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20 Things To Do Along Highway 20 In British Columbia

20 Things to Do Along Highway 20 in British Columbia

British Columbia’s Highway 20 is the one on the map in grey that’s described in the atlas as Other paved road; Unpaved Road. Bring it on is what I say. Those are the roads where the traffic is almost nonexistent and the communities along the way are delighted to see a tourist. And where the only thing you have to stop for on the road is a horse or a cow – never a stop light.

Highway 20 takes you from Williams Lake in the South Cariboo over the Chilcotin Plateau to Bella Coola on the coast of British Columbia. Along the way there are only a smattering of small communities but plenty of places worth stopping.

You have to stop for horses on the road
You have to stop for horses on the road
Bull beside the highway
Bull beside the highway

Here are 20 things you can do and see along Highway 20 starting in Williams Lake

1. Check out the Fraser River – by car or via Jetboat. The river starts at Mount Robson and 860 miles later empties into the Strait of Georgia.

Bridge over the Fraser River
Bridge over the Fraser River

2. Take a short detour and visit Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park – and in particular Farwell Canyon. There’s a hiking trail that leads to the top of the hoodoos and if you’re lucky you might spot a herd of big horn sheep.

The fast moving Chilcotin River
The fast moving Chilcotin River in Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park

3. Raft the Chilcotin River as it races through Farwell Canyon.

4. Go fishing for rainbow trout in one of the lakes that dot the Chilcotin Plateau – Eagle Lake, Puntzi Lake and Tatlayoko Lake as examples.

"Rainbow trout"
Rainbow trout – Photo credit: Ano Lobb

5. Go grizzly bear watching during the salmon run. You can do this around Chilko Lake, out of Bella Coola or by drifting in a boat along the Atnarko River. And the start of the season is in late August.

6. Hike into the Rainbow Range in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. The 16 kilometre hike into the Rainbow Range was one of my best one day hikes EVER.

The stunning beauty of the Rainbow Range
The stunning beauty of the Rainbow Range

7. Take a pack horse trip into the Rainbow or Chilcotin Mountains.

8. Stop for a piece of pie and a look at the murals on the walls and ceiling at Lee’s Corner in Hanceville.

Mural on the wall in Lee's Corner
Mural on the wall in Lee’s Corner

9. Stop in Anahim Lake and arrange a floatplane tour over Hunlen Falls.

Gorgeous view of Turner Lakes with Hunlun Falls in the bottom right corner
Gorgeous view of Turner Lakes with Hunlun Falls in the bottom right corner

10. Better yet, plan a multi-day canoe trip on the Turner Lake circuit. You can hike in off of Highway 20 though that’s a slog or you can get dropped off and rent canoes on Turner Lake.

11. Pay your respects at the Native Cemetery on the south side of the highway near Redstone.

Pay your respects at the native cemetery on Highway 20
Pay your respects at the native cemetery

12. Head for Charlotte Lake, just 20 kilometres off the highway and relax for a few days at the Atnarko Retreat. Read, bird-watch, fish, kayak and swim or do nothing at all.

Beautiful view from Atnarko Lodge on Charlotte Lake
Beautiful view from Atnarko Lodge on Charlotte Lake

 13. Drive Highway 20 all the way down to Bella Coola. That would include the eleven kilometers of steep, winding, dirt road with serious drop offs.

Driving narrow Highway 20 to and from Bella Coola
Driving narrow Highway 20 to and from Bella Coola

14. Walk the Eagle’s Nest Marsh Trail on the southwest side of Anahim Lake. Look out for the bald eagles, white pelicans, trumpeter swans, ospreys and great grey and horned owls.

Check out the bald eagle with a fish
Check out the bald eagle with a fish

15. Go for a swim or a paddle on Anahim Lake.

Beautiful Anahim Lake in the Chilcotins
Beautiful Anahim Lake in the Chilcotins

16. In Bella Coola area choose from a variety of hikes including Schoolhouse Mountain Falls, Snootli Creek Regional Park and the trails to Blue Jay Lake and McGurr Lake in the high alpine.

17. Drive the streets of Bella Coola and admire the native art – totems on front lawns and murals on the grocery store.

Totem pole in front of private home in Bella Coola
Totem pole in front of private home in Bella Coola
Native art on the wall of the grocery store
Native art on the wall of the grocery store

18. Head to Clayton Falls Park just past the ferry terminal in Bella Coola. Take a picnic lunch and watch the world go by. And take a few minutes to check out Clayton Falls too.

Bella Coola BC ferry terminal
Bella Coola BC ferry terminal
Clayton Falls in Bella Coola
Clayton Falls in Bella Coola

19. Look for the petroglyphs at Thorsen Creek in Bella Coola. Hundreds have fallen from a cliff face and lie strewn in the forest. The site is estimated to be 3,500 years old. You can arrange for a tour with Nuxalk guides.

20. Do a float plane tour out of Nimpo Lake, called the Floatplane Capital of British Columbia. There’s a lot of fantastic country to see, especially the rainbow coloured mountains. Be prepared to be gobsmacked by the Rainbow Range.

The gorgeous Rainbow Range Mountains in BC
The gorgeous Rainbow Range Mountains in BC

Check out the map below to help get you oriented.

Map of Highway 20 to Bella Coola
Map of Highway 20 to Bella Coola

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast BC Backroads Mapbook to make the most of the drive.

Don’t forget to take a roadside emergency kit for your car – as often on this drive you are a long way from anywhere.

Places to stay along Highway 20

Bella Coola Mountain Lodge – A nice looking newer lodge with 14 rooms and a dining room with an inspired menu – offering fresh, local seafood, organic greens and predator friendly ingredients. They also rent cars to their guests should you have arrived on foot via the ferry.

Tweedsmuir Park Lodge boasts 600 metres of river frontage and views of Mt. Stupendous and Mt. Melikan. Choose a cabin or a chalet and sit back and relax OR pick something out of their wide range of activities – fishing, mountain biking, bear viewing, heli- skiing to name just a few.

Anahim Lake Eagle’s Nest Resort is located on Anahim Lake at the top of The Hill. Choose a cabin or a suite and enjoy your meal in a dining room overlooking the lake. 

Atnarko Lodge on Charlotte Lake is about a 45 minute drive off of Highway 20 but it’s lovely. I stayed here for four nights and thoroughly enjoyed it. Read about it here.

Close to Nimpo Lake is the Retreat Wilderness Inn, rated exceptional or Nimpo Lake Resort, rated as fabulous.

In Tatla Lake, Eagle Bear Lodge, 11 kilometres from town is rated superb.

Big Creek Lodge near Hanceville offers horseback riding and seasonal cattle drives.

In William’s Lake – unless you want a chain hotel – I would recommend Juniper Trails B&B.

Further reading on things to do in British Columbia

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

20 things to do on a road trip along Highway 20

 
 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 43 Comments
  1. Wow, Rainbow Range and Junction Sheep Range are awe-inspiring! Such gorgeous photos that really make me want to explore places I’d never even considered!

  2. Wow, Rainbow Range and Junction Sheep Range are awe-inspiring! Such gorgeous photos that really make me want to explore places I’d never even considered!

  3. Outstanding post, Leigh. The great diversity of photographic subject is testament to the nature of Canada’s natural wonders in the west. Soon I will spend a few days exploring the east. Thanks for sharing this post. I thoroughly enjoyed the photographs and look forward to visiting these attractions.

  4. Outstanding post, Leigh. The great diversity of photographic subject is testament to the nature of Canada’s natural wonders in the west. Soon I will spend a few days exploring the east. Thanks for sharing this post. I thoroughly enjoyed the photographs and look forward to visiting these attractions.

  5. You’ve inspired us, Leigh! Next August when the Bitterroot Valley fills with smoke, we’re thinking about escaping on a road trip to explore Highway 20 from Williams Lake to Bella Coola.

  6. I want to spend at least a week on this highway…. in the season that’ll enable me to watch the bears 🙂 I don’t suppose there’s a way of exploring it with public transportation?

  7. I want to spend at least a week on this highway…. in the season that’ll enable me to watch the bears 🙂 I don’t suppose there’s a way of exploring it with public transportation?

  8. Outstanding post with stunning photos, Leigh and I’ll refer to it on the blog again if you don’t mind. (http://www.resortsbc.com/Wilderness-Adventures.html) It’s wonderful of you to write about our area. You do an awesome job! Just to let Ayelet know, there is no public transportation in our area, however, many of the accommodations operators including myself are often delighted to take visitors around to different attractions in their area.

    Thanks again, Leigh!

    Jane

  9. Every August long weekend, Nemiah Valley has its annual rodeo and mountain race, the trip out to Nemiah is beautiful, takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours from Williams Lake … about an hour on hwy 20 then left at Hanceville onto the Taseko Lake Road.

    Nemiah also has an annual horse and wagon trip from Nemiah Valley to Williams Lake for the Annual Williams Lake Stampede, that in itself is a 8 day trip on horse and wagon.

    Redstone has an annual rodeo and mountain race, usually 3rd weekend in August..thats about an hour and a half on hwy 20 from Williams Lake

    Anahim Lake’s annual rodeo is usually the first weekend in August…hometown of Montreal Canadiens Carey Price 🙂

  10. We have been at the Woodland Caribou Resort on Puntzi Lake. We went last year in June and this year we have been 4 times! Wonderful, afordable spot and central to travel for day trips along Hwy 20.

  11. Stunning photography. Thank you so much for the photos. I now realize why my nursing buddy, Barb from AB just loves the caribou and the Bella Coola area.

  12. Lovely pictures and the Chilcotin is truely a beautiful place. BUT – FYI – there are NO PUBLIC TRAILS OR PUBLIC BIKE TRAILS on the Hwy 20 side of the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon. It is private property! The Dunes are Private Property. The Kiosk is also on private property. It was put there (by the Ministry of Environment with permission) for the purpose of information regarding the surrounding area and the Junction Sheep Range.. The road through to the Junction Sheep Range is gazetted, but it goes through private property. The Junction Sheep Range is well off the main road and is mostly for a vehicle with high clearance. You can cross the Chilcotin River brige and view the Dunes from the viewing site just above the Bridge.

  13. Pioneer Trail above Bluff Lake out of Tatla Lake offers a spectacular 40 minute circle hike with views of coast mountains and ends with a walk along the lake which is great for a swim or fish.

  14. I’d like to suggest Tatla Lake Manor. The bright orange motel on the side of highway 20 in Tatla Lake! You won’t find nicer hosts, or more comfortable home like accommodations. If you are into geocaching you need to make the trek up to the Tatla Lake Manor, there are hundreds hidden along the way. Let them know ahead of time if you will need meals, or request a room with a kitchen and bring your own food! Perfect cheap vacation if you have kids and want something fun and affordable! Rooms are well under $100 a night and are always super clean and comfortable. LGBTQ friendly (they even have a rainbow sticker in the window!)

  15. No, You cannot drive a car to Lonesome Lake. I drove as far as I could about 26 years ago and was still a long hike from Lonesome Lake. Looked down upon it twice. Once from a float plane and the second time from atop Trumpeter Mt.

  16. Sadly, Lee’s Corner was destroyed in the summer of 2017 during a wildfire. Driving down the 20 now is a bit of a different landscape due to the fires, still a beautiful drive. I’ve been wanting to drive out the 20 for a few years, but wasn’t able to due to the fires. This year, thankfully, it’s been nice and damp and I’m looking forward to a small road trip! (I live in Williams Lake, so am right at the start of the 20)

  17. did you know that Bella coola is also know for its square cut log houses, built by early Norwegian immigrants?

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