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Special Places: Cariboo Mountains

Crooked Lake - Cariboo Mountains, BC | Michael Bednar

By Mary Elliott

The Cariboo Mountains is true wilderness country. It features rare, interior rainforest with ancient red cedars and 3,000-m (10,000-ft) high, serrated mountain peaks and glaciers; with crystal-clear lakes and lush wetlands The three largest provincial parks: Bowron Lakes, Cariboo Mountain and Wells Gray, and the smaller provincial parks: Cariboo River, Quesnel Lake and Horsefly Lake combine as one massive protected area of over 760,000 hectares (2 million acres). This dramatic region, located between the mighty Fraser River to the Rocky Mountain Trench in the north Cariboo, is sparsely populated and accessed by the small communities of Horsefly, Likely and Wells.

Ghost Falls Cariboo

Lower Ghost Falls – Cariboo Mountains, BC | Blake Jorgenson

Anchoring this massive slice of backcountry “heaven” is Quesnel Lake, the world’s deepest fjord lake. And that’s not the only impressive water body here; many small lakes and alpine tarns, fast-flowing rivers and tributaries run through the region. For those with a penchant for seeking them out, several thunderous, cascading waterfalls can be found throughout, including two at Ghost Lake. Grizzly bears (one of the largest populations of grizzlies in the BC interior), black bears, moose, mountain goats, cougars, wolves, over 250 species of birds and many small mammals also call this part of BC their home. The diversity of the area provides critical habitat for several wildlife species, including the rare mountain caribou that depends on the arboreal lichens found in old-growth forests, which they can reach by walking on top of the deep winter snowpack. With everything combined, the Cariboo Mountains is a coveted destination for outdoor adventure seekers. Bowron Lakes is home to the renowned, multi-day, 116-km (72-mi) canoe circuit. Wilderness hiking, canoeing, ATVing, fishing and hunting, heli-assisted adventures, winter adventures and year-round bird and wildlife-viewing can all be had in the Cariboo Mountains.  Wild and undeveloped, the area is best accessed with seasoned guides.

BC Fishing Lakes, Interlakes and Hidden Lakes

Bowron Lake, BC | Thomas Drasdauskis

Anglers in the know also head here. The rivers provide spawning, rearing and foraging habitats for salmonids, including sockeye, coho, chinook, kokanee, bull trout and rainbow trout. Horsefly Lake and Quesnel Lake offer excellent angling opportunities and refreshing elbow room to cast without any crowds. But the surprising beauty and peace of this area can be summed up by this perspective, given by a local fishing guide: “Waters like these… sometimes you don’t need to catch a fish.”  

Quesnel Lake BC

Quesnel Lake, BC | David Jacobson

All this to say, the Cariboo Mountains area is indeed special. It offers those lucky enough to visit here a chance to experience the world from the eyes of the forest and the wildlife. To enjoy the solitude that this place offers. Start planning your trip to the Cariboo by downloading our digital visitor’s guide or learn more about the region.