One of the best parts of travelling is discovering those special places that aren’t in the guide books.
You know, the places the locals go.
It’s not to say those well-championed destinations aren’t worth going to – many are definitely must-visit spots.
No visit to the Cariboo would be complete without a day at Barkerville, for example. As a National Historic Site and living history museum that has educated and entertained multiple generations, it is, indeed, a must.
And for mountain biking fans, the hills around Quesnel, Williams Lake and 100 Mile House are legendary, and with more trails coming all the time, there’s so much more to explore.
But if you visit the coffee shops and corner stores to ask the locals about their favourite places to visit and take their guests, what would they say? We did just that, and here’s what we heard …
Exploring the great outdoors
One of the best things about visiting the Cariboo is that all the amenities you want are close at hand, yet you’re never more than a few minutes from the great outdoors. Whether you prefer to rest your head at an upscale hotel, rustic retreat or lakeside campsite, you’ll find it here, then wake up refreshed to start the adventure.
The region is well-known for its year-round fishing, of course, along with winter activities like sledding, skiing and snowshoeing, but hiking is a particularly satisfying and accessible pastime – especially when you incorporate a little local history along the way.
In the central Cariboo, Farwell Canyon is an easy-access sightseeing destination featuring hoodoos, the Chilcotin River, and wildlife watching opportunities – keep your eyes peeled for big horn sheep! As you walk to the river, watch for two old miner’s cabins and pictographs on some of the canyon walls depicting stories of the early Indigenous people. Continue north for more hoodoos at Pinnacles Provincial Park, just outside Quesnel, where a well-maintained one-kilometre trail will take you to the viewpoints. (Do stay on the trail and be aware of the steep drop-off behind the fence).
History also figures prominently in a multi-use Collins Overland Telegraph Trail west of Quesnel. Originally part of the historic telegraph lines that traversed the area, in the late 1800s, the trail was used by packers, prospectors, miners, merchants and others as they travelled north in search of gold. In recent years, work by the Back Country Horsemen of B.C. North Cariboo Chapter has helped revitalize the trail for riding and hiking.
Insider’s tip: Looking for a fun way to engage the whole family? The Cariboo is FULL of geocaches waiting to be discovered!
History on display
Learn more about that local history at a diverse array of museums and heritage properties. The Quesnel Museum works to share local history and culture of the diverse array of people who’ve called the region home, from the Lhtako Dene to settlers drawn to the community from North America, Europe and Asia. Find hands-on activities for kids and QR codes for further learning, and be sure to check out the Footprints in Stone exhibit for more insights into local Indigenous culture.
North of 100 Mile House, the 108 Mile Heritage Site offers a fascinating look at early farm and settlement life, while the award-winning Xatsull Heritage Village near Williams Lake shares the rich heritage of the Xatśūll people with tours, workshops, hiking and more. Accommodation and meals are also available, by reservation.
Pouring on the love for local
After all that exploring, it’s time for some refreshment! As the B.C. craft beer revolution continues to expand through through the Cariboo, you’ll find local breweries in each region, including several members of the BC Ale Trail.
In the heart of 100 Mile House, visit Cask and Cleaver for a selection of unique beers and simple, but yummy, meal options. Heading north, Williams Lake’s Fox Mountain Brewing enjoys a stellar location with views to the town below and nearby hills. Established in 2020, Fox Mountain serves a great selection of fresh-brewed beer bearing locally inspired names like Pumptrack Hazy IPA and Switchback Sour, along with delicious home-made food from its inviting taproom.
In Quesnel (and in ‘downtown’ Barkerville) a visit to the appropriately named Barkerville Brewing was tops for more than a few locals. One of a handful of breweries run almost entirely by women, Barkerville owes its inspiration to Billy Barker – the gold miner Barkerville was named for – and the gold rush links don’t end there. With beers like Hurdy Gurdy Hibiscus and Sluice Juice (often including local ingredients like birch syrup) and the moustachioed logo with a sparkling gold tooth, the Cariboo is well and truly represented.
While the beer isn’t necessarily ‘craft,’ it is cold and served with a genuinely local experience at the wonderfully kitchy, welcoming pub at the Likely Lodge – the perfect stop after a day on the sled or boat!
Insider’s tip: Barkerville Brewing is conveniently located in downtown Quesnel – enjoy a self-guided walking tour or visit the beautiful walkway overlooking the Fraser River before settling down in its cosy taproom or welcoming patio.
Ready to start planning your Cariboo adventure? Visit explorecariboo.com