Finding Nature in Northern British Columbia

7 to 10 days, 1200 km (745.65 mi)

Follow this road trip through some of the most scenic and remote areas of British Columbia.

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Part 1

Prince George

Prince George | Mike Seehagel

Widely known as the capital of British Columbia’s north, Prince George is the gateway to both the Alaska and Yellowhead highways. With all the amenities of a large city surrounded by an endless number of lakes, streams, campsites, rivers, and hiking trails, Prince George is a bustling urban gem, surrounded by wilderness and full of northern hospitality.

Sip and sample at Northern Lights Estate Winery (BC’s northernmost winery), Trench Brewing & Distilling, and CrossRoads Brewing, and indulge in a Neapolitan pizza at Betulla Burning. Stock up on supplies at the weekly farmers’ market, then take in a movie at the Park Drive-in, one of BC’s three remaining drive-in theatres.

Don’t Miss

  • Celebrate Prince George—A series of local events are held in downtown Prince George, with live music and food throughout the month of July.
  • Central BC Railway and Forestry Museum—This eclectic museum is home to varied artifacts that date from 1899 to the 1960s, as well as one of the largest vintage rail collections in British Columbia.

Side Trips

  • Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut Provincial Park—This inland temperate rainforest 115 kilometres (71 miles) east of town is BC’s newest provincial park, complete with a stretch of universally accessible boardwalk.
  • Huble Homestead—Journey 45 km (28 mi) north along Highway 97 to experience life as it used to be in this living historic site along the shores of the mighty Fraser River.

Part 2

Vanderhoof

Vanderhoof | @yathavrttanta

Situated in the heart of the Nechako Valley, Vanderhoof is surrounded by rolling hills, pristine lakes and campsites, and, of course, the Nechako River. With such easy access to water, it’s no wonder that fishing is a staple activity here. The Nechako is known for its trout and Kokanee.

Vanderhoof is also home to the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Centre, a research and conservation facility and hatchery offering interpretive tours throughout the summer.

Don’t Miss

  • Hit the Beach—Hogsback Lake, Nulki Lake, and the Nechako River are popular swimming spots around Vanderhoof. Take a day to relax and enjoy the sunshine.
  • Hiking—Stretch your legs on one of many local hiking trails. From wheelchair accessible (Vanderhoof Community Trails) to advanced (sections of Waterlily Lake Trail system (hike to Waterlily Lake and return through Ravine and Rocky Ridges.) – level hikes, Vanderhoof offers quick access to a variety of wilderness experiences.
  • Vanderhoof Community Nature Trails—A series of wheelchair, scooter and stroller accessible gravel nature trails loop around and through Vanderhoof. The four connected trails (Riverside Park Trail, Heritage Nature Trail, WL McLeod Wetland Trail and the Stoney Creek Trail) are great locations for birdwatching, wildlife viewing, mountain biking, geocaching and photography. The trail system begins at Vanderhoof’s popular Riverside Park, home to a children’s play area, a RV campsite, a day-picnic site, the Nechako River Migratory Bird Sanctuary lookout tower, and a green gym.

Side Trips

  • Fort St. James—Sixty km (28 mi) north you’ll find the popular Paarens Beach and Sowchea Bay Provincial Park campgrounds on the shores of Stuart Lake. Nearby, the Fort St. James National Historic Site is a living museum where guests can experience life in a Hudsons Bay fur-trading outpost. Stay overnight at the fort, B&B style, in one of its restored buildings. Don’t miss the “world-class chicken races.”

Part 3

Fraser Lake

Located on the edge of the Lakes District, home to more than 300 lakes, Fraser Lake is a water recreator’s dream. The village itself has three sandy beaches and nearly 20 km (12 mi) of shoreline. Keep an eye out for the trumpeter swans that nest on the nearby Nautley River, and the area between the Stellako River and Fraser Lake.

Stop by the Visitor Information Centre, where you’ll find a museum and information about renting paddleboards and canoes.

Don’t Miss

  • Mouse Mountain Days—The first week in July, the community comes together for live music, games for kids, fireworks, BBQ, a pancake breakfast, and much more.
  • Flight Seeing—Floatplane rides from Fraser Lake can be arranged through Nechako Lodge and Aviation.
  • Red Rock Volcano—Climb the 25-million-year-old lava beds and volcanic cone of the dormant Red Rock Volcano. Trees that are more than 100 years old still thrive inside the volcano’s crater.

Side Trips

  • Beaumont Provincial Park—In the 1840s, Beaumont Provincial Park was the site of the historic Fort Fraser, and there are still a few signs of the habitation around the park. Paddle to the north side of Fraser Lake to view three sets of Indigenous pictographs.
  • Cheslatta Falls—Head 65 km south to check out this magnificent waterfall. The 1.2 km trail to the falls winds through a peaceful pine forest on a ridge overlooking the roaring Cheslatta River.

Part 4

Smithers

Smithers | Marty Clemens

Driving along Route 16, and as you approach Smithers the rolling valley gives way to the snow-capped peaks of the Coast Mountains. Here the influence of ski culture is evident in the Alpen-themed facades downtown.

In addition to outdoor adventure, Smithers is home to great food and drink to be enjoyed after a day on the trails, rivers, or on one of the many nearby lakes, and there is an eclectic local music scene.

Don’t Miss

  • Smithers Mid-Summer Music Festival—This classic event delivers an amazing lineup of local, Canadian, and international musicians. It’s a family-friendly event, and camping is available.
  • Float the Bulkley River—Rent a paddleboard from Local Supply Co. or a kayak from Aquabatics and spend an afternoon floating down the Bulkley River.

Side Trips

  • Babine Mountains Provincial Park—This area offers some incredible hiking opportunities,with glacier-fed lakes, rugged peaks, and extensive sub-alpine meadows. The Joe L’Orsa cabin offers an unforgettable overnight experience.
  • Moricetown / Witset—Watch traditional dipnet fishing from the cliffs of Moricetown Canyon, and stop in at the museum for a 45-minute professionally guided Witsuwit’en Cultural Tour. Witset also has a beautiful new campground with a host of facilities.

 

 

Part 5

Terrace

Exstew Falls near Terrace | Mike Seehagel

With its location on the shores of the storied Skeena River, Terrace—like most communities along Route 16—boasts easy access to outstanding wilderness experiences. Whether it’s hiking, biking, boating, climbing, paddling, fishing, or camping, Terrace delivers.

The community is also alive with music, arts, and culture. Talented local bands, independent musicians, dancers, and actors, as well as out-of-town guests perform regularly in local theatres, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops.

Don’t Miss

  • Riverboat Days—Starting August long weekend, Riverboat Days is the largest community festival in northwest British Columbia. The event highlights local culture and heritage.
  • Take a Jet Boat Tour—Terrace’s reputation as a hotspot for angling is well-deserved, but there are many ways to enjoy days on the legendary Skeena. Spending an afternoon on an interpretive boat tour is a fantastic way to experience this breathtaking area and learn about its cultural significance and history.
  • Explore Ferry Island—Check out the series of wooded trails located in town on an island of the Skeena. Grab a coffee and stroll among whimsical carvings in the trees.

Side Trips

  • Kleanza Creek Provincial Park—Just 18 km (11 mi) from Terrace, Kleanza Creek offers a well-maintained creekside campground and day site. Marvel at the beauty of the canyon and take a rejuvenating plunge in the clear water before refueling with a picnic.
  • Seven Sisters Provincial Park & Protected Area—One of the most majestic sights along Route 16 is the Seven Sisters mountain range. Located 60 km (37 mi) east of Terrace, this park offers stunning vistas, great hiking for all experience levels, and mountain biking opportunities.

Part 6

Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park

Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park | Emanuel Smedbol

Canada’s last volcanic eruption occurred in the Nass Valley more than 265 years ago. The vast lava beds serve as a memorial to the 2,000 Nisga’a people who lost their lives, and as a reminder of the importance of respect—for both the natural world and the wisdom of the elders. The park is jointly managed by the Nisga’a Nation and BC Parks—the first partnership of its kind in BC. Take a self-guided auto tour or arrange for a guided tour.

Don’t Miss

  • Nisga’a Museum—A visit to the Nisga’a Museum in the village of Laxg-alts’ap is an unforgettable and profound experience. Featuring artifacts repatriated by the Nisga’a people, this state-of-the-art museum holds an array of carved masks, bentwood boxes, headdresses, and more.
  • Aiyansh Hot Springs—Recent upgrades make these culturally significant hot springs, located 500 metres/yards from the parking lot along Nass Rd, easier to access than ever. A soak in these waters is a perfect opportunity to relax, recharge, and reconnect with nature.

Side Trips

  • Gingolx (Kincolith)—The drive to this seaside village at the western edge of the Nass Valley is spectacular, as is the view of Portland Inlet from Gingolx’s shores. The community of Gingolx is quaint and charming, and there is an unbelievable amount of fresh seafood available here. Don’t miss the annual Crabfest.

 

Part 7

Stewart

Meziadin Junction | Mike Seehagel

A trip to this border town is a rite of passage for anyone travelling BC’s northwest. The iconic Stewart-Cassiar Highway offers breathtaking views of craggy peaks, mountain-fed rapids, easy-to-access glaciers, and aqua blue lakes. Stewart itself is quirky and colourful (both its buildings and its people) with all the character of a frontier town.

Don’t Miss

  • Toaster Museum—Not only is Toastworks a shrine to all things toaster related, it’s also a great spot to grab brunch and sip some of the area’s best coffee.
  • Stroll the Boardwalk—The waterfront boardwalk with its panoramic ocean and mountain views is a great place to walk off a meal or shake off a restful sleep.

Side Trips

  • Meziadin Lake Provincial Park—This immaculately maintained park is home to a wonderful lake perfect for boating, canoeing, and swimming. Bring a tent or park your RV, and make this your base as you explore the area.
  • Salmon Glacier—Roughly 35 km (22 mi) from Stewart, this is the fifth-largest glacier in Canada and the largest road-accessible glacier in the world. Accessing the glacier requires travel through Alaska, so don’t forget your passport.
  • Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site—On your way to the Salmon Glacier, walk along the boardwalks of the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site. If you time your visit right, you’ll see salmon spawning in the river below, and grizzly bears feasting on the fish.

Part 8

Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert | Andrew Strain

This culturally rich port city boasts postcard vistas at the waterfront, scenic hiking trails, and a good mix of restaurants, shops, attractions, colourful homes, hotels, B&Bs, oceanfront lodges and historic sites. And if it’s fresh halibut you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

Don’t Miss

  • The Khutzeymateen, Canada’s first grizzly sanctuary, offers an unsurpassed bear-viewing experience. Access to the river estuary and the protected areas of the park is limited to a handful of licensed operators, including Sunchaser Charters, Bluewater Adventures, and Prince Rupert Adventure Tours. Bring your camera and spend a day photographing these powerful animals as they feed on the sedge grass along the shoreline.
  • Witnessing a pod of bubble-feeding humpbacks is an unforgettable encounter, even for the most seasoned whale watchers. Prince Rupert is consistently sited as one of the best places in Canada to view these magnificent creatures.
  • The beauty of Prince Rupert is best appreciated from above. Book a flight seeing tour with Ocean Pacific Air to see mountains, rainforest, and the countless islands of Portland Canal. You may even be able to spot feeding whales and pods of porpoise from above.

Side Trips

  • North Pacific Cannery—A trip to Prince Rupert isn’t complete without a visit to nearby Port Edward and the North Pacific Cannery. This fully restored heritage site, with its boardwalks, net lofts, general store eatery, and working canning line gives visitors a chance to go back in time. The Cassiar Cannery up the road is a lovely oceanfront B&B fashioned from restored cannery buildings.

Driving Directions

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Mike Seehagel
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