Whether you have a few days or a few weeks, B.C.’s Cariboo has endless opportunities for summer road-tripping adventures.
Perhaps you prefer to set up camp for a week and enjoy day trips in all directions, or embark on an epic circle tour … either way, you’ll find unique destinations, outdoor adventures, historical highlights and so much more.
Need a few ideas? Come explore!
For those looking for a base to ground their day trips, Williams Lake is conveniently located between Quesnel, Wells and Barkerville to the north and 100 Mile House to the south, and offers an abundance of accommodations options. However, you’ll also find a wide variety of places to lay your head in communities along Highway 97, from rustic tenting sites to glamping cabins to comfortable hotels.
Alternatively, you could start your journey at 100 Mile House, and travel north along Highway 97 to Quesnel, before taking the Barkerville Highway east to Wells and Barkerville.
For those travelling between May and September who are up for an adventure, travel in the footsteps of prospectors past and follow the Gold Rush Trail! Instead of backtracking to Quesnel, head south from Barkerville along a seasonal gravel logging road through the Cariboo Mountains toward Quesnel Forks and Likely. Once here, travel paved roads back to Highway 97 at Williams Lake, or extend your circle-route southwest through Big Lake Ranch, Horsefly, and back to Lac La Hache.
Loving backroads life? Cast the circle wider for a visit to Canim Lake, Mahood Lake and waterfalls or Schoolhouse Lake Provincial Park, before wending your way back to 100 Mile House.
So, with a few potential routes in mind, what will you experience along the way? It’s time to discover the Cariboo!
1. Delve into History: Of course, Barkerville is the starring attraction of many a history buff’s Gold Rush tour, and the National Historic Site is a must-visit destination, with its living history displays and unique opportunities to experience life during the Cariboo Gold Rush. Craft beer fans can take a break from their explorations and sip a pint from Barkerville Brewing at the House Hotel Saloon (where non-alcoholic root beer is also on tap), or stop by the Gold Rush-inspired brewery itself when back in downtown Quesnel.
Beyond Barkerville, you’ll also find many other destinations bringing the Cariboo’s past to life, including the colourful downtown streets of Wells and the Wells Museum, and at the 108 Mile Heritage Site, where you can get a feel for 19th-century farm life. In Williams Lake, stop by the grand log-built Tourism Centre and Museum of the Cariboo-Chilcotin for regional history and information.
2. Explore Indigenous culture: Before European settlement, the Cariboo had already been home to Indigenous peoples for millennia. Learn more about their history and culture at the award-winning Xatśūll Heritage Village, including guided or self-guided tours, teepee accommodation, and craft workshops.
At Barkerville, on the shared ancestral territories of the Dakelh and Secwépemc Peoples, learn more from Mike Retasket and Cheryl Chapman who share stories of the many Indigenous groups who lived and traded at Barkerville.
3. Outdoor Adventures: From lake-side golfing at the 108 Mile Golf Resort or Coyote Rock, on the T’exelcemc traditional territory, to some of B.C.’s best mountain biking in the hills of Williams Lake, Quesnel, 100 Mile House and Wells, you won’t be short of things to do in the Cariboo’s great outdoors.
Waterfall hunters will add a favourite to their list at Mahood Falls, while for avid paddlers, the Bowron Lake Circuit is a bucket-list-worthy experience. Keep it short with a two- to four-day trip from Bowron Lake to Unna Lake and take in the majestic Cariboo Falls, or plan ahead to take in the full, 116-kilometre circuit (reservations should be made up to a year ahead).
Prefer to slow things down? With so many lakes throughout the region, it’s easy to while away an afternoon at the end of a fishing pole or paddle, or beachside with your favourite book.
One of the best ways to take in the mighty Fraser River is with a stroll along Quesnel’s Riverfront Trail, a 9.5-kilometre paved trail that can even take you over the river via a pedestrian footbridge. In Williams Lake, walk the trails of Scout Island Nature Reserve, watching for beavers and their intricately constructed dams.