Seton Lake, Lillooet
By Carol Stathers
You may think of the Banff area when I talk about the stunning glacial waters, rugged steep mountains and abundant wildlife. Although there are some similarities, Lillooet BC is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts.
Lillooet is about a four-hour drive north-east of Vancouver or west of the Okanagan. From Vancouver, you have two routes to choose from; both are about a distance of 250 km. You can head up through Squamish, Whistler and the scenic Duffy Lake Road (Hwy 99) or through Hope and Lytton (Hwy’s 1 and 12). From the Okanagan, we usually drive through Merritt, Spences Bridge and Lytton (Hwy’s 97C, 8, 1 and 12).
If you are looking for heat in the summer, then Lillooet can be the place to be with temperatures reaching into the high 30s or low 40s. It is often vying for the hot-spot in Canada along with Lytton which is just 40 minutes away and Osoyoos, in the South Okanagan.
Lillooet is also known for its ties to the famous Cariboo Gold Rush. It is Mile 0 of the Cariboo Wagon Trail to Barkerville with a number of other towns such as 70 Mile House and 100 Mile House named for their distance from Lillooet. To learn more about the gold rush and the rich first nation’s culture, I would highly recommend a visit to the local museum.
Just a few kilometres to the west of Lillooet (on Hwy 99) is the Seton Lake Recreational Area. You can join thousands of tourists each year who stop at the viewpoint to take photos of the stunning Seton Lake. The beautiful milky turquoise lake is 22 kilometres long and estimated to be 500 metres deep.
Seton Lake is a reservoir; in the late 1950s it was dammed at the east-end as part of BC Hydro’s Bridge River Hydroelectric Power Complex. At the other end of the lake, water is diverted from Downton and Carpenter Lakes through a tunnel in the mountain (Bridge River Powerhouse) and into Seton Lake which contributes to the turquoise silt-laden water. The power generated in this area produces enough energy for more than 300,000 homes.
From the view point, check out the Upper Bench Loop Trail across the highway. It is a beautiful path which meanders around the wooded area with stunning views of the valley and across Cayoosh Creek. You will also catch glimpses of the Seton Powerhouse at one end. Across Cayoosh Creek there is another trail which leads up to a beautiful waterfall above the powerhouse; a great walk in the trees on a hot summer day! You can access this trail by heading back on the highway towards Lillooet, parking at the first bridge and heading across the creek and up the trail.
Another great trail is Seton Lake Trail which you can access from the viewpoint to the public beach parking lot. The Seton Lake beach is a day use area, perfect for picnics, boating and swimming. If you are lucky you may see the Lillooet Rowing Club practicing.
The Rocky Mountaineer passenger train runs along the lake on its trip between Vancouver and Jasper or you may see one of the many CN freight trains. There is a small passenger train called the Kaoham Shuttle, which is operated by the Seton Lake Indian Band, and runs between Lillooet and Seton Portage. Our kids thought it was pretty awesome to be able to sit up at the front of the train for the best view. On our last trip, we even saw bears and had to stop to watch a large herd of mountain goats which were on the tracks. If you time it right you can take the train down to Seton Portage, spend a few hours and then catch the return train back to Lillooet. Be sure to check the schedules before jumping on the train. This service is primarily used by residents of Seton Portage, so they can travel to Lillooet for shopping or work. It is worth the trip just to go through the long dark tunnel, apparently over a kilometre in length.
So, I would have to agree with Lillooet’s tourism slogan “Guaranteed Rugged” – from the terrain to the adventures, you are definitely guaranteed a great time!
For accommodations in the Lillooet area or elsewhere in British Columbia check out travel-british-columbia.com.
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Published: September 19, 2019
Carol loves being in the outdoors whether it is hiking, camping, kayaking or enjoying time at the lake. With a health background in nursing, she has written for many health-related journals and is also writing a historical non-fiction book about the Peach Valley area of Summerland where she lives. Along with writing, she and her family love camping. She grew up camping on Vancouver Island and has explored many parts of BC with her husband, three kids and their golden retriever. She and her newly-retired husband just upgraded to a newer trailer and are looking forward to more camping adventures throughout British Columbia.