Nestled in the picturesque Bulkley Valley, in the shadow of Hudson Bay Mountain and surrounded by three mountain ranges, it’s no wonder that Smithers is known as Little Switzerland, having adopted an alpine theme for its downtown core. The area’s panoramic scenery is matched only by the genuine warmth of its community.
The red brick sidewalk on Main Street invites you to stroll and browse through Smithers, from the former 1925 court house at one end to its twin, the newly restored Canadian National Railway station, at the other.
Both these heritage buildings provide a link to Smithers’ roots as a railway town. Founded in 1913 as the divisional headquarters of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, Smithers became the first village to be incorporated in BC, in 1921, and finally obtained town status in 1967, Canada’s Centennial year.
Along the way, Smithers became home to pioneer settlers who farmed the valley, discovered its mineral riches, and developed the forest industry that is so vital to the community today.
Location: Smithers is located on the Yellowhead Highway 16 in the Bulkley Valley of Northwest British Columbia, between Prince George in the interior (232 miles/371 km) and Prince Rupert on the west coast (220 miles/350 km).
The fascinating story of Smithers and its founding families can be found in the Bulkley Valley Museum. Located in the Central Park Building, the museum houses a collection of artifacts and documents that sketch the development of the region from stone-age native tools to the growth of today’s community.
Exhibitions are presented throughout the year at the Smithers Art Gallery, which aims to promote and encourage local and regional artists, as well as to bring exhibitions from elsewhere to the Art Gallery.
Providing the scenic backdrop to the town of Smithers, Babine Mountains Provincial Park is one of the finest hiking areas in west central BC. Spectacular mountains, glacier-fed lakes, snowfields and the sub-alpine meadows entice hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers and snowmobilers all year round.
Visit the spectacular Twin Falls and Glacier Gulch, yet another reminder from the distant past, when a glacier carved a 2-kilometre wide gorge into Hudson Bay Mountain. Five thousand feet above, one can still see the receding Kathlyn Glacier!
Paddling: The Babine and Telkwa Rivers offer excellent canoeing and kayaking. For adrenaline-pounding whitewater rafting, take a guided trip through the churning waters of the Bulkley River Canyon. This is one of the most exciting and scenic rafting trips in BC, with over 30 rapids, which include Waikiki Canyon, One Man Crowd, and the thundering Feather Bed.
Winter Activities: Winter is a great time to visit Smithers – Nordic skiing on Hudson Bay Mountain Resort offers endless miles of tranquil trails just waiting to be discovered. Hudson Bay Mountain Resort offers plenty of light, dry powder for downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing. Ski and snowboard rentals are available. Skiing and Winter Recreation in the North West.
Snowmobiling: Smithers is known throughout BC for its incredible snowmobiling areas. The Big Onion, situated north of Smithers in the Babine Mountain Recreational Area, offers some of the best snowmobiling in BC, with breathtaking climbs and wonderful adventures for all levels of riders. The Smithers Snowmobile Association maintains two propane-equipped cabins on the mountain, which provide excellent shelter. The annual Smithers Hillclimb is held on this mountain every March.
Fishing: Seymour, Babine, Ross and Tyhee Lakes and, of course, the Bulkley River, all offer high quality fishing for rainbow, dolly varden, steelhead, and chinook and coho salmon. Babine Lake is highly recommended for spring fishing. Mid-May to Mid-June marks the rainbow trout and char season that has local anglers hooked.
Hiking: Take a hike to Crater Lake, a 3-hour hike on the spectacular Hudson Bay Mountain, through alpine meadows and past various streams and water holes. Crater Lake is an old crater, filled with icy glacier water challenged by only the bravest hikers. The hike provides a great view of the Telkwa Mountains to the east of Smithers.
Trails: Located 15 minutes drive up the Hudson Bay Mountain, the Smithers Community Forest includes an interpretive nature trail that winds through a variety of ecological habitats and the Pine Creek Cross-country Ski trails. Smithers offers The Perimeter Trail, a trail system around the perimeter of Smithers that connects the residential areas to Riverside Park, the Bulkley River, Chicken Creek, and Smithers Golf & Country Club. The trail is used for walking, jogging, hiking, biking and cross-country skiing.
Golf: Nestled in the Bulkley Valley at the base of Hudson Bay Mountain is Smithers Golf & Country Club, a challenging 18-hole par 72 golf course. The exciting course is surrounded by a thick carpet of forest that descends from Hudson Bay Mountain, with forested fairways, a creek that comes into play on several holes, and glacier views as far as the eye can see. Smithers has a second golf course, the 18-hole Par 3 Riverside Golf and RV Park, located east of Smithers on Highway 16.
Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Fish Hatchery: Enjoy an exciting and unique afternoon at the Toboggan Creek Fish Hatchery, which raises and releases salmon in the Bulkley Valley Watershed.
The power of the Bulkley River is displayed at the Moricetown Falls, where the rushing river has created falls in the canyon. The white cascading water combined with the carved rock of the canyon walls make for an incredible sight. During the salmon season, July and August, you can watch the Wetsuwet’en First Nations people use traditional gaffing techniques to fish for their food.
Babine Lake Marine Park (Smithers Landing) is the most northerly of the provincial parks on Babine Lake. Campsites nestled along the lakeshore make Smithers Landing a scenic camping spot, and great for boating and fishing. The park is located on Babine Lake, northeast of Smithers.
Tyhee Lake Provincial Park, located south of town off Hwy 16, is a lightly forested park with a long, stretching beachfront, a covered log picnic shelter, and vehicle/tent campsites. The main activities at Tyhee Lake, which also serves as a floatplane landing destination, are swimming, boating, fishing and birdwatching.
Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, located 6 miles (10 km) northeast of Smithers, is considered one of the world’s most significant fossil beds. Geologists have dated these particular fossil beds back to between ten and twenty million years ago, to the Eocene or Oligocene Age. Preserved within the shale formations in the park are plant, animal, fish and insect species that inhabited the low wetland of swamps and shallow lakes back then.
Indoor Activities: Spend rainy days in Smithers’ curling rink or the Bulkley Valley Regional Pool.
Held in Smithers over the last weekend in August, before the Labour Day Weekend, the Bulkley Valley Exhibition is called The Show of the North. From the Thursday night parade down Main Street to the BC Championship Heavy Horse Pull on Sunday afternoon, the fair is alive with entertainment, competition and exhibits that have something for everyone.
Smithers is also an excellent base for day trips to the Hazeltons, which are well worth a visit. A “must see”, is one of the finest native heritage sites in the country, the ‘Ksan Native Village. Seven decorated tribal houses fronted with several elaborately carved totems stand silently on the banks of the Skeena and Bulkley Rivers, portraying the lifestyles of generations that lived long ago.
Immediately south of Smithers at the confluence of the Telkwa and Bulkley Rivers is the friendly community of Telkwa, known as the village Where the Rivers Meet. Telkwa is also the place where fishermen, canoeists and kayakers congregate in preparation for outdoor adventure.
Further south on Highway 16 is the growing community of Houston, Where the Welcome is Warm and the Wilderness beckons. Houston is home to the World’s Largest Fly Rod, at 60 foot long rod and weighing 800 lbs.
Halfway between Smithers and New Hazelton is Moricetown – a Wet’suwet’en First Nation village of 800. View the late-summer spectacle of traditional aboriginal salmon fishing in the crashing whitewater of the Moricetown Canyon.
Circle Tours: See the best of Northern BC on one of the Circle Tours that capture the wonders of the north. The Circle Tour of Northern British Columbia incorporates the Alaska Highway through the Rocky Mountain foothills to Watson Lake in the Yukon, linking with the Stewart/Cassiar Highway and Yellowhead Highway 16 in the south. The Inside Passage Circle Tour and the Native Heritage Circle Tour follow the same route, from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island north by ferry to Prince Rupert. Catch another ferry to the Queen Charlotte Islands, or venture east on the Yellowhead Highway to Prince George, and south through the peaceful Cariboo to Vancouver along the historic Cariboo Wagon Road.
Circle Tours in British Columbia.