Nestled in the rugged Coast Mountains across the Fraser River north of Abbotsford lies Mission, so named after the first and largest mission in the Pacific Northwest, the Roman Catholic St. Mary’s Indian Mission, founded in 1861.
Dubbed the Gateway to the Fraser River, Mission was a popular stopping place for trappers, settlers, and other river travellers, and remains an important junction to this day. When the original site became part of the Canadian Pacific Railway right of way in 1895, the mission was moved, and the school, convent and church were constructed at what is now the Fraser River Heritage Park.
Mission is the site of Canada’s first train robbery, B.C.’s first rail link to the United States, the first bridge across the Fraser River, one of the earliest Hydroelectric dams, and is also the home of the Western Canadian Soap Box Derby.
The first inhabitants of this area were the people of the Sto:lo First Nations. For over 20 years, the Sto:lo people have joined with tribes and bands from both sides of the border for annual powwows. Held each July, these important and dramatic cultural events offer visitors to Mission an excellent opportunity to admire and learn more about some of British Columbia’s First Nations people.
Surrounded by forests, hills, lakes and streams, Mission is a paradise for anyone who loves the recreational outdoors, boasting two golf courses, 32 parks and dozens of hiking trails. Mission is alive with a community spirit, growing with vision and fiercely proud of its heritage.
Location: Mission is located on the Lougheed Highway (Highway 7), on the north bank of the Fraser River in the Central Fraser Valley, 44 miles (70 km) east of Vancouver. To the south of Mission, across the Fraser River, is the town of Abbotsford.
Fraser River Heritage Park: Located two minutes east of downtown Mission on the former site of St. Mary’s Mission and Indian Residential School, the Fraser River Heritage Park offers an enticing variety of events for the entire family, with a panoramic view of the mighty Fraser River and its beautiful valley. Enjoy a guided tour of the historic grounds or take a map and stroll at your own pace. A highlight of the visit is the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, a reconstruction of a six-sided white shrine built in 1892 to become a focal point for retreats, pilgrimages and passion plays for people throughout the region.
Mission Museum: Learn about Rivers, Rails and Robbers at the Mission Museum, where the historic legacy of the community and surrounding district is preserved. Features include Mission’s largest artifact, a 1907 BC Mills prefabricated building, local history displays, and heritage walking tours.
Westminster Abbey: Seeking solace and solitude? Look no further than Mission’s Westminster Abbey. Overlooking the Fraser River and far from the maddening crowd, the Abbey is one of two Benedictine Monasteries in Canada, home to a community of Benedictine Monks, offering a reassuring anachronism for explorers of all kinds.
Cascade Falls and Suspension Bridge: The suspension bridge at Cascade Falls, which opened in spring 2015, gives hikers a bird’s-eye view of a stunning 30-metre waterfall. The bridge features a viewing platform and is accessible to people of all abilities. The Cascade Falls are located in Cascade Falls Regional Park, northeast of Mission. The park is accessed from Highway 7 (Lougheed Highway), about 6km east of Mission, via Sylvester Road and Ridgeview Road.
Wildlife Viewing: For something a little different, watch for bald eagles, trumpeter swans and blue herons. These beautiful birds use Mission’s waterways and meadowlands as feeding ground in the winter months. The annual Bald Eagle Festival is held here in late November to celebrate the wintering population of bald eagles at Harrison Bay and Chehalis Flats.
Mission Raceway Park: Into drag? Catch the thrills and excitement at Mission Raceway Park, which hosts some of North America’s best drag racing. Scheduled events include motorcycle drags, street legal drags, B.C. old-time drags, road racing and motorcross events.
Hatzic Lake: Car-top boats can be launched at Hatzic Lake in Neilson Regional Park, east of Mission.
Fishing: Serious fishermen agree: Mission has some of the best salmon, trout and sturgeon fishing in the world. Talk to locals, or consult with the Visitor Centre to discover the best spots and times. Heli-flyfishing and flyfishing on local and mountain rivers, streams and lakes can be arranged from Mission.
Golf: Mission offers three golf courses: Eighteen Pastures Golf Course is a rugged 18-hole public course on Matheson Avenue that is very challenging for all levels of golfers, and Cedar Ridge Golf Course offers an excellent golf experience by providing guests with an 18-hole, Par-3 golf course that can be enjoyed in less time than a full size course, while still providing challenges to the practiced golfer and attainable success to the beginner. Established in 1960, the 9 Hole Mission Golf Course combines a demanding layout, attractive landscaping and thickly forested terrain, to provide a truly challenging golf experience. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Hemlock Valley Ski Resort is located 8.5 miles (14 km) north of Hwy 7 from nearby Harrison Bay. This is a small, regional winter recreation destination that is also beginning to develop its trails for summer use by mountain bikes. Because of its low elevation and close proximity to the ocean, Hemlock Valley fares better in some years than others. The depth of its snowpack depends on a pattern of sustained cold weather. Despite Hemlock Valley Ski Area’s low elevation, local skiers and snowboarders make the most of its three chairlifts (one triple, two double), which access its rolling, contoured bowl – when it’s open. The season here runs from December to March.
Rolley Lake Provincial Park: The park is accessed via a well-marked turnoff at the mill town of Ruskin, 6 miles (10 km) north of Highway 7, to the northwest of Mission. Rolley Lake Provincial Park’s vehicle/tent campsites are rather spaciously laid out, with special features including hot showers, a small beach, a gentle walking trail and the darling Rolley Lake nearby. You can launch a small boat or inflatable raft from the beach. Powerboats are not allowed on Rolley Lake and tranquillity prevails here. Bring binoculars for wildlife viewing, and a fishing rod, as the lake is well stocked with rainbow and cutthroat trout. There is a camping fee of about $15 per night, which includes firewood, and campsites can be reserved between March and September.
Hayward Lake: For a bigger beach experience than that at Rolley Lake, head to North Beach on nearby Hayward Lake, where the broad shoreline is dotted with picnic tables. Action at the beach runs hot and cold: good weather brings out the crowds, while at other times the beach can be so deserted that you’ll have its centrepiece – a gracefully constructed gazebo – all to yourself. Trails lead south from the beach along the reservoir and to a viewpoint on a nearby bluff. To find your way here, follow the signs north of Hwy 7 at Ruskin, a small mill town on the Fraser River between Maple Ridge and Mission, to the Hayward Lake Reservoir Recreation Area.
East of Hatzic Lake, the Lougheed Highway runs through the small town of Dewdney and then crosses a bridge onto Nicomen Island. Just before the bridge, River Road leads off to the right and follows the shoreline of Nicomen Slough past a pub and a number of wharves to Dewdney Nature Park, where there’s a vehicle boat launch. The Fraser River flows past just beyond sight, a short distance south of the boat launch. This is a languid section of the river where a series of sloughs forms backwaters away from the river’s main course. Strawberry Island lies at the east end of Nicomen Slough. In the 1930s, strawberries were a major cash crop in the Hatzic area. This is one of the quietest backwaters between here and the eastern end of the Fraser Valley.
The Mission Farmers Market attracts visitors and locals alike on Saturday mornings, to savour some of the finest fresh produce grown in the valley.
The Inch Creek Fish Hatchery on Hawkins Pickle Road provides an interesting education on the enhancement of salmon and sea-run trout stocks, while the Sun Valley Trout Park and the Trout Creek Farm U Catch permit the catching of trout on a strictly controlled catch and release basis.
Mission Circle Farm Tour: From the bustle of a working farm to the serenity of an artist’s retreat, the Mission tour is an eclectic blend of excitement and repose. Sample wild berry wines, micro-brews, and 35 varieties of apples, reel in a lively trout, and travel through a majestic forest to visit some exotic beasts. Then relax as you shop for garden topiary, stroll through one of the Fraser Valley’s most scenic nurseries, and while away the hours at the folk festival. Check with the Visitor Centre for more details.
South of Mission across the Fraser River is Abbotsford, one of the most productive agricultural areas in British Columbia. Dubbed the Raspberry Capital of Canada, the fertility of the soil and the gentle pastoral beauty have made the Abbotsford area a popular place to homestead.
West of Mission is the quiet pastoral community of Maple Ridge, nestled below the Blue Mountain on the north bank of the Fraser River. Maple Ridge proudly boasts a rich heritage of First Nations and pioneer history, much of which has been well preserved.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on a driving Circle Tour. Head north out of Vancouver for the scenic Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island Circle Tour, or stay on the intensely scenic Sea to Sky Highway, passing through the magical winter resort town of Whistler and Coast Mountains Circle Tour. To explore the rural farmlands and forests of the fertile Fraser Valley, take the Fraser Valley Circle Tour, travelling outbound on the scenic route north of the historic Fraser River, returning westwards along the Trans Canada Highway 1 to Vancouver. Circle Tours in British Columbia.