|Offroad adventurers and
4x4 and ATV offroading in the Fraser Valley and the Vancouver Coast & Mountains
region of British Columbia are undertaken on a variety of terrains, including
logging roads and mountain tops. The BC wilderness terrain varies from steep,
challenging mountain roads, with dramatic switchbacks and breathtaking views,
to quiet country roads where wildlife can be viewed in their natural habitat.
Kawkawa Lake is set in
a forest setting in the Cascade Mountains northeast of Hope region and is worth
exploring, along with swimming, picnicking and fishing at Kawkawa Lake Park.
After exploring the Emory Creek area north of Hope, offroaders can camp
at Emory Creek Provincial Park just west of Highway 1,
where you can relax in a peaceful campsite away from the pressures of city life.
Mount Hope (Hope Mountain)
looming over the town of Hope can be explored on a four-wheel-drive road that
provides access to the hiking trails on Mount Hope and Wells Peak (9 km), and
the viewpoint on the top of the ridge. Continuing provides great views of Silver
Lake and Skagit Valley. To access the trail, follow Highway 3 east of Hope to
Nicolum River Provincial Park and turn south on the
paved road across from the park/campsite.
Jones Lake (formerly Wahleach Lake) at the base of Mount Cheam, northwest of Bridal
Falls, is a popular outdoor getaway. Accessed by Laidlaw Road and the Jones Lake
FSR (10 km), which has steep, rough sections best driven by 4x4 vehicles with
high clearance, Jones Lake offers two recreation areas on the north shore, both
with campsites, pit toilets and picnic tables. The BC Hydro Jones Lake reservoir
- at an elevation of 600 metres above the Fraser River - is nestled between two
mountains in the Skagit Range of the Cascade Mountains, offering some wonderful
If you look at a map of the Skagit Valley prior to the 1960s, you will notice
that a road once ran through here into Washington State. Seattle City Light power
company logged the Washington side of the valley and flooded it in the late 1960s
to provide hydroelectric power.
Although the headwaters of the Skagit River lie east of here in Manning Provincial Park, the river flows south into
Ross Lake. There are three campgrounds located along the road into the Skagit
Valley, which begins off Hwy 1 just west of the Hope. Take the Hope Business Road
exit and drive a short distance to the well-marked Silver-Skagit Road turnoff.
A sign posted here for
the benefit of American visitors indicates 'Hozameen 38 Miles.' (Hozameen - or
Hozomeen, as it's spelled in Canada - is the site of a US ranger station at the
north end of Ross Lake and the only road access to the lake.) Silver-Skagit Road
is paved for only a short distance south before turning to well-graded gravel
for most of its 43.5-mile (70-km) length. Watch for Silver
Lake Provincial Park, 3.7 miles (6 km) past the bridge over Silverhope Creek.
A small campground is located here with several dozen vehicle/tent sites. Although
not within the Skagit Valley itself, the rugged landscape that rises above this
campground gives a flavour for what lies ahead.
As the road leads south of Silver Lake, it passes beside some of the best fishing
streams in the Lower Mainland. There are many small wilderness campsites visible
from the road beside Silverhope Creek, and the Klesilkwa and Skagit Rivers.
Just south of the entrance
to Skagit Valley Provincial Park is Silvertip Provincial
Campground which, along with the Ross Lake Provincial Campground 15 miles (25
km) farther south, provides the best sites for camping. There are well-spaced
vehicle/tent sites at Silvertip, the prettiest of which are located on the banks
of the Skagit River. The forest here is a thick mix of Douglas fir and western
red cedar. The wind whistling through their branches, combined with the Skagit's
rushing water, soundproofs the environment around each campsite and gives campers
a sense of privacy.
Mount Rideout rears up behind Silvertip, at 8,029 feet (2,447 m) so tall that
its peak is obscured from view here by its lower ridges. You only get a true sense
of its grandeur when you look up as you journey farther south towards Ross Lake.
Ross Lake Provincial Campground has vehicle/tent campsites on the lake's north
shore. The views from here are stunning, as several major peaks rise above the
lake. Owing to their height, the tops of these Cascade Mountain peaks escaped
the most recent period of glaciation and boast a more rugged, less rounded appearance
than their Coast Mountain counterparts to the north.
Other popular 4x4 destinations in the eastern Fraser Valley and south to the US
border include American Creek, Caroline Mines, the Hope Slide Area, Lorenzetta
Hunter, Nickel Mine Area, Soboury Creek, Sowaqua Creek, Squeah Union Bar, Sumallo
Canyon, and Sunshine Valley.
While many outdoor recreational adventures in BC can be enjoyed on your own, or
in private groups, many activities are best enjoyed under the care and guidance
of experienced tour operators. Casual visitors to British Columbia are seldom
able to venture into the backroads and experience the real wilderness. That's
where offroad tour operators play a valuable role, offering full or half day all-terrain
excursions, backcountry wilderness trips, and scenic mountain tours.
Note that some of the areas listed require a key to unlock the access gate. Most
of these gated areas restrict access to people who have paid a forestry tenure
fee to the BC government to secure a key. Local tour operators will have access
to these areas.
If you venture out on your own, be aware that many of the gravel roads are active
logging roads, so exercise caution, especially during the week.
Regulations for Off-roaders
British Columbia announced new regulations
for offroad vehicles in 2011, including safety and environmental regulations,
and requirements regarding licensing and registration.
Only a licence will be required for crossing highways at designated areas, rather
than the operations permit previously required. The designated crossings will
help connect trails across the province. Off-road vehicle users are also required
to have a one-time registration permit.
The changes will apply to all-terrain vehicles, quads, off-highway motorcycles
and utility vehicles, as well as snowmobiles. By fall 2012, all of BC’s new requirements
should be in effect, including required helmet use, spark arrestors to avoid forest
fires, and new mufflers to control noise.
Responsible off-road riders welcome the new regulations in BC, particularly the
registration and display of plates, as it may help to identify off-road users
who damage the environment. A portion of the registration and licensing fees will
go back to the associations to build trails.
The new policy regulations were implemented by ICBC in consultation with the Quad
Riders Association of B.C. and the Private Forest Landowners Association.