Gold Country BC Travel Guide
The Gold Country in British Columbia is where you’ll find alpine mountains, wildflower meadows, sagebrush, mighty rivers, and large ranchlands full of cowboys and First Nations culture.
It’s a land full of hidden treasures and abundant opportunities for outdoor adventures.
For a camping experience head for one of the many parks and campgrounds or get off the beaten path and discover one of the forestry recreation sites scattered throughout the area. Geocaching is an enjoyable way to explore the Gold Country and find hidden treasures.
Gold Country’s history reaches back further back than just the gold rush era. The Shuswap Nation has inhabited the valley around Cache Creek for thousands of years living a traditional and nomadic lifestyle. In the 1860s when gold was discovered, settlers and farmers put down roots and Cache Creek served as a resting place for Stampeders on their way from the Lower Mainland to the Interior.
Today, BC’s Gold Country offers plenty of opportunities to discover its colourful past. Visit Mount Savona to view the First Nations pictographs or head to Stein Valley’s Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park, or travel to Cornwall Mountain near Ashcroft to get a feel of the times gone by.
How To Get There
Gold Country BC with its unique landscape is located in British Columbia’s Thompson Okanagan in the heart of British Columbia’s interior. You can reach the region from Kamloops via Highway 97, from Vancouver and Whistler via Highway 99 or via Highway 12 from Vancouver, or by heading south on Highway 97 from Quesnel.
Things To Do
- Visit the Native Village at Hat Creek Ranch to learn more about the Shuswap Nation and spend a night in a Kekuli lodge (pit house).
- Take part in an Aboriginal Day celebration in Lytton, happening in June.
- Discover the traditional dances of First Nations people at pow-wows.
- Don’t miss a visit to the museums on the way to learn about the fascinating history of the region.
- Stay at one of the many Provincial Park for a wilderness experience.
- Book a whitewater rafting adventure in Lytton or Spencer’s Bridge.
- Try to get on the Kaoham Shuttle from Lillooet to Seaton Portage.
- Discover the treasures of Gold Country with your GPS or smartphone and get into geocaching.
- Try your luck at gold panning.
- Have your camera ready for the wildlife you will meet along the way.
- For winter travellers, there is all the winter fun you can dream of waiting for you.
This sleepy town is located 337 km from Vancouver and 84 km west of Kamloops, at the junction of the Trans Canada Highway 1 and the Cariboo Highway 97, and lies along the Bonaparte River. Make your first stop at the Cache Creek Visitor Information Centre for information on the area and take advantage of their WiFi to check messages from home.
Cache Creek is known as the “Arizona of Canada” for its rocky landscape, dusty streets, and its baking hot summer climate.
The place was raised to fame during the Gold Rush era and was a resting point on the Cariboo Wagon Road.
Go on an early morning fossil discovery hunt at the McAbee beds, 13 km east on Hwy 1, and have a stroll along the Bonaparte River at Cache Creek Park in the afternoon, a revitalizing oasis in the desert.
Enjoy camping along the Thompson River or find a hidden escape in the surrounding mountain recreation sites. Arrowstone Provincial Park is a wilderness area offering backcountry camping, wildlife viewing, and other recreational opportunities. Stop at the local Bonaparte Bend Winery just north of Cache Creek to taste the flavour of 100 % B.C.-grown wine. The winery also has a delightful cafe where you can sample their wine and enjoy a delicious meal and scrumptious dessert.
Cache Creek has an excellent selection of accommodations and restaurants for a memorable stay.
A trip to Gold Country BC is not complete without visiting Hat Creek Ranch located 11 km north of Cache Creek. Hat Creek House was built in 1861 as a roadhouse stop on Cariboo Road.
Today, the authentic 19th-century roadhouse at the Hat Creek Ranch has Interpreters in period costume who offer guided tours. Enjoy artifacts on display, take a stagecoach ride or visit the Native Shuswap village and listen to old stories and mystery tales.
Visit the nearby Harry Lake Aspen Provincial Park for hiking, wildlife viewing, and exploring the wonders of this special region. The park offers no facilities and you need to be self-sufficient for this true wilderness adventure.
Before you continue your journey, visit B.X. Historical Marker at Painted Hills and learn about the history of the famous B.X. Express Company.
Less than 20 minutes away, 10 km south of Cache Creek on Highway 97C is the historic community of Ashcroft. The town is known as The Heart of Gold Country and is situated a short distance from the main highway. Set in a sheltered valley beside the Thompson River.
Pick up a Walking Tour Guide from one of the local businesses and explore the historic downtown. Visit the Ashcroft Museum and learn about the gold rush, mining, agriculture, First Nations, railway, and Chinese history.
You can purchase a Trail Hiking Guide in downtown locations giving you a choice of over twenty trails in the area. Wildlife and bird-watching opportunities are everywhere. The surrounding mountains offer lots of opportunities for rock climbing, horseback riding, hiking, and more.
Follow the Thompson River north of Ashcroft to see the towering sand hoodoos overlooking the river. Visit Barnes Lake for a rustic camping experience and excellent fishing.
Known as the “Heart of the Highland Valley, Logan Lake is a popular destination for fishing, camping, hiking, bird watching, and photography with mountains, forests, and lakes in all directions. To get there, follow Highway 97C north of Merrit or turn off the Coquihalla Highway on Highway 97D.
Take a free tour of the Highland Valley Copper Mine to see one of the largest open-pit mining operations in the world. Tours run from May to August. Stop at the lookout west of Logan Lake on highway 97C for a picture of the mine’s operating all year round.
Stop in at Logan’s Lake Information Centre for maps and information about the area.
The town of Lillooet spreads along the mighty Fraser River. From Vancouver, Lillooet is accessible via the famous Sea-to-Sky Highway (Highway 99). It passes through Whistler and the Cayoosh Valley. On this stretch of road, you will see some of the most amazing sights from river canyons to majestic mountains.
The people of the St’àtäimc Nation have inhabited the area around Lillooet for thousands of years. Today, Lillooet is still an important First Nations location, considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited locations in North America.
Pick up a self-guided walking tour map at the Lillooet Visitor Centre and get an introduction to the town’s history. The tour begins at the Bridge of 23 Camels and ends at the Old Bridge.
The Lumber town of Lillooet was founded as Mile 0 of the 1858 Cariboo Wagon Road to the goldfields to the north. In July and August, the rock shelf in the Fraser River near the town is dotted with orange and blue tarpaulins. The site belongs to the Aboriginal people who still come to catch and dry salmon as the fish make their way upriver to spawn. It is the busiest fishing site on the Fraser above its mouth and there are numerous drying racks scattered around the banks of the river canyon.
Visit the Miyazaki Heritage House, known as the most beautiful house in Lillooet. Stop in at the Lillooet Museum and Visitor Centre, situated in a former Anglican church. Book a tour to visit historical fishing grounds and learn how salmon was dried.
Hop on the Kaoham Shuttle, the train that runs between Lillooet and Seton Portage to experience one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world.
Whether you’re a hiker, boater, or wildlife watcher, Lillooet has something to offer for everyone.
Lillooet has a variety of reasonably priced restaurants as well as reasonably priced hotels, motels, and B &Bs in town. Nearby resorts offer rustic cabin rentals. Campgrounds and RV parks are also available.
Rugged scenery, impressive hoodoos, blue lakes, and pine-covered mountains are just a few things to admire and explore near Savona entering Gold Country from the east.
The charming lakeside community is dating back to the 1800s when the village was originally located on the north side of Kamloops Lake. Because of the railway route, the entire village was moved to the site it occupies now. Each building was dragged across the frozen lake to its new location.
Visit Creek Road, a short distance west of Savona for its incredible volcanic lava cliffs. Explore Deadman Falls, a spectacular display of water cascading down into a narrow canyon. Learn about the folklore and history of Savona and the area at the Savona Community Heritage Centre. Marvel at Balancing Rock from Highway 1 west of Savona or at the lookout at Six Mile Hill.
Visit Painted Bluffs Provincial Park, known for an abundance of Big Horn Sheep, or venture to Grasslands Provincial Park, one of the largest grasslands in BC. Porcupine Meadows Provincial Park and Tsintsunko Lakes Provincial Park, are also undeveloped wilderness parks without camping facilities.
Savona is full of recreational opportunities and First Nations culture.
Don’t miss The Deadman Creek Rodeo held in spring if you’re travelling through.
Stay a night at a resort, guest ranch, or B & B, or camp at Steelhead Provincial Park on the shore of Kamloops Lake, or at any other parks in the area.
For the ultimate watersport adventure and the thrill of whitewater rafting, head to the small town of Spencers Bridge located 42 km south of Ashcroft or 36 km north of Lytton on Highway 1. The area attracts anglers from all over the world who come for the excellent steelhead fishing at Goldpan Provincial Park.
There are 18 major rapids with rankings from 1 to 5 on the stretch of river between Spencers Bridge and Lytton which makes it a white water rafting paradise.
Take a short walk to the impressive Murray Creek Falls on a hot day. Bighorn sheep are like members of the community and can often be seen. Since the herd was introduced by the government in 2928, the herd has grown from 50 to several hundred over the decades.
Stay for a night at the oldest continually operating inn in British Columbia or the unique motel. Eating options range from pub food to heritage-style dining.
To get to Lytton, take Highway 1 west from Ashcroft and Cache Creek, or Highway 99 from Lillooet. The small lumber town is the main centre for whitewater rafting and lies at the junction of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers. The most famous stretch is along the Thompson River from Spencers Bridge to Lytton, with rapids named Devil’s Gorge and Witch’s Cauldron. Various companies run trips from May to August.
Discover Lytton’s colourful history with a visit to the museum. Take a Heritage Walking Tour that takes you to historic churches, pioneer memorials, local art, and stunning views of the river and mountains. Step back in time at Caboose Park and learn about local rail lines. Also at Cariboo Park, you’ll be in for a delightful geological wonder. The Lytton Jelly Roll is caused by prehistoric glacial movement and it’s one of the largest of its kind in the world.
Step back in time with a hike in the Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park with 150 km of hiking trails with four cable crossings, a suspension bridge, and several wilderness campsites. Skihist Provincial Park has a campground, hiking trails amazing views, and paved cycling paths.
Lytton has a few good eateries to choose from and many accommodation options. The rafting resorts in Lytton offer everything from tents to yurts, teepees, and log cabins.
Most of the Gold Country communities have a dry, almost desert-like climate with only little precipitation.