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Following the BC Gold Rush Trail through the Cariboo & Beyond

Follow the trail of the first prospectors who flocked to British Columbia in the mid-1800s in search of gold and riches. Take part of their route through the rugged mountains, steep canyons and raging rivers of the Fraser Canyon and into the dry plateaus and rolling hills of the Thompson Okanagan and Cariboo regions. Continue north to Prince George, called the Northern Capital of BC, then east and south towards the stunning BC Rockies returning to Hope in the Fraser Valley.

Spend a few days, a week or more, exploring the communities and attractions along this route. Some 1,500 km (940 mi) in total will take you through unique climates and landscapes.


Section 1: Hope to Lillooet

Directions & Estimated Driving Time: Hope is at the junction of Highways 1, 3 and 5, all major routes into BC’s interior and with easy access from Vancouver. From Hope take the Trans Canada Hwy 1, following the Fraser River north to Lytton then Highway 12 to Lillooet 172 km / 107 mi.

Where to Camp: For campgrounds and parks available in this area go to Camping & RV in BC and search under the appropriate community.

Things to Do:

Yale Historic Site – Once the largest community north of San Francisco and west of Chicago, Yale was a Gold Rush boomtown. This was where the original steamers stopped as the waters were too rough beyond this point for the boats to navigate. It is known as the official start of the Gold Rush Trail although mile zero is actually in Lillooet. Tour the museum and visit the living history “tent city” and experience what life was like for prospectors and Chinese railway workers. Yale is located 24 km / 15 mi north of Hope.

Yale Historic Site | Photo Historic Yale

Hell’s Gate Airtram – A further 31 km / 19 mi through the Fraser Canyon is Hell’s Gate. Here the gorge is at is narrowest point and the road winds around rocky cliffs. Stop and take a ride on the aerial tram as it takes you down into the gorge for a close up view of this historic landmark near Boston Bar, where 200 million gallons of water thunder through the narrow passage every minute. Cross the suspension bridge, check out the exhibits and try some gold panning.

Whitewater Rafting, Lytton | Province of BC

Whitewater RaftingLytton is located at the confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers, with thrill-seekers flocking here in the summer to experience the popular river rafting for adventurers of every level. Challenge the whitewater rapids or go for a more leisurely paddle trip. Located 56 km / 35 mi north of Hell’s Gate.

Horses are a Frequent Sight in Lillooet | Trish C.

Hike/Walk Lillooet TrailsLillooet is located at Mile 0 of the Cariboo Waggon Road, 63 km /39 mi from Lytton, and lies at the foot of the Coast Mountains. The climate here is dry and hot and offers an abundance of hiking and walking opportunities. Pick up a Trail Map. Try the trail called Bridges. It is a 10-kilometre (6 mile) loop along the Fraser River that takes in both the historic “old” suspension bridge and the “new” Bridge of the 23 Camels. The views of the rugged canyon and the mighty Fraser River are spectacular.

Section 2: Lillooet to Quesnel

Directions & Estimated Driving Time: From Lillooet take Highway 99 to the junction of Highway 97 then north to Quesnel, traveling through Clinton, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Quesnel 383 km / 238 mi.

Where to Camp: For campgrounds and parks available in this area go to Camping & RV in BC and search under the appropriate community.

Things to Do:

Historic Hat Creek Ranch – An hour or so from Lillooet is the Historic Hat Creek Ranch. Dating back to 1861 you can relive the history through interpreters dressed in period clothing. Take a stagecoach ride, pan for gold, tour the roadhouse, participate in games and events. There is something for every age.

Historic Hat Creek Ranch near Cache Creek | Destination BC/Blake Jorgenson

Clinton – the Wild West shows itself here in Clinton. Antique shops, many with original storefronts, are full of treasures and an 1892 museum are reasons to take a break here. Nearby is Chasm Provincial Park known for its bedrock box canyon that provides stunning orange and pink rocks that offer spectacular viewing opportunities. Located 30 km / 18 mi north of Historic Hat Creek Ranch.

The North Road Trading Post, Clinton | Destination BC/Andrew Strain

Green Lake Recreation Area – the popular Green Lake Provincial Park can be accessed from 70 Mile House. The 15 km / 9 mi long lake offers lots of water activities – swimming, boating, canoeing and fishing for rainbow trout. And for those who like to view wildlife there are an abundance of waterfowl including eagles, ospreys and many varieties of ducks.

Interlakes Farmers Market, Cariboo

Side Trip Along the Fishing Hwy 24 – turning east at 93 Mile House takes you through a region known as the Interlakes Area which is home to dozens of sparkling recreational lakes and stunning scenery. Approximately 100 km / 62 mi along brings you to Little Fort at the junction of Hwy 5. As the name implies, fishing, particularly for rainbow trout and lake trout, is the most popular pastime along this route but swimming, boating and paddling offer some excellent water activities. Make sure you have your camera as you should see plenty of birds in the area plus views to create lasting memories. If you don’t plan to return to Hwy 97 to head north you can turn south at Hwy 5 and follow the latter part of the route by going to Section 4 and locating Little Fort.

Read our blog Coast Along British Columbia’s Famed Fishing Highway 24 in the Cariboo.

Parkside Art Gallery, 100 Mile House

100 Mile House – poke through some of the galleries and unique shops found here. Stretch your legs by visiting 100 Mile Marsh, a wetland area surrounded by a walking path. Stop at Centennial Park and take the short stroll to Bridge Creek Falls and check out the world’s tallest skis (36 ft) at the Visitor Centre.

Read our blog Summer in British Columbia’s Cariboo: Concerts, Culture & Markets.
Also, Hip and Happening in the South Cariboo, BC – 10 Reasons to Visit Today.

Crooked Lake Resort, Horsefly | Destination BC/Michael Bednar

Side Trip to Horsefly – just north of 150 Mile House turn right onto Likely Road then straight onto Horsefly Road (52 km / 32 mi to Horsefly). Popular for its outdoor recreation including hiking, mountain biking and its fishing lakes and rivers. There are five impressive waterfalls to hike to with three on Horsefly River and two on the Moffat River. They are well-marked and definitely worth the trip.

Sun Setting Over Farwell Canyon near Williams Lake | Destination BC/Nikita Pretty

Williams Lake – 18 km / 11 mi north of 150 Mile House is Williams Lake. This is cattle country and home to cowboys and the popular annual Williams Lake Stampede (July 1st). Outdoor adventure opportunities abound from whitewater rafting to hiking, golfing, mountain biking and much more. Visit the Scout Island Nature Centre, drop into the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin and Cowboy Hall of Fame or enjoy a cultural tour of the Xatsull Heritage Village just north of the city.

World’s Largest Gold Pan, Quesnel | Province of BC

Quesnel – calling itself the Gold Pan City, this community is home to the world’s largest gold pan. You might want to check out Mandy the haunted doll at the Quesnel & District Museum. You can also pick up a detailed booklet that takes you on an historical tour of the city plus you will find antique shops and galleries to browse in. Outdoor adventure opportunities abound providing canoeing, hiking, horse-riding and lots more.

Bowron Actors, Barkerville

Side Trip to Barkerville – just north of Quesnel turn east (right) off Highway 97 onto Highway 26. Barkerville is approximately one hour on this road (85 km / 53 mi). This thriving historic town is a tribute to the gold rush era that made BC’s gold industry famous. 125+ heritage buildings, displays, a theatre, events, activities and more showcase the life of Barkerville’s colourful past. Designated a Historic Site of Canada and a Provincial Heritage Property it is the largest living-history museum in western North America.

Section 3: Quesnel to Valemount

Directions & Estimated Driving Time: Continue north on Highway 97 to Prince George 121 km / 75 mi from Quesnel. Then head east and south from Prince George on Highway 16 292 km / 182 mi to Valemount.

Where to Camp: For campgrounds and parks available in this area go to Camping & RV in BC and search under the appropriate community.

Things to Do:

Prince George – known as the capital of Northern BC, the city of Prince George is a bustling community where arts & culture, events and outdoor adventure abounds. The Exploration Place Museum & Science Centre provides something for all ages – dinosaurs, fossils, hands-on experiences for kids and adults alike. The Central British Columbia Railway and Forestry Museum features original buildings and rolling stock and is home to one of the largest vintage rail collections in BC. It is also close to Cottonwood Island Nature Park located on the shore of the Nechako River. Theatre, shopping, parks, golfing, paddling, hiking, fishing and so much more is on offer in Prince George and area.

Fly Fishing Outside Prince George | Destination BC

McBride – located in the Robson Valley, along with Tete Jaune Cache and Valemount, this small village along Highway 16 has an abundance of outdoor adventure on offer. Nearby Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut Provincial Park provides opportunities to view an ancient forest which is home to hundreds of plant species including western red cedar up to 1,000 years old. A 2.3 km / 1.5 mi boardwalk allows you to see some of these amazing specimens and a waterfall.  In McBride itself you can take an easy walk in town to Horseshoe Lake to observe migrating birds or take a moderate alpine hike overlooking McBride.

Hiking in Mount Robson | Destination BC/Megan McLellan

Tete Jaune Cache – located at the junction of Highways 16 and 5 and at the confluence of the Fraser and McLennan Rivers, stop here to enjoy the cool waters including kayaking, whitewater rafting, fishing and more.

Valemount – situated at the foot of Canoe Mountain in the Robson Valley the village of Valemount is the closest community to Mount Robson Provincial Park and Jasper National Park. Come to Valemount to fish for rainbow trout, go paddling or try whitewater rafting on the Fraser River. Explore some of the many hiking trails for stunning views of snow-capped mountains, spectacular waterfalls and create  lasting memories. Go on the Heritage Walk in the village, stop in at one of the galleries and check out the local artisans.

Section 4: Valemount to Kamloops

Directions & Estimated Driving Time: From Valemount continue south 320 km / 199 mi on Hwy 5S, following signs to Kamloops.

Where to Camp: For campgrounds and parks available in this area go to Camping & RV in BC and search under the appropriate community.

Things to do:

River Safari – On your journey, some 90 km / 56 mi from Valemount stop in Blue River and experience a boat ride down the river through Grizzly Mountain Valley and the world’s only inland temperate rainforest where you may be lucky enough to see bears, moose, osprey, eagles and other BC wildlife.

Moul Falls, Clearwater | Province of BC

Wells Gray Provincial Park – This hiker’s paradise has a wide array of paths offering trails for differing hiking levels. You can also see some amazing waterfalls. The access road out of Clearwater is approximately 107 km / 66 mi from Blue River. Heading north out of Clearwater on Clearwater Valley Road some 45 km / 25 mi will bring you to Helmcken Falls, the fourth highest falls in Canada and with an excellent viewing area. Along the route follow signs to Moul Falls, Dawson Falls at Murtle Point, Spahats Creek Falls and McDiarmid Falls. Outdoor adventurers bring their canoes, kayaks and bikes ready to experience this stunning park.

Little Fort – is the beginning, or end, of the Fishing Highway (Hwy 24) which stretches from Little Fort in the east to 100 Mile House in the west and is some 100 km / 62 mi long. The abundance of lakes and rivers provide many opportunities for excellent fly fishing and spin casting for trout as well as trolling.

Barriere | Province of BC

Barriere – located 61 km / 38 mi from Clearwater, this community is all about cowboys, horses and a popular fall rodeo which attracts visitors to the area. Located north of the city of Kamloops the mountains and stunning views provide a picture-worthy backdrop to the small community of Barriere. Hike, bike or go canoeing on the lakes. Take a boat tour, go swimming or just relax.

Mountain Biking in Kenna Cartwright Park, Kamloops | Destination BC/Andrew Strain

Kamloops – situated 64 km / 40 mi south of Barriere this is one of the major cities in the Okanagan. Kamloops offers great restaurants, shopping, entertainment, arts & culture, sports and outdoor activities. Stop in at a winery or a local brewery. Visit BC Wildlife Park and experience wildlife up close.

Section 5: Kamloops to Hope

Directions & Estimated Driving Time: From Kamloops head west and south 203 km / 126 mi on the Trans Canada Hwy 1 to Hope.

Where to Camp: For campgrounds and parks available in this area go to Camping & RV in BC and search under the appropriate community.

Things to do:

Castle Rock Hoodoos Provincial Park – amazing white and yellow cliff formations located in Deadman Valley about 75 km / 47 mi north of Savona (45 km / 28 mi west of Kamloops). Hiking is not permitted as the landscape is very fragile but stunning scenery provides an opportunity to take home some great photographic memories.

Hoodoos near Cache Creek | Don Weixl

Juniper Beach Provincial Park – located on the south side of Hwy 1 on the Thompson River between Savona and Cache Creek. Swimming, canoeing and hiking are popular. Anglers may want to try their hand at fishing for trout, steelhead or salmon depending on the time of year.

Steelhead Provincial Park – situated on the south-west corner of Kamloops Lake off Hwy 1 near Savona. Take a break from your trip as this is an easy place to pull into. Water activities are popular both in Kamloops Lake and the Thompson River including swimming, kayaking, fishing and waterskiing. Designated trails provide walking and hiking opportunities.

Semlin Valley Golf Course, Cache Creek |Province of BC

Cache Creek – this desert-like community is located at the junction of Hwy 97 and Hwy 1, 38 km / 24 mi west of Savona, and lies along the Bonaparte River. Water activities are popular especially during the hot months and biking and hiking offer excellent views while enjoying these outdoor activities. Also popular is geocaching – modern day treasure hunting. Try your hand at this fun activity while exploring the history of the area. Gold Country GeoCaching Adventures Field Guides are free and available in the area.

Read this blog for more information – Treasure Hunting in British Columbia’s Gold Country.

Gold Country GeoTourism Field Guides
Gold Country GeoTourism Field Guides

Spences Bridge – 50 km / 31 mi south of Cache Creek on Hwy 1, Spences Bridge lies at the confluence of the Thompson and Nicola Rivers. This is a prime location for excellent fishing. River rafting is popular here with trips available for the novice through to the highly experienced. Nearby Goldpan Provincial Park offers a place to swim, canoe, kayak or do a little fishing. Take a short hike to Murray Falls just west of the town and try your hand at goldpanning.

Continuing south brings you back to Lytton and further south again Hope with access to Vancouver and the Okanagan.

Read this blog for more information on the Cariboo:
Three Places Where British Columbia’s Cariboo Region Locals Like to Camp

Published: June 17, 2020
Last Updated: November 29, 2022