The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast is tucked between the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Cariboo Mountain Range to the east roughly 400 km north of Vancouver in central British Columbia and spreads out over 12,600,000 hectares, more than 31,000,000 acres. Within this wilderness region, one will find 8,000 lakes and 17,000 km of waterways such as rivers and streams. Stunning vistas, dramatic landscapes and rock formations, and thick forests are the order of the day, and the truly adventurous who reaches the mountain peaks may be treated the site of ice fields and alpine-like meadows.
It was the discovery of gold in the Cariboo in 1862 that brought the first explorers to the area. They arrived from all over the world to travel the Cariboo Wagon Road as they followed the gold and as they did, they settled numerous small towns from Lillooet to Barkerville. Travelers to the area today can follow them in their adventures by panning for gold or hiking the parts of the road that still exist as hiking trails or find their adventures on land or sea any time of the year: Birdwatching, canoeing, dog sledding, fishing, horseback riding, sailing, snowboarding, and wildlife viewing.
Lillooet is reached by taking the Duffey Lake Road from Pemberton. Along the way, you will be treated to the sites of lakes and glaciers. Lillooet is one of the earliest settlements of the indigenous peoples in the interior of British Columbia. Lillooet is also known for being “Mile O” on the Cariboo Gold Rush Road that was followed by so many in the 1800’s. If you are truly interested in the history of the Gold Rush in the area, then you will want to visit the Lillooet Museum. Another location to visit is the Ginseng Farms where you can see fields of the plant known in the Orient for its healing properties. Once you’ve seen everything in Lillooet, you can hop onto Highway 40, so you can visit Gold Bridge – Bralorne, a historic mining community, before seeing the hydro dam at Seton Portage. Then discover even more history in the community of Shalath, one of the members of the first nations.
The 100 Mile House is located on Highway 87, in the Thompson Okanagan region where visitors will experience cold winters and warm, dry summers. The 100 Mile House is found 80 km north of Clinton and 116 km north of Cache Creek. 100 Mile House is a historical site as it is one of the first roadhouses on the Cariboo Wagon Road and was so named because of its distance from Lillooet where Mile “0” was located. Today, 100 Mile House offers a variety of several types of accommodations, fine dining, and the related amenities. Log home building, lumber mills, and ranching is the chief industries of the surrounding community. The area is also famous for winter sports, known as the Nordic Ski Capital; it is home to a 200 km groomed trail system as well as areas for dog sledding, downhill skiing, snowmobiling, and even ice fishing. When the snow is gone, birdwatching is the favorite activity in the 6 hectares Marsh-Wildlife Sanctuary or spend the day at the walking trails, having a picnic, or pursuing more active sports such as tennis in the Bridge Creek Waterfalls Centennial Park.
The Cariboo Gold Rush Trail ends 85 km east of Quesnel on Highway 26 in Barkerville. In Barkerville, you can step back in time and truly experience history. Billy Barker began the rush of gold hunters that flooded into the region from all over the world when he struck gold in 1862. Over 10,000 gold hungry people followed the Cariboo Wagon Road toward Barkerville between the time of Billy Barker’s gold strike and 1870. The community is now home to 125 original and restored historic buildings, over 100 displays, demonstrations, and even live theater acts take place regularly. The town even has one of the oldest Chinatowns in North America. Two nearby parks, Bowron Lake Provincial Park and Barkerville Provincial Park, have plenty of other activities as well. Barkerville Provincial Park has camping in as historical setting, and Bowron Lake Provincial Park offers a variety of seasonal outdoor activities such as mountain biking, photography, hiking, back-country skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling.
On the way into Barkerville, you will pass other historical points of interest such as Blessing’s Grave, Devil’s Canyon, Lover’s Leap, Mexican Hill, and Robber’s Roost. Also on the way into Barkerville, is Cottonwood house, one of the last remaining roadhouses along the Cariboo Gold Rush Road.
Williams Lake is known as “The Hub of the Cariboo” and British Columbia’s Stampede Capital. It is 14 km north of the 150 Mile House on Highway 97. This “Heart of the Cariboo” has a current population of around 36,000 and is seen as the gateway to the Chilcotin and the Central Coast. Once just a Cowtown, it has now grown into an area of modern urban living with a touch of western charm as a town whose Industries include, agriculture, forestry, mining, and tourism. Williams Lake has a lot of activities available; camping, canoeing, bowling, fly fishing, river rafting, skiing, snowmobiling, golf, and a variety of sports venues. One can also find the only museum in British Columbia dedicated to the rodeo, the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin. If you visit around the first of July, you might also stay for the annual four-day event honoring the famous Stampede. Of course, you could enjoy birdwatching on Scout Island and the Nature Centre on the western side of the lake. If you are looking for a more indoor activity, try visiting the numerous galleries. Or, if you plan to stay for a few days, there are plenty of lodges, guest ranches, Bed & breakfasts, and fine dining restaurants.
33 km north of Williams Lake, you can board a paddle-wheeler to travel the Fraser River as it carries you to Quesnel. By the end of the trip, you would have traveled 120 km north of Williams Lake, 116 km south of Prince George, and then 82 km west of Bakerville to wind up at Quesnel. Quesnel has a population of 8,590. Quesnel has numerous displays and attractions such as a memorial to what were once seen as the richest gold fields in North America in the form of the world’s largest Gold Pan. The historical past of the town continues to draw visitors each year; most are on their way to the goldfields and the restored Gold Rush town of Barkerville. Although history is not dead in Quesnel, as a visitor might try the Hudson Bay Store housed in a log building from 1859. You can revisit the time of the Gold Rush by stepping into the Quesnel Museum & Archives. You could also visit the Park Hoodoo Rock Formations or have fun by walking across the Fraser River Bridge built in 1928 to West Quesnel. Quesnel offers many current activities as well: 18-hole golf course, swim, tennis, curling and skating, parks, walking trails, and more. If you do not want to stay in one of the hotels, motels, or bed and breakfasts, you can go camping at Dragon Lake.