Northern BC’s vast wilderness makes this an RV trip of epic proportions. Bookended by two northern hubs—Prince George and Prince Rupert—and with a side trip into the beautiful and ancient Nass Valley, this route stretches more than 1,000 km (620 miles) through temperate rainforest, majestic peaks, famed rivers, and the site of Canada’s last volcanic eruption. Rest assured: there’s plenty of culture to take in, too. A slow pace and a sense of adventure will help you make the most of it.
As the largest city in the north, Prince George is ideal for stocking up on road trip supplies, but the town’s easy proximity to nature also offers RV travelers a taste of Northern BC’s raw wilderness at first glance. For stunning views of the area, hike any of the area’s many established trails and nature parks, or walk underneath the forest canopy in the Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut Park and Protected Area, the only inland temperate rainforest in the world.
This city itself has no shortage of access to water either. Prince George sits at the confluence of two historic rivers, the Fraser and the Nechako, and the surrounding area has endless pristine lakes to explore. For a dose of culture, take in the local and contemporary art at the [Two Rivers Art Gallery, conveniently located within walking distance of Prince George’s downtown restaurants and cafes. With so many local events on tap, be sure to check Tourism Prince George’s events calendar, or stop in at the Visitor’s Information Centre. For an easy take-on-the-road option, head to local charcuterie and sandwich shop Birch and Boar. As for campsites, you’ll find plenty of RV-friendly private and provincial parks located within and a short drive from the city.
While there’s still plenty of wilderness to explore in Vanderhoof, the Nechako Valley’s gentle rolling hills and lake-dotted landscape makes an idyllic place to rest for a few days. With easy access to water, fishing is a staple activity. Spend the afternoon casting lines into a peaceful lake, or tackle the Nechako River, home to 20 species of fish. The area is best known for its White Sturgeon; learn more about the species on a tour of the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Centre, a research and conservation facility and hatchery (open during summer only). Weather permitting, swim Hogsback Lake or Nulki Lake—two popular spots with beachfront access, or pack a lunch and picnic by the shore. For easy walking, try the accessible-friendly Vanderhoof Community Trails, a series of nature trails that loop through and around Vanderhoof. Bonus: they start at Riverside Park, which has RV sites available.
The Lakes District
The Lakes District stretches from Fraser Lake to Houston, and encompasses over 300 lakes and almost 5,000 kilometers of shoreline. While a road trip through the region offers scenic views at every turn, the area is best seen from the air. You can book a flightseeing tour with Lakes District Air or Nechako Lodge and Aviation. Burns Lake lays claim to the smallest provincial park in BC— at just 1-hectare (2.4 acre), Deadman’s Island can only be visited via canoe or kayak (you can rent both from Lakeside Multiplex). Take a stroll along the town’s main street (conveniently Highway 16) and pop into shops or refuel with coffee from Boer Mountain Coffee House. Need to restock camping and outdoor supplies? You’ll find it at Woods N’ Water. For overnight options, you’ll find lake-side resorts with full-service RV-accessible sites and local campgrounds that have well-maintained and serviced sites.
Smithers and the Bulkley Valley
As you drive west, the rolling hills of the Lakes District give way to the towering snow-capped peaks of the Babine and Telkwa mountain ranges. In Smithers, stretch your legs and stroll through the Alpen-themed and pedestrian-friendly downtown. Local roaster Bugwood Coffee is a must-visit for a caffeine fix, or pop by Two Sisters Cafe for sandwiches-on-the-go or the Smithers Sausage Factory to load up on picnic supplies for your next rest stop lunch. Smithers boasts a great dining scene with plenty of cozy cafes and excellent restaurants all located within its downtown core.
While there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to do here (if you do want to head outside, a guided tour with Adventure Camp Tourism makes for an easy introduction to Smithers’ rugged backyard). Tyhee Lake, a favourite of locals for its swimming and easy hiking trails, has 59 pet-friendly RV campsites available. Drive up to Hudson Bay Mountain for the most accessible (and epic) mountain views before continuing west. Depending on your vehicle, the scenic Telkwa Highroad to Moricetown makes for a visually stunning and charming backroad adventure.
Just 33 kilometres (20 miles) northwest of Smithers is the Indigenous community of Witset. Don’t miss the museum’s 45-minute guided canyon tour where you’ll learn about Witsuwit’en culture, including how local fishermen safely net salmon in a centuries-old fishing practice. To really soak in the area’s culture, spend a night or two at the community-maintained RV park, which stands on a plateau overlooking the rushing waters of the Widzin Kwah Canyon and in full view of the surrounding mountain range.
The Hazeltons and 'Ksan Historical Village
Continue onwards to The Hazeltons. You’ll want to spend time exploring ‘Ksan Historical Village, just north of Highway 16, a replica museum of the Gitxsan Indigenous people that is situated at the fork of the Bulkley and Skeena rivers. The museum offers guided tours and the chance to see dancing and listen to traditional songs. Another can’t-miss point of interest is the Hagwilget Canyon Bridge. A single-lane steel suspension bridge that links two sides of a plunging canyon, you’ll need to cross this in order to get to ‘Ksan Village. (Driving over it will definitely earn you RV bragging rights!) Pop into Old Hazelton to explore the village’s in-tact historical buildings and grab a coffee to go at Mercedes Bean & Model Teas.
Back on Highway 16, you can’t miss the stunning peaks of the Seven Sisters mountain range, one of the most majestic sights along the entire route. Find a wide shoulder or a rest stop and take in the postcard-perfect views and a fresh fruit and vegetable stand. Another excellent rest stop is Kleanza Creek Provincial Park, located 18 km (11 mi) from Terrace, where a dip in the refreshing, clear waters at the base of gentle canyon falls will invigorate you for the next leg of your journey.
Terrace offers excellent amenities and a variety of places to stay, plus plenty of outdoor activities that make it destination-worthy in its own right. The Redsand Lake Demonstration Forest, with its 1.6 kilometres of wheelchair accessible trail, is an easy-strolling nature path. Terrace is prime for wildlife viewing—keep your eyes peeled for the elusive and rare white Kermode (Spirit) bear. The central coast, including Terrace, is the only place in the world where this unique bear is found.
The area’s Skeena River is legendary among flyfishers, but there are other ways to explore this famed waterway. A guided jet boat tour with Northern BC Jet Boat Tours is a great way to experience the thrill of the river while learning about its cultural significance and history.
Lakelse Lake, located south of Terrace towards Kitimat, is one of the most popular campgrounds in all of Northern BC and for good reason: the park is home to old growth forests, a sandy shoreline, 50 fully-serviced RV sites, plus a well-maintained kids playground, all situated along a 3,608 acre-lake that is ideal for swimming in come summer.
In Terrace, make sure to fuel up on food, gas and other needed items as services can be limited once you leave town in either direction.
The Nass Valley
From Terrace, venture north along the Nisga’a Highway to the storied Nass Valley—an area of rich Indigenous culture, hot springs, turquoise-blue streams, and otherworldly lava beds. The Nisga’a Memorial Lava Provincial Park is the site of Canada’s last volcanic eruption, which occurred in the Nass Valley more than 265 years ago. Arrange for a guided tour and learn about the significance of this site to the Nisga’a people.
Further northwest, a soak in the Aiyansh Hot Springs is a welcome relief for any weary driving muscles. Recent upgrades to the hot springs, including the addition of change rooms, make them easier to access than ever. Don’t miss the Nisga’a Museum in the village of Laxg-alts’ap, striking in its glass-and-wood frame, which tells the story of the Nisga’a people through artifacts, images and guided tours.
To really take in all the Nass Valley has to offer, make sure to download the Nass Valley Auto Tour map.
The final stretch of your journey, Route 16 from Terrace to Prince Rupert, follows the Skeena River to the Pacific Ocean, and is regarded as one of the most beautiful drives in British Columbia. Before arriving in the culturally rich coastal city, make a short side trip to the North Pacific Cannery, a fully restored 19th century salmon cannery in the village of Port Edward. Wander through historic net lofts and a replica of the cannery’s general store or take a guided tour and see the canning line in operation as it once was.
Toast to your epic Northern BC RV journey at one of Prince Rupert’s superb and diverse restaurants. At the Crest Hotel, sample caught-that-day seafood, with a glass of wine or locally-brewed craft beer in hand, overlooking Prince Rupert’s harbour, or try the incredibly fresh and sustainably-caught sushi at Fukasaku, which also boasts its own views of the water.
Craving more wilderness? Prince Rupert is the launching pad to the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, Canada’s first grizzly sanctuary, excellent whale watching, as well as some of the best sportfishing in North America. Or take in one last glance of the north from the air on a flightseeing charter with Ocean Pacific Air.
**Optional:** The only thing to rival the views of Route 16 is the Inside Passage ferry ride—a 15-hour journey that hugs BC’s narrow and scenic Inside Passage channel from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.