Northern British Columbia
Get lost in a wilderness larger than California
Northern British Columbia's vast wilderness doesn't get the attention it deserves. Maybe that's because few RVers venture this far north, unless they're heading for Alaska via the Alaska Highway, which bisects the northeastern corner of the province.
This vast wilderness—larger than California—is a land filled with jagged Canadian Rocky mountain peaks, roaring rivers, serene lakes, green valleys, rugged coastlines and ancient island archipelagos.
Much of Northern BC is preserved and protected by a world-class system of provincial parks and nature reserves just waiting to be discovered by curious RVers. The stunning landscape features turquoise-colored glacial lakes, alpine meadows, hot springs, volcanic cinder cones and a miniature Grand Canyon.
Some Popular Driving Routes
Familiarize yourself with the geography of Northern British Columbia while planning your trip. You'll want to stick to the major highways—Highway 16, Highway 97 and Highway 37—to cover long distances in the province. Here are some popular points of interest.
The Alaska Highway (Highway 97) runs through the region from Dawson Creek on the south to Watson Lake on the north, a distance of 836 miles (1,345 km.). You won't want to rush through this leg of your journey because it is filled with spectacular wildlife viewing, mountain scenery and many hot springs.
Points of interest along the way include Stone Mountain Provincial Park, Muncho Lake Provincial Park and Liard River Hot Springs.
Another foray into the interior wilderness takes you along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Highway 37) past deep canyons, totem poles, high glaciers and mountains. Start in Prince Rupert and end at Dease Lake. Sections of the highway between Dease Lake and Iskut are gravel, but are well maintained and suitable for RVs and fifth-wheels.
An altogether different journey starts at Port Hardy. From Port Hardy, choose one of two BC ferry routes: the Inside Passage or the Discovery Coast Passage, both of which glide along BC's spectacular coast.
Since you've come all this way, consider driving the Great Circle Route. This spectacular 1,980-mile (3,187 km) road odyssey takes you to the major inland points of interest. Plan stops in St. George, Hudson's Hope and Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Watson Lake, Stikine Canyon, Stewart, Smithers and Fort St. James. Along the way you'll see glaciers, lots of bears and totem poles.
Another quaint jaunt is the glacier trail. Just north of Stewart is Bear Glacier, one of the few easily accessible blue glaciers in the world. It is the most impressive glacier of the more than 20 ice formations that overlook Highway 37A between Stewart and Meziadin Junction.
The scenic drive to Stewart area glaciers is only accessible in the summer.
Also from Stewart, drive a short distance (23 miles or 37 km.) to see Salmon Glacier, an impressive centuries-old swath of snow and ice that cuts through mountains and valleys. The Salmon Glacier is the fifth biggest glacier in the world, and the most accessible via road travel.
For a change of pace, try the day-long Francois Lake Loop, which travels through the back roads south of Houston and Burns Lake toward Francois Lake, one of BC's largest natural freshwater lakes.
Another day-long trek, the Houston/Granisle Loop, heads west along Hwy 16 from Houston toward Smithers. The tour travels to several small quaint communities in the area such as Telkwa, Topley and Perow, along with lakes and agricultural areas. It passes by many lakes, where visitors can stop to take a photo, have a picnic or go for a swim. The drive heads through agricultural areas with authentic red farm houses and barns—great for photographs—and has stunning views of surrounding mountains.
Another, half-day drive takes you from Terrace west to Prince Rupert along Highway 16 or east to Smithers on the same highway. Enjoy views of the Skeena River, waterfalls and mountain peaks.
North of Terrace head for the Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park. The park, which is part of the Nisga'a First Nations Nass Valley, was the site of a volcanic eruption 270 years ago. The still bare landscape resembles the moon surrounded by mountains. The area is covered in grey and black lava, which is in turn covered with a strange sea green moss and new spurts of vegetation.
Another half-day trip could include a visit to the Beatton River Valley and the wide-open agricultural views en route from Fort St. John. This valley is a tributary of the Peace River, along which archeologists have found artifacts indicating the presence of human inhabitants more than 10,000 years ago. The jaunt is a short 16 miles (25 km.).
Also from St. John, consider the Montney-Beatton Loop. This 17-mile (28 km) drive takes you by beautiful agricultural country with wide open views and the carved landscape of the Beatton River Valley.
From New Hazelton, drive to First Nations communities and Gitwangak National Historic Site (also known as Battle Hill). The landscape includes lakes, the Bulkley River, Hagwilget Bridge and the Kispiox Valley. Stop at 'Ksan Museum and Historical Village to learn about the area's culture and history. The round-trip is 334 miles (539 km.).
On the southern fringe of Northern British Columbia is the area south of Vanderhoof, Big River Country, where sights include the former Rich Hobson ranch (now the HSP Ranch, a spiritual resort); the Kenney Dam; picturesque lakes and Cheslatta Waterfalls (via a short hike). Plan on a half day covering the 133 miles (215 km.) to and from Big River Country.
Spring takes its time getting to Northern BC. It warms up in May, with average highs near 60 degrees. Evenings can still get down to near freezing.
While summer doesn't last long, the days are extremely long. On the summer solstice (June 21), the sun rises in Fort Nelson—one of BC's northernmost communities—at 3:58 a.m. and sets at 10:25 p.m. At some golf courses, you can even book tee times as late as 7 p.m.
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