The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Region of BC is both big and small, and that's good news. Big because its 117,500 square kilometres contain spectacular topography, over 8,000 lakes, golden plains, craggy peaks, and gorgeous wildlife. Small because only an estimated 73,000 people live here. And good because these factors give vacationers an unmatched sense of grandeur and fun.
The best way to explore the vast Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Region is by road, with highways and endless backroads leading to hidden gems throughout. One popular route is the famous Cariboo Gold Rush Trail (see map large .pdf file). The same path you are encouraged to travel today has been followed by gold seekers since the late 1850's. Against great adversity men and women journeyed into the wilderness of BC's interior, drawn by the lure of gold and the hope of great riches. Only a handful "struck it rich" but many became the early pioneers that built the roads, railways and bridges; and established the great cattle ranches and timber enterprises.
The Gold Rush Trail converged from several directions to the goldfields of Barkerville. Following natural and ancient valleys carved out of the land by the mighty Fraser and Thompson Rivers, these routes were well known to the region's aboriginal peoples and were also used by early fur traders. Settlers from the world-over traversed these trails, stopping at various points along the way to build new lives for themselves in the lush valleys and on the fertile plateaus.
Travelers can pick up this route at any point and are encouraged to deviate from the route description taking side trips to experience their own unique journey. Note: If you are travelling from the Rogers Pass corridor on Hwy 1 from Alberta into B.C, you can hook up with the Gold Rush Trail at either Cache Creek (junction of Hwy's 1 and 97), or via the Fishing Highway (Hwy 24 and Hwy 5 intersection at Little Fort).
The historic Gold Rush Trail begins just 30 minutes from Vancouver at Fort Langley National Historic Park and ends at the Huble Homestead just north of the city of Prince George, with the "heart" of the trail traversing through the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region. Head east on the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy. 1) through Hope and historic Yale entering the Fraser Canyon. In Gold Rush times this was a dangerous journey. Today, highway pullouts provide places to stop and admire the views.
Visit awesome Hell's Gate before continuing north through Boston Bar, Lytton and Spences Bridge (junction of Thompson and Fraser Rivers. Watch for bighorn sheep). Or, choose an alternate route, taking Hwy 12 at the Highway 1 intersection in Lytton. This route will take you to Lillooet and its "guaranteed rugged" playground! Head north on Hwy 99 from Lillooet and don't miss a visit to Historic Hat Creek Ranch at the junction of Hwy. 97 and 99, just north of Cache Creek.
Heading northwest, 46 km up Hwy. 97 from Cache Creek is Clinton, another important stop on the wagon road for prospectors. 16 km north of Clinton is Chasm Provincial Park. Farther north on Hwy. 97 is 70 Mile House, once the first historic roadhouse location on the Cariboo Waggon Rd. Continuing north on Hwy. 97, 16 km south of 100 Mile House, is the Mt. Begbie Summit Lookout and the junction with Hwy. 24, also known as "The Fishing Highway", leading to ample fishing and camping opportunities. 100 Mile House, 116 km north of Cache Creek, is the hub of the South Cariboo. Nearby outdoor adventures are plentiful and worth the time to explore.
Continue north on Hwy. 97, plan to stop at the 108 Mile Heritage Site. The village of Lac la Hache (resorts, B&B's, camping) is impossible to miss, stretching 15 km along Hwy. 97 (known for its char, kokanee and rainbow trout fishing). Williams Lake, at the junction of Hwys. 97 and 20, is the largest city in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region, and is a great hub of outdoor adventure activities, and is quickly becoming a mountain biking mecca, as it was recently dubbed "The Shangri La of Mountain Biking" by BIKE Magazine. 37 km north of Williams Lake is Xats'ull Heritage Village, a 10,000 year-old aboriginal archaeological site on banks of the Fraser River.
At Quesnel, head east on the Barkerville Highway (Hwy. 26), passing the Cottonwood House, an 1861 roadhouse, before reaching the funky, artsy community of Wells (80 km from Quesnel - the gateway to Bowron Lakes Provincial Park) and then on to Barkerville (8 km from Wells), B.C.'s premiere heritage site and a Canadian National Heritage site. Visit a re-creation of the town as it was exactly 150 years ago, when Billy Barker found gold on Williams Creek, sparking the Cariboo Gold Rush in 1862, just four years after the Fraser River Gold Rush of 1858-59.
Once back at Hwy. 97, turn right and head north to Prince George, site of the Huble Homestead, a gold rush stopover for those venturing to the goldfields of Barkerville from the north.
Touring Distance: Vancouver to the Huble Homestead 1006 km (including return trip distance from Quesnel to Barkerville).
Touring Time: This popular tour can be done in 2-3 days but with the numerous options for side trips, adventure experiences, and a variety of accommodation options. We highly recommend 4-5 days at least!
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia