From Williams Lake to Bella Coola, this 8-day trip is an adventure that spans the heart of British Columbia. Enjoy the art of slow travel as you journey through the vast expanse of BC’s varied landscapes, where you’ll trade a cell signal for unforgettable encounters with nature, culture and wildlife.
Travel through ranch country and the scenic Chilcotin Plateau to experience Indigenous culture and partake in traditional ranching activities. Hike through inland deserts and fly by floatplane into the mountains to see towering waterfalls before immersing yourself in the amazing temperate rainforests of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and the fjord landscapes of the Bella Coola inlet.
Day 1: Williams Lake to Xat’sull Heritage Village and Riske Creek
Our journey begins in Williams Lake in the Central Interior of BC. This city became an important hub during the Cariboo Gold Rush era, and is now famous for its rodeo – the second largest in Canada after the Calgary Stampede. We start the day with an optional tour of the local museum to get acquainted with the area’s history, before heading north to Soda Creek to visit the Xat’sull First Nations Heritage Village (pronounced ‘hat-sull’). This unique village was built on the banks of the Fraser River, at the junction of three First Nations territories that have long been the meeting place for Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. We join a guided tour of the historic village to hear stories from the Indigenous elders on the history of the land, the significance of the geology, and the traditional Shuswap lifestyle.
Back on the road, we head westward from Williams Lake to join HWY 20 (The Chilcotin Highway), gaining elevation as we reach the vast Chilcotin Plateau. Note: from this point, there is no cell service again until we reach Bella Coola. We are welcomed into a historic family-run B&B in the ranching community of Riske Creek, where our friendly hosts serve up drinks and a home-cooked dinner on the deck. The pace of life is slower here – take your time settling in while enjoying the expansive views offered on this desert-like plateau.
Day 2: Farwell Canyon
Today we visit Farwell Canyon, a picturesque valley carved from the winding Chilcotin River. The canyon is bordered by Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, home to more than 500 free-roaming bighorn sheep. We are deep among the desert here, surrounded by grasslands, sagebrush, cacti, and steep sandstone cliffs with sand dunes at their peak. There is an optional hike to the top of the canyon to trek across the dunes – a surreal experience in the Canadian wilderness. A picnic lunch is provided while we explore the canyon and surrounding trails. Mid-afternoon we return to our B&B with free time to relax on the property, enjoy a game of pool, or take a walk among the horses.
Day 3: Redstone and Kleena Kleene
We continue our road trip westward on HWY 20, stopping at scenic lookouts along the way including Bull Canyon Provincial Park for a light walk. On this rural stretch of road lies an award-winning pasture-to-plate experience where we break for lunch. This hidden gem features a beautiful timber building and a peaceful patio overlooking their well-manicured grounds. The menu offers wholesome food made from scratch, including meats that are raised and harvested at the ranch and eggs collected by hand from their hens.
We finish our travels today at a classic Canadian guest ranch on Clearwater Lake, our home base for the next three nights. Our hosts provide a welcome snack and tour of the ranch grounds including their expansive horse pastures. After settling into your cozy lodge room, enjoy a delicious long-table dinner with the other ranch guests and staff.
Day 4: Guest Ranch Experience
Time to immerse in the ranch culture and embrace the slower pace of life in the West Chilcotin. After a hearty breakfast with our hosts and other guests, we set off for a morning horseback ride. Experienced wranglers will teach the basics of western riding and then lead us on a scenic ride through the surrounding forest and pastures. After lunch we join Christoph, the ranch owner, for an exhilarating side-by-side ride up to a scenic lookout over the plateau. The rest of the afternoon is free to enjoy as you wish, with no shortage of activities including hiking, fishing, canoeing, or simply relaxing on the deck with a good book. Grab a beverage and join the guests by the bonfire before another delicious dinner.
Day 5: Float plane to Hunlen Falls
A true backcountry adventure awaits us today as we board a small float plane and set off for the mountains. Our pilot steers us up over the Coast Mountain range where we’ll soar past alpine lakes and glaciers into the Monarch Icefield. Hanging high above the valley is Turner Lake – our destination for the day – which feeds Canada’s third highest free-falling waterfall, the beautiful Hunlen Falls. Our pilot drops us off at the wilderness campground where the park ranger becomes our guide for the day. We spend time wandering the rugged trails along the lake and learning about the local ecosystems including the impacts from recent wildfires.
The trails bring us to various lookouts of Hunlen Falls to watch as it plunges over 400 metres into the valley below. Here we are treated to spectacular views of the surrounding mountain peaks and the vast landscapes of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. Our packed lunch can be enjoyed overlooking the falls, or back at the campground by the lake. By mid-afternoon our pilot returns to bring us back to the ranch, with the flight including a fly-by of the incredible Rainbow Mountains with their vivid colours of volcanic rock. Our final evening at the ranch is free to relax, take a dip in the lake, and digest the adventures of the day.
Day 6: Journey to Bella Coola
Our road trip across the Chilcotin Plateau reaches its end today as we make our descent into the Bella Coola valley. It’s a leisurely drive meandering the renowned “Hill” road, taking in the mountain views and landscapes as they change from desert to rainforest. At the valley bottom we are now in the midst of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, BC’s largest designated park spanning nearly 2.5 million acres. After a few scenic stops to take in the surrounding mountains, we arrive in Bella Coola for a picnic lunch by the ocean. In the afternoon we join a local Indigenous guide from the Nuxalk Nation for a journey through the sacred Thorsen Creek forest to witness an impressive collection of petroglyphs. Our guide shares stories of the region, childhood in Bella Coola, and treats us to traditional drumming and singing that echoes through the trees. The day concludes at a quaint lodge just outside of town, with its expansive grounds and epic mountain views. A private catered dinner is provided each night at the lodge.
Day 7: Grizzly Bear Viewing in Bella Coola
The Bella Coola valley is known for its grizzly bear population, and today we set off in search of these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. In the hands of professional bear viewing guides, we board our comfortable expedition raft for a gentle float down the
Atnarko River in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park – a classic adventure tour in Bella Coola. At river-level, we have the chance to safely view the grizzlies as they feed and fish for salmon on the river’s edge. The slow pace of travel allows for great photo opportunities without disturbing the animal’s natural behaviour, while our guides share knowledge on the complex valley ecosystem. Returning to dry land, there is free time in the afternoon to visit the designated bear viewing platform, hike the nearby trails, or relax back at the lodge.
Day 8: Glacial Fjords Adventure
Today we journey from the Bella Coola valley into the glacial fjords of the Great Bear Rainforest, travelling over 50 nautical miles of remote marine wilderness. Onboard our 42-ft vessel, expert skippers share their local knowledge as they lead us past hanging glaciers and stunning mountain peaks, to sandy beaches and hidden coves, and by historical settlements and First Nations pictographs. Visiting a tidal estuary, we have the chance to see grizzlies, black bears, and wolves; while out on the water we keep an eye for seals, dolphins, humpback and killer whales. A highlight of the day is our stop at a natural mineral hot spring nestled into the rocks on the ocean shore, where we can enjoy a soak in the crystal clear waters. Be sure to take a moment to tap into your senses and reflect on the beauty of this experience, deep among the BC wilderness.
For our final night, a special catered dinner is provided at our lodge – a chance to share highlights of the trip
and celebrate this grand adventure.
Day 9: Return to Vancouver
After a leisurely breakfast at the lodge, we venture into the forest for a light hike among the giant cedar trees. Your guides will then provide transfer to the Bella Coola airport where we part ways and embark on our journeys home.
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