Gold Rush Trail [credit Michael Bednar]

Travellers heading north through the province of British Columbia via Highway 97 (The Gold Rush Trail) on their way to Alaska can take in wide open spaces, historic stops, endless adventures and side trips through incredibly varied vistas to explore further. Rather than setting your compass north and driving straight through, consider some of these fascinating side trips to get to know the diverse landscapes, friendly communities, and memorable experiences available throughout the province.

Find these four side tours in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast on your journey to Alaska this summer.

Gold Rush Trail [credit Jack Madeley Harley]

Discover The Bridge River Valley

One of the first spots to jump off and explore is the Bridge River Valley, otherwise known as the gateway to the South Chilcotin. Those in search of unlimited recreational opportunities need look no further as an expansive wilderness awaits, combined with an intriguing history and vibrant local culture. Bike or hike nearly endless trails up and down mountainsides, spend time paddling myriad crystal-clear lakes, relax at a quiet campsite, or embark on memorable adventures with guided horseback tours, hut-to-hut alpine tours or heli-skiing.

Drop A Line On The Fishing Highway

The next spot to explore is Highway 24, also known as “BC’s Fishing Highway” and the Land of Hidden Waters – due to its prevalence of hidden lakes for fishing and outdoor activities. Here, you can hike and bike secluded paths, stay at a fishing lodge or guest ranch, or simply enjoy the drive connecting Highway 97 to Highway 5. Lakeside cabins and campsites are easy to find along the route for an overnight stay to continue exploring or relax by the calm waters and watch the sunset and the stars speckle clear skies.

Land of Hidden Waters [credit Jonny Bierman]

Gateway to the Great Bear Rainforest

A little further north in Williams Lake is the chance to head west to the Bella Coola Valley, travelling along the scenic Chilcotin Highway (known as BC’s “Wild West”) as you wind towards the towering coastal mountains. Descending Heckman Pass, stop off for challenging hikes in South Tweedsmuir Provincial Park before you arrive in the valley, home to the Nuxalk (new-halk) people since time immemorial. Take in Indigenous culture, experiences, and teachings, head out on a wildlife tour or simply stroll the town and surrounding valley as you experience the sheer vastness of this section of the Great Bear Rainforest and its towering, old-growth cedar forests.

Bella Coola Valley [credit Bella Coola Mountain Lodge]

Historic Barkerville

More north still on Highway 97, you’ll reach the bustling city of Quesnel, situated on the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers. Turn east on historic Highway 26 and, in less than an hour, you’ll find yourself stepping back in time to the days of explorers, traders, and gold miners at Barkerville Historic Town & Park. This living testament to BC’s development as a province offers a unique streetscape that includes over 125 carefully preserved heritage buildings, period displays, museums, restaurants and shopping, as well as costumed interpreters roaming the streets as historical characters, greeting newcomers as if they’d just arrived on a Barnard Express stagecoach ready to find their fortune.

Barkerville Historic Town & Park [credit Tyler Cave]

The journey through British Columbia to Alaska is full of adventure and presents a unique opportunity to connect with nature, adventure, and history. As you travel north, take some time to explore and experience outdoor adventures, relaxation, or delve into BC’s incredible heritage. Start planning your adventure today.

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