The Chilcotin is a huge swath of near pristine wilderness stretching across central British Columbia. Covering 2.5 million hectares, it is more than twice the size of Banff and Jasper National Parks combined. This vast wilderness area contains an astonishing array of ecosystems that cannot be found together anywhere else in the Earth's temperate regions. There are semi-arid grasslands nearly extinct anywhere else, dormant volcanoes, ancient glacier complexes, waterfalls, Canada's highest fjord lake, and the tallest mountains in British Columbia. Enjoy the scenery!
A. Junction Sheep Range Park
A semi-arid grasslands that is home to a large herd of California Bighorn Sheep, rare types of native bunchgrass, sculpted gullies, and the junction of the Fraser and Chilcotin rivers. There is hiking available throughout the park.
B. Farwell Canyon
A dramatic canyon of limestone walls framing the Chilcotin River and surrounded by rolling grassland. This semi-arid canyon also boasts a large sand dune at its crest, and ancient pictographs on the cliff face.
C. Charlotte Alplands
A unique high altitude Protected Area with the highest concentration of alpine lakes in British Columbia, rare alpine wildflowers, tremendous hiking, and lots of wildlife. Access is fly-in only.
D. Anahim Volcanic Belt
Near to Anahim Lake is the Anahim Volcanic Belt – three mountain ranges of now dormant shield volcanoes that were formed by a “hot spot” under the Earth's crust, much in the same way the Hawaiian Islands were formed. The Rainbow Mountains in Tweedsmuir Park are the oldest, followed by the Ilgatchuz Mountains and the Itcha Mountains. In between, Anahim Peak is a volcanic cone that was for centuries a major First Nations source of obsidian used for arrowheads and blades. Due to high demand and elaborate trading routes, the obsidian from Anahim Peak has been found as far south as Mexico.
E. Rainbow Mountains
These ancient volcanic peaks have collapsed calderas that have evolved into an astonishing array of colours. Bright reds, oranges, yellows, and lavenders in the rocks were created by heavy mineralized lavas and sands. First Nations people once referred to these peaks as “the mountains that bleed”. Accessible by horseback or floatplane.
F. Hunlen Falls
Canada's third-highest free-falling waterfall, plunging approximately 1,000 feet (300 meters) from the northern end of Turner Lake in Tweedsmuir Park. Accessible by a hiking trail that starts in the Bella Coola Valley, or by floatplane to Turner Lake.
G. Monarch Icefield
The Monarch Icefield is the northernmost of a series of large icefields studding the Coast Mountains. It is heavily glaciated, surrounded by deep canyons, with almost 4 meters of rain or snow per year. Together with the Ha-iltzuk (Silverthrone) Icefield to its south, they are the largest icefields in the central coast area comprising almost 2,000 square kilometers. Access and viewing by floatplane.
H. Turner Lake Chain
This chain of 7 lakes stretching out from Hunlen Falls makes a beautiful canoe trip with short portages. The lakes are eventually drained by Hunlen Falls. Access by floatplane, or by hiking trail from the Bella Coola Valley.
Rock carvings on the floor of the Bella Coola Valley believed to be over 3,500 years old. They are sacred to the Nuxalk First Nation, so a guide is recommended.
J. Clayton Falls
Near the BC Ferries terminal in Bella Coola is Clayton Falls, a multi-layered falls cascading from one pool to the next. A viewing platform at the falls allows for a good vantage point.
K. Mackenzie's Rock
Famous rock on the shore of the Dean Channel near Bella Coola inscribed by the explorer Alexander Mackenzie at the conclusion of his daunting cross-continent adventure in 1793. His completion of this crossing of continental North America inspired the Lewis & Clark expedition in the United States some 12 years later.