It’s easy to find solitude when exploring Northwest BC’s remote and vast landscape. But rarely are you actually alone. Here, wildlife can be found in every patch of lush, green forest, on snowy alpine peaks, and along wild, rushing rivers.
Although it’s no guarantee you’ll spot the elusive Spirit Bear — one of the only places in the world where you can — your chances of seeing some of Canada’s other famous wildlife are pretty good. Guided tours help you make the most of your time and bring you within (safe) distance of some of the region’s finest creatures. And in between glimpses of bears, eagles, and whales, the region’s spectacular natural sights provide plenty of photo-ops.
You don’t have to go far to see wildlife in the coastal city of Prince Rupert. Take a stroll through Cow Bay and look for eagles perched on posts and in trees nearby. Waterfront paths, like Rushbrook Trail, are great for spotting seals and otters close to the shoreline. Head to the breakwater at Atlin Terminal and use the binoculars to scan the water’s horizon for passing humpbacks, orcas, and Pacific white-sided dolphins.
For a new perspective, hop in a floatplane with Ocean Pacific Air and land at a remote waterfall or alpine lake (you might even spot whales or even mountain goats along the way). Looking for bears? Head out with Adventure Tours, Bluewater Adventures, Ocean Light Adventures, or Grizzly Tours to the Khutzeymateen, Canada’s only natural protected grizzly bear sanctuary, all while taking in the beauty of the rugged northwest coast.
Kitimat sits at the head of a deepwater fjord and where the ocean meets the mountains, wildlife is abundant. Beneath the inky blue water exists all kinds of marine life, from whales, sea lions, and of course, fish. On a deep-sea angling trip with Kingfish Westcoast Adventures you might even spot them all. Or book a heli-tour with Kitimat Lodge to fish pristine alpine streams for steelhead and king salmon.
Clinging to the steep walls of the Douglas Channel fjord are mountain goats and eagles, so don’t forget to look up while cruising the area with Northern BC Jet Boat Tours. In the cool shade of the rainforest, finding places to warm up is key. Luckily, the area is dotted with natural hot springs, most of them perched oceanside, where you can slip into steaming waters and gaze out over the water. Prefer to stick to land? Hike to waterfalls and gentle creeks; Moore Creek Falls, Hirsch Creek Trails and Jesse Falls are all popular day routes or overnight at cabins via the Robinson Ridge and Clair Mountain trails.
Welcome to Terrace where braided waterfalls tumble down slick granite walls and the many tributaries that feed the Skeena offer mist-shrouded glimpses of bears roaming grassy banks. These rivers are hard to access by boat, and even then should only be navigated safely with a guide like Northern BC Jet Boat Tours or Skeena Wilderness Safaris.
A boat tour here can take you along quiet, secluded waterways, in view of eagles, salmon, or bears, or to abandoned ghost towns and canneries that once supported the region’s early industrial communities. Dig further into the history and culture of the area with Split Mountain Adventures. Get up in the air with Yellowhead Helicopters to see just how far the area’s cascading rivers, coastal rainforest, and snow-capped peaks extend. Mother Nature invites perspective and humility and you can experience both on hikes to the base of falls like Wesach and Exstew and to sub-alpine meadows with sweeping views of the Kalum and Skeena valleys via Sleeping Beauty Trail.
In Nisga’a territory, the presence of the wild is felt everywhere. From the occasional glimpse of moose rustling in the trees to the otherworldly volcanic landscape, the area feels alive with a prenatural sense of power and beauty. It’s a place to move slowly and absorb your surroundings. Where to start? A self-guided auto route takes you to significant landmarks, including the moss-covered lava beds of Anhluut’ukwsim Lax̱mihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisg̱a’a Provincial Park.
Next, don’t miss the drowned forest. When the water levels of the Tseax River are high, they rise to cover the forest floor, blurring the line between where water ends and land begins. To really get a sense of the area’s deep history, book in with Nass Valley Tours for a day of cultural learning. Newly developed and well-maintained trail networks allow you to take in the sights while also being active. Mountain bikers can ride to a lookout of the area via the Saasak’ trail network while hikers can opt for views of Vetter and Beaupre Falls. Gingolx, which sits at the mouth of Portland Canal, offers coastal scenery and eagle spotting.
On the other side of Portland Canal lies Stewart. Where the town is small and charming, the surrounding landscape is big and expansive. Here you can take in craggy granite spires and roadside glacial ice fields. Make the drive to Salmon Glacier, the fifth-largest in Canada, and picnic at the summit in full view of its icy beauty.
Cross the border into Hyder, Alaska and watch as grizzlies hunt for salmon in the aptly named Fish Creek. An 805-metre-long elevated boardwalk takes over the Portland Estuary’s tidal flats while a day with Wild Northern Adventures lets you experience the pristine beauty of Portland Canal from the water. Further afield even bigger landscapes await. Mount Edziza and Spatsizi Wilderness, both situated north of Stewart, offer some of BC’s most spectacular, expansive and unique geography. En route to the Yukon? Make a pit stop at Tā Ch’ilā Provincial Park and stop to paddle the turquoise-hued waters of Boya Lake.
Look beyond The Hazeltons’ quaint downton and cultural activities and you’ll find a stunning landscape worthy of a Group of Seven painting. The majestic Rouche de Boule range forms an impressive backdrop at every turn and its rugged peaks are a tantalizing taste of the alpine adventures that can be found here. Hike the Blues Lakes Trail, a challenging route that leads to aquamarine lakes, flower meadows and glaciers. Or tackle the Hagwilget Trail, a full-day affair into the high alpine that rewards with a summit of the town’s ubiquitous peak. If you’re not prepared to hike the day away, opt for Station Trail, which takes half the time and leads to an alpine bowl. For a more leisurely forest frolic, walk the roughly short trail to the New Hazelton Waterfall, or extend your stroll even further via the Lookout Trail. The area’s most iconic view can actually be found in town at Hagwilget Canyon, a steep gorge linked by a single-lane steel suspension bridge.
Smithers—with its soaring peaks, rolling green hills, and clear rivers and lakes—is easy on the eyes. There’s plenty to take in, from trails that give way to waterfalls to horseback riding through wide-open fields framed by mountains. To start, get a feel for the area on two feet. Popular day hikes include Malkow Lookout, Twin Falls, Glacier Gulch, Ganokwa Falls, and Opal Ridge. Climbs in the area, like Crater Lake and the Babine Mountains, take you to crystal-clear lakes and meadows of flowers. Be sure to keep watch for wildlife like deer, mountain goats, birds, and foxes as you hike. While the mountains can be intimidating, expedition guides like Bear Mountaineering make venturing into the area’s alpine safe and approachable. Spend a week in the wild at Frontier Experience’s 80-acre riverside lodge and try everything from heli-fishing to mountain goat viewing to glacier viewing. Short on time? Take to the skies with Alpine Lakes Air on a floatplane tour.
The Lakes District
The Lakes District is home to 300 wilderness lakes and miles of pristine freshwater shoreline. Your best bet to see the area’s watery landscape? A flightseeing tour with Lakes District Air. Get high above Tweedsmuir, BC’s largest provincial park, then land on quiet backcountry lakes for a picnic lunch. Along the way, look for moose, goats, bears, caribou. It’s not hard to spot the gleaming white coats of mountain goats against a granite backdrop on a fly-by of China Knows, a distinct cliff that juts out into the Houston landscape. To really experience the peace and serenity lakes offer, stay at one of the lakeside log cabins offered by Nechako Lodge. Let the haunting call of the loon usher in sleep and wake up to sunrise breaking over the calm water. Don’t miss a trip on the remote Nechako River, an unforgettable wilderness canoeing experience. Look for birds, wildlife and geological features like hoodoos on trails in the area, including Cheslatta Falls, Nourse Creek, and the Mount Pope network.
Prince George offers sightseers endless nature bookended by urban comforts. Located at the confluence of two big rivers—the Fraser and the Nechako—and surrounded by mountains and lakes, this is truly a city on the edge of wilderness. Witness the beauty of the backcountry on a heli-tour with Aberdeen Helicopters. Opt for an aerial spin over the city and look for well-known landmarks, or explore Raven Lake, one of Prince George’s most popular alpine areas. There’s nothing quite like watching the landscape unfold before you in a small Cessna bush plane. Charter one from Guardian Aerospace Flightseeing and let your pilot fly you over lakes, forest, and rivers. Need to stretch your legs? Head for L.C Gunn Park which offers an easy grade walkway situated on bluffs overlooking the Fraser River. Teapoint Mountain offers 360-degree views of the surrounding hillscape while the Centennial Gazebo lookout at UNBC doubles as a quiet place to rest. In the heat of summer, find your way to McMillan Creek, which passes through a deep ravine surrounded by towering Douglas fir trees.