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Back Road Lake, Cariboo

Why a Trip to the Cariboo, BC is not to be Missed

From an American’s perspective, a trip to British Columbia has to include visits to well-known locations including Vancouver, Whistler, and the like. Knowing we had the flexibility of exploring further thanks to our truck and travel trailer, we had a few thoughts upon planning for our Canadian adventure: What if we keep going north!? What would we find? What special campsites might we come across? What if there is some fun backcountry adventure that would lead us right into lush forests and abundant wildlife? This is what we found.

Plotting Our Route in the Cariboo | Photo: Roaming Remodelers

Having spent the first few days of our trip in and around the Squamish and Whistler areas, we found a small campground along Hwy 99 named Cinnamon rec site to use as a proper launching point into the Cariboo region. Just a short 20km drive south of Lillooet, we used this site to stock up on supplies in town and fill up on water and fuel. Hitting the road northbound we knew we had to put in a solid 3-4 hour drive to approach Williams Lake, a charming town with small, locally owned businesses dotting the streets.

Back Road Signage | Photo: Roaming Remodelers

Pushing further north, we pulled the travel trailer past the town of Quesnel and turned eastward on Highway 26 towards another small rec site named Lightning Creek. Thankfully we were not welcomed by lightning, although we can’t say the same about the mosquitoes. They certainly were planning a welcoming party for us, but we were prepared with repellant which we quickly slathered on. Having equipped ourselves with the necessary armor to fight off the festivities of our winged enemies, we chose a site for our travel trailer and set up camp. A good night’s rest was just what we needed to prepare for an exciting day of adventure to come.

Lightning Creek Recreation Site | Photo: Roaming Remodelers

Approaching the preserved mining town of Barkley, we took the Bowron Lake Park Rd turn-off and followed the signs showing us the way to the “Back Road”. A mix of tightly packed gravel and chunkier, loose rocks in certain areas, the “Back Road” is typically impassable by 2-wheel drive vehicles save for a few weeks in the Summer. Making use of the 4-wheel drive truck we use, we went straight for a deep dive into the backcountry. The further we went, the more special the scenery became. From creek crossings to hill and mountain vistas, this was the drive we had hoped for!

Back Road near Hwy 26 in the Cariboo | Photo: Roaming Remodelers

An early June series of storms had moved in on us causing us to ditch plans we had for a night of tent camping at Ladies Creek rec site, but the sight of the green pines standing tall and the crisp, fresh air made it an absolute joy just to be out there. Nearing the end of our journey on the “Back Road” we had one final encounter that cemented this as one of our favorite adventure travel experiences, our first bear sighting. Coming from Florida, we don’t see bears all too often and we certainly don’t expect to find them on a leisurely drive along the beachfront boulevard. But here he was, a majestic black bear happy to let us watch him feast on the vegetation.

Black Bear in the Cariboo | Photo: Roaming Remodelers

We made sure to give him plenty of space, snapped a few photos, and went on our way knowing that he would most likely prefer to have a side of peace and quiet with his dinner. Having completed the “Back Road”, we couldn’t help but be thankful for an experience we will not soon forget. As it turns out, there is, indeed, a lot more to see and do in British Columbia than those “famous” spots. A trip to the Cariboo just might provide you with a few lifelong memories and a bucket list moment checked off the list.

Along the Back Road in the Cariboo | Photo: Roaming Remodelers

For more campgrounds in the Cariboo and other areas of British Columbia check out the Camping Map.

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Bowron Lakes, BC: Not Just a Place to Portage!

With its pristine views and rugged adventures, you would think that the Bowron Lakes only attracts highly skilled hikers and paddlers.  We found this was not the case! Yes we love hiking, camping and paddling but we had no intention of strapping on a backpack or carrying our canoe. We heard what a beautiful area it was, so we set out to explore it.

The Bowron Lakes are located in central B.C. east of Quesnel in the Cariboo Mountain area. The series of eleven lakes and three rivers are about a half-hour drive north-east of the famous historic town of Barkerville.

The Bowron area has activities for a range of outdoor enthusiasts. The famous Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit offers 116 kms of wilderness canoeing, portaging and camping and takes anywhere from six to ten days to complete. There is also a shorter trip on the west side which takes up to four days. Go to Bowron Lake Reservations for information and reservations for the circuit.

Some Quiet Time on Bowron Lake | Photo: C. Stathers

Since we came to camp, kayak, hike and fish with our family, we decided to split our nights between the Bowron Lake Provincial Park and Bowron Lake Lodge and Resort. Both campsites are located at the north and north-west end of Bowron Lake near the start of the circuit.

Outside Bowron Lake Lodge & Resort

The provincial park has 25 sites nestled between the trees where we spent our first nights. We then moved over to the Bowron Lake Lodge and Resort where we had a lake-front site with incredible views and easy access to the lake for our kayaks. The resort also has canoes, kayaks and paddle boards to rent if you don’t bring your own.

Typical Portage Trail | Photo: Kevin Campbell

Close by is the Bear River Mercantile which is well stocked with everything you need from food, souvenirs and camping supplies. It also has some great museum-like historical displays and plenty of local information.

For day trips, we explored the quaint town of Wells which is located about 30 km from Bowron Lakes. Built in the 1930s to accommodate gold miners it once had a population of over 4,000, but now just about 250. In the summer it is a bustling little art-focused town with some well-preserved historic buildings.

Checking Out the Judge’s Seat! | Photo: C. Stathers

Not far down the road is the historic 1860s gold rush town of Barkerville. It has more preserved buildings than you can imagine and live plays with resident actors who entertain along the streets. We had dinner at the Lung Duck Tong Restaurant which was a real hit with our family.

Bowron Actors | Photo: C. Stathers

As much as I loved walking along the boardwalks, two of our favourites were the one-room Williams Creek Schoolhouse and the Richfield Courthouse. At the schoolhouse, listen for the teacher ringing the bell and you can join in on a re-enactment of a class lesson. At the courthouse we learned about the notorious Judge Begbie, the “Hanging Judge” whose job was to travel throughout the area maintaining the law.

Bowron Lake Sunset | Photo: Kevin Campbell

Back at the campsite we had a chance to explore some of the hiking trails on both sides of the lake, kayaking and fishing on north-west end of Bowron Lake, and enjoying some stunning sunsets. The area offers amazing camping, with friendly people and beautiful scenery. Definitely make this area a destination this summer and I bet you will be planning another trip like we are!

For other camping opportunities in the Bowron Lakes area or elsewhere in BC check out the Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc

Published: June 20th, 2019

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