The Cariboo Highway (Hwy 97) runs north from Cache Creek to Prince George across the lake-studded Fraser Plateau, including the Chasm, Green Lake, and Bowron Lake Provincial Parks, and the historic Gold Rush Trail from Lillooet (Mile 0) to Barkerville.
This is a classic 275-mile (445-km) ramble through the heart of the Cariboo region, with branch roads that lead west into one of British Columbia’s most thinly populated outbacks, Chilcotin country.
The highway runs through Cariboo Country, a region of rolling hills and prairies, thick forests, granite-walled canyons and impressive river valleys, where ranching, logging and mining are the mainstays of the local economy.
Many towns along the Cariboo Highway are helpfully referred to by distance from Lillooet (Mile 0) north along the Gold Rush Trail. Thus 70 Mile House, for example, marks the distance between Lillooet and this point, the original site of a pioneer roadhouse. Evidence of the days of the stampeders persists in delightful places such as the roadhouses at Hat Creek, 108 Mile Ranch, and Cottonwood Creek. Even more impressive is the landscape itself, with its rolling hills, deeply incised rivers, and many lakes.
There are several approaches one can take: hurried or slow, scenic or under cover of darkness, direct or circuitous. However, no matter which route you choose when heading to or from the Cariboo, all offer rewards along the way. After experiencing the peace that prevails in this region, and inspired by sights such as that of a canoe mirrored in the surface of a crystal lake or fresh ski tracks lit by a full moon, the glow of your adventure will make you drag your feet when the time to head home draws nigh.
Circle Tour: See the best of the Cariboo, Chilcotin and BC Coast on the Discovery Coast Circle Tour. Cross to Vancouver Island from Vancouver and head north, boarding the Queen of Chilliwack in Port Hardy. Return to the mainland at Bella Coola, and enjoy the grassy plateaus, rolling meadows, picturesque canyons and high mountain peaks of the Chilcotin. The old Cariboo Wagon Road will lead you back to Vancouver through the heart of the Cariboo region. The Inside Passage Tour, the Native Heritage Tour, and the Circle Tour of Northern BC all incorporate the Cariboo Highway 97 for the journey between Prince George and Vancouver.
Circle Tours in British Columbia.
Location: The Cariboo Highway (Hwy 97) runs north from Cache Creek across the Fraser Plateau to Prince George. BC Rail parallels Highway 97 from Prince George to Clinton. In the south, Highway 1 links with Highway 97 at Cache Creek, the Cariboo Highway’s southern terminus. To the west, Highway 20 links Bella Coola on the central coast with Highway 97 at Williams Lake, while Highway 16 links Prince Rupert on the northwest coast with Prince George. To the east, Highway 24 links Highway 5 (the Yellowhead) with Highway 97 near 93 Mile House. Daily air, rail, and bus service to Prince George is provided from Vancouver.
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The following towns are located on or near the Cariboo Highway (South to North):
Gold Country is a region rich in gold mining history, with fascinating tales of gold prospectors, merchants, travellers and cowboys to enchant visitors and history buffs. Gold Country offers great scenery and abundant wildlife, mountains and valleys, lakes and rivers, and fascinating historic towns.
Amid a desertlike climate of cactus, sagebrush and rolling tumbleweeds, the bustling little town of Cache Creek provides an oasis of motels at the junction of the Trans Canada Highway and the Cariboo Highway (97). Long before fur traders, Gold Rush Miners, ranchers and settlers arrived in this valley, people of the Shuswap Nation followed a nomadic lifestyle here for thousands of years.
Clinton was once a busy junction on the wagon road leading to the Cariboo and Barkerville gold fields. An historical cairn in Clinton marks the junction of two routes to the Cariboo gold mines; The original 1859 Cariboo Trail from Lillooet, and the Cariboo Road through the Fraser Canyon, built in 1863 by the Royal Engineers.
70 Mile House
The community of 70 Mile House is one of many towns established along the historic Cariboo Wagon Road route to the Cariboo goldfields. The town began as a mere roadhouse until some of the travellers passing through the junction decided to stay and put down roots.
Located southeast of 100 Mile House, Lone Butte was once the Cariboo’s largest town, and a busy centre for the ranchers who settled in the area from the turn of the century to the 1950’s.
100 Mile House
Once a major hub on the Cariboo Wagon Road, the town of 100 Mile House is a major service and commercial area for outlying communities and industries within the Cariboo region of BC.
The small lakeside community of Canim Lake is located at the southwestern end of Wells Gray Provincial Park. Canim Lake is one of the larger lakes in the Cariboo, surrounded by expansive meadows, mountains, and rolling hills. Numerous resorts dot the shoreline of the magnificent Canim Lake.
108 Mile Ranch
The residential community of 108 Mile House enjoys great recreational opportunities, including canoeing, swimming and fishing on 108 Lake and Sepa Lake. A popular visit is the 108 Mile House Heritage Site, which features refurbished log buildings and implements from the historic cattle ranch.
Lac La Hache
The small, friendly community of Lac la Hache describes itself as the Longest Town in the Cariboo. Highway 97 skirts the entire 19-kilometre shoreline of this beautiful lake in its rolling Fraser Plateau setting, which has many fishing lodges, guest ranches and vacation homes sprinkled along its perimeter.
Set in the heart of the Frontier, amid lakes and rolling ranchland, Williams Lake has been the focal point and service centre for the ranches of the Cariboo and Chilcotin regions since the turn of the century. From here you can explore the cedar forests of the gold rush country to the east, travel west to the Pacific Ocean over the vast expanses of the Chilcotin Plateau, venture north to Prince George and beyond to Alaska, or head south to the Okanagan and the Lower Mainland.
The community of Horsefly is located 10 kilometres west of beautiful Horsefly Lake, nestled at the base of the Cariboo Mountains. Horsefly lake is just one of the plethora of lakes and rivers in the Chilcotin-Cariboo region that invite exploration, outdoor adventure and fishing.
Located in a picturesque setting on the mouth of the Quesnel River, at the west end of Quesnel Lake, the pleasant community of Likely is one of the few remaining old gold rush settlements.
The picturesque community of Quesnel is the commercial centre of the North Cariboo, located in a quiet valley surrounded by beautiful green mountains and lush forests. Quesnel is a perfect place from which to launch outdoor adventures and soak up the rich history of the Gold Rush era.
The quaint and historic town of Wells was a small but prosperous gold boomtown for a time, and still retains the flavour of the era in its unique heritage buildings. Known as a place of culture and natural splendour, this picturesque spot is both a world-class recreation area and a retreat for artists.
Rediscover gold country in British Columbia’s legendary and historic gold rush town of Barkerville. A gateway into the past, Barkerville offers visitors a glimpse of the days when haggard prospectors paid for their whisky with gold dust, and can-can dancers could scoop up a tip without missing a beat.