouth. The Cariboo Road ran from Yale to Barkerville via Lytton, Ashcroft and Quesnel, built in the early 1860s. By the start of the 1870s an overland route from New Westminster was finally built - the Yale Road.
From the viewpoint you can do small loop around the mountain following a faint trail covered in moss very typical on a costal forest.
In World War II, Sphagnum mosses were used as first-aid dressings on soldiers' wounds, as these mosses are highly absorbent and have mild antibacterial properties.
Very soon you will reach a rock pile with its shallow caves. The caves are not that big -- basically holes into the rocks --, not special equipment required but still try to be cautious.
Because of its unique role as a transshipment point for the Cariboo Road, Yale prospered for another twenty years after the gold rush, and though dwindled in population it retained some prestige and such sophistication as had grown up within the rough gold town, and it was as familiar to early provincial high society as were New Westminster distant Barkerville.
Spirit Caves )
Keep following the trail and you will do a loop and see some small lakes and swamps and eventually reaching the viewpoint. All this area was formed during the Miocene period (23.7-5.3 million years ago) by the river cutting into the uplifting Interior Plateau.
Today the Yale Road is known as Old Yale Road and still extant in sections from Surrey through Abbotsford and Chilliwack, though no longer entirely a continuous "highway". Its counterpart on the north side of the river was the Dewdney Trunk Road, built in the same period in advance of railway construction in the 1880s, but which ran only to Hatzic, just east of Mission City.
Next time you cross Yale remember that at the peak of the gold rush, Yale was reputed to be the largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco.
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Back to the trail, even this is a short hike, keep in mind that is a very steep one with a lot of switchbacks.
1. 49.5570 - 121.4445 Elev 129m - Trailhead
2. 49.5666 - 121.4421 Elev 539m - Viewpoint
3. 49.5701 - 121.4424 Elev 633m - End of hike
Round trip: 3.53 km (2.2 miles) one way
Elevation gain: 504 m (1653 ft)
High point: 633 m (2076 ft)
Driving distance from Vancouver: 177 kilometers (110 miles)