As a central hub of the Cariboo lifestyle, Williams Lake finds itself at the intersection of adventure and culture in a growing community of entrepreneurs, sports enthusiasts, and families who love to get outdoors. With new businesses and trails constantly opening up there is something new to discover every year and every season. Looking for things to do in Williams Lake? Here is our list of the best in Arts, Culture, Adventure, Entertainment, and Dining:
Hiking near Williams Lake
Many of the mountain biking trails in the Cariboo double up as hiking trails (which we will delve into next) but if you’re looking for peaceful hiking-only trails, Williams Lake has great ones for sunrise, sunset, and in-between. A fulfilling morning hike overlooking the adjacent lake and mountains is Russet Bluff. This hike is a bit steep at times but very rewarding and finishes on a beautiful rock ledge that overlooks the valley and lake below.
A local favourite for any time in the day is Scout Island Nature Centre where life is abundant and the trails are tame. For a great sunset hike that overlooks the city and the lake again but is less strenuous than Russet Bluff is the Signal Hill hike. This trail also doubles up as a mountain biking trail and has a Canadian flag perched perfectly at the top making for great photo opportunities. For a truly remarkable and wild view of the Chilko River and its glacial colours winding through a desert canyon, head 1 hour and 20 minutes west of Williams Lake along Highway 20 to Farwell Canyon and be sure to stop at the Historic Chilcotin Lodge for some fresh homestyle baking.
Be sure to practice safe and responsible travel by following these guides on all of your Williams Lake adventures.
Mountain Biking Near Williams Lake
Known as the ‘Shangri-la’ of mountain biking, Williams Lake is fastly becoming a world-famous mountain biking destination. With over 200 km (125 mi) of single-track biking within the city limits and another 100 km (75 mi) within a half-hour drive from Williams Lake, there’s more riding to do here than you’ll have time for in a single weekend. Ride the Cariboo is an excellent resource for trail networks in the area.
And when you’ve finished your hike or mountain bike ride, be sure to stop in at the new Fox Mountain Brewing for the ultimate aprés and delicious food.
Fishing, paddling, & boating near Williams Lake
With so many accessible rivers and bodies of freshwater nearby, Williams Lake and surrounding areas are an anglers and paddler’s dream. Experienced anglers can venture to rivers and lakes with their own gear or if you’re looking for a guided experience, Lone Butte Fishing Adventures does guided trips in the area. Big Canyon Rafting offers guided white water rafting trips, and Cariboo Chilcotin Jetboats offers wild water adventures from Williams Lake as well. Of course, if you have your own paddleboard, kayak, canoe, or boat, Williams Lake is welcoming, normally quite calm, and is a great escape right on the city’s doorstep.
Arts & Culture in Williams Lake
Downtown Williams Lake is bustling with unique shops, restaurants, and plenty of arts and culture. Among one of the best places to explore and purchase art is the Station House Gallery. This former train station is Williams Lakes’ oldest building and is beautifully restored from the inside out. A visit to Downtown Williams Lake is not complete without exploring the mural tour; this self-guided walking tour is made up of several vibrant murals that pay homage to past times with a modern art twist.
Nearby to Williams Lake is Xatśūll Heritage Village, an authentic Indigenous experience run by the Soda Creek Band. This immersive experience is scenically located on the banks of the Fraser River and educates visitors on the local Indigenous culture and history that dates back millennia. This area is also home to scenic mountain bike trails that were built in partnership with the Soda Creek Band and run down to the river banks below.
Perhaps your first stop in Williams Lake should be at the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin. This beautiful log structure was built by the famed Timber Kings and is home to the local visitor centre, the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame, and various artifacts and interactive displays that explain the area’s past. For even more depth into the gold rush and pioneer days, the nearby 108 Mile Heritage Site features several historical buildings open for visiting from spring to fall.
Williams Lake Stampede
Last but not least is the world-famous Williams Lake Stampede. There is arguably no better time to visit Williams Lake than during the Stampede; held annually over the July long weekend, this all-ages event incorporates education, entertainment, and a community atmosphere like no other in BC. With live entertainment day and night, beer gardens, free stampede breakfasts, and a parade through Williams Lake to kick it all off, the Williams Lake Stampede is an annual event not to miss.