The Cariboo is wild, with open plains stretching in all directions. Rivers are wide, water is fresh, and history runs deep. Guest ranches are the accommodation of choice, with camping under the clear skies a close second. Gold may have shaped these lands in the 1800s, but the real jewel here is the natural environment. Between 100 Mile House and Quesnel, a vast number of outdoor pursuits keep visitors happy, from fishing and rafting to hiking and mountain biking.
Horseback riding and fishing are part of the culture here, and they are a big draw for adventurous travellers. Guest ranches and fishing resorts facilitate, directing visitors to the area’s many lakes and trails.
Bowron Lakes Provincial Park is a well-known chain of lakes that impresses with its scale and unmatched beauty. The whole circuit can be paddled and portaged over a week to 10 days, or you can tackle the west-side lakes in one to three days.
With around 250 residents, the tiny village of Wells began life as a mining town but now exists as a charming arts community populated by heritage buildings. Nearby Barkerville was a gold rush town founded in 1862, and was for a time the largest town north of San Francisco and west of Chicago. It has been restored so that visitors can enjoy a taste of life in the gold rush era.
The best places to lay your head in the Cariboo are luxury lodges in rustic places. For example, Tyee Lake Lodge is 12,400 square feet of Swiss architecture on the crystal clear waters of Tyee Lake.
Simpler options include Watch Lake Lodge, which offers 12 rustic cabins plus camping sites for travellers who want to horseback ride, swim in the adjacent lake, and take advantage of excellent rainbow trout fishing.
Crooked Lake Resort is a great place to take the family for a laidback vacation including swimming and fishing. With a long stretch of waterfront and the only accommodation on Crooked Lake, this place is a hidden gem in the small community of Horsefly.
Whether you’re flying into Quesnel or Williams Lake, you’ll want to rent your own vehicle. Highway 97 is the main route through the area. Alternatively, BC Ferries docks at the coastal town of Bella Coola in the summer months. From here it’s about 6.5 hours by car to Williams Lake. Head east on Highway 20, crest “the hill,” and cross the Chilcotin Plateau. Regardless of how you get here, you’ll want to stay a while and experience Cariboo hospitality. It’s a long way…and it’s worth it.
Always check trail conditions before you head out, and 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.
Header Image: Riske Creek Ranch, near Williams Lake | Kent Bernadet
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