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20 Things to Do Along Highway 20 in British Columbia

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.

"You have to stop for horses on the road"

You have to stop for horses on the road

"Bull beside the highway"

Bull beside the highway

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.
"Bridge over the Fraser River"

Bridge over the Fraser River

  • 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.
"The Chilcotin River in Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park"

The Chilcotin River in Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park

  • 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.
"Rainbow trout"

Rainbow trout

"Wildflowers and colourful mountains in the Rainbow Range"

Wildflowers and colourful mountains in the Rainbow Range

  • 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.
"Mural on the wall in Lee's Corner"

Mural on the wall in Lee’s Corner

  • Stop in Anahim Lake and arrange a floatplane tour over Hunlen Falls.
"Hunlen Falls and Taylor Lake"

Hunlen Falls and Taylor Lake

  • 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.
"Native cemetery"

Native cemetery

  • Head for Charlotte Lake, just 20 kilometres 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.
"View from your bed at Atnarko Retreat"

View from your bed at Atnarko Retreat

  •  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.
"The nasty part of Highway 20 to Bella Coola"

The nasty part of Highway 20 to Bella Coola

  • 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.
"Bald eagle with fish"

Bald eagle with fish

  • 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.
"Totem pole in front of private home"

Totem pole in front of private home in Bella Coola

"Native art on the grocery store"

Native art on the wall of 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.
"The view from Clayton Falls Park"

The view from Clayton Falls Park

  • 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 3,500 years old. You can arrange for a tour with Nuxalk guides.

What else would you suggest doing along Highway 20? 

Leigh McAdam

Photo credit: Rainbow trout

Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure – & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project – a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

More posts by Leigh

Join the discussion 44 Comments

  • Jeannie says:

    Wow, Rainbow Range and Junction Sheep Range are awe-inspiring! Such gorgeous photos that really make me want to explore places I’d never even considered!

  • Jeannie says:

    Wow, Rainbow Range and Junction Sheep Range are awe-inspiring! Such gorgeous photos that really make me want to explore places I’d never even considered!

  • Jackie Smith says:

    We’ll difinitely be referring to this series of posts — this one in particular — before we head north again. Thanks for great tips and photo inspirations.

  • Jackie Smith says:

    We’ll difinitely be referring to this series of posts — this one in particular — before we head north again. Thanks for great tips and photo inspirations.

  • That ‘other/unpaved road’ looks great to me. Man, the views alone are worth the trip! How spectacular, Leigh.
    That Native Cemetery looks very compact.

  • That ‘other/unpaved road’ looks great to me. Man, the views alone are worth the trip! How spectacular, Leigh.
    That Native Cemetery looks very compact.

  • Barry says:

    Outstanding post, Leigh. The great diversity of photographic subject is testament to the nature of Canada’s natural wonders in the west. Soon I will spend a few days exploring the east. Thanks for sharing this post. I thoroughly enjoyed the photographs and look forward to visiting these attractions.

  • Barry says:

    Outstanding post, Leigh. The great diversity of photographic subject is testament to the nature of Canada’s natural wonders in the west. Soon I will spend a few days exploring the east. Thanks for sharing this post. I thoroughly enjoyed the photographs and look forward to visiting these attractions.

  • Donna Hull says:

    You’ve inspired us, Leigh! Next August when the Bitterroot Valley fills with smoke, we’re thinking about escaping on a road trip to explore Highway 20 from Williams Lake to Bella Coola.

  • Ayelet - All Colores says:

    I want to spend at least a week on this highway…. in the season that’ll enable me to watch the bears :) I don’t suppose there’s a way of exploring it with public transportation?

  • Ayelet - All Colores says:

    I want to spend at least a week on this highway…. in the season that’ll enable me to watch the bears :) I don’t suppose there’s a way of exploring it with public transportation?

  • Jane says:

    Outstanding post with stunning photos, Leigh and I’ll refer to it on the blog again if you don’t mind. (http://www.resortsbc.com/Wilderness-Adventures.html) It’s wonderful of you to write about our area. You do an awesome job! Just to let Ayelet know, there is no public transportation in our area, however, many of the accommodations operators including myself are often delighted to take visitors around to different attractions in their area.

    Thanks again, Leigh!

    Jane

  • Geoff Moore says:

    I recommend that you drop in at the new Kinikinik store and restaurant in Redstone BC

  • Gailene says:

    Every August long weekend, Nemiah Valley has its annual rodeo and mountain race, the trip out to Nemiah is beautiful, takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours from Williams Lake … about an hour on hwy 20 then left at Hanceville onto the Taseko Lake Road.

    Nemiah also has an annual horse and wagon trip from Nemiah Valley to Williams Lake for the Annual Williams Lake Stampede, that in itself is a 8 day trip on horse and wagon.

    Redstone has an annual rodeo and mountain race, usually 3rd weekend in August..thats about an hour and a half on hwy 20 from Williams Lake

    Anahim Lake’s annual rodeo is usually the first weekend in August…hometown of Montreal Canadiens Carey Price :)

  • Maple Ridge Mom says:

    We have been at the Woodland Caribou Resort on Puntzi Lake. We went last year in June and this year we have been 4 times! Wonderful, afordable spot and central to travel for day trips along Hwy 20.

  • Alana says:

    Stunning photography. Thank you so much for the photos. I now realize why my nursing buddy, Barb from AB just loves the caribou and the Bella Coola area.

  • Riske Creek Ranching Ltd. says:

    Lovely pictures and the Chilcotin is truely a beautiful place. BUT – FYI – there are NO PUBLIC TRAILS OR PUBLIC BIKE TRAILS on the Hwy 20 side of the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon. It is private property! The Dunes are Private Property. The Kiosk is also on private property. It was put there (by the Ministry of Environment with permission) for the purpose of information regarding the surrounding area and the Junction Sheep Range.. The road through to the Junction Sheep Range is gazetted, but it goes through private property. The Junction Sheep Range is well off the main road and is mostly for a vehicle with high clearance. You can cross the Chilcotin River brige and view the Dunes from the viewing site just above the Bridge.

  • jim robertson says:

    wow

  • Andrew says:

    Wonderful scenery, beautifully shown here. Would love to see it all for myself one day.

  • deborah kannegesser says:

    Pioneer Trail above Bluff Lake out of Tatla Lake offers a spectacular 40 minute circle hike with views of coast mountains and ends with a walk along the lake which is great for a swim or fish.

  • Stan Popplestone says:

    Can you get in to lonesome lake by car?

  • AuntieO says:

    I’d like to suggest Tatla Lake Manor. The bright orange motel on the side of highway 20 in Tatla Lake! You won’t find nicer hosts, or more comfortable home like accommodations. If you are into geocaching you need to make the trek up to the Tatla Lake Manor, there are hundreds hidden along the way. Let them know ahead of time if you will need meals, or request a room with a kitchen and bring your own food! Perfect cheap vacation if you have kids and want something fun and affordable! Rooms are well under $100 a night and are always super clean and comfortable. LGBTQ friendly (they even have a rainbow sticker in the window!)

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