Friday, August 26, 2016

A Family Trip on the Lakes & Trails Circle Route in B.C.

Recently we went on a one-week road trip that originated from Surrey, B.C. and had stops in Williams Lake, Quesnel (Barkerville), Prince George, McBride, Tete Jaune Cache, and Kamloops–the Lakes & Trails Circle Route.  The goal of our trip was to explore nature on family-friendly hikes, experience Barkerville, and visit friends.   Our driving days ranged anywhere from two to six hours and overall we really enjoyed this route–especially the side trips to Jasper and Wells Gray Provincial Park.  My one tip would be to stop at the Information Centre in each town you'd like to explore; you can pick up maps, ask for tips, and just see what they have to offer (like wifi!).

Day 1: Surrey to Williams Lake (523 km)
This was our longest day as we have driven up the Fraser Canyon many times before and therefore wanted to get to new territory.  The stop that I would recommend is Cache Creek Regional Park (turn right at the Info Center and then left on the first road, Quartz)–it's the perfect mid-trip break. If you want to get a hike in, Mt. Begbie Lookout just after 83 Mile House is a short 15 minute walk up and has a great view!

Once in Williams Lake, there are many lakes to explore in the area.  We stayed with friends and spent the rest of the afternoon/evening at Chimney Lake.  As per the signs in the area, watch for badgers!  We saw one run across the road.

Day 2: Williams Lake to Quesnel (120 km)
We had a short travel day to Quesnel as our hope was to do some hiking and rest up for our upcoming day in Barkerville. We first went to the Information Centre and received maps for the area.  We first drove 10 minutes from town to Pinnacles Provincial Park.  This hike is about 30 minutes in each direction.  It provides a great view of Quesnel and you can walk along the ridge to see the hoodoos.  We then went down to Baker Creek Park for lunch and then walked from there along the Riverfront Trail over the pedestrian bridge to the Info Center so the kids could play at the playground.  We had dinner (and watched the Olympics!) at Bliss Restaurant  which I'd recommend and then attended the West Village Night Market where the kids found some great secondhand books and Nya spent some time dancing to the live music.

Day 3: Quesnel to Barkerville to Prince George (275 km)
Barkerville is a one hour drive from Quesnel.  It opens at 8:00 AM and we were there close to 9:00 AM.  The benefit to arriving early is that it isn't very busy and it's a lot cooler.  I have written about our time in Barkerville here. We spent a total of six hours there and if you are making the trip to Barkerville, you may want to camp nearby or book a B&B in the historic site itself to spend two days there.  We were good with one day and were limited on time but that is an option.  We then made the 2.5 hour drive to Prince George.

Day 4: Prince George to McBride (208 km)
We arrived late to Prince George on the 3rd night and just spent time in our hotel and getting our tire repaired at Costco (they were so awesome by the way!).  In the morning, we went to Duchess Park playground for the kids to burn off some energy and then went to Fort George Park.  If you're only going to do one playground/park, Fort George is the one to check out!  We then drove towards McBride.  This is a beautiful drive as you start to see the mountains again!  Midway there is a great place to stop: The Ancient Forest (it's about 100 km outside of Prince George).  I highly recommend stopping here and spending 1-1 1/2 hours doing all of the trails.  There is one trail to a lookout that is stroller and wheelchair friendly.  There is a great playground and rest area just 5 minutes past the Ancient Forest.  We stayed with friends in McBride and drove up to the McBride Lookout for an amazing view of the Robson Valley–we only went 3/4 of the way up.

{Ancient Forest}

{McBride Lookout}

Day 5: McBride to Jasper to Tete Jaune Cache (271 km)
Our goal for this day was to hike.   We had plans to hike around Mount Robson but the shortest hike (Kinney Lake) is about 5 km in each direction and that would use up all of Nya's energy for the day so we decided to do some smaller hikes and made our way towards to Jasper.  The ones we enjoyed were Rearguard Falls and Overlander Falls.  In Jasper we ate at Patricia Street Cafe (I love checking TripAdvisor's recommended places to eat and activities to do) – it felt great to have a healthy lunch! We went to Patricia and Pyramid Lakes in Jasper and saw wildlife along the way (deer and a bear).  Pyramid Lake has an easy walk around an island and then we also did a lookout trail which was pretty.  We drove back from Jasper, Alberta in to BC and stayed at the Tete Jaune Lodge in a cabin. This is a great place to stay due to location, beauty, and price. 

{Rearguard Falls}

{Overlander Falls}
{Moose Lake}

{Pyramid Lake}

{Patricia Lake}
{Seven Sisters}
{Tete Jaune Lodge}

Day 6: Tete Jaune to Wells Gray Provincial Park to Kamloops (433 km)
This was a long day but well worth it!  Two hours into the drive we arrived in Clearwater.  We stopped at the Info Center (it's a good one!) and got a map for our journey into Wells Gray Provincial Park.  We decided to stop at the three main waterfalls (the furthest is about 45 minutes in) and will definitely return to explore some more.  The three falls are: Spahats Falls (10 minutes in), Dawson Falls, and Helmcken Falls.  These are very easy walks and about 10 minutes each–so great for all abilities.  We then drove to Kamloops and after settling in and having dinner, explored Riverside Park which was a definite "must do" when there. 

{Spahats Falls–we also did the ridge walk to The Shadden Lookout}

{Dawson Falls which is B.C.'s Niagra Falls}
{Helmcken Falls–absolutely breath-taking!  It is the fourth highest waterfall in Canada if you count waterfalls that do not have a break in them}

{Riverside Park, Kamloops}

Day 7: Kamloops to Surrey (329 km)
This drive on the Coquihalla is so fast and easy–we made it home in three hours!  If you are able to take your time on the way, a great place to stop to explore is Othello Tunnels which we did several weeks ago.  It is so beautiful and definitely worth the trip!

Through our road trip we realized (again) just how vast and beautiful B.C. is–there are still so many more places to explore!  We used this route on Destination B.C's website and will likely try out another road trip route again soon.  It's amazing to see how much work went into discovering and settling in various towns and I think we all grew in our appreciation for the beauty around us.  A road trip can be such an affordable holiday as we spent about $1200 for a 7-day trip; we packed our own food and drinks, stayed with friends or well-priced cabins/hotels and didn't spend a lot on activities as we used nature's playground.  

Please pin here:
Lakes and Trails Circle Route BC

If you have any questions, please ask away! Also, if you have a favourite B.C. road trip, I'd love to hear about it!



  1. My favorite is the Hot Spring Circle Route in the Kootenays :)

    1. I love that drive! I haven't done the southern portion of it in so many years--maybe that should be our next one! I wonder if we could do it in the spring?

  2. Hey, you have two namesake lakes :) I feel like your kids are growing up just like I did. Every year we explored a new part of BC. And we always (always) took a picture in front of the sign :)

    1. I know! I never knew there was a Patricia Lake :) Yes, picture in front of the sign always!

  3. This is really spectacular - WOW! Such beautiful pictures and just, WOW! BEautiful british columbia indeed :)
    Is that a bear in the trees under the picture of Moose Lake???