British Columbia’s Highway 20 is the one on the map in grey that’s described in the atlas as Other paved road; Unpaved Road.
Bring it on is what I say. Those are the roads where the traffic is almost nonexistent and the communities along the way are delighted to see a tourist.
And where the only thing you have to stop for on the road is a horse or a cow – never a stop light.
Highway 20 takes you from Williams Lake in the South Cariboo over the Chilcotin Plateau to Bella Coola on the coast of British Columbia. Along the way there is only a smattering of small communities but plenty of places worth stopping.
Here are 20 things you can do and see along Highway 20 starting in Williams Lake.
- Check out the Fraser River – by car or via Jetboat. The river starts at Mount Robson and 860 miles later empties into the Strait of Georgia.
- Take a short detour and visit Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park – and in particular Farwell Canyon. There’s a hiking trail that leads to the top of the hoodoos and if you’re lucky you might spot a herd of Big Horn Sheep.
- Raft the Chilcotin River as it races through Farwell Canyon.
- Go fishing for rainbow trout in one of the lakes that dot the Chilcotin Plateau – Eagle Lake, Puntzi Lake and Tatlayoko Lake as examples.
- Go grizzly bear watching during the salmon run. You can do this around Chilko Lake, out of Bella Coola or by drifting in a boat along the Atnarko River. And the start of the season is just days away.
- Hike into the Rainbow Range in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. The 16 kilometer hike was one of my best one day hikes EVER.
- Take a pack horse trip into the Rainbow or Chilcotin Mountains.
- Stop for a piece of pie and a look at the murals on the walls and ceiling at Lee’s Corner in Hanceville.
- Stop in Anahim Lake and arrange a floatplane tour over Hunlen Falls.
- Better yet, plan a multi day canoe trip on the Turner Lake circuit. You can hike in off of Highway 20 though that’s a slog or you can get dropped off and rent canoes on Turner Lake.
- Pay your respects at the Native Cemetery on the south side of the highway near Redstone.
- Head for Charlotte Lake, just 20 kilometers off the highway and relax for a few days at the Atnarko Retreat. Read, bird-watch, fish, kayak and swim or do nothing at all.
- Drive Highway 20 all the way down to Bella Coola. That would include the eleven kilometers of steep, winding, dirt road with serious drop offs.
- Walk the Eagle’s Nest Marsh Trail on the southwest side of Anahim Lake. Look out for the bald eagles, white pelicans, trumpeter swans, ospreys and great grey and horned owls.
- Head to Nimpo Lake, a major float plane center, to arrange a fishing trip to remote areas like the Dean and Blackwater Rivers.
- In Bella Coola area choose from a variety of hikes including Schoolhouse Mountain Falls, Snootli Creek Regional Park and the trails to Blue Jay Lake and McGurr Lake in the high alpine.
- Drive the streets of Bella Coola and admire the native art – totems on front lawns and murals on the grocery store.
- Head to Clayton Falls Park just past the ferry terminal in Bella Coola. Take a picnic lunch and watch the world go by. And take a few minutes to check out Clayton Falls too.
- Look for the petroglyphs at Thorsen Creek in Bella Coola. Hundreds have fallen from a cliff face and lie strewn in the forest. The site is estimated to be 3500 years old. You can arrange for a tour with Nuxalk guides.
Photo credit: Rainbow trout