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Where are the Best Lakes in British Columbia for...

Flying U Ranch, Green Lake | Jonny Bierman

There are over 20,000 lakes dotted throughout British Columbia, so if you are searching for the best lake for fishing, canoeing, swimming or other pursuits, it can be a challenge to drill down which lakes to visit on your next trip. Fortunately, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast is home to a variety of scenic lakes that are ideal for your next adventure.

best fishing lakes bc

Stewart’s Lodge, Nimpo Lake | Tyler Cave

Where are the Best Fishing Lakes in BC?

Hands down, if you want a selection of hundreds of freshwater fishing spots located on a less than 100 km (62 mi) stretch of highway, head to the Land of Hidden Waters and Fishing Highway 24.

best bc fishing lakes

Rainbow Trout | Geoff Moore

Here you can embark on guided fishing trips, stay at a fishing resort to cast a line steps from your accommodation, or explore hidden lakes that few get a chance to try their luck on. Species found here include lake trout, kokanee, rainbow, brook, and burbot.

Top lakes to fish in BC’s Land of Hidden Waters include:

  • Horse Lake for 30 lbs+ lake trout in deep waters and kokanee up to 3 lbs.
  • Sheridan Lake for trophy rainbow up to 20 lbs.
  • Deka & Bridge Lake for terrific kokanee fishing up to 5 lbs and lake trout to 30 lbs.
  • Hathaway Lake for rainbow trout and stocked kokanee.
  • Fawn Lake for a peaceful day of lake fishing (electric motors only) and rainbows over 5 lbs.

A close second for top lakes to fish in BC would be along Chilcotin Highway 20 and down to the Bella Coola Valley (where of course you can feel free to continue on for some fantastic ocean fishing) with the following spots:

This area is also home to back-country lodges for fly-in fishing vacations, where you can discover hidden gem fishing lakes where you are the only angler.

Find in-depth fishing info on GoFishBC under the Cariboo region.

Canim lake paddleboard bc

Canim Lake | Jonny Bierman

Where are the Most Beautiful Paddleboarding Lakes in BC?

Throughout the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, there are lakes of many sizes and shapes, so whether you’re searching for a small, quiet lake to paddle solo or a larger lake for extended exploration, your top paddleboarding lakes can be found here:

  • The north side of Horsefly Lake is home to a Provincial Park and offers an ideal location to launch a paddleboard and explore 100 km (62 mi) of shoreline.
  • Loon Lake is considered a top lake for paddleboarders, and at 14 km (9 mi) long you can take a whole day to explore!
  • Crooked Lake offers a boat launch and recreation site on the south side of the lake for an easy transition into crystal clear waters.
  • Canim Lake at 37 km (23 mi) long can provide a multi-day place to explore, with plenty of places to stay – some offering paddleboard rentals if you’d rather not lug your board around!
  • Tyaughton Lake in the Bridge River Valley offers glass-calm conditions for a morning of paddling the shoreline, where you might be lucky enough to see local wildlife including beaver, moose, and bears.

Of course, if you are already in the Land of Hidden Waters, there are plenty more places to explore by paddleboard, so feel free to explore along Highway 24 or ask a local for their favourite hidden gem lakes to paddleboard!

Bowron Lake Canoe

Bowron Lake | Adam Wells

Where are BC’s Top Canoeing Lakes?

best bc lakes for canoeing

Turner Lake | Jesaja Class

Embark into the wilderness on a trip through the incredible Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit. This popular loop is one of the best places to canoe for a few days, far from civilization. Select from the entire 10 lake, 116km (72mi) circuit (comprised of Babcock, Kibbee, Indianpoint, Isaac, McLeary, Lanezi, Sandy, Spectacle, Swan and Bowron Lakes) that takes 7-10 days to complete, or choose the shorter circuit at 3-4 days. Just a note that these trips need to be planned and booked in advance.

Canoe enthusiasts are also fond of the world’s deepest fjord lake, Quesnel Lake, located east of Likely – although winds can sometimes be unpredictable, so being prepared is essential. Discover sandy beaches, anchorages, waterfalls, wetlands and rivers, creeks, large tree communities and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Another popular canoe route is the Turner Lake Chain in Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park (made up of Turner, Cutthroat, Vista, Junker, Widgeon, Kidney & Sunshine Lakes). Portages are short, well marked, and supplied with canoe rests. The route is considered suitable for intermediate to advanced paddlers and takes 3-5 days to complete. Note that access to the start of the chain is by a 16 km (10 mi) hike or floatplane trip.

Bridge Lake is ideal for canoeists, who enjoy exploring the shoreline, which is quite open and has several small bays and inlets to explore.

Explore BC's waters in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast

Tatlayoko Lake | 6ix Sigma Productions

Where are the Best Lakes in British Columbia for Kayaking?

bc kayak lakes

Horsefly | Horsefly Landing Resort

Many of the same lakes that are frequented by canoers can also serve for exploration by kayak; however, there are also some more challenging lakes in BC where the conditions are better suited for paddling a kayak, including:

Chilko Lake is found in Ts’ilʔos Provincial Park. It is a popular spot for kayaking, as canoeing is not recommended due to unpredictable winds that can lead to wavy conditions, plus the rocky shores. 

Tatlayoko Lake is another excellent spot for experienced kayakers as often the wind can lead to more challenging conditions that are better handled by kayak.

Horsefly Lake offers 100 km (62 mi) of lakeshore, so there’s plenty of room to explore. Kayakers will enjoy paddling the narrows to Hansen Island.

Paddle past migratory bird species and stop to take some photos as they take a break at Nimpo Lake or Anahim Lake (within 20 minutes of each other), including blue herons, eagles and the endangered American White Pelican.

canim lake swimming

Canim Lake | Jonny Bierman

Where are the Top Lakes in British Columbia for Swimming?

best BC lakes for swimming

Flying U Ranch, Green Lake | Jonny Bierman

The Seton Lake recreational area, located just a few minutes outside of Lillooet, has three day-use picnic areas that are ideal for bringing a blanket and picnic to sit shore-side after a swim. Visitors are encouraged to also explore the Seton Viewpoint, which provides views of the emerald-green waters and surrounding Chilcotin mountains. Keep an eye out for kekulis near the viewpoint, underground winter homes built by the interior Salish-speaking St’at’imc (stat-lee-m) people and feel free to explore the self-guided interpretive trail that provides information about the history of the Lillooet area and some of its modern-day features.

Near Gold Bridge, Gun Lake is a sparkling body of water that rests at the base of Mount Penrose, a 2,627 m (8,618 ft) peak, tucked away in a valley of aspen and cottonwood trees and a popular place for water activities, including swimming. Nearby Tyaughton Lake is also an excellent swimming lake, perfect for cooling off on a hot summer’s day.

As one of the largest bodies of water in the south Cariboo, Green Lake offers 57 km (35 mi) of shoreline and plenty of places to hop in and explore the warm, shallow waters.

Just west of Bella Coola, you’ll find an excellent lake for swimming – Grey Jay Lake. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended to access the trailhead and after a hike (if desired) through open meadows and wetlands to a viewpoint overlooking the North and South Bentinck Arms you can cool off with a refreshing swim.

lakeside resorts bc

Tyax Lodge & Heliskiing on Tyaughton Lake | Jonny Bierman

Where are the Best Lakes in British Columbia for Lakeside Resorts?

There are a ton of lakeside lodges and resorts throughout the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast – and you can peruse some choice options here. Nearly all the lakes mentioned above have accommodations nearby, so you merely need to select your activity and then browse places to stay near your top BC lake!