RV Adventure in Northern BC – Following the Yellowhead Hwy to Prince George
The rugged beauty of British Columbia’s north offers the traveler once-in-a-lifetime views of staggering and drop-dead stunning landscapes that cannot be matched. Snow-covered mountains marching across the landscape, glaciers, rivers and lakes, forests and plateaus. This is the wild north of a great land. Plan not to miss it.
The Northern BC Adventure Tours encompass four separate tours: The Road to Atlin; Wilderness Adventure Along the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy; Kitwanga Junction; Following the Yellowhead Hwy to Prince George. If you were to do them all in one trip you would need about four weeks to appreciate it all. It also assumes that you will start your trip in the north and head south, perhaps picking up a rental motor home in Whitehorse, Yukon and starting from there.
Tour 4: Following the Yellowhead Hwy to Prince George
A popular route and recreation area for fishing enthusiasts, hikers, canoeists, birders and all outdoor adventurers. Destinations abound and include: The Bulkley Valley comprised of Smithers, Telkwa and Houston; The Lakes District which includes the communities of Burns Lake, Fraser Lake and Granisle, and has over 300 lakes; The Nechako Valley encompasses Vanderhoof and Fort St. James.
Forestry is also an important industry in the area, harvesting spruce, pine and fir for lumber mills, and agriculture is suitable for roaming herds of dairy and beef cattle along with large hay operations.
Directions & Estimated Driving Time: This tour starts in Kitwanga and heads east to Prince George along Yellowhead Hwy 16. Total distance is 486 km / 302 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
Smithers. Situated on the Yellowhead Hwy 16 Smithers is the largest town between Prince Rupert and Prince George. It is located in the centre of the Bulkley Valley lying beneath the commanding presence of the 2,600 m / 8,530 ft Hudson Bay Mountain. Taking a self-guided tour of the murals throughout the town illustrates aspects of life in Northern BC. Visit Toboggan Creek Salmon Hatchery where some 100,000 salmon fry are raised each year. Pick up some local fresh produce, check out the arts & crafts at the Bulkley Valley Farmer’s Market which is open Saturdays between April and October. Enjoy the outdoors and stretch your legs on one of the many trails throughout the area including at Babine Mountains Provincial Park.
Telkwa. Heading east from Smithers for 15 km / 9 mi turn north 1 km / .6 mi in Telkwa to meander through farmlands on the eastern bench lands of the Bulkley River. Take a walking tour of twenty restored heritage buildings, including the 1910 St. Stephen’s Anglican Church and Hong Chong’s Laundry and Bath House as well as the local museum. Nearby Tyhee Lake Provincial Park offers a marsh viewing platform to see loons, beaver, grouse and red-necked grebes.
Houston. A further 49 km / 30 mi east is the community of Houston, nestled in Pleasant Valley near the confluence of the Bulkley and Morice Rivers. Take “The Walk Through History” offered by Houston’s Museum Society to get a flavour of life a century or more ago. Houston is a fisherman’s paradise which is celebrated by a freestanding 18 m / 59 ft fly rod and steelhead sculpture at the Houston Visitor Centre attesting to its world class trophy fishing. The area is also the gateway to Nanika-Kidprice Provincial Park which is a popular backcountry canoe route.
Side Trip to Granisle. Heading east towards Topley (30 km / 19 mi) turn left (north) onto Hwy 118 towards Granisle and drive approximately 50 km / 30 mi until you come to Granisle on Babine Lake. This small community has a museum that displays replica bones of a Columbian mammoth unearthed here in 1971. Fulton River Spawning Channels are interesting to visit and considered the world’s largest artificial sockeye spawning channel.
Burns Lake. Burns Lake (50 km / 30 mi from Topley) is the access point to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park – one of BC’s largest parks. Offering spectacular views this is a popular recreational area with plenty to see and do including fishing, hiking and canoeing. In Burns Lake visit the Lakes District Museum with its logging history on display. The “Bucket of Blood” is a fur trading office turned gambling den and the eerie legend of a deadly shootout.
Side Trip to Ootsa Lake. 64 km / 40 mi south from Burns Lake on Hwy 35 is Ootsa Lake which includes a free 20-minute ferry ride across Francois Lake. Little Andrew’s Bay Marine Provincial Park is 45 km / 30 mi west of Ootsa Lake on the Nechako Reservoir where you can canoe, fish or cool off in the waters. Whilst there visit Skins Lake Spillway that feeds the rebuilt Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter in Kitimat.
Fraser Lake. Back on Hwy 16 Fraser Lake is 70 km / 40 mi east of Burns Lake, situated on the edge of the Lakes District. It is partly known as an industrial centre and has a large construction camp for workers on the new Northern Gateway Pipeline. It is also a bedroom community to a large nearby surface molybdenum mine near Endako. For those fascinated by rail history, the last spike was driven at Fort Fraser in 1914 when the Grand Trunk Pacific railroad opened up central BC.
Vanderhoof. A further 58 km / 36 mi is Vanderhoof surrounded by large acreages of open range for raising beef and dairy cattle and is a supply centre for ranchers and farmers. Spend some time at the museum which features reconstructed heritage buildings. If you are a birder, the Nechako Bird Sanctuary provides a spectacle during spring and fall migrations. (Note: Logging roads in the area provide access to many lakes but are unsuitable for motorhome travel). The Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre is located in the Vanderhoof area and is a hatchery dedicated to protecting the critically imperiled sturgeon (which is descended from the age of dinosaurs) in a self-sustaining population on the Nechako River spawning grounds and in the deep waters of Ootsa Lake.
Side Trip to Fort St. James. 60 km / 38 mi north on Hwy 27 just west of Vanderhoof lies Fort St. James. Established on the shores of Stuart Lake by Simon Fraser in 1806, it was originally a North West Company post, which was then passed on to the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821 and became a chief trading settlement with Indigenous people in Northern BC. A palisade surrounds the stunning restored trading post with fur warehouse, officers’ quarters and fish cache in the Fort St. James National Historic Park. Bush flying has a notable presence with a 1920s junkers replica perched on a pedestal in Cottonwood Park. A short stroll on a lakeside trail leads to the Russ Baker Memorial as a tribute to one of Canada’s most daring bush pilots. Secondary roads lead further north to four Dekelh communities.
“When the fog hung heavy over the cordillera, he found his way home by recognizing the granite tips of the mountains that poked above the cloud blanket. I never felt fear. For this was Russ Baker’s country, and the man gripping the stick inoculated us all with … transfusion of courage”. A tribute from Pierre Burton, a famous Canadian historian and author. Reference: Culture resources at the birthplace of the fur trade.
Prince George. Located at the confluence of the Nechako and Fraser Rivers near the geographical centre of BC, Prince George was established by Alexander MacKenzie in 1793. The city sits at the industrial centre of BC, at the crossroads on east-west Hwy 16 (Yellowhead Hwy) between Prince Rupert and Prince George and Jasper, and north-south Hwy 97 between Dawson Creek (John Hart Hwy) and Cache Creek (Cariboo Hwy).
Visit the Central BC Railway & Forestry Museum with a vintage collection of rail cars dating from the steam and diesel eras, and forestry equipment from past years. Learn about the city’s industrial period at the Exploration Place Museum & Science Centre. Parks and trails, fishing, golfing, paddling and so much more offer visitors to the area plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.
Read our blog on mountain biking along the Yellowhead Hwy.
A Perfect Moment Mountain Biking in Northern BC
Published: June 17, 2020
Last Updated: November 29, 2022