Note: This story was originally published in 2020.
With its northwestern location on the shores of the storied Skeena River, Terrace boasts easy access to outstanding wilderness experiences, from hiking, biking and climbing, to paddling, fishing, and wildlife viewing. The community is also alive with music and arts and offers travellers unique riverside accommodations, making it a great spot to stay a while to get acquainted with northern BC town culture before venturing further out. Stay at the Hidden Acres Treehouse Resort or the Skeena River House and create your own definition of “rustic luxury,” Northern-BC style.
Browse local fare at the Skeena Valley Farmers Market and take it easy with a stroll through the lush forest along the Howe Creek Trail or grab a coffee and stroll among whimsical carvings in the trees at Ferry Island. Consider trying out one of the world-class mountain biking trails, enjoyable for all levels.
For those who want to get out on the water, book an experience with Northern BC Jet Boat Tours and learn about the area’s rich history and ecology. Or, treat yourself to a day of guided fishing for salmon or steelhead with Skeena Spey or Westcoast Fishing Adventures.
From Terrace, consider one of these short trips to explore unique pockets of the surrounding area.
Follow Route 16 west toward the coast and enjoy one of the province’s most scenic routes to visit Prince Rupert, a culturally rich port city a 90-minute drive from Terrace. Prince Rupert boasts postcard vistas at the colourful Cow Bay Harbour, scenic hiking trails, and a good mix of restaurants, shops, and historic sites to visit. There are also a range of places to stay in Prince Rupert, from hotels and B&Bs, to oceanfront lodges.
Less than a half hour’s drive down Highway 16 toward Prince Rupert from town brings you to Exstew Falls, which rewards visitors with cool mists and roaring sounds of tumbling water. Hikers can also take on the more moderate hike in Sleeping Beauty Provincial Park that follows an old mining trail to a sub-alpine ridge. Bornite Mountain is another great choice and offers panoramic views of Skeena Valley and surrounding ranges.
Enjoy the unique scenery of the north coast with Outer Coast Outfitters who offer guided tours of the local area. Paddle a lake surrounded by mountains or explore the salty shoreline of Kaien Island. They’ll fit you with all the gear you need (plus snacks!), whether you opt for a half-day or full-day canoe adventure or hiking trip. Bookings available into November, weather-dependent.
The beauty of Prince Rupert is also lovely to appreciate 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 whales feeding and pods of porpoise breaking through the surface from above.
Head east via the Kitwanga Junction toward Smithers, a great spot to get a feel for small-town/big-adventure life in Northern BC. Visit the Smithers Art Gallery to view local art, enjoy a craft brew in “a little timber framed brewery” (Smithers Brewing Co.), and take in a cozy meal at Telly’s Grill or comfort fare in modern surroundings at Roadhouse. If you’re staying the night (mountain biking in the AM, anyone?), fuel up at Two Sisters Cafe for breakfast.
Smithers is also a great spot to try out new adventures. Raft to a riverside lunch or dine at the lodge with Frontier Experience; book a heli-tour to go see the resident mountain goats; or, do what the locals do and head out to catch some fresh fish (try Babine Lake or a book a fishing package with a cozy lodge stay). For mountain biking, try Hudson Bay Mountain just outside of town, where trails are open through to early November.
Just 18 kilometres east along Route 16 from Terrace you’ll find Kleanza Creek Provincial Park, which 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 refuelling with a picnic.
Further along the route, you’ll also hit Seven Sisters Provincial Park, one of the most majestic sights along the way to Smithers. Located 60 kilometres east of Terrace, this park offers stunning vistas, great hiking for all experience levels, as well as mountain biking opportunities.
About 75 kilometres before you arrive in Smithers, pass through the Hazeltons. Take a self-guided walking tour of the old town, and make sure to visit the world-renowned ‘Ksan Historical Village where you can learn about Gitxsan history and culture, see traditional totem carvers at work, and take a walk along the shores at the confluence of the Bulkley and Skeena rivers. There are also a few lovely spots to take in a view and a hike nearby, and the area is also known for rock climbing.
If you’re visiting from May to September, visit Witsuwit’en village of Witset (formerly Moricetown), 30 minutes further along Route 16 headed east. Stop at the Widzin Kwah Canyon to watch skilled dip-netting fishermen in action then climb up the stairs to the Widzin Kwah Canyon House Museum for a 45-minute professionally guided cultural tour.
A trip to the border town of Stewart is a rite of passage for anyone travelling BC’s northwest, taking you down the iconic Stewart-Cassiar Highway, which offers breathtaking views of craggy peaks, mountain-fed rapids, easy-to-access glaciers, and aqua blue lakes (please be aware of travel restrictions for 2020 as the communities in this area are closed). The town of Stewart itself is quirky and colourful (both its buildings and its people) with all the character of a frontier town.
Just north of Kitwanga, stop at Gitwangak Battle Hill National Historic Site, which was once the site of a fortified village where the Gitwangak people defended their domain in the mid-1700s to 1800s. Here, you can enjoy wide-open views of the scenic Kitwanga River valley, breathe in the history of the place on an interpretive trail, as well as view one of the most extensive collections of old village totem poles in BC.
Head north toward Meziadin Junction up Highway 37 and make sure to stop to take in the scenery and crystal-clear water of Meziadin Lake Provincial Park and enjoy a picnic or paddle. Be on the lookout for wildlife, especially black bears, which can be spotted even along the highway.
Head south along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway for a day trip to Kitimat, less than a 45-minute drive from Terrace, making stops along the way to enjoy a variety of unique scenery found in BC’s northern reaches. Though a short drive away, you’ll want to stay here longer to fully enjoy the unique surroundings Kitimat is known for. Enjoy an extended fishing trip down the Kitimat Arm with a local lodge, visit the Kitimat Museum and Archives to view Haisla First Nation artifacts and learn about the history of this ancient valley, and build in some moments to enjoy the coastal rainforest scenery.
Take a walk through Giant Spruce Waterfront Park on the shores of the Kitimat River floodplain, where 70-metre-tall Sitka spruce commonly can be found (including the remains of a previously registered “largest living Sitka Spruce in BC,” which measures 11 metres in circumference alone). Also very close to town is Moore Creek Falls, a complete photographer’s delight. Climb the rugged staircase carved into the hillside and take in the therapeutic sounds of water rushing down the banks (these falls are even more spectacular after a good rain). You can also book a tour in town to the nearby hot springs to enjoy soaking in soothing crystal-clear waters in privacy (boat-only access only; closed for 2020 season).
Rent a kayak at the Visitor’s Centre (on the aptly-named Forest Avenue), or a TrailRider from Riverlodge Recreation Centre. A delightful place to stay with stately comforts and access to nature is the stately Minette Bay Lodge, which has great views of the Douglas Channel.
Stay at the Kitimat Estuary Lodge B&B, right at the head of Douglas Channel, and enjoy their outdoor spa and campfire after the day’s excursions. In fall, book a one-week ocean charter through Inside Passage to catch steelhead and Coho salmon as well as Dungeness crab.
Travelling these routes? Share your experiences with #exploreBC.
Feature Image: Northern BC Jet Boat Tours on the Exchamsiks River. Photo: Callum Snape
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