Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.
25 Best Small Towns In BC To Visit
How many times have you driven through small towns in BC on your way to ‘somewhere’, only to find out later that you missed something interesting or special? That sure can be disappointing, especially if you’re unlikely to visit that area again. Hopefully, my collection of small towns in BC will get you to stop next time you drive through one of the towns.
I’m on the road a lot in my home province of British Columbia and I have visited many more small towns in BC than the ones mentioned here. This made it a real challenge to choose the most unique small towns in British Columbia to add to my list.
Here you have it, my selection of 25 unique small towns in BC to visit with a short overview and reasons why you should visit them.
Many other small towns in British Columbia are worth a visit. Some are located close to the ones I mentioned. Don’t miss out, stop at all places along the way and you will be surprised by what you will find.
In this selection, I included mostly small towns in British Columbia that are not on the official tourist routes. Some of the places will be out of the way. Please do your research and be prepared before heading out. Read more: Road Trip Planner for the Wilderness
Unique Small Towns In BC
Facts About Small Towns In British Columbia
Table of Contents
- Unique Small Towns In BC
- 25 Unique Small Towns In BC To Visit
- Small Towns To Visit in Northern British Columbia
- Related Links
British Columbia is the third largest and most westerly province in Canada. It is larger than France and Germany combined, or almost four times the size of Great Britain. The length of BC’s coastline is over 27,000 km.
That of course means that the 25 small towns to visit in BC can’t be achieved during a two-week vacation. Start with getting to know one region at a time and you will discover many unique towns you never knew existed.
25 Unique Small Towns In BC To Visit
1. Lumby BC
Lumby was my hometown for twenty-plus years and deserves to be the first one on my list. This unique small country town was a Canadian adventure destination for many, while I operated Silver Spur Trails Wilderness Guest Ranch in the Mabel Lake Valley.
Lumby is the getaway to the Monashee and the region is a hiker’s paradise with over 100 nearby trails. The many lakes invite you to fish, swim and enjoy watersports. It is easy to spot wildlife in the surrounding backcountry.
Don’t just rush through this unique BC town. A drive out to Mabel Lake Provincial Park and Echo Lake is a must to get a taste of what this special place is all about. What about wilderness camping at one of the forestry campgrounds for a night?
Read more: Lumby BC, North Okanagan
Lumby Bucket List:
- Follow the Salmon Trail for a leisurely, scenic stroll through Lumby.
- Venture to Monashee Provincial Park for serious hiking trails with awe-inspiring views and pristine lakes.
- Chasing Waterfalls at Shuswap Falls, Brenda Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Cascade Falls.
- Visit Mabel Lake Provincial Park for sandy beaches, watersports, hiking, and camping.
- Head to Echo Lake Provincial Park, an idyllic small lake perfect for a canoe or kayak.
Silverton, a tiny gem on the east shore of Slogan lake, 5 km south of New Denver is a great small town in BC for a relaxing break. The area was first settled in 1892 by the arrival of lead and silver miners working the south face of Idaho Mountain.
With a population of nearly 195 people, Silverton is British Columbia’s second smallest municipality. As you can guess it’s hard to get lost in this little town! Silverton has a lakeshore campground with a boat launch if you decide to spend a night.
Read more: Backcountry Camping
Bucket List Silverton:
- Have a stroll around town and enjoy the beautiful heritage buildings.
- Stop at Silverton Day Park overlooking the lake.
- Camp for the night at the Lakeshore Campground.
3. New Denver
The small BC town of Denver, and other surrounding communities, are where hundreds of Canadians of Japanese heritage were brought during the Second World War. The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver is the only interpretive centre in Canada dedicated to the history of this tragic story.
New Denver had a number of abandoned houses from the boom times, but many more small dwellings were built to house the 2,000 men, women, and children of Japanese origins. Some of these tiny houses still exist today.
Read more: West-Kootenay Route
Bucket List New Denver:
- Visit the Silvery Slogan Museum.
- Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, tells the sad story of over 22,000 Japanese Canadians.
- Kohan Reflection Garden is a Japanese-type garden with a beautiful tea house.
- Take a walk or cycle the 8 km Galena Trail, an old railway bed that extends from Rosebery to Three Forks.
- Wilson Creek Falls, a short easy hike leading to a beautiful 100+ foot waterfall.
Don’t miss out on a detour to Sandon, one of the best small towns to visit in BC.
If you’re a history buff, interested in abandoned buildings and old artifacts, old the ghost town of Sandon in British Columbia has to be on your bucket list. There was a time when Sandon was a thriving mining community. But when the silver ran out, it quickly lost its fame. After a fire in the early 1900s and later followed by two major floods, much of the town was burned down and washed away.
Today, less than a handful of people live permanently in Sandon. It’s free to walk around and visit the fire hall, the old abandoned busses, and abandoned buildings and tour the operational hydroelectric station.
Meet Vida and Hal and get inspired by their story and how they fight and work hard to keep the town alive. Sanden is located a short drive from New Denver.
Read more: West-Kootenay Route
Bucket List Sandon:
- Rent a campsite right on the river and stay for the night.
- Experience the ghost town at night when the reflections of ghosts dance along the walls of the old City Hall.
- In the morning have breakfast at 14th Mountain Bistro.
- Drop in at Prospector’s Pick Gift Shop.
- Take a tour of Silversmith Power Hydroelectric Power Station.
- Check out the Canadian Brill Trolley National Collection.
- Visit the museum, operated by the Sandon History Society.
- Take a drive to Cody, another ghost town just up the road.
Salmo, another beautiful small town in BC to visit was originally just a whistle-stop on the historic Nelson/Fort Shepherd Railway. At the turn of the last century, it became a centre for supplies and entertainment for prospectors, miners, and loggers.
Today Salmo is a quaint town at the junction of two highways. Fishing and swimming holes are there to be discovered along the picturesque Salmo River. It’s a playground for outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, and BMXing at the ski hill. There is also the 48 km stretch of the old railway line that connects Nelson, Ymir, and Salmo.
Read more: West-Kootenay Route
Bucket List Salmo:
- Visit the Salmo Museum for mining artifacts and historic information on the Dewdney Trail.
- Take a stroll around town and look out for the rock murals.
- Use the pedestrian bridge across Salmon River and head to Springboard Park.
- Go on a strenuous 3 km hike to the Delaurentis Bluffs Lookout.
- Take Sheep Creek Road 8 km south of town which takes you to the Sheep Creek Mines, an abandoned gold mining town.
If you dwell on the image of a romantic Canadian town, you should definitely visit Greenwood BC. Greenwood is a historic small town with approximately 675 residents and is located in the Boundary region of British Columbia. It is Canada’s official smallest city (and yes, there is Keno City in the Yukon, but that one is unofficial). Greenwood’s history goes back to 1891 with the discovery of gold, silver, and copper.
Today, Greenwood is a great destination for history buffs. Greenwood is the gateway to the Great Trail and has a large trail network to offer for any skill level. A visit to the museum is a must. Pick up pamphlets and maps of the area.
Read more: Boundary Travel Guide
Bucket List Greenwood:
- Stop in at the Greenwood Museum.
- Take a self-guided Heritage Walking Tour through the downtown core.
- A guided tour of the Courthouse located at city hall is a must.
- Visit the old Phoenix Cemetery on the road to Phoenix, about 7 km from Greenwood.
Oliver is another one of British Columbia’s hidden gems. The town is known as Canada’s Wine Capital and therefore is the place to go for wine tasting. On top of that, the town is rich in culture and has excellent cuisine. You can trust my word, as it was my home for a couple of years.
Oliver is close to Osoyoos BC and less touristy. Here you are close to lakes and many hiking and biking trails.
Read more: Oliver BC – Outdoor Travel Guide
Bucket List Oliver:
- Check out Oliver’s Movie Theatre on Main Street, the best little Theatre far and wide.
- Visit the Museum and look into local history.
- Walk or bike along the Okanagan River Canal.
- Camp at one of the nearby Lakes.
- Stop at the local wineries.
- Stock up on fresh produce at the many fruit stands.
- Visit Fairview Historic Site.
Famous for gold since its first discovery in 1897, Headley was once a thriving mining boomtown during the 1900s.
Numerous Historic Sites and buildings let you peek into the past. You can reach them by car or foot, including a 1904 miner’s cottage, a Historic Log Barn, the Blacksmith Shop, as well as the Mascot Mine buildings. Take a stroll through small town Hedley’s Historic Cemetery to get an idea of who lived in these buildings. Maps are available at the museum.
Bucket List Headly:
- Learn about the mining history at the Headley Museum.
- Pan for gold at the Hedley Heritage Museum.
- Check out Hedley’s Historic Sites.
- Tour the historic Mascot Mine high above Hedley.
Coalmont was a coal mining town established in 1910 and the Historic Colemont Hotel still stands today. Driving into town is like stepping back in time. Old buildings from historic times are lining the main street. Nearby you will find the gold-mining ghost town of Granite City and the ghost town of Blakeburn. The Forestry Campground at Granite City is a great place to use as a base to explore this interesting place.
Bucket List Coalmont and Granite Creek:
- Stop at the entrance of the town and check out the unique welcome signs and town information.
- Walk along the main street and admire the old buildings.
- Drive to Granite Creek, known as Granite City by locals.
- Camp at Granite Creek Recreation Site.
- At Granite Creek, visit the old ghost town and follow the interpretive signs.
- Walk up to the old cemetery on the hill.
- Cool off in the Tulameen River.
Tulameen is a beautiful hidden gem to visit in British Columbia. Located on the southern end of Otter Lake on Coalmont Road past the village of Coalmont it is heaven for outdoor enthusiasts.
You can access the Trans Canada Trail from here as well as several other trails with various levels of difficulty and terrain. There are more than forty good trout fishing lakes in the area, as well as the Similkameen and Tulameen rivers.
Tulameen has an excellent public beachfront and boat launch.
Otter Lake Provincial Park is 5 km north of Tulameen and is a great place to camp. The Cascade Mountain Range surrounds the park and includes awesome canyons and clear mountain streams.
Bucket List Tulameen:
- Cycle along the Great Trai (Trans Canada Trail.
- Hike the many scenic trails in the area.
- Camp at Otter Lake and enjoy the beach.
- Try gold panning at the Tulameen River.
- Hike the Rice Historic Trail, a 4 km return trip.
- Visit Tulameen Falls, 30 km on the Tulameen FSR.
Before Merritt was known as the Country Music Capital of Canada, locals used to rave about the beautiful Nicola Valley with their slogan “a lake a day, as long as you stay”. Once you spend a day at one of the many lakes in Nicola valley, you will know why the old slogan is still true.
Merritt is rich with Country Music Legend Murals and Walk of Star handprints throughout town. Country music inspires the country lifestyle, and with the huge surrounding ranch land, you know that you’re in Cowboy Country.
Once you start exploring the area around Merritt, you don’t want to leave.
Read more: BC Road trip Merritt to Kamloops Highway 5A
Bucket List Merritt:
- Visit the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
- Walk the walk of Merritt Walk of Stars and the Country Legends Murals.
- Spend time at Nicola Valley Museum and Archives.
- Spend a day at Monck Provincial Park.
- Camp at Lundbom Lake.
- Kentucky Alleyne Provincial Park is another great place for overnight camping.
Lillooet was founded as Mile 0 on the wagon road leading to the Cariboo and Barkerville gold fields and was the centre of the gold rush during the mid-1800s.
Today, a cairn sits on Main Street marking “Mile 0” of the historic trail. Formerly known as Cayoosh Canyon, Lillooet is one of the oldest communities in British Columbia.
This small BC town is surrounded by rugged mountain peaks with lakes, desert country, and the mighty Fraser River making this a unique place.
Bridge of the Twenty-Three Camels is the official name of the highway bridge crossing the Fraser River. Camels were introduced to the area in 1862 as fright animals. Unfortunately, the camel era didn’t last long and today the bridge honours their memory.
There is so much to see and do in this historic old town in BC. With all the camp and accommodation options you might as well stay for at least a night.
Read more: Guaranteed Rugged Rail Journey
Lillooet Bucket List:
- Visit Lillooet Museum and Visitor Centre, situated in a former Anglican church.
- Pick up a self-guided walking tour map for the Golden Miles History walking tour.
- Walk the “Jade Walk” downtown showcasing an impressive variety of jade boulders.
- Visit the Miyazaki Heritage House, known as the most beautiful house in Lillooet.
- Book a tour to visit historical fishing grounds and learn how salmon was dried.
- Stop in at the Fort Berens Estate Winery.
- Hop on the Kaoham Shuttle, the train that runs between Lillooet and Seton Portage.
Clinton is a charming small town on the Cariboo Highway with western-type heritage buildings, a beautiful little church, and antique shops to wander around in. Explore nearby provincial parks or stay at one of the guest ranches for a horseback riding adventure.
Clinton and its surrounding area have a rich history full of stories and changes. Settlement occurred in the mid-1800s with the discovery of gold and the development of the Cariboo wagon road.
Bucket List Clinton:
- Visit the Clinton Museum.
- Stroll around town and hunt for some treasures at one of the antique stores.
- Detour to the famous Gang Ranch, 45 km north of Clinton, one of the largest ranches in North America for many years.
- Stay at one of the nearby guest ranches and ride the range.
- Visit Painted Chasm, 15 km north of Clinton.
Read the books to learn about the Gang Ranch:
Likely is a small rural community in the Cariboo Region, nestled in the foothills of the Cariboo Mountains. This area played an important role during the Cariboo Gold Rush of 1859. The region used to be so rich in gold that it was known as the Nugget Patch.
Today Likely is a friendly small rural town with a population of around 350 people.
In the surrounding areas of this small town in BC, you will find many crystal-clear lakes and rivers. It’s heaven for recreational activities and backcountry camping.
Likely is the gateway to the Cariboo Mountains and a unique small town in BC you don’t want to miss. The “Backroad through Barkerville” is a wilderness scenic trip that allows you to travel through sub-alpine meadows and view thundering waterfalls.
The small town of Likely is not on any tourist route and is a bit out of the way. Of course, this makes it even more appealing to visit and explore.
Read more: Camping at the Ghost Town of Quesnel Forks
Bucket List Likely:
- Stop at the scenic Cedar Point Park.
- Check out the largest man-made bullion pit in North America
- Take a side trip to Quesnel Forks.
- Visit Horsefly Provincial park and camp.
- Drive the back road through the Cariboo Mountains.
Billy Barker’s legendary gold strike on Williams Creek in 1862 brought fortune seekers from around the world into the remote wilderness.
Today Barkerville Historic Town is a Canadian National Historic Site and British Columbia’s best-known heritage destination. 125 restored buildings are on display with knowledgeable historic interpreters guiding you through Barkerville’s rich history. The town is full of activities, interactive lessons, storytelling, theatrical performances, gold panning, stagecoach rides, and more!
- Historic Barkerville
- Barkerville Highway 26 Travel Guide
- Wilderness Road Trip through the Cariboo Mountains
Bucket List Barkerville:
- Enjoy a show at Theatre Royal.
- Take a horse-drawn stagecoach tour of the town.
- Live a true Gold Rush experience, at the Eldorado Gold Panning.
- Go for a walk on the historic Williams Creek Nature Trail.
The mountain town of Wells in British Columbia was built when the promise of more gold attracted new gold seekers in 1927 with the population reaching over 4000 people in the 1940s.
With fewer than 300 year-round residents in Wells today, the small community of Wells has become the home for artists and outdoor enthusiasts. Many of the heritage buildings have been restored, including the Wells Hotel and the Sunset Theatre, where you can enjoy live music, live theatre, and concerts all through the summer.
Bucket List Wells:
- Visit the Wells Museum to take a step back to the glory days.
- Explore the remains of the ghost town of Stanley 13 km west of Wells.
- Jack O’ Clubs Lake is a great place to canoe, swim, sail, or fish.
16. Fort St. James
Fort St. James is located on the shores of Stuart Lake, and it is the gateway to recreation in the great northern backcountry. Here you will find a welcoming community where you can relax on the beach, and enjoy some of the most beautiful sunsets around.
Only at Fort St. James, British Columbia – a chicken race you can bet on. What a blast! And what a crowd! You heard right, Fort St. James has WORLD CLASS Chicken Racing – Place your bets and win Chicken Bucks!
Bucket List Fort St. James:
- Enjoy Fort St. James National Historic Site.
- Make a bet in a Chicken race.
- This is the place to be if you’re a rock hound! Stoll the beach for semi-precious stones.
- Check out Cottonwood Park.
- Visit Our Lady of Good Hope Church.
18. Bella Coola
Chilcotin Highway 20 from Williams Lake runs 465 km to Bella Coola, a small wilderness town in a fantastic setting. You will be in for a surprise when you leave the Chilcotin plateau and get to the bottom of the notorious Hill, a windy and steep stretch of gravel road.
There is plenty to see and do in the Bella Coola. Bella Coola’s wildlife sights are some of the best in British Columbia. From Bear Viewing to Bird Watching, Bella Coola’s Wildlife will amaze you. It’s like a vast, wilderness viewing stage.
The lush meadows, dense forests, and high mountain ranges are home to grizzly and black bears, blacktail deer, wolves, cougars, and mountain goats.
Learn about Bella Coola Valley’s rich history while you’re in town and get a real feel for this spiritual place.
Read more: The Road to Bella Coola
Bucket List Bella Coola:
- Learn about the varied history of the valley at the Bella Coola Museum.
- Visit Clayton Falls.
- Hire a guide to see the Petroglyphs.
- Book a wildlife viewing tour.
- Check out the Art House Gallery.
- Visit the Norwegian Heritage House in Hagenborg.
Small Towns To Visit in Northern British Columbia
The frontier spirit lives on in Hazelton. The restored heritage buildings of the “Old Town” serve as a reminder of the days when Hazelton was the commercial centre of the Northwest wilderness.
From 1886 to 1913, Hazelton was the upriver terminus for a fleet of sternwheelers when the Skeena River was the transportation route for people and goods.
Today, Old Hazelton is a reconstructed pioneer town complete with a Trading Post, Barber Shop, Cafe, and City Hall buildings plus a sternwheeler on display on the Skeena River. The region is a great destination for remote wilderness activities and camping and First Nation Culture.
Read more: Hazelton BC – a journey through time
Bucket List Hazelton:
- Park your car and walk across Hagwilget Canyon Bridge
- Spend time at Ksan Historical Village and Museum, walk through longhouses and learn the history.
- Visit Ross Lake Provincial Park and take the trail around the lake.
- Kitwanga, a side trip from Hazelton to see outstanding carved cedar poles and St. Paul’s Anglican Church, built in 1893. It is also the site of Gitwangak Battle Hill National Historic Site of Canada.
20. Prince Rupert
Another end-of-the-road small town you don’t want to miss, is Prince Rupert, a colourful coastal town on British Columbia’s wild and beautiful Northwest Coast. Here is where you can board a ship to Alaska, Vancouver Island, or Haida Gwaii if you have a reservation or stick around for a few days.
To stick around was my plan, but after two days of pouring rain, I gave up and left. On a sunny day, this harbour town would be a jewel to explore. Check the weather forecast before driving all this way.
Plan your trip with The Milepost Road Planner
Bucket List Prince Ruppert:
- Take a stroll along the waterfront District of Cow Bay.
- Watch out for the totem poles around town and murals.
- Visit Sunken Gardens Park, a local treasure.
- For an easy hike, head down Rushbrook Trail.
- Butze Rapids Trail is a 4.5 km loop starting 3 km south of town.
- Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary is home to more than 50 of the giants.
- Spend some time in the Northern Museum of BC
- Visit Historic North Pacific Cannery, located in Port Edward, just a short drive from Prince Rupert.
Gitwinksihlkw is one of the four villages on the Nisga’a Highway 113. From Terrace, BC Nisga’a Highway takes you through the Nass Valley on an amazing 170 km drive.
This off-the-beaten-track highway is not mentioned in any of my travel books. You will pass First Nations settlements along rivers and mountains and through a volcanic landscape. I can’t even imagine!
For years, the community of Gitwinksihlkw was accessible only by suspension footbridge. Today, a modern vehicle bridge provides direct access. Watch out for the four totem poles flanking the bridge.
Bucket List Gitwinksihlkw:
- Walk across Ukws-Ts’agat, the suspension footbridge.
- Stop at the village entrance bridge to take a picture.
- Inquire at the village office about hiking trails and viewpoints.
- Visit the other three villages on Nisga’a Highway 13.
Stewart, this unique small BC town located at the head of the historic 90-mile-long Portland Canal is surrounded by rich forests and Cambria ice fields. On the way to Stewart, you will see glacier formations overlooking the highway and most probably encounter bears crossing the road.
From Stewart, continue the short drive to Hyder Alaska, Stewart’s border town to see Salmon Glacier, the world’s largest road-accessible glacier.
You can get there driving the Salmon Glacier Road from Hyder, Alaska. Navigating around the potholes will get you to the Summit Viewpoint and you will be rewarded with spectacular views.
Read more: Stewart BC Hyder Alaska Travel Guide
Bucket List Stewart:
- Walk through the Estuary along the boardwalk to enjoy great views out to the bay.
- Visit the local museum.
- Take a short trip to Clements Lake for a dip or a picnic.
- Visit the neighbouring border town of Hyder, Alaska.
- Venture on the epic drive to Bear Glacier Provincial Park.
- Spend some time at the Fish Creek Wildlife viewing platform (Hyder Alaska).
23. Telegraph Creek
Telegraph Creek is a small town in BC with roughly 250 permanent residents offering only basic services.
To get to the small town of Telegraph Creek in British Columbia you need to conquer 150 km of gravel driving, steep gradients (up to 20 percent), narrow passages along canyon walls, and sharply angled switchbacks. I was glad I had a 4WD and no motorhome or trailer to pull.
The Stikine Valley is home to the Tahlthan First Nation. In summer families gather at traditional fish camps along the Stikine River to catch and put up salmon.
The Stikine route was used to haul men and equipment to build the airport at Watson Lake during World War II with riverboats and trucks running to and from Dease Lake. The last riverboat made her final voyage in 1969.
Read more: Stewart-Cassiar Hwy 37 Highway Travel Guide
Bucket List Telegraph Creek:
- Enjoy the epic drive to Telegraph Creek.
- Stroll the streets of Telegraph Creek and imagine the sights of the paddle wheelers on the Stikine River during the gold rush era.
- Take in the sight of deserted buildings as well as restored ones dating back a century or more. The original Hudson’s Bay Company Store has been turned into a cafe, general store, and lodge.
- Go river boating on the Stikine River with an experienced river tour operator.
24. Jade City/Cassiar
Jade City is named for the extensive jade deposits found nearby and offers a glimpse into jade mining. Not so much of a city, but a special “spot on the road” in the Cassiar Highlands of northwestern British Columbia, on Highway 37 near Yukon.
With a population of approximately 20 people, the family-run jade mining operation is a stop of particular interest on the Stewart Cassiar Highway. The owners of the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store are experts in everything from prospecting to carving this beautiful stone.
Enjoy free coffee, free camping, and free Internet.
Read more: Stewart-Cassiar Hwy 37 Highway Travel Guide
Bucket List Jade City
- Spend time at the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store and learn about the area and jade mining. This is a great place to buy beautiful souvenirs.
- Visit the ghost town of Cassiar, an old asbestos mining town 10 km west of the highway.
- There are old mining trails into the mountains for the adventure seeker. Ask at the store.
- Look out for Thinhorn mountain sheep, mountain goats, caribou, and moose in the area.
No wonder the remote community of Atlin on the eastern shore of Atlin Lake in the far northwestern tip of British Columbia is known as “Little Switzerland”. Atlin is a pretty unique small town in BC and worth a visit. By road, you only can get to this beautiful small British Columbia town from Yukon.
While there, make sure to hike up to the top of Monarch Mountain, a spectacular 4-hour hike with a million-dollar view.
Read more: Atlin BC Travel Guide
Bucket List Atlin:
- Try Gold panning on Pine Creek.
- Enjoy bird watching at the lagoon at the end of First Street in Atlin.
- Mountain biking at its best on old forestry roads and mining roads.
- Motorboating, canoeing, and kayaking on the lakes around Atlin.
- Try white water kayaking.
- Check out glacier flights, boat charters, guided tours, and heliskiing.
- Monarch Mountain is a 4-hour hike with spectacular views.
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