The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, a vast, sparsely populated region in central British Columbia, encompasses three distinct landscapes: the forests, river canyons, and ranch lands of the Cariboo to the east; the jagged peaks and high plateau of the Chilcotin, moving west; and the fjords and islands of the Coast, a road-less wilderness accessible primarily by sea or air. Together they form one of BC's least travelled, but most storied, regions.
Great Bear Rainforest Resident Eagle
Exploring Great Bear Rainforest
The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast was, and is, a land of adventurers. The Cariboo Gold Rush of the 1860s drew thousands of prospectors here and the region is still rich in Gold Rush history. Highway 97, the Cariboo Highway, follows the path of the Cariboo Wagon Road, completed in 1864 to help prospectors reach the gold fields. Many towns en route, including 70 Mile House and 100 Mile House, are named for their distance along the original road.
Many prospectors were headed for Barkerville, where a miner named Billy Barker struck it rich in 1862. Barkerville Historic Town, 85 kilometres east of Quesnel, is now a National Historic Site and the largest heritage site in western North America, boasting more than a hundred restored heritage buildings, musical theatre shows, stage coach rides, and actors interpreting actual citizens of 1860s Barkerville.
Nearby is the 1930s-era village of Wells, full of brightly painted false-fronted shops, many selling local arts and crafts. Here, you'll find several art galleries, the Sunset Theatre, and the annual ArtsWells Festival. Also in the area is Bowron Lake Provincial Park, with its famed 116 kilometre canoe circuit.
The Cariboo is also cowboy country, where guest ranches, from the rugged to the luxurious, welcome city slickers; you might also catch a rodeo while you're here. Going fishing? Try one of the 100 plus lakes along Highway 24, known as the Fishing Highway.
The Chilcotin starts west of Williams Lake, where the Cariboo Highway meets Highway 20, and the Freedom Road leads to the Coast. This route through some of BC's deepest wilderness won its name in the 1950s, after determined local residents completed the road themselves. Today, it's one of BC's more adventurous drives, cutting through the Coast Mountains and crossing Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, the province's biggest park. Just past Hagensborg, a hamlet settled by Norwegian homesteaders in 1893, the road meets the sea at Bella Coola, a fishing town at the head of Burke Channel. From here, BC Ferries vessels sail among the fjords and islands of BC's mid coast to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.
Bella Coola is also a gateway to the Great Bear Rainforest. One of the most pristine wilderness environments on earth, this vast tract of rainforest extends some 400 kilometres (250 miles) along BC's central and north coast. Home to the world's largest intact temperate rainforest, it is also the world's only habitat of the Kermode, or Spirit, bear, a white-furred sub-species of black bear, as well as a wealth of other wildlife both on land and in the sea.
Whether you choose to explore one, two, or all three of this region's unique landscapes, the adventure will be unforgettable.
Great Bear Rainforest
On the mainland coast of British Columbia, the Great Bear Rainforest stretches over 250 miles and is a land of mist-shrouded valleys and glacier-cut fjords, some of the oldest trees in the world, sheltering coves and coastline, rich salmon streams and bears!
Spot the Kermode, grizzly bears, black bears, cougars, wolves, foxes and many more fascinating animals on nature tours and hikes, and the cool waters provide some of the finest sport fishing opportunities in Canada. Throughout the summer sailboats silently skirt the waves, and kayakers slip along the rarely-explored coastline.
Take a bear viewing tour from a boat and see the bears in spring as they are feeding on the sedges and other plants of the estuarine grasslands. This is also mating season. In summer you may have to go a little further afield to see them munching on berries and lookout for the curious seal pups. You can also spot the grey and humpback whales from the shoreline in summer. In the early autumn wolves become more vocal and the salmon arrive in significant numbers. This is the time to see the largest number of bears and cubs, but by the end of October they are moving towards hibernation.
The tall mountains, lush and large forests, and four fishing rivers within the Hazeltons area offer a limitless number of activities for outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife lovers.
Culture seekers and historians are also attracted to the area for its unique Aboriginal and cultural sites, accessible pioneer past, and authentic festivals and events. The world renowned Ksan Historical Village and Museum, an impressive replica of a former Gitxsan village from the 1800s, is located here.