The thousands of lakes, rivers and magnificent stretch of Pacific Ocean coastline make the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast an uber region for fishing, boating, camping, swimming and kayaking. No trip to the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast would be complete without paddling the legendary Bowron Lake Provincial Park Canoe Circuit.
On dry land, there are endless gently winding trails and strenuous backcountry routes to walk, hike, ride and canter. You won't want to miss the volcanic mountains of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, nor the ancient hoodoos and shifting sand dune of Farwell Canyon.
You can also drive the original Cariboo Waggon Road on the historic Gold Rush Trail. Lodge at a local guest ranch and visit a cowboy museum. The region is famous for its rodeos and stampedes.
Bird Watching & Sanctuaries:
Bird watching opportunities abound in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast. Catch sight of the American white pelican at Anahim Lake. Or head to Bowron Lake Provincial Park to view birds - from swallows to songbirds - along the park's famous canoe route. The 100 Mile Marsh is a spring stop-over for migrating gulls, swans, ducks, geese and grebes. Spring also heralds the arrival of trumpeter swans, who use the marsh during migration. Scout Island Nature Centre in Williams Lake is a prominent area for colourful migratory waterfowl and fascinating marsh birds.
Anahim Lake is a birding paradise. You'll find eagles, ospreys, ducks and songbirds here. Spring and summer waterfowl species include the red-necked grebe, wood duck, ring-neck duck, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal and Barrow's goldeneye. Also watch for common loons, spruce grouse, ring-billed gulls, black terns, Canada geese, American bitterns, sandhill cranes, woodpeckers as well as great horned and great gray owls. Great Blue Herons stalk the shallows of Anahim while blackbirds compete for favourite perches.
The star attraction at Anahim Lake is the American white pelican. See these majestic migrating flocks - with three-m (9.8-ft) wing h4s - as they ride rising air currents to great heights, then soar slowly and gracefully in circles. While the pelicans' only nesting ground is Stum Lake in White Pelican Provincial Park, they use regional lakes, including Anahim, as feeding grounds from late June through early September.
Anahim Lake is a 3-4 hour drive west from Williams Lake, off Highway 20.
Bowron Lake Provincial Park
Bowron Lake Provincial Park is a terrific birding destination. Diverse species found along the park's canoe route include such year-round residents as Steller's jays, Clark's nutcrackers, American crows and common ravens. From late April to mid-September look for more than 20 species of waterfowl. Late spring and summer are best for songbirds. Also watch for five species of swallows, as well as calliope and Rufous hummingbirds, American bitterns, ospreys, bald eagles, soras and woodpeckers.
On the wildlife front, be sure to keep an eye out for moose, deer, black and grizzly bears, mountain goats, caribou, beavers and river otters.
Bowron Lake Provincial Park is a 90-minute drive east from Quesnel, off Highway 26.
100 Mile Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary
This sanctuary is a spring stop-over for wide varieties of migrating gulls, swans, ducks, geese and grebes. Redwing and yellow-headed blackbirds raise their young here as well. Spring heralds the arrival of trumpeter swans, who use the marsh during migration. By April, when the marsh begins to thaw, look for long-tailed and ring-necked ducks. Listen for singing marsh wrens and watch for common yellowthroats. You'll also catch sight of California gulls bound for the Arctic.
Learn more about the area's intriguing wildlife along one of the walking trails - interpretive signs identify the species you'll discover en route.
The marsh and sanctuary is located on the west side of Highway 97 in the community of 100 Mile House, beside the Visitor Info Centre.
Scout Island Nature Centre
This nature centre is a prominent area for colourful migratory waterfowl and fascinating marsh birds. Enjoy exceptional viewing opportunities in spring and fall. Year-round, discover ospreys, bald eagles and black-capped chickadees. You'll also encounter many other species, including the yellow-headed blackbird, marsh wren, Brewer's blackbird, great blue heron, hooded merganser, as well as swallows, flycatchers, gulls, hummingbirds and songbirds. Sharing the local ecosystem are red foxes, mink, river otters, beavers and muskrats.
The Scout Island Nature Centre includes marsh and lake, grassland as well as small forest environments. Follow 2.5 km (1.5 mi) of trails for great wildlife viewing. The Nature House features natural history displays where you can study local ecosystems.
You'll find Scout Island at the west end of the community of Williams Lake - the island is connected to the mainland by a vehicle causeway.
Time to bait and catch fish.
Freshwater or saltwater, the fishing is famous in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast.
The Chilko River is one of North America's premier destinations for wild rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. Summer and fall, the Dean River attracts anglers from around the world for its steelhead and rainbow trout. Over one hundred fishing lakes are situated within an hour's drive along Highway 24, "The Fishing Highway." Quesnel Lake offers some of the finest trout fishing around.
Saltwater fishing is at its best on the pristine waterways of Hakai Pass. Known worldwide for trophy salmon fishing, here you'll find some of the biggest salmon on the BC coast. Surrounded by calm, protected waters, Shearwater is home to all five species of salmon. The chinook salmon here top 32 kg (70 lb) while coho reach up to 11 kg (25 lb). Halibut weigh in at up to 91 kg (200 lb).
The Chilko River is one of North America's premier destinations for wild rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. Also swimming in the crystal-clear waters are bull trout, mountain whitefish and sockeye salmon. Fast and calm waters, deep pools and long shelves make fishing this river an angler's dream. The best time to visit is from late August to early October. The Chilko River must be fished with a guide - advance booking is highly recommended as local resorts get very busy.
The Chilko River is a 3.5-hour drive southwest from Williams Lake. Head south at Tatla Lake from Highway 20.
Running wild until the beginning of fall, the Dean River's steelhead and rainbow trout attract worldwide interest. The Lower Dean River steelhead are some of the strongest of all steelhead stock - some reach 13.5 kg (30 lb). The best time to visit the Lower Dean is from June to September. The Upper Dean River is known for its native rainbow trout. Chinook salmon enter this river in June and July.
The Lower Dean River is accessible by air from Nimpo Lake and Hagensborg or by boat. The Upper Dean River is easily accessible by car. The river crosses Highway 20 between Nimpo and Anahim Lake. Good fishing spots are a short drive off the highway.
Dean River is a 3-4-hour drive west from Williams Lake, via Highway 20.
Highway 24, "The Fishing Highway"
With over a hundred lakes within an hour's drive from each other, "The Fishing Highway" is a popular stop for anglers. Highway 24 is the home of the famous Interlakes District, comprised of four main destination lakes: Fawn, Sheridan, Bridge and Lac Des Roches. Rainbow, lake and brook trout, kokanee as well as burbot are all popular catches in this area.
While you're there stay at a local resort or guest ranch. You can enjoy trail riding, hiking and even journey on horseback to fish the more secluded lakes.
Highway 24 runs between 93 Mile on Highway 97 and Little Fort on Highway 5.
With a depth of 610 m (2,000 ft), Quesnel Lake is one of the deepest glacially formed lakes on earth. The area - surrounded by small lakes, rivers and creeks and set amidst the Cariboo Mountains - offers some of the finest trout fishing anywhere.
The unique strain of rainbow trout found in Quesnel Lake can range up to 11 kg (25 lb); these are some of the hardest fighting fish on any line. Bull and lake trout as well as kokanee swim these waters, too. The Quesnel Lake system is also host to one of the province's largest sockeye salmon runs. The best times to fish are from May to June and from September to October. Visitors can stay in one of the area's resorts.
Quesnel Lake is a 90-minute drive northeast from Williams Lake, via Horsefly Road.
The pristine waterways of Hakai Pass are known worldwide for trophy salmon fishing. Here you'll find some of the biggest catches on the BC Coast. Huge runs of chinook, coho, sockeye, chum and pink salmon crowd through the Hakai Pass area. You can also drop a line for halibut, snapper and lingcod. The best time to visit is in July and August.
The wildlife viewing is just as good: Orca, humpback and grey whales, dolphins as well as eagles all make stops at Hakai Pass. You may even spot sea lions, seals, wolf and deer along the shore.
Resorts and floating lodges in the Hakai Pass area offer accommodations ranging from rustic to luxurious.
Hakai Pass runs through the Hakai Luxvbalis Conservancy Area, a group of small- to mid-sized islands on the Central Coast. Access is by air or by boat. Lodges/resorts often fly guests in from Vancouver. BC Ferries' Discovery Coast Passage route makes stops in the area and transportation can often be arranged from these points.
Shearwater has a reputation for attracting big fish. Surrounded by calm, protected waters, it is home to all five species of salmon. Chinook top 32 kg (70 lb) while coho reach up to 11 kg (25 lb). Abundant bottom fish in the area include lingcod, red snapper and rockfish.
The wildlife viewing is just as impressive, ranging from whales and dolphins to bears and wolves.
After a full day's fishing, you can unwind in one of the area's B&Bs or resorts or climb aboard a luxury yacht. Tackle and boat rentals are within easy access, while guided fishing tours are also available. For an unforgettable escape, book a helicopter fly-fishing trip. The best time to visit is from June to mid-September.
Shearwater is located on Denny Island along the Central Coast. Access is by air or by boat. Shearwater is also a stop on BC Ferries' Discovery Coast Passage Route.
Gardens & City Parks:
The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast offers a wonderful assortment of gardens and city parks. The lava beds are a must-see highlight of Centennial Park at 100 Mile House. Boitanio Park features manicured lawns and gentle trails in the heart of Williams Lake. In Quesnel, Ceal Tingley Park offers up colourful displays of flowers and the peaceful sway of Cottonwood trees, while LeBourdais Park is an ideal spot to enjoy lunch around the picnic tables, try out the children's playground and make a splash in the water spray park.
Stroll in the inviting, 12-ha (30-ac) Centennial park. Settle in for an afternoon on the banks of Bridge Creek or explore the park's many ambling trails. Take a leisurely walk upstream to view beautiful Bridge Creek Falls cascading over a face of ancient lava beds.
Centennial Park is located just east of downtown 100 Mile House.
Boitanio Park is a peaceful retreat in the heart of Williams Lake featuring manicured lawns, distinguished gardens, rolling hills and fir forests. Wind your way along the park's walking trails and don't miss the spectacular rose garden at the park's main entrance. Amenities include an outdoor theatre, playground area, picnic area and skateboard park.
Boitanio Park is located in downtown Williams Lake.
Ceal Tingley Park
Ceal Tingley Park is resplendent with lovely flower gardens, towering Cottonwood trees and evergreens. It is also the start of the Riverfront Trail walking system - a leisurely 5-km (3-mi) stroll along the original trail passes the Fraser River Footbridge, one of the only remaining original footbridges in BC. "Heritage Corner" across from the trail entrance features an historic water wheel and a period Hudson's Bay Company building from the 19th century.
Ceal Tingley Park is located in Quesnel.
In addition to its charming setting, LeBourdais Park offers many convenient facilities. Enjoy lunch around picnic tables, visit the children's playground and make a splash in the water spray park. A bandstand and little league baseball diamond are also nearby. While you're in the park, stop by the Quesnel Museum and the rose garden. There is also an onsite Visitor Info Centre.
LeBourdais Park is located in Quesnel.
Thousands of years in the making, the Cariboo's most spectacular viewpoints await your discovery. Visit stunning Chasm Provincial Park where, at the end of the last ice age, water from melting glaciers carved a great chasm some 600 m (1,970 ft) wide. And cut from the Chilcotin River don't miss Farwell Canyon, a natural treasure surrounded by ancient, pillar-like sandstone formations called hoodoos. Atop the Canyon, see one of the largest shifting sand dunes in Canada. And to top off your viewing experience, gaze across the pine forest and hoodoos of Pinnacles Provincial Park.
Chasm Provincial Park
Formed by volcanic activity and carved by ancient glacial meltwaters, the park's namesake chasm is approximately eight km (5 mi) long, 600 m (1,970 ft) wide and 300 m (985 ft) deep. It was created 10,000 years ago -at the end of the last ice age- when water from the melting glaciers carried so much silt that it carved a great abyss. Today, the area offers a brilliant display of red, brown, orange, pink and purple colours set in the steep, lava-layered canyon walls.
Some 3,067 ha (7,579 ac) protect the area's rich geological formations, including stands of ponderosa pine forest as well as diverse, low-elevation lakes and marshes. You can follow old roads on an informal hiking trail through the park's spectacular setting. Exercise caution: Chasm has many steep cliffs and fences are provided only near the parking area and lookout. Look for Bighorn Sheep along the canyon walls. Keep an eye out for Moose, Mule Deer, Black Bears and Coyotes as well.
Chasm is located about a 20-minute drive north from Clinton, off Highway 97.
Cut from the Chilcotin River and carved by time, Farwell Canyon provides an unforgettable experience. The canyon is surrounded by ancient, pillar-like sandstone formations called hoodoos. Look for ancient pictographs. Atop the canyon you'll view one of the largest shifting sand dunes in Canada - an awesome sight.
A 45-minute (each way) trail brings you to the sand dunes. Climb them for an amazing view of Farwell Canyon. Keep an eye out for prickly pear cactuses, which can make walking difficult; proper footwear is essential. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from blowing sand.
In spring, Bighorn Sheep are often seen roaming the area and, in fall, watch First Nations fishers climb the canyon walls to dip net for salmon.
Farwell Canyon is found off Highway 20 on Farwell Canyon Road, a one-hour drive southwest from Williams Lake.
Pinnacles Provincial Park
Pinnacles encompasses 128 ha (316 ac) of pine forest overlooking Baker Creek. From the Pinnacles viewpoint, you'll see a unique formation of hoodoos -ancient, pillar-like sandstone formations- as well as a top-of-the-world view of the city of Quesnel.
An easy one-km (0.6-mi) hike along a well-maintained trail brings you to the viewpoint. Plan on a 15-minute walk to reach it. The park is open year round for day use and sightseeing.
Pinnacles Provincial Park is a 15-minute drive west from Quesnel. The park can be accessed via Pinnacles Road, off Highway 97.