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Actors in Historical Costume at Hat Creek Ranch. Photo: Destination BC/Blake Jorgenson

Take a Trip through the Canadian Rockies, British Columbia’s Cowboy Country & into the Coast Mountains

Are you ready to take a British Columbia trip across this amazing province from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean? This is a road trip of a lifetime with breathtaking scenery infused with rich Canadian history as you drive from Calgary, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia. Wind your way through breathtaking snow-capped alpine peaks and around iridescent aquamarine lakes. Witness the highest mountain peak in Canada (Mount Robson 3,954 m / 12,972 ft.) and discover limestone formations.

Hiking in Mount Robson Provincial Park | Destination BC/Megan McLellan

The main driving route from Calgary to Vancouver is via the Trans Canada Hwy 1 across BC through Banff, Golden, Revelstoke and Kamloops. Alternatively, you can travel south and west along the Crowsnest Hwy 3 through Cranbrook, Castlegar and Osoyoos. This Calgary to Vancouver trip will travel north through Banff and Jasper National Parks then south and west to Clearwater, along the Fishing Hwy 24 and to the ski resort of Whistler. Each route is uniquely different. Whichever one you take, be ready to discover the hidden gems along the way! This is just one of those routes for you to explore.

Calgary to Banff & Jasper

To start this trip get yourself to Calgary, Alberta, whether doing a fly/drive or hopping in your own RV. Head west to Banff National Park for a night or two. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore but also check out Banff Park Museum which is Western Canada’s oldest natural history museum with interpretive programs and exhibits. Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada is a commemoration site that marks the birthplace of Canada’s National Park System. Since 1883, visitors have been coming to enjoy the warm mineral pools. Today, the site still engages visitors of all ages with many interactive displays and exhibits focusing on the history of the mineral pools.

Leaving Banff follow signs to Jasper National Park. The Jasper Skytram  is a 7 minute alpine ride that takes you to an altitude of over 2,277 m (7,472 ft) all the time with an awe-inspiring view. Take a boat tour or go for a paddle on Maligne Lake, the Canadian Rockies largest glacial lake. Sip your afternoon tea at the beautiful chalet while savouring the world famous views. There is also a UNESCO heritage site here which includes: Mystery Rock, the Two Brothers Totem Pole, and the 6015 Rail Engine.

Mount Robson | Mary Putnam, Tourism Valemount

Jasper to Mt. Robson Provincial Park & Valemount

Heading into British Columbia, follow Yellowhead Hwy 16W and look for signs to Valemount/Kamloops. A short drive from Valemount is Mount Robson Provincial Park where you can experience the expansive natural outdoors by hiking a variety of networking trails. For a gentler activity, paddle or fish Kinbasket Lake or try Whitewater Rafting on the Fraser River.

Valemount to Clearwater

On the road to Clearwater stop in Blue River for a River Safari and experience gliding down the river through Grizzly Mountain Valley. This is one of the world’s only inland temperate rainforests with an abundance of wildlife. There are also some great hiking trails in Wells Gray Provincial Park.

Kayaking on Clearwater Lake | Kim Walker

Clearwater to Bridge Lake Provincial Park

Continuing south on Hwy 5 to Little Fort, turn off onto Interlakes Hwy/Little Fort Hwy 24W. Also known as the Fishing Highway fly fishing is very popular in this region due to the abundance of beautiful lakes offering a variety of species. There are several tour companies in the area that assist with equipment, guides and fly-fishing lessons.

Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing

Also renowned for its Cowboy landscape with endless rolling hills, vast hay fields and resident cattle on dude ranches you can get up close and personal with this landscape by taking a guided horseback ride.

Check out the blog Coast Along BC’s Famed Fishing Highway 24 in the Cariboo

Bridge Lake to Lillooet

Continue heading west and turn south onto Cariboo Hwy 97, then onto Hwy 99S to Lillooet.

Explore Marble Canyon Provincial Park which offers lots of opportunities to see wildlife. Try rock climbing, scuba diving and more. View the sheer limestone rock formations carved out of the Pavilion Mountain range and brilliant colours of the sparkling Turquoise, Crown and Pavilion Lakes. The groundwater spring that feeds Pavilion Lake is slightly alkaline, producing an intense crystal-clear turquoise coloured water and Stromatolites (a rare prehistoric life organism).

Horses are a Frequent Sight in Lillooet | Trish C.

Whilst in this area go back in time at Hat Creek Ranch and learn about the Gold Rush days via local interpreters. Explore original buildings and a Native village of the Shuswap Nation.

Lillooet to Whistler

Continue south on Hwy 99, also known as the Duffey Lake Road, towards Pemberton and follow signs to Whistler. A year-round resort, Whistler is as much fun in the summer as the winter. There are plenty of trails for hiking and biking. The Peak to Peak Gondola is open to experience amazing views, or go ziplining, bungee jumping or take a helicopter/float plane sightseeing tour.

Peak to Peak Gondola, Whistler. Photo: Destination BC/Blake Jorgenson
Peak to Peak Gondola, Whistler | Destination BC/Blake Jorgenson

Whistler to Vancouver

In Squamish, the Sea to Sky Gondola whisks you up 885 m (2,800 ft) to viewing platforms with stunning views over Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains. There are interpretive walks and a restaurant that serves local food at the top. Close by is Britannia Mine Museum, a National Historic Site depicting mining life from the Gold Rush days. You can take a train ride in an underground mine and experience the life of a miner in the early 1900s. A must for kids and adults alike.

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With your British Columbia trip nearing an end, head to Vancouver. Nestled on the shore of Georgia Strait and the Salish Sea, Vancouver offers all the sights and sounds of a cosmopolitan city. Beyond is Vancouver Island and the stunning Pacific Ocean.

To read this recommended tour go to Canadian Rockies, Cowboy Country to Coast Mountains.

For camping and RV accommodations in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping photos at hashtag #CampinBC

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Winter Activities On British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast for Snowbird RVers

From the artistic community of Gibsons to the harbour village of Lund, mountains meet the sea along the Sunshine Coast, a mainland area uniquely only accessible by ferry, boat or plane. Winters are typically mild and range from 2 to 10ºC (20 to 50°F) during the day. In lower elevations, rains keep the flora and forests lush, while higher areas see snow.

There’s plenty to do both inside and out if you’re RVing here in the winter. Make sure to get out on the water and head up some slopes. You will be rewarded with majestic views and an excellent chance of seeing animals in their natural environment.

Beach walks and beachcombing make for enjoyable outings in the off-season | Sunshine Coast Tourism/Shayd Johnson

Arts, Shops and Spas

This scenic and inspiring region boasts a thriving art community with more artists per capita than any other area in Canada. The Purple Banner Tour is a self-directed studio and gallery tour. Purple flags along the Sunshine Coast Highway and local streets from Langdale to Lund indicate galleries or artists’ studios, many of which are open to the public. (Visitation appointments may be necessary.) Sunshine Coast Art Tours combines visits to some tasting rooms with a majestic flight over Sechelt Inlet. There are also many eclectic shops and boutiques to explore that sell locally produced and handmade items.

Douglas Bevans of Sunshine Coast Art Tours and guests after an enjoyable visit to Motoko’s Fine Art Gallery in Garden Bay | Sunshine Coast Tourism/Shayd Johnson 

The town of Gibsons on the shores of Howe Sound has a collection of fine galleries, clothing and giftware shops and bookstores. Molly’s Lane and Marine Drive are some streets to check out, as are the Gibsons Public Art Gallery and the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives. The Kube has working artist studios, an art gallery and curated retail. 

In Sechelt the Raven’s Cry Theatre shows movies and hosts events and the shíshálh Nation tems swiya Museum has a large collection of artifacts including cedar baskets and ancient stone tools.

For a different experience visit the collection of yurts in Madeira Park at Fibre Works Studio & Gallery, a creative space for art exhibits and workshops. The Sunshine Coast also has funky thrift and vintage shops and there are craft fairs and year-round and seasonal markets, including the Gibsons Public Market, the Roberts Creek Community Farm Market and Powell River’s Townsite Public Market. Sechelt has a winter market in the pre-Christmas season and the Powell River Community Resource Center hosts the Uptown Winter Market.

There are fun and practical general stores, including one at Roberts Creek and Halfmoon Bay. Madeira Park is the main shopping centre for the Pender Harbour region.

Historic Powell River has an educational forestry museum and, in late winter, hosts the Powell River Film Festival in the classic Patricia Theatre, Canada’s oldest continuously running cinema. The townsite has over 400 buildings dating to the original 1910 town plan and, in 1995, was designated as a National Historic District of Canada. Stroll around for yourself or book a heritage walking tour. There’s also the unique opportunity to take in an Indigenous experience, such as the Tla’amin Nation Cultural Tours where you can meet skilled craftspeople and learn about traditional practices.

Enjoying the Spa and Serenity Garden at Painted Boat Resort & Marina in Pender Harbour | Sunshine Coast Tourism/Shayd Johnson

Of course, it’s not the West Coast without some zen spa treatments. A few to visit are Painted Boat Resort Spa in Madeira Park, with its Canadian Wilderness Scrub, Seabreeze Spa in Halfmoon Bay, Shades of Jade in Roberts Creek and Beyond Bliss in Powell River.

Click here for the Sunshine Coast Tourism events calendar.

Coffee Culture, Drinks and Dining

A dedicated coffee culture thrives in the Sunshine Coast. For mojo, pastries, brunch and more check out:

Black Bean Cafe, Beachcomber Coffee Company and Wheatberries Bakery in Gibsons
Gumboot Café, Roberts Creek
Basted Baker and Strait Coffee in Sechelt
Skookumchuck Café and Bakery, amongst the trees in Egmont
Base Camp Coffee, 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters and Bakery, River City Coffee Roasters and Edie Rae’s Café at the Old Courthouse Inn, all in Powell River.
Nancy’s Bakery, Lund (popular for its blackberry cinnamon buns).

Tacos and margaritas at Mexican and Latin influenced Costa del Sol in Powell River | Sunshine Coast Tourism/Shayd Johnson

Drinks and dining options range from sustainable restaurants and bistros to distilleries, cideries and breweries. Here are a few to sample:

Tap Works Brewing Company, The 101 Brewhouse & Distillery, Banditry Cider, Persephone Brewing Company and farm and Sunday Cider, all Gibsons area.
Bruinwood Estate Distillery and Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse, Roberts Creek

Persephone Brewing Company in Gibsons Photo: BC Ale Trail
Persephone Brewing Company in Gibsons | BC Ale Trail

The Backeddy Pub in Egmont for Pacific Northwest fare with inlet views.
Townsite Brewing for craft beer, Monks on Marine for a steak and Guinness pie and Costa Del Sol for Latin cuisine, all Powell River.
The Bricker Cider Company and TwentyTwo Taphouse in Sechelt. Also, El Segundo for Pacific tropical fusion and Jamar Canteen for Lebanese food and cooking demos. For comfort food try the Wobbly Canoe or the Gourmet Girl.

You can always refer to the BC Ale Trail for self-guided itineraries along the Sunshine Coast. Many establishments are dog friendly.

Outdoor Activities and Tours

When visiting the Sunshine Coast in winter you’ll need waterproof gear and to have extra clothing on hand. Plan any hikes—particularly in the off-season—and respect trail rules and any closures.

Wildlife such as elk, deer and coyotes are active year-round and blue herons and bald eagles can be easily spotted. Along the coast you will see seals and even sea lions, and molluscs and sea anemones in tidal pools. Guided wildlife tours are recommended for safety and best viewing. If you’re in Gibsons on a weekend the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre may be of interest.

The winter recreation of Dakota Ridge (max elevation 1,200 m) will have you looking up and out over mountains, islands and inlets | Brayden Hall @braybraywoowoo

Popular hikes and hiking areas include:

Soames Hill Park and “The Knob”, Gibsons, for sea and island views.
Iris Griffith Wetlands Park, Baker Beach Park and Mount Daniel/Garden Bay Marine Provincial Park near Madeira Park.
Pender Hill Park and beachcombing and birdwatching around Pender Harbour.
Cliff Gilker Park, Roberts Creek.
Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park and trails around Halfmoon Bay.
Suncoaster Trail and Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park near Egmont—witness the spectacular tidal changes of the Sechelt Rapids.
Sechelt area: Wakefield Road Beach, Kinnikinnik Park, Porpoise Bay Provincial Park and the lush forest of Hidden Groves.
Willingdon Beach Trail, Powell River.
Lund and area. Explore nearby marine parks, including Desolation Sound (by boat) and the Sunshine Coast Trail, Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail.

Creek areas and falls to visit in the winter are: Cliff Gilker ParkLangdale FallsHomesite Creek, Kelly Falls and  David Lam Falls in Blackwater Creek.

Cliff Gilker Park, Roberts Creek | Chris Thorn Photography

Inland from Sechelt, winter recreation fans enjoy the cross-country ski and snowshoe trails at Dakota Ridge. (Alpha Adventures organizes tours here.) The ski trails are well groomed and the snowshoe trails vary in difficulty. Just north are the trails in and around Tetrahedron, a wonderful provincial park for backcountry snowshoeing. Powell River is home to Knuckleheads, a sub-alpine area popular for snowmobiling and snowshoeing.

Tours are a great way to get out and about and experience the Sunshine Coast from a local’s perspective. Sunshine Coast Tours has a boating day trip to Princess Louisa Inlet (where you can see Chatterbox Falls); you can also charter a floatplane to view this hidden gem. Harbour Air Seaplanes offers scenic flights from Sechelt. Winter kayak or go on a boat tour of the Halfmoon Bay or Pender Harbour areas; various companies offer rentals and tours. Also, Sunshine Coast Shuttles out of Powell River drives people to/from the Sunshine Coast Trail and offers some supply services.

If you fish the Sunshine Coast is a dream come true, with its inland lakes and streams, meandering coastline and the Salish Sea. The Powell River area is famous for Chinook salmon and a winter fishing charter is an unforgettable adventure. Companies include OTB Charters (Pender Harbour) and Powell River Sportfishing and Coho Point Fishing Charters. All anglers in BC must obtain separate licences to fish in tidal (salt) water and/or freshwater.

NB: Visitor Information Centres across the Sunshine Coast may have shortened business hours in the winter.

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Sunshine Coast Tourism reminds locals and visitors that they’ re on the traditional territories of the Tla’amin, Klahoose, shíshálh, Skwxwú7mesh, and Homalco Nations”. Its Know Before You Go webpage has details on safe, responsible and respectful travel.

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Discovering Camping in British Columbia in the Fall Season

It’s time to bring out the sweaters and store the flip flops! The fall season is a perfect time to avoid the crowds and explore BC while camping. In the shoulder season, Provincial Parks and private campgrounds usually have space available, allowing you to be spontaneous in where you camp.

CanaDream Rents RVs to Suit Any Size Family | Photo: S. Clark

My husband Allan and I took a 1,500 km trip through BC a few years ago (pre COVID), with a 24ft RV rented from CanaDream.  We “loosely” followed Highway 3 from the Vancouver area, up north on Highway 6, and ending by following Route 97 south until we hit Highway 3 again. This route gave us amazing variety in the landscapes we saw. In the morning we might cross a high mountain pass surrounded by majestic evergreens. By lunchtime we were in the Okanagan area, surrounded by bald hills and semi-arid desert. The majority of roads had little traffic, so we enjoyed pleasant drives each day.  

Fort Camping is a Short Walk or Bike Ride to the Fort to Fort Trail | Photo: S. Clark

We started the trip by spending two nights at Fort Camping in Fort Langley. The campground location was ideal for having a level campsite with clean restrooms. A short stroll brought us to the charming town of Fort Langley with more options for restaurants, boutiques and ice cream shops than was possible to explore. Since we had our bikes, we enjoyed taking the Fort to Fort Trail, a paved path off the main road. Naturally one end of that trail ended at Fort Langley National Historic Site, a chance to step back in time.

Since we had a flexible schedule, we could discover some hidden attractions along the way. One of our favourite spots was the Grist Mill in Keremeos, 47 km (29 miles) northwest of Osoyoos. Because of the heavy rain, we needed our umbrellas but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the site. A cozy café offered Grist Mill cookies and scones, while the outdoor displays gave insight into how the belts and gears coordinated to grind local wheat into flour.

Grist Mill in Keremeos Offers Gardens, Cafe & Restored Water Wheel | Photo: S. Clark

The Kettle River Museum in Midway packs a large amount of history in a small space. We explored the actual KVR Station, part of the legendary Kettle River Railway. The museum offers a look at how people lived before electricity and motors. You can even tour the last caboose from the railroad line.

A highlight of the trip was driving through the Okanagan valley and seeing all the fruit stands. It seemed as if there was a competition going on as to who could make the most elaborate pumpkin displays. We’d stop at one stand to buy apples and admire the pumpkins. 10 minutes later we’d stop to buy corn because we were attracted to another pumpkin display.

A Pumpkin Display in the Okanagan | Photo: S. Clark

Our route also took us past numerous wineries…many, many wineries! The Kelowna area alone has five designated wine routes. Just follow the signs which are displayed along the road. Most signs give the name of the winery as well as how far it is off the road. Some places offer wine tours where you relax on a bus while going from one winery to another. No need to select a designated driver!

Kekuli Bay Provincial Park | Photo: S. Clark

Our favourite campground was Kekuli Bay Provincial Park south of Vernon. Almost every campsite has an amazing view overlooking Kalamalka Lake. It’s worth getting up early to see the sunrises. The Okanagan Rail Trail is a designated bike and hike path that goes directly through the campground. We did a 20-mile ride that goes right next to the shore. Best of all, the trail is flat!

Nikkei Internment Centre, New Denver | Photo: S. Clark

We saw a small sign for the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre near New Denver in the Kootenay Rockies and decided to stop. It is the only site in Canada dedicated to telling the story of the 22,000 people of Japanese descent that were interned in Canada. We toured the actual 14ft by 28ft “shacks” that housed two families with up to six children each. The centre also has displays of clothing, furniture, and a peace garden and communal bath house. A sobering yet very informative place to stop.

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Our road trip through BC only scratched the surface. We didn’t get to explore Vancouver Island or gawk at the astonishing hoodoos in the East Kootenays. We did get to experience camping in Provincial Parks and privately-owned campgrounds, meeting other campers along the way. Those we stayed at are listed below. Now we’re planning our next route to check out even more that BC offers!

Fort Camping – Fort Langley
Cottonwoods Meadows RV Country Club – Chilliwack
Hazelmere RV Park – Surrey
Kekuli Bay Provincial Park – Vernon
Brookvale Holiday Resort – Osoyoos
Kootenay River RV Park – Castlegar
Sugar Lake 2 Mile – Cherryville

For other campgrounds in the area or elsewhere in British Columbia go to the Camping Map.

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It’s always a great day to #campinbc.

Exploring North Vancouver Island, British Columbia – Port McNeill & Port Hardy to Coal Harbour & Cape Scott

After a busy first-four days we moved campsites from Alder Bay RV Park and Marina to Cluxewe Resort, located just 15 minutes north of Port McNeill. Cluxewe Resort is centred on the ancestral land of the Kwakiutl First Nation and is indigenous owned and operated by the friendliest helpful staff. This resort is open year-round with lots of camping options (ocean front, full service, no service etc.) and cottages available for rent. We walked for hours on the rocky beach in each direction of the resort, enjoyed beautiful sunsets and watched campers fishing for salmon off the shore.

Cluxewe Resort north of Port McNeill | C. Stathers

From our new homebase, we headed over to Coal Harbour (no, not the one in Vancouver). It was a short 30-minute drive from the campsite on paved roads. Coal Harbour is located on Quatsino Sound which provides boat access to communities such as Holberg and Port Alice. It is a busy harbour with float plane and boat traffic.

Coal Harbour Mail Run | C. Stathers

We took the mail boat over to Quatsino from the dock in Coal Harbour, a small boat-access-only community with a population of only 43. The “mail boat run” delivers mail on Mondays and Thursdays, costs $25pp, and is about a one-hour trip.

After our boat ride to Quatsino, we visited the museum in the Float Plane Hanger by the dock. We learned all about its whaling history; the industry closed in 1967 due to declining stock. It also has a history of being an air force base during World War 2, a mining town (it had a 350 metre deep open-pit copper mine which closed in 1996) and now focusing on logging, tourism and fishing. The museum has a huge 6 metre jawbone of a blue whale, apparently the largest in the world! We also checked out the chain saw display, old engines and a 1917 Ford Model T and a 1928 Ford Model A.

Coal Harbour Museum | C. Stathers

The next morning, at about 10:00 am, we headed off on our day-long trip to Cape Scott Park on the northern tip of the Island.  Be prepared for 65km each way on a dusty, bumpy logging road. We have a 4-wheel drive truck which handled the roads well, but also passed a number of low-clearance cars which also seemed to be safely navigating the road. The road was in fairly good condition as much of it had been recently graded; but from what I had read, conditions are constantly changing. There are also lots of warning signs as this is an active logging road, and the logging trucks have the right-of-way. We were incredibly impressed by the accurate signage all the way to the parking lot at Cape Scott Park.

Store in Holberg | C. Stathers

First stop on our trip was the small village of Holberg (population of 35), about 50km along the road. At one time Holberg was a floating logging camp; now, just the remnants of the old wood pilings can be seen on the inlet. A must-stop is the Holberg Pitstop; it is a general store and features lodging. You can stock up on everything from sunscreen to beer and stay overnight in one of the newly-renovated rooms. Next trip we will definitely stay overnight, so we can explore more of the west coast area.

Cape Scott Provincial Park, San Josef Bay | C. Stathers

After the “pitstop” we continued on our way to Cape Scott Provincial Park; we were impressed with the road improvement after Holberg (or maybe we were just getting used to the bumps). We arrived at the parking lot around noon with a few spots left and headed off on the trail to San Josef Bay, a 45-minute one-way hike along a well maintained crushed-gravel trail. There are pit toilets at the trail head, as well as, at San Josef Bay. There are also bear caches at the bay and a number of beach-side campsites. We planned ahead so we arrived at low tide, so we could walk from San Josef Bay to Second Beach. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and we loved walking in the shallow surf on the beautiful, soft, sand. Beach features included caves, sea stacks, and wildlife.  Other hikers continued along the full 26km Cape Scott Trail.

After our visit to San Josef Bay, we returned to Holberg and the Scarlet Ibis Pub for nachos and a nice, cold drink on the patio overlooking Holberg Inlet. Known for being Vancouver Island’s Most Remote Pub, we found the staff incredibly friendly and the food, good. It was great to sit on the patio with the locals and learn more about the area. 

Scarlet Ibis Pub, Holberg | C. Stathers

Last stop before heading back to our campsite was the car wash just south of Port McNeill to get our dusty truck cleaned up and ready for our last adventure day before heading home.

The next morning, we went to Storey’s Beach on Beaver Harbour Road just south of Port Hardy.  The tide was out, and we felt like we could walk for miles on the blackish sandy beach. This is a beautiful stretch of sand that I would highly recommend. It is good for kayaking too.

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We spent the rest of the day enjoying the beach and sunset back at Cluxewe Resort and some barbequed salmon from Scarlet Point Seafoods in Port Hardy. A great way to finish off our North Vancouver Island trip!

To read about the first half our trip go to Sayward to Port McNeill.

For camping accommodations in this area and elsewhere in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc #explorebc

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

Summer in Valemount, British Columbia: Where the Mountains Move You

Imagine standing in the middle of a town with a view of three snow-capped mountain ranges. Welcome to Valemount in east-central British Columbia, a village with stand-out summer adventures and activities.

Just over an hour west of Jasper, Alberta, Valemount is in the Robson Valley, situated along and east of Highway 5 (Yellowhead Hwy) and nestled between the Rocky, Monashee and Cariboo mountains (to the east, south and west). It’s a municipality with a big heart – and venturesome residents eager to show visitors what their playground is all about.

Whitewater Rafting near Valemount | Kelly Funk

The land that would become Valemount is in the traditional territory of the Secwepemc Nation, Simpcw territory. The name Valemount was coined for the Canadian National Railway station there in 1927, and to this day it has a ViaRail station. It’s the nearest community to BC’s Mount Robson Provincial Park and its namesake, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Choose from three campgrounds here: Lucerne, Robson River and Robson Meadows. From gentle meadows to alpine lookouts, there are hundreds of kilometres of trails to explore. (Note that the popular Berg Lake Trail will be open this summer to Kinney Lake only.) While in the area make a splash whitewater rafting on Class I to Class V rapids, or paddling or floating along the Fraser River (a clear, beautiful blue/green in this part of the province) or on the long and narrow Kinbasket Lake. Amidst the Rocky and Cariboo mountains it’s actually a reservoir created by the construction of the Mica Dam; water levels can vary.

Paddleboarding near Valemount | Kelly Funk

The viewpoint at Rearguard Falls Provincial Park provides an excellent opportunity to witness the end of a long journey for the mighty Chinook, the largest of the Pacific salmon. From the Fraser estuary in the province’s lower mainland to this point, the fish travel upstream for over 1,200 km, though not all make it this far. George Hicks Regional Park also has a viewing platform for the salmon as they enter Swift Creek. Spawning season is generally August to September.

For other camping and RV options search via the Camping and RVing BC Coalition’s campground webpage; Visit Valemount also has RV and camping information. The Valemount Visitor Centre can be found at 785 Cranberry Lake Rd (summer hours June-Sept, Mon-Fri 8:30 am-4:30 pm).

Valemount Bike Park | wildy-ruby

Mountain biking is a way of life in this part of BC. Be sure to check out the Valemount Bike Park. Minutes from the town core, it’s a system of trails ranging from easy cross-country pedals and smooth and flowy downhills to steep and ‘rooty’ adrenaline-filled singletrack options. Cruise the trail and boardwalk along Cranberry Marsh (the Starratt Wildlife Management Area) where you can stop for birdwatching along the 6-km loop. Should you wish to rent a mountain bike or ebike swing by or call District Bike Co. or Bike & Bites; both shops service bikes too.  Hiking trails in Valemount range from easy-medium-challenging; it’s best to verify openings with the Visitor Centre before heading out as some trails may be closed for repairs or due to inclement weather. Perhaps you’ll see Sasquatch near Mica Mountain (as sighted in 1955!) as you hike the Mica Mine Trail, the same trail where, in the 1890s, horses and mules hauled minerals down the mountain.

Three kilometres south of Valemount is Cedarside Regional Park on Little Cranberry Lake, a swimming spot with a sandy beach where dogs on leashes are welcome. There are toilets, picnic tables and fire pits; camping is not permitted.

Slow the pace down with some horseback riding or try fly, troll or spin cast fishing. Various species of trout fill nearby rivers and lakes (such as Moose and Shere lakes), as do Rocky Mountain whitefish. Valemount Pines Campground boasts a nine-hole golf course and grassy tent and RV campsites with spacious long-level pull-throughs and private back-in sites near a mountain.

Kinney Lake, Mount Robson | Kelly Funk

Complement your fish dinner with a trip to the Valemount Farmers’ Market, which runs every Thursday afternoon from late June to September. Along with regional produce you’ll find arts and crafts. For other art options visit Mountain Driftwood Gallery & Gift. Many artisans sell in the area so check with the Visitor Centre for info on pottery, jewelry and antiques and collectibles. The Valemount Museum & Archive is located in an old railway station built in 1914. Learn about local pioneers, historic regional railroad towns and WWII Japanese internment camps. There are community events and summer festivals in and around Valemount such as the Annual Valemountain Days (June 9-11 this year), the annual Bike Fest (June 17) and Canada Day celebrations (July 1). Robson Valley Music Festival in the farming community of Dunster, 60km to the northeast, takes place on August 11-13.

Restaurant options include the Summit Grill and Cranberry Lounge in the Best Western Plus hotel and Cariboo Grill with fine comfort fare and an ample wine list in a cabin-like setting. The Gathering Tree specializes in breakfast and lunch and Valemount Swiss Bakery is known for its scrumptious sourdough breads. Get your mojo fix at Vale Coffee, a small batch roastery and takeaway café and if you’re craving a pint head to Three Ranges Brewing Company for craft-brewed beer in their cozy tasting room or on the patio. The establishment is part of the BC Ale Trail, which lists over 220 craft breweries.

Whatever the outing or adrenaline rush – whether strolling past mountain wildflowers or chuting down rapids – summer in Valemount is bound to please all nature lovers.

For more information on Valemount go to the website at www.visitvalemount.ca, check out the Facebook and Instagram pages or if you are already in the area go to the Valemount Visitor Centre at 785 Cranberry Lake Rd, (250) 566-9893 visitorcentre@valemount.ca.

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For campgrounds in this area and elsewhere in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc #explorebc

It’s always a great day to #CampInBC

Pender Island, British Columbia: The Perfect Weekend Away

If you are looking for a new adventure, why not consider one of the Gulf Islands situated off the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia? A few summers ago we decided to pick one or two Gulf Islands each year to explore, and Pender Island proved to be an excellent choice.

Port Browning Marina, Pender Island | C. Stathers

To get to Pender Island, you take a ferry either from Tsawwassen or from Swartz Bay. When planning your trip, remember to check the routes and schedules on the BC Ferries website because they vary depending on the time of the year. If you are travelling during peak times, it is well worth making a reservation.

On our trip, we departed from Tsawwassen south of Vancouver and stopped at both Galiano and Mayne Islands before arriving at Otter Bay on North Pender Island; it took a little less than 2 hours with no transfers. If you are coming from Swartz Bay (Sidney, Vancouver Island), then the ferry is about 40 minutes.

Explore One of the Beaches on Pender Island | C. Stathers

Pender Island is actually two islands (North Pender and South Pender) joined by a small one-lane bridge, which was built in 1955. The canal was dredged in the early 1900s to allow the passage of boats including the SS Iroquois, a steamboat ferry which provided transportation between the Gulf Islands, Sidney and Nanaimo. Unfortunately in 1911 it sank outside Sidney, killing over 20 people.

Picnic at Hope Bay | C. Stathers

We spent a lot of time exploring the 34 square kilometers of the islands; we wanted to see as much as possible on our few days there. Based on 2021 census data there are just over 2,400 full-time residents on the north island and about 300 on the south. It is the second largest of the Gulf Islands that we have visited: Salt Spring (11,635), Galiano (1,396), Mayne (1,304) and finally, Saturna (465) which we still have on our list to visit. It was interesting looking up the census data as I really had a sense that the south island was much less populated with a more rural/farming feel.

There is no public transportation on the island but, as with Mayne Island, they have “car stops” set up to encourage giving those travelling-on-foot a ride. Apparently Pender Island was the first island to start the program and it has been successfully running since 2008; it now has 29 stops.

Prior Centennial Campground, Pender Island | G. Stathers

When planning a place to stay, I would recommend Prior Centennial Campground on North Pender Island with 17 sites. There are lots of trails in the park and, for those interested in Disc Golf, there is a trail from the campsite to the Golf Island Disc Park. Reservations at this park are through the Parks Canada website. Speaking of golf, and considering that my husband is an avid golfer, we had to check out the Pender Island Golf and Country Club, a nine-hole course known for its challenging shots and beautiful views. 

Port Browning Marina Pub | C. Stathers

For those arriving on Pender Island by boat, there is moorage available at Port Browning Marina Resort near Bedwell Harbour. We had lunch at the pub on their patio and enjoyed the view and excellent food.

We also had a great picnic lunch at Hope Bay. For dessert we picked up some chocolates at Pender Island Chocolates. On our next visit we plan to have a lunch or dinner at the HUB at Hope Bay.

Our getaways always seem to focus on food and hiking!

Mount Norman Observation Platform | C. Stathers

We found some fun trails on North Pender around Magic Lake and will definitely return to Mount Norman on South Pender. We picked up Mount Norman trail head on Ainslie Point Road (just off Canal Road). The first part of the trail winds its way through the lush, beautiful trees before you start the climb to the summit which is the highest point on Pender at 800 feet. From the observation platform at the top, you will have a panoramic view of the surrounding islands, including Salt Spring.

The Pender Islands Museum is housed in a 1908 “kit” house in its original waterfront setting at Roesland in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. | Pender Islands Museum

Since I am a bit of a history buff, we had to visit the Pender Island Museum at Roesland in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (2408 South Otter Bay Road). Roesland is an old homestead with the museum in the historic Roe House. For 70+ years, it was the heart of the rustic Roesland Resort, attracting families year after year.

The museum website describes the Roe house as being built in “1908, and a “kit” house ordered from a Vancouver Island lumber company. All the pre-cut lumber was delivered to Roesland by barge and put together on its log base in about a week. Total cost for the three-bedroom house: $589.62!

It was a beautiful sunny day on our visit; we enjoyed tea and goodies in the historic Roe House. The property and buildings sit on Roe Inlet which has lots of easy walking trails around the property.

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Pender is perfect for a weekend getaway and year-round holiday destination. I would suggest a visit any season; whether you choose the busy summer months or the sleepy shoulder seasons, you will not be disappointed.

Check out Four Reasons to Visit Pender Island This Fall

For places to RV and camp in British Columbia go to the Camping Map.

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Snowbirds! Spending Your Winter in the Vancouver Area? Check Out This Side Trip – North Vancouver to Whistler

Recently, we wrote a blog about things to see and do if you are a Snowbird staying in the Vancouver area. We suggested a drive from Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs along Highway 7. Here is another drive that follows the Sea to Sky Highway (Hwy 99) from North Vancouver to Whistler.

The Sea to Sky Highway hugs the coastline as it winds its way north offering up stunning views across Howe Sound and to the mountains beyond. It then heads inland north of Squamish to the year-round destination of world-famous Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. Mt Seymour, Grouse Mountain, and Cypress Mountain are all popular winter activity destinations, two of which are included in this trip.

Grouse-Mountain-Skating-via-Facebook
Grouse Mountain Skating via Facebook
  • Rent a pair of ice skates and enjoy the exhilarating fresh air atop Grouse Mountain on their 8,000 sq. ft. ice skating pond. The Skyride allows for stunning views across Vancouver, Stanley Park and beyond.
  • Take a self-guided snowshoe tour or go cross-country skiing at the top of Cypress Mountain through a forested winter wonderland. Warm up with a hot drink or bowl of soup.
  • Back on Highway 99 and a further 18 km (11 mi) is the tiny, picturesque village of Lions Bay which hugs the shoreline. A must stop-off is the Lions Bay General Store and Café, located on the east side of the highway (take Lions Bay Avenue exit) and a favourite of those who have travelled this road for decades. You’ll find local products, great coffee, beer, lunch, souvenirs and great views too.
  • Adjacent to the highway is the Britannia Mine Museum, an award-winning national historic site. It was a working copper mine from 1904-1974 and opened in 1975 as the BC Museum of Mining. You’ll be dazzled by the light and sound show as you are transported underground by train.
Britannia-Mine-Museum-via-FBook
Britannia Mine Museum via Facebook
  • Just south of Squamish is the entrance to the Sea to Sky Gondola. Be amazed at the stunning views of snow-capped mountains, old-growth forests and turquoise waters of the Howe Sound stretched out before you.  At the top take in the brisk winter air, try snow-shoeing or tubing and then warm up with a hot drink or visit the Sky Pilot Restaurant where you can enjoy delicious West Coast fare.
  • Like to try local craft beer? Howe Sound Brewing in Squamish produces an abundance of craft beer, from seasonal to year-round brews. Pair their excellent beer with small bites or big bites, all made in-house. It’s located on Cleveland Avenue left off Highway 99, almost at the end of town; you will see the pub on your right.
  • For some eagle spotting, head back to the highway and continue north towards Brackendale and Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, one of North America’s largest congregations of wintering bald eagles. These majestic birds gather in this area from November to January to feast on salmon. There are plenty of lookouts and shelters to view the eagles (the Eagle Run viewing shelter is at 41015 Government Road) and you can take an organized tour or even an eagle viewing float trip. Visit Squamish Tourism’s web page on eagle viewing for more information.
  • Get back on the highway, it’s time to head to Whistler! There is so much to do in this world-renowned resort. In winter the snow is the big attraction with skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and more, but if you want to do something different or your ski legs need a rest there are fabulous restaurants, art galleries, spas, winter events, festivals and more. A must-see is the Whistler Village stroll where you will find fun and sporty shops, bistros and cafes, and the Whistler Olympic Plaza, which is transformed into an outdoor skating rink in winter.
Squamish-LilWat-Cultural-Centre-DBC-Blake-Jorgenson
Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre | Destination BC/Blake Jorgenson
  • To experience First Nations art, history and culture visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler. Hear the stories and songs and admire the traditional regalia, carvings and art. This is a beautiful museum with stunning works and exhibits; guided tours are available.
  • If you are in Whistler on a Sunday evening from December to March check out the free Fire & Ice Show in Whistler Village. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or warm cider and be prepared to be amazed at the spectacle created as expert skiers jump through hoops of fire!
  • Once you have explored Whistler then it’s time to head back, and the views are just as stunning on the return journey! You will pass Furry Creek, known for its golf and country club, and the villages of Lions Bay and Horseshoe Bay, home of the BC Ferries terminal for taking travellers over to Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island. Horseshoe Bay has some shops and eateries and it’s always fun to watch the ferries coming and going.

There is so much more to see in this area, particularly in and around North and West Vancouver. Check out Vancouver’s North Shore Tourism. You could spend a day or two exploring the parks and waterfront walks, Lonsdale Quay Market, with its specialty shops and services, or the historic and growing urban neighbourhood of The Shipyards District.

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For other drives from Vancouver check out:

Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs via the Scenic Hwy 7
Vancouver to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway
Explore the Communities South of Vancouver and the Fraser Valley

For RV parks and other camping accommodations check out the Winter Camping Map.

Share your camping and BC travel photos using hashtag #CampInBC #ExploreBC #BCNice

Plan a Trip to Smithers in Northern British Columbia – Where There’s Plenty to See & Do

We got a chuckle out of Smithereens calling Smithers the “center of the universe” on their tourism board west of town. Standing at the viewpoint we saw Hudson Bay Glacier and Twin Falls in the distance and decided to drive there. Twin Falls is approximately 4 km from the Visitor’s Centre. To get there, turn left off the highway onto Lake Kathlyn Road and follow it to reach Glacier Gulch Road. The last section is gravel and the parking area not big but well worth the trip. We hiked 15 minutes up the mountain to the Twin Falls viewpoint for a spectacular scene. The more adventurous hikers can carry on another 3,000 ft. to Kathlyn Glacier.

Hiking at Twin Falls, Smithers, Northern British Columbia | Destination BC, Andrew Strain

There are many hikes or easy trails in the Smithers area and are listed in the trail guide. The 13 km Perimeter Trail meanders past Riverside Municipal Campground situated beside the Bulkley River famous for steelhead fishing. We enjoyed staying there with easy access to the trail, going down by the river to watch the fishermen, or watching the full moon spread its glow over the water.

Bulkley River, Smithers
Bulkley River, Smithers | Photo: B. Rees

Take the Telkwa High Road Tour for a real treat. The road is suitable for RVs. The map from the Visitor’s Centre (1411 Court St. behind the Bulkley Valley Museum) gives highlights to visit. It’s an easy half-day of pleasurable exploration. Start the tour by driving west to Witset, home of the Witsuwet’en First Nations/ People of the lower hills. A full-service Witset Campground and Museum overlooks the thundering Witset Falls, formerly called Morricetown. Go down to the falls and watch fishermen with long poles dip-net salmon. The fishermen are tied to the rocks so they can’t fall but it’s nerve-racking and exciting to watch.  There are lots of cheers when they bring in a big salmon.

Dipnetting at Witset Falls
Dipnetting at Witset Falls | Photo: B. Rees

From there take the secondary Telkwa High Road as it turns east. It winds its way through farmland and rolling hills. Stop at Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park for a picnic by the creek and a walk into the canyon to see fossils. Frankly, they were so tiny we could hardly see them but it was fun hunting. It is illegal to take them away.

When the road comes out again on the #16 Yellowhead Hwy we stopped for ice cream in Telkwa. It’s a tiny village with a peaceful walk along the Bulkley River. Their claim to fame is the Demolition Derby and beef barbeque held Labour Day weekend in September. Tyhee Lake Provincial Park is up the hill.

The Nipples Range, Northern BC
The Nipples Range, Northern BC | Photo: B. Rees

Our friends took us up Kitseguacia Lake Road into the mountains, not recommended for motorhomes. As The Nipples range rises high and pointed in the distance the road climbs to about 3,000 ft and gradually deteriorates while the scenery gets more spectacular. The first stop is at “The Boot”, like Mother Hubbard’s boot but it’s a house built by retired teacher Toby Walsh. He used fire hoses for the laces and created Sasquatch toes for his steps.

The Boot house near Smithers
The Boot house near Smithers | Photo: B. Rees

Talzen Lake Recreation Site was serene and the wilderness campsites empty. At Rocky Ridge Resort a bear sat on the road in front of us in his version of a stand-off and giving me the perfect photo op. Eventually, he wandered off. It was a real treat to have a local show us around some of the out-of-the-way places tourists wouldn’t normally see. We don’t tow a vehicle so it’s the only way we find these hidden gems.

Black Bear
A Black Bear is a Common Sight in BC’s Backcountry | Photo: B. Rees

Smithers is an Alpine-themed town halfway between Prince George and Prince Rupert. We had fun wandering the six-block main street where 7 ft. tall Alpine Al plays a giant alphorn carved out of a 1,000 year-old cedar. The Sausage Factory (1107 Main St.) has been providing the best sausages and deli goods since 1974. We went back twice for more goodies. Around the corner, we found decadent cream puffs at Paul’s Bakery. At Smithers Brewery (3832-3rd St.) we bought a flight of 3 beers and 1 cider and sat in the sun enjoying them. I found a pretty blouse for $5 at a thrift store, my kind of shopping. Bovill Square has a bandstand for summer concerts. These stops are but a fraction of what you can find along Main Street.

Smithers Sign
Centre of the Universe! | Photo: B. Rees

Our favourite place to shop anywhere we travel in Canada is the local farmer’s market. Bulkley Valley Farmer’s Market behind the Museum/art gallery is abundant in fresh food and crafts. We set up a table to sell our books and jewelry while stocking up on groceries. It is such an enjoyable atmosphere surrounded by friendly people and delicious food.  It opens every Saturday morning, early May to late September.

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For other campgrounds in the area check out the Camping Map under Smithers and other communities.

Smithers offers a wide range of recreation, photo ops, and things to do. Check out Tourism Smithers. Houston, Babine Lake and Granisle are nearby for added pleasures. Give yourself plenty of time to explore.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc #explorebc

Published: July 8th, 2021

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