Extending north from Wells through Quesnel and beyond, discover eclectic communities, fascinating history, Indigenous culture and a variety of seasonal activities with a trip to explore the Northern Cariboo.
1: Visit Quesnel
The city of Quesnel is often the first community travellers encounter when arriving from Prince George to the North and is the gateway for those adventuring to Wells, Barkerville and the wilderness canoe routes found in Bowron Lake Provincial Park. The community offers a wide variety of things to see and do year-round, from hiking, fishing, and relaxing on the beach to playing in the snow or on the ice.
While exploring, feel free to take one of several self-guided tours, walk the Riverfront Trail and absorb local arts, culture and history and get to know the local First Nations that call the area home. The Dakelh (Da-kelh) or Carrier people are part of the vast Athapaskan tribe, which is divided into three areas: Northern, Southern, and Central Carrier. Carrier people all speak the same language; however, there are 18 different dialects in the region.
Surrounding Quesnel are a variety of interesting pocket communities, all offering something different for visitors. For example, the unincorporated community of Australian is located on the east side of the Fraser River, just 33 km (21 mi) south of Quesnel. Initially settled by three gold prospectors who met in Victoria, Australia, it was once home to the Palace Hotel, a roadhouse, and later “Australian House” in a different location in order to serve meals to stage passengers travelling along the BC Express (BX) when they stopped to change the horses. Besides the fascinating history, Australian is home to Cariboo’s Corn Maze, open from late September through October. Come during the day for an all-ages experience, or check out their nighttime, haunted maze on select weekend evenings.
2: Explore Wells
The vibrant, artistic community of Wells is located just east of Quenel and a few minutes from Barkerville, for an excellent day trip or extended road trip. Beginning as a quartz mine company town in the 1930’s, Wells still boasts many unique heritage buildings from this and later areas that have been preserved and restored. Visit the museum (May-August), spot the informative heritage signs in Upper Wells and stop at the Good Eats building, the only wooden-framed flatiron building still standing in the province.
Artists flock to Wells, home to everything from visual and written to musical or theatrical arts (ask a local what’s on when you arrive, they will point you in the right direction). Art galleries are in no short supply here and are open to the public in the summer or by appointment in the winter. Interested artists can take a course at Island Mountain Arts while everyone is welcome to celebrate ArtsWells: The Festival of All Things Art. No matter the time of year, there is always something to do in Wells, and just outside of town, you’ll find plenty of trails and nature to explore.
3: Go Back in Time in Barkerville
William ‘Billy’ Barker is credited with helping to kick off the British Columbia Gold Rush in 1862, that helped create the province we live in today when ‘struck the lead’ (found gold) at a depth of 52 feet.
Today, Barkerville still stands, offering visitors a unique streetscape of 125+ heritage buildings, displays, museums, restaurants, shops and accommodations, the largest living-history museum in western North America. Visit in season (Beginning of June through Labour Day Weekend) for exhibits and demonstrations, or during the shoulder season (September through May) for a self-guided tour.
4: Tour the Water
True adventurers considering a visit to the North Cariboo are looking for are encouraged to look into the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit. Here you can truly unplug – padding across a chain of 10 lakes over a 7-10 day period (or taking a shorter 3-4 day circuit). Located near Wells and Barkerville, start planning your epic adventure now, as reservations are required before embarking.
5: Find Winter Wonder in McLeese Lake
Love winter and the outdoors? Here’s a fantastic place to take a winter road trip. During the colder months, McLeese Lake becomes an idyllic ice-fishing hot spot and the perfect place to strap on skates or skies and simply explore or indulge in an iconically Canadian game of hockey. The area is also a popular spot for snowmobilers looking to take their sled out on the lake and into the wilderness (sticking to marked trails).
6: Indigenous Experiences in Soda Creek
Soda Creek began its part in Gold Rush Trail history as the terminus of the first sternwheeler steamboat in the upper Fraser River, where explorers would continue their journey via the steamboat to Quesnel (until the road was completed in 1865) and was later revived with the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad arrived from eastern Canada into Fort George, and several steam sternwheeler boats were built to travel the Fraser River.
Today, Soda Creek is a rural community and a popular place to explore history, culture, and get outdoors. Nearby Xatśūll (hat’sull) Heritage Village, operated by the Xatśūll First Nation, offers visitors the opportunity to experience their spiritual, cultural, and traditional way of life at their National, Award-Winning Heritage Village. There are regularly scheduled daily tours, and you can take part in a variety of educational and recreational activities each day.
7: Head to Pinnacles Provincial Park
Pinnacles Park overlooks Baker Creek and is a popular day-use area conveniently accessible from Quesnel. Head to the Pinnacles viewpoint (just a 15-minute hike) to spot unique formations of “hoodoos,” and capture picturesque views of Quesnel and Baker Creek.
8: Find POW at Troll Resort
Head to Troll Resort in the winter to enjoy an impressive vertical of 527m (1729ft), just 44 km (27 mi) east of Quesnel. The resort offers a variety of terrain for all types of skiers and snowboarders, including long fall-line groomers, to steep, gladed tree runs as well as a progressive terrain park with jumps ranging from S to XL, rails and boxes for first-timers and experts, and really something for every type of rider.
Plan your trip from early December to early April, Thursdays to Mondays.
9: Discover Hixon
This small community north of Quesnel was named for prospector Joseph Foster Hixon, who found gold in the Fraser River nearby in 1866. Stop here for accommodations and supplies, as well as for outdoor adventure. Hixon Falls, a 100-foot cascading waterfall plus a fun swimming hole. Three Sisters Lakes Provincial Park at Stone Creek.
10: Fishing By Jetboat on the Quesnel River
Hop in a jet boat with Cariboo Jetboat Adventures for a thrilling ride up and down the Quesnel River, fishing for Rainbow Trout, Bull Trout, and Spring Salmon up to 30 lbs in July & August, and Sockeye Salmon from mid-August. Along the way, visit lakes, rivers and waterfalls or head over to Horsefly River for trophy salmon.
If fishing by jet boat isn’t enough adventure for you, bring the fishing experience up to the executive class with helicopter fly fishing. A truly once-in-a-lifetime experience for small groups up to 5 people
Ready to explore BC’s North Cariboo region? Download our guide to help with trip and travel planning and get started!