By Brian Peech
If the Peace River Region’s wide-open spaces, fascinating history, and lingering summer sunsets don’t win your heart, its colourful cast of characters will. Visit diverse recreational areas and heritage sites and meet the people who call this special part of the province home. Whether it’s a short getaway from Prince George or a week-long adventure exploring, here’s how to plan the perfect summer trip in the Peace, as locals affectionately call this area east of the Rockies.
Prince George, The Gateway To BC’s North
Start your adventure in Prince George, and spend time getting to know this gateway to Northern BC. Bustling with arts and culture and a burgeoning dining scene, it’s the perfect place to stock up before you adventure north up the Alaska Highway.
Truly a city on the edge of wilderness, PG is surrounded by hundreds of lakes and rivers, hiking and biking trails, fishing opportunities (book a guided fishing charter through Reel North Adventures), wilderness areas and parks, private campgrounds like the Salmon Valley Campground, and cabin rentals at the beautifully refinished Woodhouse Cottages and Ranch.
Get your craft beer at Crossroads Brewery and Trench Brewing, and try local restaurants like Betulla Burning and Cimo Mediterranean Grill. PG is also home to BC’s northernmost winery, Northern Lights Estate Winery, offering fine dining, winery tours, and tastings on the shore of the Nechako River.
If you’re flying in, you can rent wheels from one of many car rental shops in town for your Peace Country adventure. Boats and ATVs can also be rented from Forest Power Sports.
Mackenzie: An Adventure Detour To Williston Lake
While technically not quite in the Peace River District, Mackenzie, like its near neighbours in the Peace, is a veritable haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Just a short 20-minute drive off the Alaska Highway (about two hours north of Prince George), this is a popular destination for mountain bikers, anglers, off-road enthusiasts, hikers, boaters, and paddlers.
A great entry point to Williston Lake (the largest body of fresh water in British Columbia), Mackenzie sits snug along the Rocky Mountain Trench between the craggy Rockies and the gentler Omineca Mountains. Spend a day hiking Morfee Mountain for spectacular views of the valley below. Grab a snack from Purple Bike Café and cool off on one of two beaches at Morfee Lake—one of many in the area primed for fishing, boating, and swimming.
There are also numerous provincial parks and recreation sites in the area, like Heather-Dina, Pine Le Moray, Whiskers Point, Carp Lake, and Tudyah Lake. In town, stay at Mackenzie Municipal RV Park or Alexander Mackenzie’s Landing on the shores of Williston Reservoir, or at the Royal Oak Inn & Suites. Take in a quick nine right in town at the Mackenzie Golf and Country Club, and stop by the Mackenzie & District Museum to learn about the area’s rich forestry history (fun fact: Mackenzie is home to the world’s largest tree crusher).
From Mackenzie, head north through the scenic Pine Pass, and watch—with awe—as the Hart Ranges of the Northern Rockies give way to the serene rolling landscape of the Peace. Be sure to stop at Bijoux Falls on the way.
Chetwynd: Wood Carvings And So Much More
Known worldwide for its carving-lined streets (well over 100 at last count), Chetwynd is also home to some of the best freshwater recreation in the Peace.
Chetwynd | Northern BC Tourism/Jason Hamborg
Camp lakeside in one of the provincial parks close to Chetwynd like Gwillim Lake Provincial Park. There are also campgrounds on Cameron Lake and Big Lake, and many rec sites along the Pine and Sakunka rivers.
You can also stay in a lakeside cabin at Azouzetta Lake Lodge and Moberly Lake Marina and Resort, (which also offers boat rentals). Moberly Lake is home to northern pike, lake trout, and ling cod. Azouzetta, Gwillim, Jackfish, and Moose lakes are also popular fishing spots. If fly-fishing is your thing, wet a line on any of the nearby rivers, like the Burnt or Sukunka.
Plant lovers will rejoice during their visit to Memory Lane Greenhouse & Tea Gardens Bed & Breakfast. This charming garden setting is home to a 460-metre-squared (nearly 5,000 square feet) greenhouse filled with perennials, shrubs, trees, and vegetables, including rare heirloom tomatoes, some of which date back hundreds of years. There’s also a two-hectare (five-acre) International Friendship Garden filled with thousands of native plant and flower species from 19 different countries.
Hole in the Wall Provincial Park | @dgmkl
In Chetwynd, be sure to check out the Little Prairie Heritage Museum, featuring five buildings and a caboose full of artifacts. Or, take in a round of golf at Moberly Lake Golf Course, followed by a meal and a cold drink at the picnic area overlooking the lake.
The Little Prairie Community Forest features interpretive trails for hikers and bikers. Hike a scenic trail up the side of Mt. Baldy. Adventurous hikers can continue to follow the trail to Ghost Mountain. Use caution along this section of the trail as some sections are steep.
A great side trip from Chetwynd is Hole in the Wall Provincial Park, about 75 kilometres south of town. Here you will find a unique resurgent spring which emerges from a spectacular vertical blue-gray wall of limestone. Surrounded by lush vegetation, this impressive geological feature is easily accessible via a two-minute walk from the road.
Dawson Creek & Pouce Coupe: Mile 0 Of The Alaska Highway
It all begins in Dawson Creek, Mile 0 of the world-famous Alaska Highway.
Head east from Chetwynd and drive over the Kiskatinaw Bridge, one of the only timber trestle bridges still in use in British Columbia. It is also one of the most unusual, curving nine degrees along its 162.5-metre (534-foot) length. Kiskatinaw Provincial Park, situated right beside the bridge, provides tent sites for camping and river access.
Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek | Northern BC Tourism/Matthew Littlewood
Start your visit at the Mile Zero post before learning about the region’s rich history at the Northern Alberta Railway Park, home to the Dawson Creek Visitor Centre, Art Gallery, and Railway Station Museum. Visit the Alaska Highway House to learn about the construction of this marvelous feat of engineering, as well as the Walter Wright Pioneer Village, a must-see for history buffs. Take a break for lunch at the new Post & Row Local Taphouse in Dawson Creek and try a locally crafted beer.
The wetlands around Dawson Creek provide exceptional opportunities for bird watching. The waterfowl refuge at McQueen’s Slough offers a network of boardwalks enabling visitors to walk into the marsh without compromising the integrity of the natural habitat.
Old train bridge in Pouce Coupe | Northern BC Tourism/Jason Hamborg
Nearby Bear Mountain offers several trails and hikes that also provide nature-viewing opportunities, striking vistas, and a chance to see the Bear Mountain Wind Farm turbines up close.
The trestle train bridge in neighbouring Pouce Coupe is also a must-see. While in Pouce, be sure to visit the historic Hart Hotel, and don’t miss the property of local artist Gary Caldwell, who recreates western scenes with salvaged mannequins.
After a day of exploring, head to the fabled Rolla Pub in Pouce Coupe, with its trinket-adorned décor, for live music and a kitschy walk back in time.
Tumbler Ridge: The Land Of Dinosaurs
Nestled in the foothills of the Northern Rockies, with its spanning canyons, wetlands, and surging waterfalls, Tumbler Ridge is a jewel of the northeast. The area was given a UNESCO Global Geopark designation in 2014 and is home to the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery, the only dinosaur museum in BC. See 10 of the world’s 15 known tyrannosaur tracks—including the only known trackways and the first dinosaur skull found in the province.
The geopark is full of opportunities for hiking, fishing, and camping. Monkman Provincial Park, and specifically Kinuseo Falls, makes for a destination all its own. These 60-metre (200-foot) falls on the Murray River are higher than Ontario’s iconic Niagara Falls. Book a helicopter tour with Ridge Rotors.
Beyond Monkman, a wide array of natural attractions make the area a draw: Bergeron Falls, Quality Falls, Nesbitt’s Knee Falls, Tumbler Point hiking trail, and the Boulder Gardens are just some of the highlights.
Hiking Tumbler Ridge on the Alaska Highway | Emanuel Smedbol
In town, stay at the pet-friendly Trend Mountain Hotel & Conference Centre featuring the popular Western Steakhouse restaurant. Tumbler Ridge Inn and Tumbler Ridge Hotel & Suites are also great options.
Not only is it a hiker’s paradise, but the area is home to a growing number of mountain bike trails. Detailed maps are available from the Tumbler Ridge Visitor Centre, where you can borrow a TrailRider for accessible wilderness adventures. Or, play a round of golf at the Tumbler Ridge Golf & Country Club.
Fort St. John: “The Energetic City”
As the largest city in Northeast BC (with a population of 21,000), Fort St. John is the region’s largest service centre, hence the moniker.
The town’s history dates back to Alexander Mackenzie’s arrival in 1793, who was followed by fur traders, explorers, and homesteaders. To learn more about the area’s settler history, take the Pioneer Pathway Walking Tour, or visit the Fort St. John North Peace Museum.
In the heart of the city, find the North Peace Cultural Centre, located within walking distance of major hotels, restaurants, and retail shops, and a concourse area that stretches the length of a city block. Inside, visit The Peace Art Gallery and The Indigenous Artist Market to view and purchase local art and artisan works.
Hungry? Grab a healthy lunch at Whole Wheat & Honey, then enjoy five kilometres of interpretive trails in the Fish Creek Community Forest. There are also over 15 kilometres of paved paths to enjoy around town.
In the summer, the area’s rolling hills offer endless choices for picturesque drives, bird watching, and wildlife viewing. And like most communities in the Peace, Fort St. John serves up abundant opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, ATVing, and boating. There are also plenty of provincial parks in the area worth exploring, including Milligan Hills Provincial Park, Pink Mountain Provincial Park, and Beatton Provincial Park.
Peace River | Andrew Strain
In neighbouring Taylor, grab a coffee from the Caffeination Station, then visit Peace Island Park, a popular family destination with campsites on the banks of the Peace River where visitors can dig for dinosaur and clam fossils, and enjoy a picnic, the horseshoe pits, playgrounds, boat launch, and the historic Rocky Mountain Forts. Golfers even have three golf courses to choose from: Lakepoint Golf & Country Club, Fort St. John Links, and Lone Wolf Golf Club. After a day of adventure, stop in for a local brew at Beard’s Brewing and Mighty Peace Brewery.
Hudson’s Hope: “The Playground Of The Peace”
Known as “The Playground of the Peace,” Hudson’s Hope offers a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities including excellent fishing, canoeing, boating, climbing, camping, mountain biking, ATVing, hiking, swimming, wildlife viewing—you name it.
The Hudson’s Hope Museum, housed in an old Hudson’s Bay trading store on the banks of the Peace River, features an extensive collection of local artifacts, including a fossil of a dinosaur named after the town—the Hudsonelpidia.
Stay at Williston Lake Resort right on the shore, where beginner and advanced riders can book horseback riding trips ranging from half a day to three-day tours. The resort also offers fishing trips and a spa. Other places to stay in town include the Sigma Inn & Suites, Still Water Inns & Suites, and The Sportsman Inn.
Originally published on HelloBC.com