Hiking through Hornaday's Wilderness

Flathead team working to protect   

In 1905, a pioneer of conservation named William Hornaday set out to hike in a wild, untouched part of Southern BC that was known for its remoteness and abundance of wildlife. Hornaday and his companions undertook a 34-day odyssey through the area, which is nearby to what is now Elkford, BC.  The experience deeply impacted Hornaday, and inspired him to write Campfires in the Canadian Rockies, a book about his journey. 


Almost 110 years later, in July of 2014, the Flathead Wild team set out to follow in Hornaday’s footsteps, hiking for five days through what is now known as the Hornaday Wilderness, an area we are working to protect. 

Hiking through Hornaday’s wilderness wasn’t easy. On the first day of the hike we pried our way through thick brush, waded across gushing rivers, and climbed over densely piled trees brought down by powerful winter avalanches. It quickly became clear that many parts of this area were just as wild as they were 110 years ago. 

With each passing day we grew to understand Hornaday’s deep connection to the landscape. As we hiked through wildflower-filled meadows, gazed across roadless valleys and watched Elk graze on nearby ridges, it became clear to us why Hornaday was inspired to write a book about his experiences. 

But the landscape is not completely untouched. One evening we climbed steep switchbacks to gain a view of the valley below. From one side of our vantage point we could see dense forest and endless jagged peaks, backlit in the evening sun. On the other, a web of logging roads and wide clear-cuts – a sharp reminder of the ways Hornaday’s wilderness will continue to change without permanent protection. 

The Flathead campaign is about more than protecting the Flathead River Valley. It is also about connecting the landscape, resulting in a protected wildlife corridor between Glacier National Park in Montana, and Banff National Park in Alberta. As a part of this vision, the Flathead team is advocating for the official protection of the Hornaday Wilderness. 

In many ways, Hornaday was our guide for the duration of our unforgettable hike. In the evenings we would sit by the open fire, taking turns reading from Campfires in the Canadian Rockies. Hornaday was a colourful writer who used his own experiences in the wilderness to share its significance with others, and fiercely advocate for its protection.  I hope our experiences in the place he loved so much will help us do the same.  

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  • I read the book years ago. WT’s Grand Grandfather and my 4x Great Grandfather were brothers. He’d be proud of your group. His character is what stands out. He was extremely passionate about wildlife conservation, with many significant accomplishments. Did you know there is a Boy Scout merit badge in his honor?
    I just recently learned that he was memorialized by the naming of the area/trail. I’ve added it to my bucket list to get out there to retrace his steps one day. Wish I would have known that your group had done it!
  • I wish I had known. I could have gone with you. I hiked the Hornaday Pass trail from Bull River to Highway 43 in August. I want to do the Loop from Elkford up to Phillips and around back down Avalanche (Brule) Creek. I will do that loop in 2015.