British Columbia – So much more than just mountains

Parking lots look a lot different in the coastal rainforest | Jenn Dickie Photography
Parking lots look a lot different in the coastal rainforest | Jenn Dickie Photography

When someone mentions ‘British Columbia,’ you probably think of the majestic, snow-capped mountains the province is so famous for. While the mighty mountains alone are definitely enough to make this province a great destination for year-round outdoor adventures, British Columbia is so much more than just mountains.

There is no denying that this western province has a lot going for it in terms of natural beauty, and we, as outdoor enthusiasts, could not be happier to take advantage of that. So let’s look past the mountains for a moment and explore what else British Columbia has to offer.

Backpacking along Vancouver Island's beautiful coast

Coastal adventures

British Columbia has over 25,000km/15,000mi of coastline dotted with some 40,000 islands. Can you imagine what an amazing backdrop this makes for active travel? Take in the beautiful coastal views while whales swim below you, and bald eagles fly high above in the sky. What a way to get close to nature!

Hiking the West Coast Trail will have you walk along sandy beaches and ocean shelves, past intriguing caves and scenic waterfalls, and through a lush rainforest filled with giant trees. Days are spent spotting wildlife such as whales, black bears, eagles, otters, sea lions, and possibly even the elusive wolf. Nights are spent on remote beaches, being lulled to sleep by the sound of crashing waves. While not an easy hike by any means (think carrying a full pack, muddy boots, climbing ladders, balancing on boulders and log bridges, and crossing streams), don’t worry – we carry most of the group gear and include a mid-hike food drop to lighten your load. The North Coast Trail, Vancouver’s Island’s newest world-class hiking trail, is another true backpacking gem and our latest addition in this area. Enjoy unspoiled wilderness through a mix of lush rainforest and beach walks on a lesser-known path, remote, rugged and pristine. Take the time to observe sea life in tidal pools, pods of orca whales in the vast ocean, birds above and on the shore.

Hiking Canada's Chilkoot Trail |  <i>Mark Daffey</i>

Travel back in time

All the way up north, extending across Alaska and Yukon’s borders, lies an old trail made famous by gold-hungry stampeders on their way to the Klondike Goldfields. Hundreds of men and women used the Chilkoot Trail in the late 1900s, but today, a strict permit system allows only a small number of trekkers on the historic trail. 

Evidence of the golden days remains in the form of abandoned trail-side gear. Still, the real attraction here is the stunning natural beauty of the remote and rugged region together with a long-standing spirit of adventure. Although the trip starts and ends in Yukon, a good portion of the hike is through northern British Columbia. Now you know!

There's no mistaking the distinctive Orca in Johnstone Strait |  <i>Jenn Dickie Photography</i>

Wildlife viewing

If you thought world-famous mountains and a coastline full of adventures were enough for one province, you’d be mistaken... because there’s more. Let us introduce you to the wildlife of British Columbia. Canada’s pacific coast is known to be one of the most diverse marine environments in the world. This is a playing ground for seals, sea lions, orcas, humpback whales, minke whales.. the list could go on for quite a while, but you get the idea. It’s the best place in the world to go kayaking with orca whales as they congregate in Johnstone Strait during the summer to feed, socialize and rub themselves on pebble beaches.

In the Rocky Mountains, be on the lookout for grizzlies, especially in autumn when they head to the rivers to catch salmon returning to spawn. If you’re fortunate, you might catch a glimpse of the kermode or ‘spirit’ bear along British Columbia’s northern coast. But you’re most likely to see the black bear and deer. The deer family includes; elk, moose, caribou, and of course, deer. Inhabiting similar habitats across the country, you’re likely to see all of these wood-roaming animals in British Columbia and Alberta’s western provinces.

Colourful alpine blooms near Flight Lake, BC

Mountains, if you must 

If, after reading through all that BC has to offer, you are still longing for the mountains, let us first clear something up: Contrary to popular belief, not all mountains in Canada’s west are part of the Rocky Mountains. There are several mountain chains from the Pacific coast to the Alberta border, and these include the Coast Mountains, the Cascade Mountains, the Columbia Mountains and yes, the Rocky Mountains. To get a taste of each, we highly recommend our Mountains of Western Canada on Foot small group hiking tour. If you want to dive deeper into the alpine wilderness and focus on one outstanding mountain environment, strap on a backpack and enjoy our remote Hut to Hut in Wildflower Heaven in stunning Wells Gray Provincial Park. Or if ending your day hikes at world-class mountain towns indulging in exquisite cuisine and marvellous views, our new hiking trip Coast Mountains: Vancouver to Whistler, is the one for you!



west coast

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