hiking in the mountains of british columbia Canada

How to Make the Most out of BC's Mountains

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Monkman Provincial Park | Mike Seehagel

Mountains are nature’s monuments of wonder and awe. They help you see the bigger picture—literally and figuratively—on a scale that commands respect and reverence. Journeying through British Columbia’s mountains will surely offer this change in perspective, one that is humbling at every turn.

Here, 10 distinct mountain ranges make up 75% of the province’s land mass—a span that would require multiple lifetimes to see it all. In each, you’ll find kind and welcoming people who are happy to share their love of the mountains, no matter how you choose to enjoy them. From the Canadian Rockies in the east to the Coast Mountains in the west, here are five ways to get into the heart of BC’s mountains.

1. By Air

Gain a new perspective and look down upon millenia-old glaciers, turquoise lakes, and rugged alpine peaks on a flightseeing tour.

Flightseeing in the Northern Rockies | Northern BC Tourism/Jennifer Stevenson

On Vancouver Island, hop on a 45-minute Comox Glacier Tour with 49 North Helicopters to soar over the Vancouver Island ranges towards the iconic Comox Glacier. Here, the pilot will gently land on top of a remote mountain for a chance to soak in the unique surroundings.

In Northern BC, join a floatplane tour with Alpine Lakes Air from the outdoor adventure town of Smithers. Book a drop-off and pick-up at a remote lakeside cabin for a truly Canadian backcountry adventure.

For flightseeing tours over the Bugaboo Range in the Kootenay Rockies region, book a Mt. Sir Donald or Columbia Icefield tour with Kicking Horse Aviation. Soar over granite spires, majestic valleys, and vast glacial ice fields, all covering terrain with an otherworldly feel.

2. By Bike

Let gravity be your ally as you ride through fields of subalpine wildflowers or through ancient forests and lava flows. Bonus: The famed mountain bike trail networks in BC have something for every ability level and style of riding.

Sun Peaks | Cristina Gareau

In SquamishDialed In Cycling can show you the best trails with guided tours and family rides that explore one of Canada’s finest trail networks.

For a homegrown bike culture experience, take BC Ferries (40 minutes from the Horseshoe Bay terminal in West Vancouver) to the Sunshine Coast to level up at Coast Gravity Park. Here you can freeride, try impressive jump lines, and be coached by some of BC’s top riders.

If speed and air is what you crave, time in a bike park is a must. With eight downhill bike parks across BC—from Vancouver Island to the Kootenay Rockies—the terrain in Canada’s westernmost province is extensive and varied.

Keen to know more? Head over to Mountain Biking BC to get info on the people, places, and epic rides that make BC’s mountain biking some of the best anywhere.

The Pipe Mountain Coaster at Revelstoke Mountain Resort | Kari Medig

3. With a Local Guide

Guides maintain a close connection to the land, and a talent for sharing what makes this place special. Book a guided excursion to gain a deeper appreciation for BC’s rugged landscapes.

Nuxalk Nation, Thorsen Creek, Great Bear Rainforest | Callum Snape

At Tweedsmuir Park Lodge in Bella Coola, learn about local geography and the history of the Nuxalk Nation. Join the Highlights of the Bella Coola Valley Tour to visit the Petroglyph Gardens, where 5,000- to 10,000-year-old rock carvings remain intact, and learn of their significance with an experienced Nuxalk guide.

Nemiah Valley Lodge is an Indigenous-owned and -operated lodge in the remote Chilcotin range, next to Tŝ’il?oŝ Provincial Park and one of the highest alpine lakes in North America. The location allows for some truly incredible day trips followed by a beautiful lodge and warm hospitality at the end of the day.

For a more off-the-beaten-path adventure, plan a multi-day trek along the Sunshine Coast Trail and experience one of Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking routes. Black Sheep Adventure Sports can share their knowledge and leadership, and help you pace the journey properly.

For a low-impact and accessible experience with incredible panoramas, check out the Sea to Sky Gondola outside Squamish. Guests ascend in minutes to the coastal subalpine where they’ll find well-graded trails that provide access for all abilities, backed by sweeping views of Howe Sound. Also check out the British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society for a great community of people dedicated to improving access to the outdoors for everyone.

4. With Natural Healing

Sometimes we need a good reset; a moment to hit pause on life and seek wellness and healing in nature. BC is home to mountainside natural hot springs, resort spas, and retreat centres ready to soothe.

Fairmont Hot Springs | Kari Medig

Just a 45-minute drive up the stunning Sea-to-Sky Highway is the Squamish Valley. Here you can treat the body at AIKA Spa with its secluded and private traditional wellness cycle of hot and cold therapy. Move between a wood-fired sauna, cold plunges, and indoor and outdoor relaxation spaces for optimal results.

In the Kootenay Rockies region of southeast BC, take a drive along the Hot Springs Circle Route to find geothermal hot pools in both developed and natural settings alongside welcoming communities, each with its own distinct character. Near Nelson, the Ktunaxa Nation invites you to soak in therapeutic hot mineral waters at Ainsworth Hot Spring Resort. Farther inland toward the Rocky Mountains in Kootenay National Park, visit Radium Hot Springs. Open year round, this spacious family-friendly facility welcomes visitors from around the world.

Farther north, near Kitimat, experience a hot springs and waterfall tour through towering fjords with Northern BC Jet Boat Tours.

5. Along the Rivers

Navigate rushing waterways that cut through deep canyons to adventure through BC’s mountainous terrain. Feel the flow on a jet boat or whitewater rafting adventure on a single-day or multi-day trip.

Rearguard Falls Provincial Park | Kelly Funk

In the Thompson Okanagan, one of the best whitewater rivers in BC sits under the towering 3,959-m (12,970-foot) peak of Mount Robson. Book a tour with Mount Robson Whitewater for a three- or six-hour experience navigating Class 3 rapids.

In Northern BC, book a trip with Frontier Experience for a jet boat or river float trip down the Bulkley River. Or join Wild River Adventure Tours for a jet boat tour of spectacular Kinuseo Falls in Tumbler Ridge, home of the to the newly-designated UNESCO global geopark.

Closer to Vancouver, paddle the mighty Fraser River on an all-inclusive experience with Kumsheen Rafting Resort. Enjoy a riverside camping and glamping-style getaway and raft on the Fraser or Thompson rivers.

Whether you’re seeking complete solitude in the backcountry or a gentler getaway with loved ones, time in BC’s mountains allows you to see the bigger picture and how you fit into it.

Originally published in March, 2022.

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