Take the day, or stay overnight along the way, to explore the wilderness of the Interior Plateau, down Highway 20 from Williams Lake.
Begin your journey on Highway 20 at Williams Lake. You can fly with Pacific Coastal Airlines or Central Mountain Air then rent a car at the airport. Williams Lake is also within three hours’ drive from Kamloops as well as Prince George.
Load up the car with trip supplies in town and explore the nearby scenery, heritage sites, and attractions. A great place for a pit stop is the Laughing Loon in town, great for a full meal or drinks to-go before you hit the road.
Within a half hour’s drive, headed west, Highway 20 swings through the forested beauty of Desous Mountain (a great mountain biking destination, too), crossing the mighty currents of the Fraser River then up other side of the valley. With the sweeping Chilcotin Plateau unfolding toward the Coast Mountains, it’s here that you’ll start to feel like you’re really about to enter a new world of adventure—a true entry point into a Land Without Limits.
Seven kilometres past Alexis Creek (named after a colonial-era chief of the Tsilcot’in), is picturesque Bull Canyon, small provincial park that overlooks the milky green waters of the Chilcotin River. It is also the only provincial campground on the route before Tweedsmuir. If you don’t have time to stay overnight, consider taking the short trail that leads down to the riverbed.
Right off Highway 20, KiNiKiNiK Restaurant, Store & Accommodations is a unique place to stop for a rest. Or, stop for provisions at their deli and butcher shop. Also beyond Alexis Creek is Puntzi Lake, famed for its Kokanee and rainbow-trout fishing.
This route towards the Potato Mountain Range passes the northern end of Chilko Lake (Ts’ilʔos) Provincial Park (check for closures in 2020) and its numerous high elevation lakes. Here, ice caves and fossils are evidence of an ancient seabed. Great hiking trails criss-cross the countryside and great water views abound as you head west towards Tatla Lake.
Gravel roads, some well maintained and others a bit rough, intermittently intersect the highway and lead to spectacular backcountry areas. The Tatlayoko Road just east of Tatla Lake is definitely worth exploring. A small detour to Tatlayoko Lake (31 kilometres south) is also a great spot to drop a paddle or partake in some backcountry exploration. Stay a night at Homathko River Inn if you want to take some extra time taking in the pristine surroundings of this incredible valley in the Chilcotin.
Enjoy the changing landscape of this area, from lake-dotted hills to grasslands in valleys where accommodations nudge up against rugged mountains, offering comfort in this raw, exposed wilderness. Stay at Tatla Lake Manor, which is located right “downtown”, and approximately halfway into the Chilcotin, making it the perfect rest stop on your way onward towards Anahim Lake. Another great option is Eagle Bear Lodge, a bit further out, which offers log cabins with waterfront views.
As Highway 20 curves north, look out for the tiny roadside hamlet of Kleena Kleene, were you can enjoy a hearty German meal and consider extending your trip. Stay at Clearwater Lake Lodge or head a way’s further and find Terra Nostra Guest Ranch. Paddle a canoe or kayak on Lake Clearwater, enjoy a trail ride on a horse (suitable for novice or advanced riders), or hike a sign-posted trail leading out from the lodge.
About thirty kilometres along Highway 20, keep an eye out on the left for a quaint old barn indicating Towdystan. Towdystan was a major supply stop in the area’s early ranching days. The road off to the south leads to Charlotte Lake, where fishing and birdwatching are prominent pastimes. Many communities in addition to Towdystan along Highway 20 were initially supply centres, including Nimpo Lake, Anahim Lake, Tatla Lake, and Alexis Creek.
A few kilometers before you arrive at Nimpo Lake, watch for a paved pullout on the north side along the Dean River. Here you will find a plaque that commemorates one of the battles in the Chilcotin War of 1864.
Known as “the float plane capital of British Columbia,” Nimpo Lake is a popular launching point for aerial sightseeing tours and fishing fly-ins to the pristine wilderness lakes and rivers of the West Chilcotin.
Further up the road (twenty minutes’ drive) is Anahim Lake, the site of a long-established Chilcotin settlement that expanded when the Carrier Peoples moved from their remote villages in the 1940s and 1950s. It is also home to Chilcotin’s main airport.
Anahim Lake is a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts with many resorts catering to self-guided fishers as well as offering packages. This is also the eastern gateway to the southern reaches of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and its phenomenal wilderness recreation activities, so you may want to stay here a night before planning your journey onward.
Travelling this route? Share your experiences with #explorebc.
Feature Image: Scenery near Williams Lake in the fall. Photo: Nikita Pretty
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