Bucket List-Worthy Experiences in BC's Cariboo & Chilcotin

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Dog Creek Valley in Churn Creek Protected Area Credit Destination BC/Michael Bednar

From canoe expeditions and multi-day horsepack trips, to guest ranch stays and cultural experiences, tackle the vast terrain and dramatic landscapes of BC’s Cariboo and Chilcotin with one of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Horseback riding in the Cariboo | Kari Medig
Multi-day horse-packing trip

Imagine: An exhilarating day of horseback riding to a camp at almost 2,000 metres in elevation, where you settle in over a crackling fire and immerse yourself in the natural world around you. After a deep rest, you embark on the next day’s journey. Enjoy views of jagged peaks and ancient glaciers, meadows, and grasslands, stop to smell the alpine wildflowers, and get to know your equestrian companion as well as diverse wildlife along the way.

Take a multi-day guided horse-packing trip with Tsylos Park Lodge (check dates for summer and fall 2020 availability) and get off the grid, put away your phone, and grab the reins. You’ll meet your guide and prep for the adventure that lies ahead; low-experience riders may even take a horseback lesson before they embark on one of the trip options offered by the lodge. Small groups mean you’ll receive the care and attention you need, so you can dig deep with peace of mind. Relish the tranquility of great open spaces and connect with a wilder side of yourself, whether cantering across sweeping plateaus, riding along lake shores, or sleeping soundly under the stars.

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Cowboy boots | Grant Harder

Experience a stay at a guest ranch

The Cariboo and Chilcotin are home to over half of the province’s guest ranches, where you can learn the ins and outs of cowboy life surrounded by unique wilderness and wildlife. Take in views of sprawling rangelands and feel the open air, whether on horseback, on foot, floating on a lake, or right from your accommodation. And don’t be surprised if you run into more than just horses and cattle in these parts—bighorn sheep, moose, and mule deer live here, too.

Consider a stay at Spring Lake Ranch (a two hour’s drive from Kamloops), which is currently limiting the ranch to a total of 30 guests among their seven cabins, making it a great option for small groups of four or five who want relative seclusion. Sunbathe on the dock or in the grass, or explore the three-kilometre (1.8-mile) lake by canoe, pedal boat, or rowboat. And of course, ride them horses! With more than 240 hectares (600 acres) of land, there’s lots of space and serenity.

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Bowron Lake Provincial Park | Adam Wells

Paddle a canoe circuit

There’s nothing quite like experiencing the dramatic landscapes of the Cariboo from a canoe.

Gear up and paddle your way through diverse topography—from rounded hilltops of the Quesnel Highlands to the imposing Cariboo Mountains toward the south and east. A must-do for any BC adventurer, the Bowron Lake Provincial Park canoe circuit encompasses a 116-kilometre (72-mile) chain of lakes, waterways, and connecting portages that takes anywhere from six to 10 days to complete. And come prepared—the climate is as diverse as the terrain, with placid blue lakes and sunny days quickly turning to torrential rains and challenging waters, which makes the completion of the circuit all the more rewarding. Before you travel, make sure to check with BC Parks about any closures in effect.

Those who don’t have wilderness canoe experience—or who want to take the stress out of planning—can opt for a guided trip with Pathways Canada Tours, who will make all the campsite bookings and fill you with hearty gourmet meals.

Looking for a shorter option? Consider paddling just the west side of the Bowron Lake circuit, which takes two to four days to complete, or try the more leisurely Moose Valley Canoe Route, a two-day round trip.

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Lorna Lake with Tyax Adventures | @mattiasfredrikssonphotography

Fly into the backcountry

Access the unrestricted wilderness of the South Chilcotin with one of Tyax Adventures’ hiking tours. Fly in to the backcountry to access some of the most scenic hiking in BC.

Choose your bubble of three friends and stay up to six nights in a fully stocked camp or cabin and discover vast spaces in the most intimate way—by foot. Travel light and follow your guides as they take you camp to camp through flower-filled meadows and over alpine passes, then rest up and enjoy gourmet meals that are prepared for you upon arrival.

A particularly special spot is their Sky Camp on the remote shores of Crystal Lake, set deep in the alpine about a 45-minute chartered flight from Whistler. Enjoy a lux safari-style stay replete with all the creature comforts, including comfortable beds, hot showers, a wood-fired lakeside sauna, and plenty of options for activities—SUP on the lake, go kayaking or canoeing, enjoy bird and wildlife watching, or go fishing.

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Farwell Canyon | Michael Bednar

Take on the mighty rivers of BC

For a more heart-pumping pace, consider a rafting expedition and battle the rushing waters of some of BC’s most powerful waterways.

A river rafting tour with BCOA-accredited outfitter ROAM Adventures offers incredible diversity with both exhilarating whitewater (up to Class IV rapids) and peaceful stretches that meander through lush alpine forests and narrow canyons peppered with oddly shaped sandstone spires (hoodoos).

See upcoming tour dates (from Williams Lake, with flights from Vancouver) and add the longest stretch of commercially navigable whitewater in North America to your bucket list this summer. It’s a perfect trip for families or small groups of five wanting to get up close and personal with BC’s nature.

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Mountain biking in the alpine | @christieimages

All-inclusive adventure lodge for your pod

Pair the comforts of an all-inclusive with the privacy of a small group stay that’s packed with adrenaline.

Treat yourself and your pod to a dream stay at Bralorne Adventure Lodge, located in the Bridge River Valley, the gateway to the South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park, located some 100 dirt-road kilometres west of Lillooet (for the 2020 season, ensure safe and responsible travel on this route by following all posted signage). Once you get there, take advantage of prime access to dirt biking, SxS (side-by-side), and ATV terrain right from your front door, then come home to comfort: a hot sauna, hangouts by the fire, and a home-cooked meal. Yes, you heard right—the lodge offers full-service catering to groups of five to eight people, which means hot breakfasts to fuel you pod’s daily adventures, along with bagged lunches, post-ride snacks, and fuss-free dinners.

 

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Grizzly bear | Henrik Nilsson

Experience the reward of a thrilling wildlife ecotour

See the forest with new eyes and experience the thrill of guided encounters with BC’s big wildlife in its natural habitat.

Book a package with Ecotours-BC in historic Likely, and a stay at their wilderness lodge on the deepest fjord lake on earth (Quesnel Lake), home to a variety of wildlife, including bears, caribou, and moose. Go on a guided tour, and if you time it right, you may see a grizzly feeding right on the river. Alternatively, stay in a safari-style tent at Bear Camp and learn about the unique ecology and wildlife (and yes, view bears!) around Chilko Lake, the largest alpine lake in Canada.

You can also join the ultimate challenge and try to spot a wolf in the wild with Chilcotin Holidays. Hear their haunting howls echo across the valley and experience the spine-tingling rush of seeing your first wolf.

Whichever stay you choose, expect to have one of the most memorable experiences of your life.

 

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Feature Image: Horseback riding in the Cariboo| Photo: Michael Bednar

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WRITTEN BY: Visnja Milidragovic

Visnja is an avid traveller, writer, and in-house content lead at DBC who's always keen to share her love and knowledge of British Columbia. Whether planning her next retreat into nature or mindfully exploring her neighbourhood in East Van, she loves finding new spots that inspire her and send her heart aflutter.