B.C’s Northwest promises adventure on an epic scale, wide-open spaces, and few (if any) crowds. This summer, lace up your hiking boots (and bring your bikes and paddles) and discover what might just be B.C.’s best-kept secret for adventure.
Gain New Perspective on Hikes in BC’s Northwest
Hike to the top of peaks and look out over ocean vistas and inland turquoise lakes. Feel the pulse of old-growth forests pierced with moss and filtered sunlight. Discover some of BC’s most unique landscapes, shaped by thousands of years (rainbow mountains, anyone?).
Prince George is a city that embraces nature and many of its best trails are found within city limits. For a wilderness setting in the heart of the town, head to Forests for the World, a 106-ha demonstration forest with over 15 kilometers of trails. The short but challenging hike up to Teapot Mountain rewards with 360-degree views of the surrounding lakes, rivers, forests and wetlands. The only inland temperate rainforest in the world can be explored by wheelchair-accessible paths in Ancient Forest Trail/Chun. Or venture into the alpine at Sugar Bowl-Grizzly Den Provincial Park, aptly named because it provides excellent habitat for grizzly bear, caribou and other wildlife.
Discover more than two dozen trails in the Burns Lake area, with popular routes including Nourse Creek Trail, Bear Dens Trail, Rod Reid Nature Trail and the Southbank Nature Trail. In Houston, hike to the top of Morice Mountain for sublime views of the surrounding hillscape. For another breathtaking summit vista, climb China Knows, known in Wet’suwet’en as “Tse Zhul” (rock neck), which slopes gently from a forested south end to a dramatic 400-meter cliff that juts out at its north end. Hot day for a hike? Feel the cool mist coming off Aitken Falls on a steep and challenging hike descent into a canyon.
Smithers‘ soaring peaks make great playgrounds for hikers. Head to the Babine Mountains Provincial Park where glacier-fed lakes, rugged peaks and valleys of sub-alpine meadows provide both day and overnight hikes. Easy alpine can also be accessed above Hudson Bay Mountain to Crater Lake. A family-friend hike along the Driftwood Canyon Trail offers the chance to discover ancient fossils and explore an area once covered in massive sheets of glacial ice. For a full-day adventure, tackle the Silvern Lakes Trail where alpine lakes and meadows of flowers await.
The four- to five-day traverse across the desolate, volcanic landscape of Mount Edziza is remarkable for its rainbow-streaked mountains, cinder cones and fields of basalt rock. Over in Stewart, Sluice Box/Barney’s Gulch Trail and the United Empire Trail are two trails worth hiking for excellent viewpoints of the town, Portland Canal and the Bear River Valley.
Among the options for easy hiking in Terrace is a short walking route through forest, a gentle path that follows a babbling creek, and a moderate one-kilometer hike through an old-growth to a lake. There’s no shortage of hikes that quicken the heartbeat either. Gunsight Lake is a near-seven kilometer route that winds along scenic alpine lakes and ridges, or seek out the Oliver and Whiskey Creek trails in the Seven Sisters Provincial Park, which provide challenging routes to the treeline.
In Prince Rupert, most hikes take you beside the ocean, like the short, mostly flat walking path that connects Rushbrook to Cow Bay, or to panoramic views overlooking the harbour dotted with islands and boats, like you’ll find on Tall Trees Trail. There’s coastal rainforest to be found on the Butze Rapids’ five-kilometer loop too.
Make for the Waves: Paddling in BC’s Northwest
From navigating ocean tides to cruising along crystal clear lakes, there’s plenty of places to dip a paddle in BC’s northwest.
Kayak beside giant container ships and to secluded white-sand (yes, really) beaches in Prince Rupert‘s working harbour. Experienced paddlers can navigate ocean tides at Butze Rapids or paddle close to shore on the moody Prudhomme Lake. For a different kind of water-based activity, rent a hydro-bike in Prince Rupert and peddle your way across the harbour. The Skeena River, which tethers Prince Rupert to Terrace, offers a world-class wilderness river expedition. Scan the shoreline in search of bears, wolves and eagles, or drop a line for fish — this is home to some of the world’s best steelhead and salmon after all. Freshwater paddling can be found at Lakelse Provincial Park and Kalum Lake.
From Highway 16, detour through the Nass Valley to Gingolx, a small coastal community that hangs on the edge of where the Nass River drains into Portland Inlet. There’s more wildlife than people here and a canoe trip through the area’s sheltered bays and inlets offers a sense of deep peace and tranquility. Dragon Lake, on the opposite end of Nisga’a lands, is a great option for a quick freshwater spin.
The area around Stewart-Cassiar offers exceptional paddling on world-class rivers and lakes, all set in some of the most remote, rugged and awe-inspiring landscapes in BC. Do you choose from the impossible turquoise waters of Boya Lake in Tā Ch’ilā Provincial Park? Or a multi-day expedition along the wild and fast-flowing Stikine River, flanked by 80 kilometers of steep-walled canyon? For the truly adventurous, navigate the watery corridor of the Spatsizi River, which cuts through one of the largest tracts of parkland in Canada, and empties into the Stikine River for a canoe or kayak adventure of epic proportions. Meziadin Lake is a popular summer spot for summer paddling and its salmon spawning creeks make it a favourite feeding ground for grizzlies, so make sure to pack your camera.
Run off from the alpine snowpack feeds Smithers’ rivers year-round while the Bulkley Valley is studded with quiet lakes. Head to the non-motorized Lake Kathlyn for solitude and a stunning view of Hudson Bay Mountain. Lazily drift down the Bulkley and Babine rivers and bask in the full heat of the sun. Tyee Lake is where to go when you’re looking for a beachside nap in between paddling (there’s over 200 metres of sandy shoreline, plus excellent on-site facilities). Northeast of Smithers, be sure to explore the wonderful waters of Granisle, an ideal camping, boating and paddling destination.
There are over 300 lakes in the aptly-named Lakes District, including Burns Lake, Stuart Lake, and Francois Lake, located on the Southside, which requires a free, regularly scheduled vehicle ferry crossing to cross its shores. The Nanika-Kidprice is one of BC’s least-known yet most spectacular portage routes. Spend days canoeing a chain of four wilderness lakes in some of BC’s most isolated and wildly beautiful areas.
In Prince George, the Nechako flows eastward from the Coast Mountains north to Fort Fraser where it slips into the Fraser River. Meaning “Big River” in the Carrier Language, this river offers excellent paddling from a number of entry points.
There are rentals and supplies available across the region. In Smithers, get SUPs and gear from Aquabatics or Local Supply Co. In Prince Rupert, Skeena Kayak has rentals and advice on where to paddle. Backwater Paddling in Terrace offers clinics and courses for those who are looking to dip a toe (or paddle) into the sport. Visitor Centres in Burns Lake and Kitimat provide canoe and kayak rentals, respectively. Kayak and canoe operators include Frontier Experience, Skeena Kayaking, and Canadian Outback Rafting.
Let Nature Take the Reins on Mountain Bike Trails in the Northwest
There are no long bike park lift lines or crowded turns in the Northwest. Trails here make use of nature’s gravity and the creativity of bike-obsessed locals to lure you along loamy lines, through old-growth forest and over elemental stunts.
Head to Terrace where you’ll find two impressive trail networks that offer a variety of cross-country, downhill and freeride trails. In town, practice your skills at the new skills bike park. Need to rent a bike? Wild Bike Terrace has you covered. Nearby, the Saasak’ Hill Trails offer some of the flowiest trails in the northwest, with over eight-kilometers of progressions, berms and jumps. The trails also serve as an out-and-back hiking route to the viewing platform above the lava beds.
Tucked into the rugged Roche de Boule Mountain Range, the Glen Mountain trail network offers those visiting Hazelton the chance to ride fun tech and flow trails. Smithers‘ high altitude means big descent and with 43 trails you’re spoiled for choice on what to ride. Pop into McBike & Sport for local advice and trail conditions.
Burns Lake is a mountain bike mecca in the north, thanks to the incredible trail network on Boer Mountain built by world-renowned trails experts and maintained by a dedicated local trail crew. It’s a natural bike park without lift-access and arguably the best example of the creative trail building the north has to offer. You can easily spend a few days here exploring flowy lines, the skills and jump park, and rider cross track. Make sure to mingle with fellow riders and get intel at Burnt Bikes before hitting the dirt.
Into post-trail culture? Your best bet is to head to Prince George where the sophistication of urban life awaits once you’ve finished tackling any number of the city’s 243 available trails. You’ll find all-mountain to cross-country to downhill on trails networks including Pidherny Recreation Site and Otway, or enjoy lift-accessed trails at Tabor Mountain. Ruckus Skis Board and Bikes, Cycle Logic and the Prince George Cycling Club are great places to start your trip.
Let Locals Guide You on Adventures in Northwest BC
Take the guesswork out of adventures and let locals guide your Northwest BC trip. Whether you head high on an aerial tour or angle for fish well below the ocean’s surface, you’ll find friendly locals willing to share their backyard.
By (adventure) bus, horseback, or helicopter, there are plenty of ways to experience all that Prince George has to offer. In Smithers, spend a blissed-out weekend bookending activities with restorative yoga. The all-inclusive riverside lodge operated by Frontier Experience offers you a suite of on-site activities right at your fingertips. For a family-friendly look at the Bulkley Valley, head out on horseback with Mountain View Adventures.
The vast wilderness of Mount Edziza is best experienced with a local and knowledgeable guide. Spatisizi River Outfitters can take you in search of trout on pristine lakes and alpine streams while Bear Claw Lodge offers a whole host of activities deep within the Kispiox Valley. Experience the rich culture and tradition of the Nisga’a people with Nass Valley Tours. Kitimat’s deep harbour holds natural hot springs, best accessed via Northern BC Jet Boat Tours, who can take you from oceanside hot pools to steaming mineral springs. In Terrace, explore the remote and pristine Exchamsiks River with Kermodei Adventure Tours. Wildlife viewing in Terrace is made easy thanks to Northern Escape Tours and Skeena Eco Tours. Or gain a new perspective of the area via Yellowhead Helicopters.
In Prince Rupert, explore the water with Skeena Kayaking or Prince Rupert Outdoor Wilderness Adventures. Sunset Charters will help you hook that monster halibut or king salmon. Don’t miss the heading into the Khutzeymateen, Canada’s only natural grizzly bear habitat, with Prince Rupert Adventure Tours. Ocean Pacific Air will also take you there (and deep within the Coast Mountain Range), courtesy of a floatplane.