5 Adventures in BC's Off-the-Beaten Track Cariboo Chilcotin Coast

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Travel a little farther off the beaten track in BC to the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast and you’ll find incredible outdoor adventures. From high-octane whitewater rafting and mountain biking to waterfalls, hot springs, and wildlife watching, this lesser-known region offers plenty to do. Here’s a sample.

Barkerville | Rob Lloyd
A journey through Barkerville Historic Town & Park

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Take a trip back in time

Take a road trip back to bygone days and follow the Gold Rush Trail to trace the steps of the settlers from Lillooet, Mile 0 of the 1860s Cariboo Wagon Road, to Barkerville Historic Town & Park, which is home to more than 125 heritage buildings from this era.

The 750-km (466-mi) Gold Rush Trail also overlaps the waterfall circuit, which includes Ghost Lake Falls and Matthew River Falls in Cariboo Mountains Provincial Park. Ghost Lake Falls can be seen from the road at the campsite and Matthew River Falls are a short but steep walk from the first set of picturesque waterfalls. Visit the other four waterfalls on the trail (Mehatl Falls, Deception Falls, Horsefly Falls, and Moffat Falls) for short strolls and challenging hikes to see nature at its most powerful.

Xatsull Heritage Village | Jonny Bierman/Eco Escape Travel

Experience Indigenous adventure

Rich in history and culture, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast has been home to Indigenous peoples for millennia. If you’re travelling the Gold Rush Trail route, make a stop at Tuckkwiowhum, near Boston Bar, to experience traditional Nlaka’pamux village life and see a subterranean pit house, summer lodges, smoke house and replicas of pictographs found in Nlaka’pamux territory.

Xatśūll Heritage Village, on the banks of the mighty Fraser River, offers a glimpse into the Secwepemc Nation and their traditional way of life, with accommodation in pit houses, traditional food, and the chance to take part in a sweat house ceremony. Xwisten Experience Tours, near Lillooet, brings visitors to the Bridge River Fishing Grounds of the St’át’imc People from June to September to learn more about the traditional wind-dried method of preserving salmon, and to enjoy a feast at the Barefoot Grill.


Great Bear Rainforest | Sean Scott

Explore the Great Bear Rainforest

Renowned as one of the best places in the world to spot grizzly bears as they dine on spawning salmon in fast-flowing rivers, the Great Bear Rainforest is an incredible place where you’ll find dense forest, epic fjords, natural hidden hot springs, and an abundance of wildlife from grizzly and black bears to eagles, wolves, cougars, and whales.

Take a two-hour tour of Nuxalk Nation’s ancient rock carvings, which are thought to be over 7,000 years old. Copper Sun Journeys’ tours run from Bella Coola and Nuxalk guides Chris Nelson and Clyde Young share traditional stories on a tour of the petroglyphs of the Great Bear Rainforest. Bella Coola is the starting point for these adventures. It can be reached by road from Williams Lake, by BC Ferries or private boat, or by scheduled flights.

Chilcotin | Reuben Krabbe

Bike rugged wilderness

Experienced mountain bikers come from around the world to enjoy the 200 km (124 mi) of rugged wilderness rides over ridges, alongside alpine meadows, and through the broad valleys of the South Chilcotins. Beginner bikers flock to the area to ride the loops and runs of the 12 km (7.5 mi) Williams Lake River Valley Trail or develop skills at Boitanio Bike Park, one of BC’S biggest bike parks.

Upper Chilcotin | Big Canyon Rafting

Go River Rafting

Adrenaline addicts can experience the thrill of whitewater rafting on the turbulent-yet-beautiful Cariboo River, which winds through the Cariboo. With a reputation as one of the best rivers to raft in BC, visitors can choose from gentle floats or rapids along the pristine river, all with an incredible backdrop of changing vistas from snow-sprinkled mountain ranges to deep forest. Look out for eagles swooping down to catch salmon and even bear sightings along the fast-flowing river. Take a guided tour with operators like Big Canyon Rafting.

No matter what outdoor activity you are planning, be prepared. AdventureSmart and Leave No Trace are great resources to help you get informed before heading outdoors. Follow the three Ts—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials.

Consult Drive BC for up-to-date information about road conditions before heading out.

Header image: Lillooet | Michael Bednar

WRITTEN BY: Amy Watkins

From: Vancouver
Amy Watkins, a British-born travel and food writer, fell in love with Vancouver at the age of 18. She has travelled the world, but her steadfast love of the West Coast led her to move here in 2012. In the UK she worked as a features editor and freelance writer for 10 years, writing about travel for magazines and newspapers. She now writes about travel, food, and West Coast life for a variety of publications. When she’s not on her laptop, she can be found exploring Stanley Park or hiking in the rainforest with her bulldog, Rick James; tackling waves and tacos in Tofino; or eating her way around the province on a food-focused road trip. Amy has even been persuaded to eat kale chips and practise yoga—making her an honorary Vancouverite.

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