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Barkerville Town, Photo Geoff Moore

Plan to Travel the Gold Rush Trail in British Columbia This Summer

By Patricia Cashin

The Covid pandemic may be keeping us at home right now but we all need to start making plans for summer travel in British Columbia. And exploring some of the famous Gold Rush Trail is a trip worth taking.

Gold Panning in Northern BC | Simon Sees

Traveling from Vancouver, the Gold Rush Trail tour is approximately 1,900 km and can take between 7 and 10 days to drive but if you live in the Okanagan or Cariboo or elsewhere in BC you can join the route along the way. Many of British Columbia’s highways follow the trails used by the early gold seekers. All along these routes are artifacts and remnants of the early pioneers. Drive this tour and relive their journeys through steep canyons, raging rivers, and high mountain passes.

Whitewater Rafting in the Fraser Canyon by Duncan Rawlinson via Flickr
Whitewater Rafting in the Fraser Canyon | Duncan Rawlinson via Flickr

In the late 1850s gold was discovered along the Fraser River in the Cariboo Region and in 1858 the Hudson’s Bay Company shipped 800 ounces of the gold to the Federal Mint in San Francisco via steamship. The rumour of this steamship with gold had men and women heading north in search of riches.

By 1862 many gold prospectors had reached the Cariboo and as wave after wave of eager gold miners arrived, the influx created transportation problems that led to the construction of the Cariboo Wagon Trail by the Royal Engineers. This trail starts officially at Yale in the Fraser Canyon, but mile zero starts at Lillooet.

Venture off route in Lillooet for a hike along the Fraser River. Destination BC/Blake Jorgenson
Venture Off Route in Lillooet for a Hike along the Fraser River | Destination BC/Blake Jorgenson

Roadhouses sprang up along the trail and one of the roadhouses worth a visit is Historic Hat Creek Ranch just  north of Cache Creek. On the ranch, travelers can tour through restored buildings or take a wagon ride on the original Cariboo Wagon Road.

There are museums in many of the small communities on route including Clinton, 108 Mile House and Williams Lake. The latter is the gateway to cattle country and where you can visit the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame. Scout Island Nature Centre, situated on Williams Lake, and the First Nations Xatsu’ll Heritage Village offer a fun and educational opportunity for the whole family.

Largest Gold Pan in Quesnel
Largest Gold Pan in Quesnel

Further along is the town of Quesnel, which calls itself the ‘Gold Pan City’ and features the world’s largest gold pan. The museum here is also well-known for Mandy, the famous haunted doll.

From Quesnel, all visitors in search of gold should head east on Highway 26, 88 km to reach Barkerville, one of British Columbia’s must-see attractions. This restored ghost town has over 120 buildings and businesses that operate as they would have during the peak of the gold rush. You can pan for gold, enjoy a show in the Theatre Royal, take a town tour, or listen to a specialized talk. You can also make your way to the Richfield Courthouse to hear Judge Begbie’s stories of goldfield justice. Costumed historic interpreters will make your visit amusing, authentic and interesting.

Barkerville Stage Coach | Thomas Drasdauskis

From Barkerville you need to return to Quesnel and then continue on north to Prince George, located at the northern end of the Gold Rush Trail. The Huble Homestead near Prince George was the roadhouse for the gold rush stopover for those venturing to the Barkerville goldfields from the north. Today, Prince George is the gateway city to Northern British Columbia. Highlights of the city include the Two Rivers Gallery, the city’s showcase for exhibits of visual art by local, provincial and other Canadian artists. Don’t miss the Prince George Native Art Gallery, with its wealth of prints, carvings, jewelry, and beadings by First Nations artists. Award-winning Exploration Place at the Fraser-Fort George Regional Museum has a variety of exhibits of local, cultural, and natural history. The Railway and Forestry Museum has an extensive collection of rail and forest industry artifacts, which spans the whole of the twentieth century.

Exploration Place, Prince George | Simon Sees

Heading east from Prince George will bring you to Valemount and Clearwater and into the stunning Canadian Rockies. You should plan take a side trip into Mount Robson Provincial Park to see the awesome snowy face of Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Rockies.

The first explorers ventured south through the mountains in the 1860s, in their search for gold in the Fraser Valley and the Cariboo. Today the community of Clearwater is a vacation paradise, with the majestic mountains of the world famous Wells Gray Provincial Park serving as a picturesque backdrop. Visitors should take a day trip in the pristine beauty of Well’s Gray Provincial Park and hike to the spectacular Helmcken Falls and other amazing viewpoints.

Berg Lake, Mt. Robson

The route continues south to Kamloops situated at the confluence of the North and South Thompson Rivers. A sprawling city, Kamloops takes its name from the First Nations word ‘Kahm-o-loops’, meaning ‘meeting of the waters’. Gold Rush fever in the 1850s and the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s contributed to the rapid expansion of the settlement. Until the 1860s, the Fort at Kamloops was an important depot for the horse-drawn pack trains that travelled to and from the coast. Today, Kamloops is the third largest city in the southern interior of British Columbia, and the fifth largest in British Columbia.

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From here you will be heading back home to the Vancouver area, or perhaps other points east, south or west, depending on where you joined the tour.

Read more for a complete read of the Gold Rush Trail Tour.

Check before you go for Covid restrictions and opening times of attractions.

For accommodations in British Columbia go to Travel-british-columbia.com

Share your BC travel photos using hashtag #travelinbc

Published: February 25, 2021

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