“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” — Edward Abbey
Once in awhile you come across a place that just feels made for RV travel. Stretching from the rolling Cariboo Mountains to the Pacific Coast, British Columbia’s Highway 20 offers seemingly endless vistas with unspoiled wilderness everywhere you look.
The scenic, winding journey of 283 miles from Williams Lake to Bella Coola is full of diverse landscapes, ranging from grassy plateaus and rolling meadows to picturesque canyons and high mountain peaks. You feel like you are in British Columbia’s “wild west,” with each small community providing its own unique story along the way. With ranches and specialty lodges, grizzly bear viewing and tranquil visits off the beaten path, each trip along Highway 20 provides a fresh experience.
The route is easily accessible by traveling north from Whistler or Kamloops to Williams Lake, where you will find rural charm intrinsic to its ranching culture and gold rush history. Spending a few days here in British Columbia’s own cowboy country is a rewarding introduction to the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Region. Spend time at Xat’sull Heritage Village to experience the spiritual, cultural and traditional way of life of the Northern Secwepemc First Nations. Fans of ranching and rodeos should plan a visit to the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin, billed as “A True Cowboy Museum,” while bird-watching enthusiasts will want to stop at Scout Island Nature Centre. You can also explore a plethora of mountain bike trails, such as the River Valley Trail’s 12 kilometers from downtown to the mighty Fraser River.
A stop in Nimpo Lake, known as the “Floatplane Capital of B.C.” or in Anahim Lake, the eastern gateway to the southern portion of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, allows for floatplane excursions taking in vistas of rugged mountaintops and massive glaciers. You can fly in to fish at a remote lake or take an exclusive guided hiking excursion with a resident expert.
If you would rather keep your feet on the ground or at least in stirrups, choose to unleash your inner cowboy with a stop in Kleena Kleene for a real Canadian ranch experience beneath the Coast Mountains.
No visit to British Columbia is complete without viewing its resident grizzly bears! Situated among one of the world’s largest grizzly bear populations, the Tweedsmuir Park Lodge offers a “Canadian Signature Experience” with its Grizzly Bear Viewing Safaris.
Continuing west, you can’t help but marvel at the change in the landscape as you transition from the high and relatively dry Chilcotin to the moist, humid and rich textures of the Great Bear Rainforest and the Bella Coola Valley. With a First Nations history dating back 10,000 years, the Great Bear Rainforest offers visitors a collection of thrilling outdoor adventures and an unforgettable connection with the environment.
More than just a “road trip,” your journey along Highway 20 in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Region will be a profoundly personal experience while in the company of stunning mountain ranges, majestic wildlife and the vast freedom of the land.
Nikki is a writer and editor for Do It Yourself RV, RV LIFE, and Camper Report. She is based on the Oregon Coast and has traveled all over the Pacific Northwest.