Wilderness Road Trip Through The Cariboo Mountains
The wilderness road from Wells to Likely, British Columbia, Canada is a back road that doesn’t get travelled a lot.
Before I dropped in at the cute little Visitor Information Centre in Wells BC on my way to Barkerville, I never heard of the wilderness road that winds through the Cariboo Mountains.
Taking this scenic road from Wells to Likely saved me from backtracking to Quesnel. That’s where I just came from in the morning. Best of all, I could skip highway driving between Quesnel and Williams Lake.
Actually, I was on my trip south, back to the Okanagan Valley, when I turned onto Highway 26 to visit Historic Barkerville. However, I didn’t expect to come across a vibrant community like Wells on the way, nor did I plan to drive another wilderness road so shortly after coming down from the Yukon.
The fact is, I don’t like highway driving. I take every opportunity to go off-road and skip the highways. The wilderness road from Wells to Likely through the Cariboo mountains did just let me do that.
I inquired about the road condition of the Wells to Likely back road, but nobody could tell me for sure. The brochure I picked up at the Tourist Information Centre was detailing the road trip with a map. I sure was glad to have the brochure with me when I realized the lack of internet and cell phone range in the area.
I decided to leave for the wilderness drive early the next morning. This gave me enough time to visit Barkerville Historic Town, the largest heritage attraction in Western North America. After a few hours exploring British Columbia’s golden beginnings, I drove back to Wells and booked into Caribou Joy Campground for the night.
Wilderness Road Wells To Likely
It’s a hidden secret, the wilderness road trip from Wells to Likely, through the Cariboo Mountains in British Columbia. I wasn’t bored for a minute. It was not only the magnificent mountain scenery, lakes and waterfalls which took my breath away. The road has other surprises like a deserted resort at Cormet Falls and the most amazing coffee shop at Cameron Ridge.
Start on Highway 26 and look for the turn-off to Bowron Lakes Provincial Park between Wells and Barkerville. Take the right turn a short distance after the brightly coloured Wells kiosk. Stay on 3100 Road to Likely, and the adventure begins.
The drive from Wells to Likely takes at least 3 1/2 hours, depending on road conditions and how often you stop on the way. It took me most of the day! Make sure you have sufficient gasoline in your vehicle, as well as food and water.
Follow the bright yellow “Site” signs and you will get to your destination. Each sign tells you the distance to the next Site.
IMPORTANT – You will be driving through a vast wilderness area outside park boundaries. The roads and camping sites are not regularly maintained and can be rough. Read the brochures which are offered at the tourist information centres. Directions are not always clear. Signs can get damaged or disappear due to harsh winter conditions.
Comet Creek, A Deserted Resort
I was told that there was a resort along the way and a place to get coffee and desserts. I quickly found out that it was not at Comet Creek Resort where I would get coffee and dessert. This place was deserted. Close by I checked out Comet Creek Falls. Later I found out, the Comet Creek Resort used to be a hunting camp. It was kind of sad to see this place being abandoned. I wonder whether it will come back to life again, one day!
Cariboo Mountain Park
You get to the Cariboo Mountain Park after driving about 70 km of gravel road from Wells or Barkerville. The park is undeveloped and accessed only along active logging roads. Drive with caution and with headlights on at all times.
Everyone looking for true wilderness, here you have it! The park is currently not used a lot but offers extensive opportunities for real backcountry adventures.
Ghost Lake and the Waterfalls
You have to leave the main road and drive another 4 km, marked by signs, to get to Ghost Lake and the Falls. Expect a rough trek with potholes and rocks all the way to Ghost Lake. Once you arrive you will agree with me, It was definitely worth the drive.
Vehicle access camping is possible at Ghost Lake, a remote site with lake views and views of the surrounding mountains.
The small User Maintained Campground has a parking lot, an information kiosk, and pit toilets. There is no water supplied here and make sure to carry out all your garbage if you decide to camp. Ghost Lake offers excellent fishing. Make sure you have the right fishing licence.
Ghost Lake Falls are a must see. There are two waterfalls at Ghost Lake. The lower falls are near the entrance to the campground just as you go across a bridge.
The upper waterfall, Matthew River Falls has access from behind one of the campsites near the parking lot.
An unmarked trail from the Ghost Lake campground leads to the lakeshore of Ghost Lake. It’s easy to carry a canoe or kayak down the trail if you like to do some boating on the lake. You will be rewarded with incredible views of the Cariboo Mountains and impressive rock formations. A few spots along the lake are suitable for wilderness camping.
Caribou Mountains Provincial Park is a true wilderness paradise with high mountain peaks and glaciers, beautiful lakes and lush wetlands.
Cameron Ridge Bungalows And The Chocolate Moose Cafe
A luxury highlight of my wilderness road trip awaited me about 1 1/2 hours before I got to Likely. The “Chocolate Moose Cafe” sign couldn’t be missed. I turned towards the paddock and the horses and parked my car. Walking up the hill I arrived at Cameron Ridge Bungalows and the much anticipated “Chocolate Moose Cafe”. What a view!
This place was a piece of luxury paradise in the middle of an untamed wilderness. The coffee and cheesecake tasted fantastic. I sat with Chris, the owner for a while taking in the spectacular view of the Cariboo Mountains. We had lots to talk about, Chris and me, realizing that we had lots in common. We exchanged email addresses before I left.
If you ever come this way along the famous Gold Rush Trail make sure to stop in. Spend a couple of days if you can. Cameron Ridge offers trail rides, guided hiking, cabin rental, use of a fire heated hot tub with an amazing view, and lots more.
Cariboo Lake and On To Likely
After leaving Cameron ridge Bungalows the road descends into the Cariboo lake Valley. At 8412 marker you are at Ladies Creek Recreation Site on Cariboo Lake. Cariboo Lake, which is a part of the Cariboo River, is located about 24 km before you get to Likely. The lake is known for excellent fishing.
Further down the road, I crossed the Cariboo River on the wide wooden bridge. Cariboo Falls is a 2 km side trip at a left-hand turn-off beside the 15 km marker.
I drove a few small hills and passed a couple of old log cabins before I cross the Cariboo River again. After that, the road climbed up to Poquette Pass alongside Poquette Lake.
When you got to SITE L and saw the Likely kiosk I knew that it wasn’t long before getting to a paved road.
Recreation Sites and Camping
FREE Camping! All campsites are user maintained. This means no one will come and clean after you. Make sure to pack out your garbage and leave the camping areas clean for the next campers.
Whisky Flat Recreation Site – 14 km from Barkerville, 3 campsites. Perfect base to explore the back roads and Yanks Peak
Caribou River Provincial Park – Walk-In/Wilderness Camping is allowed, but no facilities are provided.
Cariboo Mountain Provincial Park – Vehicle accessible campsites, 5 small sites. Additional vehicles can park in the parking lot. Close to Matthew River Falls.
Ladies Creek Recreation Site – 6 large private campsites and a boat launch next to Cariboo Lake. If the campground at Ghost Lake is full or if you would like a more private campsite, try camping at Ladies Creek.
The Likely area has many geocaching sites. If you’re planning a treasure hunt visit the official Global GPS Cache hunt website.
Practical Tips and Warnings
The wilderness road between Wells and Likely is seasonal, usually open from June to October
Travel time minimum of 3,5 hours, depending on your vehicle and road conditions.
The road summit is close to 1,219 m, mountain views are over 2,133 metres
Gas stations are in Wells and Likely.
A spare tire is a must!
Watch out for logging trucks and heavy equipment using the road.
Weather can change quickly, especially in the mountains.
The road can turn very muddy in wet weather.
Leave the area you visit undisturbed and carry out your garbage.
Obey signs, and keep to designated trails.
The area is home to cougars, bears and other wildlife. Do not get too close and don’t feed wild animals.
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.
You just about drove past my place and didn’t stop for coffee 😉 How are you doing?
Hello Peter, nice to hear from you. I was sitting at Tim Horton’s in William’s lake late afternoon debating whether I should drive towards Bella Coola. I couldn’t get an Internet connection to contact anybody which was annoying, so in the end, I decided to head south. Had an awesome trip up to the arctic and I want to go back, and I will definitely stop in next time!
That internet can be sketchy up here. Just holler next time your up this way.
This summer if all goes like planned. Will send you an email in the next couple of days.