Northern BC Travel Guide
British Columbia’s north is a vast wilderness full of wildlife, pristine glaciers, ancient totem poles and raw rugged splendour.
Doesn’t it happen to lots of people, we travel to far off places and don’t know our own country, (or province in my case)? All the years I’ve been living in the Okanagan, British Columbia, I connected northern BC with a place where people go to find work and made the big buck, just like in northern Alberta. Little did I know until I travelled through the northern part of the province on my way to the Yukon for the first time. I soon realized that this was unspoiled land and as beautiful as it can get. It’s a land made for wilderness adventures of any kind, just the way I like it.
If you’re looking for fast wilderness and raw rugged beauty, rich history, interesting aboriginal culture and authentic people, you’ve come to the right place. Follow the historic trails of the First Nation people, explorers, fur traders, gold seekers, pioneers, railroaders, and lumberjacks. This region of British Columbia has it all.
Northern BC is roughly the top half of British Columbia with the size of 500,000 square km. It is home to fewer than 500,000 residents. This makes Northern BC one of the least densely populated places in North America. People who live here are passionate about their large outdoor playground, its culture and colourful past and are eager to share it with you. Prince George is northern BC’s largest city.
Northern BC lots of open spaces, long stretches of lonely roads and plenty of hidden treasures for you to discover. You will come across an abundance of Canadian wildlife. What an amazing sight to see a herd of buffalo on the side of the road or a female moose with her baby or stones sheep making their way across cliffs.
Once you escape to Northern BC, you might find yourself coming back again and again.
Getting There and Around
Four main highways give access to Northern BC:
- Yellowhead Highway 16 from the Alberta border in the east to Prince Rupert on the Pacific coast. At Kitwanga you can head north on Highway 37 to Stewart, Yukon and Alaska.
- Alaska Highway 97 north from Prince George to Dawson Creek and to the Peace River Country. From there Highway 97 continues north to the Yukon and Alaska.
- Steward Cassiar Highway 37 originates in Kitimat. This north/south route follows Highway 16 for a small stretch before turning north at Kitwanga. From here it continues to its terminus near Watson Lake in the Yukon. Highway 37 A leads to Stewart BC and Hyder Alaska.
- Atlin Highway 7
Prince George is northern BC’s busiest airport and offers frequent scheduled flights to major cities. Smaller regional airports are in Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Smithers, Terrance/Kitimat, Prince Rupert, Sandspit, and Masset.
Services are provided by Air Canada, WestJet, Central Mountain Air, Hawkair, Northern Thunderbird Air, Pacific Coastal Airlines, Harbour Air and many charter companies.
Via Rail’s Skeena line roughly parallels Highway 16 and connects Prince Rupert to Jasper, Alberta. If you decide to take this scenic route you will have to stay over in Prince George. The train stops here overnight and re-board the next morning.
Greyhound Canada offers bus service to many northern BC communities and connections throughout Canada and the US. For more information visit www.greyhound.ca
Prince Rupert is the southern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway System and a frequent stop for Vancouver and Alaska-bound cruise ships. It’s also the terminus of BC Ferries routes up the Inside Passage from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island and across the Hecate Strait from Haida Gwaii. For BC Ferries information visit www.bcferries.com
Top Activities and Adventure Destinations
Northern BC offers limitless outdoor adventure recreation. The countless lakes, rivers, and streams are ideal for water sports like canoeing, kayaking, sailing, fishing. Other popular activities during the summer month are horseback riding, golfing hiking, birding, wildlife viewing.
- Venture out on an ocean kayaking tour along Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), known for its rainforests and First Nations history.
- Join a whale watching trip from Prince Rupert
- Go grizzly bear viewing at Belarko on the road to Bella Coola.
- Visit Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park for an unforgettable soak in the natural hot pools.
- Find history at Fort St. James National Historic Site
- Kinuseo Falls at Tumbler Ridge
- For the adventure seeker, there is the gravel road to Telegraph Creek.
- Don’t miss a visit to the border towns of Stewart Canada and Hyder (the friendliest little ghost town in Alaska), and take a self-guided tour up to the Salmon Glacier, Canada’s largest glacier accessible by road.
- The Hazeltons and the Kasan First Nation Village
Communities in Northern BC
The main communities to visit in northern BC include Prince Rupert, Terrace, Smithers, The Hazeltons, Stewart, Houston, Burns Lake, Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, Prince George, Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Tumbler Ridge, Fort Nelson. See more Alaska Highway.
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