I planned a trip along the Canadian Gold Rush Trail a long time ago. We started with day trips to Fort Langley, Hope, Yale Museum, old Alexandra Bridge. But the most interesting – Ashcroft, Barkerville, and the Cowboys – were put off until later. “Later” happened soon enough, in the form of the coronavirus and border closures. My husband Zhenya and I spent our September vacation on a road trip along the Gold Rush Trail and Rockies.
This time a lot didn’t go according to plan. Because of the pandemic, we had to book everything we could in advance. Hurrying, passing by towns closed to tourists, hikes, lakes. Suffering from masks, smoke (fires in Washington State), endless road repairs… And yet, this trip turned out to be one of the most beautiful, interesting and fulfilling.
I’m happy to share our awesome Gold Rush Trail itinerary and ideas for your next trip.
Download a free pdf file of the itinerary
We stayed at 3-4 star hotels, averaging $100CAD/night. We took food from home and cooked it ourselves, as there is not much choice of cafes along the Gold Rush Trail.
Day 1: Hell’s Gate, Yale, and cosmic Ashcroft
A day of roads, beauty and history. 350 kilometers on the road! Burbling Fraser, canyons, Martian landscapes.
- Drive from Vancouver to Hope (2-2.5 hours)
- Breakfast/coffee at Blue Moose Coffee House
- Road to Yale (20 min.)
- Yale Historic Site – Museum. In 1858, more than 30,000 gold seekers, who failed to find treasure in the mines of California, flooded the banks of the Fraser River. The richest deposit was found in a canyon near this village. Yale was one of the most populous cities in British Columbia in the second half of the 19th century (1 hour)
- Road to Alexandra Bridge (16 min)
- A little hike to a beautiful old bridge. When the epicenter of the gold rush shifted north to Barkerville, this bridge was the beginning of the 600 kilometers of road to the new dream.(30 min)
- Road to Hell’s Gate (20 min).
- Hell’s Gate is an aerial tramway through the deepest and fastest place in the Fraser River. Book tickets in advance on the website (1 hour)
- Ten minutes from Hell’s Airtram there is a small Native American museum, Tuckkwiowhum Heritage Village. If it’s open, check it out (30 min.)
- The road to Ashcroft. You will pass by the town of Lytton, which burned down to the ground in 2021 (too bad, there was so much to see there!) Nearby Lytton is the excellent KUMSHEEN Rafting Resort for rafting enthusiasts (1 hour).
- Road to Ashcroft (1.5 hours)
- Ashcroft has some Martian scenery. This village appeared in the late 19th century and during the Gold Rush was the supply center for the Cariboo gold mines. Here cargo and mining materials were unloaded onto railroad cars and driven north to the miners. The city is very well-kept, you can easily spend here two to three hours. Have a walk in Ashcroft Millenium Park. Sage Hills Evangelical Church has a secret trail with a mind-blowing view (3 hours)
- Overnight at Cache Creek.
Day 2: The Wild Wild West
A day of cowboy towns, horses, beautiful museums and sunsets.
- Historic Hat Creek at Cache Creek is a historic ranch, it must be booked in advance (2 hours)
- Road to Clinton (20 min.)
- Clinton is a charming town. Here you can just stroll the streets and have a coffee at Junction coffee shop. If you’re lucky enough to be here in May, don’t miss the annual history ball and rodeo! (30+ minutes)
- The road from Clinton to Chasm Canyon. Panorama is the real wild west! Chasm Ecological Reserve View Point (35 minutes with road from Clinton)
- Drive from Chasm Canyon to Spring Lake Ranch (1.5 hours)
- Book a horseback ride in advance. Suitable for beginners, the horses are super calm and the trail is safe (1.5 hours)
- Drive from the ranch to 108 mile Heritage Site (55 min)
- 108 mile Heritage Site is awesome! Old houses, large area, lots of picnic tables, all free (40 min.)
- Drive to Williams Lake (50 minutes)
- Williams Lake: along Oliver Street, we found cool murals. Stop for a beautiful sunset on Scout Island. If you are in this town in the morning, I suggest the Cowboy Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin
- Overnight at Williams Lake.
Day 3: Barkerville Gold, Street Art, Quesnel Quest
Barkerville is the main attraction of the Gold Rush Trail. A legendary historical site, a giant open-air museum. More than 125 old buildings were collected in the village! People in gold rush costumes walk the streets and tell stories, and horse-drawn wagons ride. There are a few cafes and restaurants, souvenir stores. The vibe is amazing! Before the covid, all the lodges could be entered. We only got into a few, the rest were looking through the glass. Barkerville exceeded all my expectations, we walked there for over 4 hours!
- Williams Lake – Xatsull Heritage Village Road (1 hour)
- Drive to Cottonwood House Historic Site (1.5 hours)
- Cottonwood House Historic Site (15 min)
- Road to Barkerville (45 minutes)
- Barkerville (4.5 hours)
- Be sure to stop by Wells, see the murals and old houses (30 min.)
- Road to Quesnel (1 hour and 10 minutes)
- Take a walk around Quesnel. Build a collection of pictures of painted fire hydrants (map at link). Don’t miss Historic Fraser River Foot Bridge, Billy Barker Casino-Ship Building, Ceal Tingley Park
- Overnight at Quesnel, Tower Inn & Suites (excellent)
Day 4: Choice of 2 options: to the Rockies or back
On Day 4 you can drive on up to Prince George and on to the Rocky Mountains, or back to Vancouver.
Option 1: Price George and the Rockies
Prince George is a city where you can find everything! Beautiful parks, gardens, delicious flat white, galleries and museums, gastropubs and… an entire downtown of homeless people.
- The road from Quesnel to Prince George (1 hour 20 minutes)
- Prince George has an interesting museum, the Central BC Railway and Forestry Museum (1 hour)
- Take a walk nearby at Cottonwood Island Nature Park. A local artist hid his paintings in the trees (map) (1 hour)
- Go to Ritual Coffeeworks. As an avid coffee drinker, I highly recommend this place. The desserts are good too (20 min).
- Two Rivers Gallery. Small but beautiful. (30 min)
- Have lunch at Zen Noodle House & Sizzler (40 min)
- Drive from Prince George to the Huble Homestead Historic Site (40 min)
- Huble Homestead Historic Site – another pretty historic village (40 min.)
- Drive to Prince George (40 min.)
- Have a picnic at Fort George Park, popular with locals (30 min)
- Climb Connaught Hill Park (by car). View of the city, picnic tables, flower beds. On average, about 500 shrubs, 600 perennials and 3,000 annuals are planted here per year (35 min)
- Relax at the hotel and have dinner at Nancy O’s Gastropub. The food at Prince George is delicious!
- Overnight at the Travelodge by Wyndham (not bad)
The next day, head towards Jasper.
Option 2: Canada’s sand dunes, route to Vancouver
An option if you don’t have time to make the detour through the Rocky Mountains (which I still recommend doing). Drive back to the town of Lilloet with stops. If you feel like it and have a day to spare, head over to Farwell Canyon at Williams Lake and climb one of Canada’s highest sand dunes!
- The road to Lilloet. The last kilometers on the approach to the city will be very beautiful! Plan time for sightseeing.(5 hours)
- Lilloet mines jade and has a blue creek mixing with the green muddy Fraser. The lookout is at Lillooet Cemetery with signs about the city. Look for the jade blocks at the Visitor Center (30 min)
- What I liked most about Lilloet was the Old Bridge. Drive there on Old Bridge Rd (30 minutes)
- Overnight in Lilloet
Day 5: Horseshoe, Waterfall and Turquoise Lakes
The last day of the trip. Waterfalls, pleasant hikes, Whistler ski village.
- Ride 10 minutes to the lake on Duffey Lake Rd and take the easy Seton Lake trail to the lookout on U-igzib Highway (1 hour)
- The road to Duffey Lake is wild and beautiful. Stop at the Eastern Viewpoint (40 min.)
- It’s only 20 minutes from here to one of Vancouver’s most popular hikes, the turquoise Joffre lakes. Last year you had to book a pass here in advance (3 hours)
- The road to the village of Whistler. Take a break and have lunch (2 hours)
- Brandywine Falls (40 min)
- Drive to Vancouver (1.5 hours)
Adventure is waiting for you!
Our adventure along the Gold Rush Trail lived up to all our wildest hopes and charmed us with its vibe and color. Ashcroft is just love! And although after Barkerville we rushed to the Rocky Mountains, 10 days was enough time to cover that distance. So you can easily handle the route above. Plan, experiment, and travel as often as possible!