Northern British Columbia is a land of rugged beauty, vast wilderness, and rich cultural heritage. It's a region that beckons adventurers and nature enthusiasts with its pristine landscapes, towering mountains, and crystal-clear lakes. From the charming towns that dot the landscape to the ancient forests that whisper tales of the past, Northern British Columbia offers a unique travel experience. Whether you're seeking thrilling outdoor activities or a peaceful retreat in nature, Northern British Columbia has something for everyone. Here’s your ultimate guide to touring Northern British Columbia.

1. Explore the Great Bear Rainforest

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the most ecologically significant areas in the world. Spanning over 6.4 million hectares, this lush temperate rainforest is home to an array of wildlife, including the elusive spirit bear, black bears, grizzly bears, wolves, and countless bird species. Visitors can embark on guided tours to explore the dense forests, stunning waterfalls, and tranquil rivers. Kayaking along the coastline offers a unique perspective of the rainforest, and there's a chance you might spot a humpback whale or orca in the waters. The conservation efforts in the region also provide opportunities to learn about the local Indigenous cultures and their deep connection to the land.

2. Adventure in the Skeena River Valley

The Skeena River Valley is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. This region offers some of the best fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing experiences in British Columbia. The Skeena River, one of the longest rivers in the province, is renowned for its salmon runs, attracting anglers from around the world. Hiking trails in the area, such as those in the Seven Sisters Provincial Park, provide breathtaking views of rugged peaks, glaciers, and alpine meadows. The valley is also rich in cultural history, with several Indigenous communities offering cultural tours and experiences that provide insight into their traditions and heritage.

3. Discover the History of Barkerville

Step back in time and experience the Gold Rush era in Barkerville Historic Town & Park. This well-preserved heritage site offers a glimpse into life during the 1860s when Barkerville was a bustling gold rush town. Visitors can wander through the historic streets, visit restored buildings, and engage with costumed interpreters who bring the history to life. The site also offers gold panning demonstrations, stagecoach rides, and theatrical performances that recreate the excitement and challenges of the gold rush days. Barkerville is a must-visit for history buffs and anyone interested in the fascinating stories of British Columbia's past.

4. Experience the Thrill of the Northern Rockies

The Northern Rockies are a playground for adventure seekers. With its towering peaks, deep valleys, and pristine wilderness, this region offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities. In the summer, visitors can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing. The Muncho Lake Provincial Park, with its stunning turquoise waters, is perfect for kayaking and fishing. In the winter, the area transforms into a snowy wonderland, ideal for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. The hot springs in the region, such as Liard River Hot Springs, provide a perfect way to relax and unwind after a day of adventure.

5. Immerse Yourself in Indigenous Cultures

Northern British Columbia is rich in Indigenous cultures, with many communities welcoming visitors to learn about their traditions and way of life. The Nisga’a Nation, located in the Nass Valley, offers cultural tours that include visits to lava beds, totem poles, and traditional longhouses. The K'san Historical Village and Museum in Hazelton showcases the art, culture, and history of the Gitxsan people. Participating in cultural events and festivals, such as the Celebration of the Salmon in Laxgalts’ap, provides a deeper understanding of the connection between the Indigenous peoples and the land they have called home for thousands of years.

6. Drive the Stewart-Cassiar Highway

For those who love road trips, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Highway 37) is one of the most scenic drives in Canada. This remote highway stretches from Kitwanga to the Yukon border, passing through some of Northern British Columbia’s most breathtaking landscapes. Along the way, you’ll encounter towering mountains, lush forests, and pristine lakes. Be sure to stop at the small communities and parks along the route, such as the picturesque town of Stewart and the awe-inspiring Bear Glacier. The highway also provides access to several wilderness areas where you can hike, fish, and camp amidst stunning natural beauty.

7. Unwind at Lakelse Lake

Lakelse Lake, located near Terrace, is a popular destination for both locals and visitors. The lake’s warm, clear waters are perfect for swimming, boating, and fishing. The surrounding Lakelse Lake Provincial Park offers numerous hiking trails, picnic areas, and campsites. The park is also home to the Lakelse Hot Springs, where you can soak in natural hot springs surrounded by lush forest. The serene environment makes it an ideal spot for a family vacation or a peaceful retreat in nature.

Lakelse Lake is known for its stunning scenery and diverse wildlife. Bird watchers can spot a variety of species, including eagles, herons, and waterfowl. The lake is also a great spot for paddling, with calm waters that are ideal for kayaking and canoeing. For those interested in fishing, Lakelse Lake is home to several fish species, including trout and kokanee.

The nearby Lakelse Hot Springs, also known as Mount Layton Hot Springs, offer a unique opportunity to relax and rejuvenate. These natural hot springs have been a popular attraction for many years, providing a soothing experience amidst the beautiful forested landscape. The hot springs are accessible via a short drive from the lake and offer both public and private soaking options.

For hiking enthusiasts, the Lakelse Lake area features several trails that cater to different skill levels. The Gruchy's Beach Trail is a family-friendly hike that leads to a sandy beach perfect for picnics and swimming. More adventurous hikers can explore the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park, a short drive from the lake, where trails wind through a dramatic volcanic landscape created by a historic eruption.

Camping at Lakelse Lake Provincial Park is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in nature. The park offers well-maintained campsites, complete with amenities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and restrooms. Some sites are located right on the lakeshore, providing stunning views and easy access to the water. Whether you’re tent camping or traveling in an RV, the park has options to suit all preferences.

In the winter, Lakelse Lake transforms into a snowy wonderland, offering opportunities for ice fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. The tranquil, frozen landscape provides a peaceful setting for winter recreation, with fewer crowds and a serene atmosphere.

Lakelse Lake is a year-round destination that showcases the natural beauty and recreational opportunities of Northern British Columbia. Whether you’re looking to relax in the hot springs, paddle on the lake, or hike through lush forests, Lakelse Lake offers something for everyone.

8. Towns to Settle In During Your Northern BC Adventure

When touring Northern British Columbia, finding the right town to settle in can enhance your travel experience by providing convenient access to attractions, comfortable accommodations, and local charm. Here are a few towns that serve as great bases for exploring Northern British Columbia’s wonders:

Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert is a vibrant port city located on the North Coast, making it an ideal base for exploring the Great Bear Rainforest and the Skeena River Valley. The city offers a range of accommodations, from cozy bed and breakfasts to modern hotels. Prince Rupert is known for its rich cultural scene, including the Museum of Northern British Columbia, which showcases Indigenous art and history. It’s also a gateway to wildlife tours, where you can spot whales, bears, and eagles.


Situated in the heart of the Skeena River Valley, Terrace is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. The town offers easy access to fishing, hiking, and skiing. With its close proximity to Lakelse Lake and the Skeena River, Terrace provides numerous opportunities for water-based activities. The local farmers' market and the Heritage Park Museum are great places to experience the local culture and history.


Smithers, located in the Bulkley Valley, is known for its picturesque alpine setting and vibrant arts scene. The town is a hub for outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, and fishing. Nearby attractions include Hudson Bay Mountain, which offers year-round recreational activities, and the Bulkley River, famous for its steelhead fishing. Smithers also boasts a charming Main Street with local shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Fort St. John

As the largest city in the Peace River Regional District, Fort St. John is a bustling community with all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay. It’s an excellent base for exploring the Northern Rockies, with attractions such as the Beatton Provincial Park and the Charlie Lake Provincial Park nearby. The city offers various accommodations, dining options, and cultural events, making it a convenient and lively place to stay.

Dawson Creek

Dawson Creek is famously known as Mile "0" of the Alaska Highway, making it a historic starting point for road trips through Northern British Columbia and beyond. The town is steeped in history, with attractions such as the Alaska Highway House and the Dawson Creek Art Gallery. It’s also a short drive from the beautiful Kiskatinaw Provincial Park, where you can enjoy hiking and picnicking.


Quesnel is a charming town located near the Cariboo Gold Rush Trail and serves as a gateway to Barkerville Historic Town & Park. The town offers a mix of modern amenities and historic charm, with attractions such as the Quesnel & District Museum and the Fraser River. It’s a great spot for those interested in history and outdoor activities, with numerous parks and trails in the surrounding area.

Prince George

As the largest city in Northern British Columbia, Prince George offers a blend of urban and natural attractions. The city is a hub for cultural and recreational activities, with the Exploration Place Museum, Cottonwood Island Nature Park, and the nearby Ancient Forest/Chun T'oh Whudujut Provincial Park. Prince George provides a wide range of accommodations, dining options, and shopping, making it a convenient base for exploring the region.


Stewart is a small, picturesque town located near the border with Alaska. It’s known for its stunning scenery and close proximity to the Bear Glacier. Stewart serves as a gateway to the southern tip of the Tongass National Forest and offers excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing, fishing, and hiking. The town’s unique location and serene environment make it a hidden gem for travelers seeking tranquility and natural beauty.

9. How to Get to Northern BC: Air and Road Options

Traveling to Northern British Columbia can be an adventure in itself, with stunning landscapes to enjoy along the way. Whether you prefer to fly or drive, there are several convenient options to reach this breathtaking region.

By Air

Flying is the fastest way to reach Northern British Columbia, with several airports servicing the area. Here are the main airports and airlines that offer flights to Northern British Columbia:

  1. Prince George Airport (YXS)
    • Airlines: Air Canada, WestJet, Central Mountain Air, and Pacific Coastal Airlines.
    • Routes: Direct flights from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and other major cities.
    • Getting There: Once you land in Prince George, you can rent a car or take a shuttle to explore the region.
  2. Terrace-Kitimat Airport (YXT)
    • Airlines: Air Canada, WestJet, Central Mountain Air.
    • Routes: Direct flights from Vancouver and Calgary.
    • Getting There: Car rentals and shuttle services are available at the airport to take you to Terrace and surrounding areas.
  3. Smithers Regional Airport (YYD)
    • Airlines: Air Canada, Central Mountain Air.
    • Routes: Direct flights from Vancouver.
    • Getting There: Car rentals are available at the airport for easy access to Smithers and nearby attractions.
  4. Fort St. John Airport (YXJ)
    • Airlines: Air Canada, WestJet, Central Mountain Air.
    • Routes: Direct flights from Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton.
    • Getting There: Car rentals and shuttle services are available for transportation to Fort St. John and surrounding areas.
  5. Prince Rupert Airport (YPR)
    • Airlines: Air Canada, Central Mountain Air.
    • Routes: Direct flights from Vancouver.
    • Getting There: A shuttle service connects the airport to Prince Rupert. Car rentals are also available.
  6. Dawson Creek Airport (YDQ)
    • Airlines: Central Mountain Air.
    • Routes: Direct flights from Vancouver.
    • Getting There: Car rentals are available at the airport for transportation to Dawson Creek and nearby attractions.

By Road

Driving to Northern British Columbia offers the chance to experience the scenic beauty of the region up close. Here are some of the major highways and routes you can take:

  1. Alaska Highway (Highway 97)
    • Route: Begins in Dawson Creek and continues through Fort St. John, eventually reaching the Yukon and Alaska.
    • Highlights: Historic Mile "0" marker in Dawson Creek, beautiful landscapes, and wildlife sightings along the way.
  2. Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16)
    • Route: Runs from Prince Rupert through Terrace, Smithers, and Prince George, continuing east towards Alberta.
    • Highlights: Scenic views of the Skeena River Valley, stops at charming towns like Smithers and Terrace, and access to outdoor activities.
  3. Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Highway 37)
    • Route: Connects with the Yellowhead Highway near Kitwanga and runs north to the Yukon border.
    • Highlights: Remote and rugged landscapes, Bear Glacier, and access to the towns of Stewart and Dease Lake.
  4. Cariboo Highway (Highway 97)
    • Route: Runs north from Cache Creek through Quesnel and Prince George, continuing to the Yukon border.
    • Highlights: Access to Barkerville Historic Town & Park, the Cariboo Gold Rush Trail, and stunning mountain views.

Combining Air and Road Travel

For a comprehensive Northern British Columbia experience, consider flying into a regional airport and then renting a car to explore the area. This approach allows you to save time on travel while still enjoying the scenic beauty and adventures that Northern British Columbia has to offer.

Northern British Columbia is a land of untamed beauty and adventure. Whether you’re exploring its dense rainforests, fishing in its pristine rivers, or immersing yourself in its rich cultural heritage, Northern British Columbia promises an unforgettable experience. Pack your bags and get ready to discover the wonders of Northern British Columbia.

Stay connected with more insights from the wild and wonderful world of Canadian travel at Canada Scenic.

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Jul 4, 2024
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