One of the BC tourist attractions that is well off the beaten path is the beautiful Bella Coola Valley. We visited for an afternoon on a beautiful summer day after surviving 11 kilometres of terror – aka the drive down THE HILL on Highway 20. The town of Bella Coola is a little slice of heaven when the sun shines. I couldn’t get over the shades of blue in the ocean. You need at least a day to explore the area.
But what is there to do other than to admire the scenery in Bella Coola?
Plenty as it turns out. The 80 kilometre long Bella Coola Valley is situated between the Great Bear Rainforest to the west and beautiful Tweedsmuir Provincial Park to the east. Unfortunately it’s not the easiest place to get to. You either have to drive 450 kms along Highway 20 from Williams Lake (and that takes about 7 ½ hours) or take the ferry from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island – and that will take you nearly 24 hours.
But once you’re in the Bella Coola Valley there are plenty of things to do.
- Tops on my list would be a grizzly bear tour in the Great Bear Rainforest. There are many people that offer such tours including the lodges listed below. Also check out BC Grizzly Tours.
- Have a picnic lunch by Clayton Falls and enjoy the ocean view from the picnic table. (See the photo above.)
- If you have a four wheel drive vehicle head for Blue Jay and Grey Jay Lakes, 45 minutes above Clayton Falls. There’s a trail and a boardwalk, camping, trout fishing and terrific alpine views.
- Visit the Bella Coola Museum and admire the artifacts from the past 100 years. Pick up a pamphlet when you’re there so you can take a self-guided walking tour of Bella Coola. Look for the tiny cabin that was the town’s first jail, search for the home of the Hudson’s Bay manager and then check out the totem pole entry at the House of Noomnst.
- Arrange for a tour of the hundreds of petroglyphs with a Nuxalk guide. They lie in the forest in the Thorsen Creek area. The carvings were created by Nuxalk Ancestors and are thought by some to be 3,500 years old. In fact Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl proposes a connection between these petroglyphs and those from the Easter Islands – because of the similarity in the rock carvings.
- If you’re into rodeos visit Bella Coola on the first long weekend in July when it plays host to one of the largest amateur rodeos in western Canada.
- There is loads of hiking in the Bella Coola Valley. Or head for Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and choose from a huge variety of trails including what I consider a world class hike – the Rainbow Range hike.
- Go fishing – in one of the famous fishing holes in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park or in the ocean.
- Enjoy the drive up the Bella Coola Valley. It was far more scenic than I ever imagined it would be.
Where to stay in the Bella Coola Valley
- 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. If you need a latte for the road you can get one here.
- Tweedsmuir Park Lodge boasts 600 meters 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. We watched a bald eagle pull a fish out of the water from our seat.
Have you been to the Bella Coola Valley?
Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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