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Paul Peak Trail

Difficulty: moderate

7.2 miles

Elevation gain: 1630'

Max elevation: 3680'

Camps: South Mowich River

First hiked by me: 2021

Most visitors to the Mowich Lake area drive right past the Paul Peak trailhead on their way to the glories of Spray Park or Tolmie Peak. It's the trail less travelled, a likely place to find solitude. I hiked it out and back without passing a single other soul.

Despite having the word 'peak' right there in the name of the trail, there is no summit to be had here. Starting from the pay area just past the National Park boundary along the road to Mowich Lake, the trail descends through forest, crosses Meadow Creek on a log bridge, traverses around the flanks of its namesake, then switchbacks downward as you enjoy intermittent views through trees over the South Mowich River and the icy slopes that feed it.

After 3.1 miles you'll reach a junction with the Wonderland Trail. This would make an undistinguished turnaround spot, so the distance shown above also includes the short stretch of Wonderland down to the North Mowich River, which is a lovely place to eat lunch.

An unusual thing about this trail is that it starts high and ends low. It's also one of the lowest altitude ways to reach a remote part of the Wonderland, which makes it interesting for early or late season hiking. When I visited in May I experienced a form of time travel. I set out in winter, with a fresh half-inch of snow on the ground from the night before, and snowflakes falling around me. As I descended the air thickened and temperature increased, taking me through spring all the way to early summer as lower altitude enabled denser vegetation. This is primordial rainforest: mossy and dank and lonely and magnificent.

It's possible to make this hike into a loop, combining it with the Wonderland up to Mowich Lake plus Mowich Lake (snowshoe) back to the trailhead. But this would only be fun at the right time of year: sufficiently off-season that the road is not full of cars, yet not so much that the Wonderland to Mowich Lake is impassable!

Speaking of road: as of 2021 the Mowich Lake road is a nightmare of potholes. Every time I drive this I tell myself, never again! But it leads to so many great trails, how can I not? It seems to get worse every year, but also seemed much worse on the way back than heading up, so I may just be repressing traumatic pothole memories and failing to accurately recall over time how close to a broken axle my poor car has really been :-)

A snowy trailhead

Setting out through a wintry forest

Crossing Meadow Creek

Halfway down, the forest character has changed completely

View over the South Mowich River


At lower elevation the forest becomes mossy and lush

North Mowich River (my turnaround spot)