What makes Northern British Columbia unique? – 8 Cool Reasons 🇨🇦

Mount Robson and Berg Lake in Northern British Columbia
Mount Robson & Berg LakeZeljko Kozomara
Provincial Flag of British Columbia
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Up to the north side of the Canadian west coast. Well, sort of. Less expensive than the south and a lot less populated, what Northern British Columbia lacks in those areas, it more than makes up for in God-given beauty. I guess it was just born that way.

North BC is known for gold rushes and a frontier past mixed with a Wild West persona where rugged mountains meet the green misty shores. A distinct corner of Cascadia merging the Ring of Fire and the Great Plains. Wooh, we’ve got a good one. Learn a bit about it with a quick profile, then stay tuned to read what makes this part of the province so unique.

northern BRITISH COLUMBIA: Quick Profile

map of Canadian Provinces and Territories, British Columbia highlighted in red
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map of northern British Columbia
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British Columbia takes up the entire west coast of Canada. Strangely though, most of this coast in the north is cut off by Alaska, with which it shares a long U.S. border to the west and northwest. Northern BC is considered generally what’s north of Queen Charlotte Sound or Prince George, which happens to be the biggest town on this side of the province.

There are lots of mountains and highlands up here, especially along the rugged Coastal Mountains that are home to BC’s tallest peaks. The Rockies are also prevalent in the east and middle where they morph into a general northern mountain range. With many fjords and islands near the coast, there’s also the major archipelago called Haida Gwaii.

Most of this coast has oceanic and wet climates whereas the interior is generally continental or subarctic. This includes dense forests, semi-arid plains and woodlands, and tundra. East of the Rockies is a stretch of prairies too. The name for British Columbia comes from the name of the region before confederation, which comes from the Columbia River. Read here for more details on the name and about Southern British Columbia.

Also, read more: about Canada; other provinces and Earth’s Face places

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Well, why is Northern British Columbia so special?

1. Because of the Lower Rockies

a snowy Mt Robson and clear Berg Lake in Mount Robson Provincial Park, Canada
Mt. Robson Provincial ParkJeffrey Pang

What are they?:

This is a section of the vast Rocky Mountains that is in the lower part of north British Columbia. They are filled with gorgeous mountain scenery, lakes, glaciers, and an abundance of waterfalls.

Helmcken Falls and a rainbow at Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC
Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial ParkPaste

What do they have?:

In this general area are some notable provincial parks like Bowron Lake and Wells Gray. That last one has some very beautiful and iconic waterfalls like Helmcken Falls. There’s also the prominent Mount Robson, one of the tallest peaks in the province and the Rockies overall. It also has some nice glaciers and its own set of cascades in the Valley of the Thousand Falls.

2. Because of its Northern Mountains

colors of Mount Edziza volcano in northern British Columbian mountains
Colors of Mt. EdzizaHere fishy

What are they?:

In the north are a set of mountain chains that go from the northern bit of the Rockies and merge into separate ranges. These mountains cover much of the interior of the region with lots of spacious wilderness alongside the customary awe-inspiring scenery.

What do they have?:

For some of those raw wild landscapes of North America, the upper part of the Rockies has got it covered. These span places like Northern Rockies Provincial Park, the Kwadacha Wilderness, Dune Za Keyih Provincial Park, and the serene area around Muncho Lake.

In the inner mountain ranges can be found a distinct set of valleys and wildlands like in the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness and Mount Edziza, a prominent volcano with colorfully designed soils. There’s also the Stikine River Provincial Park with more tundra landscapes, a winding canyon, and hot springs to go along with them.

3. Because of the Coastal Mountains

Lax Kw'alaams town on the coast of Kitima Range, British Columbian coastal mountains
Lax Kw’alaams, Kitimat RangeAlex

What are they?:

The Coastal Range is a set of very rugged and tall mountains near the coast of British Columbia and along the U.S. border with Alaska. It’s home to the tallest peak fully within BC — Mount Waddington — and the tallest one period shared with Alaska — Mount Fairweather. I’m guessing its weather isn’t so fair, though.

What do they have?:

Besides those two massive climbing walls, these particular mountains have tons of beauty to add to British Columbia. We have Kitlope Heritage Conservancy and the Atlin or Téix’gi Aan Tlein Provincial Park.

Tatshenshini-Alsek way up north has especially pretty valleys and glaciers. On the opposite end is Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park with stunning lake-filled valleys, fjords, and falls.

4. Because of Haida Gwaii

rocky forested coast of Moresby Island in Haida Gwaii, western Canada
Haida Gwaii CPAWS

What is it?:

Haida Gwaii (X̱aaydag̱a Gwaay.yaay in the Haida language) is the name of a group of large islands off the coast of northern British Columbia. With rocky shores and densely forested interiors, these islands are also a major site for trekking and adventure.

a totem pole closeup in Gwaii Haanas National Park in Northern British Columbia
Totem pole at Gwaii HaanasVysotsky

What does it have?:

There are a number of special features on the islands like impressive rock towers on the coasts and wooded trails that lead up to sweeping views of the islands into the highlands. One particular place to view these features is Gwaii Haanas National Park on Moresby Island. Other than amazing natural beauty, the park preserves several indigenous sites with iconic totem poles among other culturally significant structures.

5. Because of the Alaska Highway

What is that?:

“But this isn’t Alaska.” I know. This iconic highway — or a part of it, more accurately — runs through the prairies and lowlands of northeastern BC. The highway also runs through regional centers like Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson.

What does it have?:

Being a sort of crossroads for rail and road traffic, the Alaska Highway cuts across some scenic parts of the province, making it a popular drive in the area. There are also major towns like Dawson Creek, pretty much the starting point to the highway with an art gallery and a cool pioneer village.

On the north side of Peace River Country, Fort Nelson is one of the more isolated towns in BC. There’s also a heritage center, the namesake fort in “Fort” Nelson, and a drive that will take you into the isolated mountains or the Northwest Territories to get really lost. Also, enjoy those pretty Northern Lights.

6. Because of Barkerville

old wooden buildings in the frontier town of Barkerville, Canada
Barkerville Cbone

What is it?:

Barkerville is a unique historic town and park that used to be a booming center during the Cariboo Gold Rush of British Columbia. Not just some ghost town, it has been preserved very well and remains a tourist attraction.

What does it have?:

This place preserves a lot of the early frontier identity of British Columbia through fully restored buildings and active historic interpreters. I love how much Canada loves its history. As far as I can tell, the town is no longer inhabited but functions as a living breathing historic time capsule. The town was also very significant for Chinese Canadian immigrants and forms a key part of the strong Asian-Pacific presence in British Columbia.

7. Because of Great Bear Rainforest

two Spirit bear cubs, one with black coat and other with white coat, in the Great Bear Rainforest
Young Kermode bearsPacific Wild

What is it?:

This is one of the largest protected parts of the Pacific temperate rainforests, an ecoregion that stretches from Alaska all the way down into California. There are lots of dense woodlands and wildlife out there too.

Lizette Falls amidst the forests falling into a lake/fjord in the great bear rainforest of British Columbia
Great Bear RainforestJack Borno

What does it have?:

It’s essentially a protective zone along the coastal ranges. You go there just to enjoy pure natural wilderness. There’s also the anomalous “Spirit bear” or Kermode bears. They are a unique kind of black bear whose offspring are born every so often with white fur. How mystical!

8. Because of the Culture

Okay, so I try to fit in the cultural aspects of all of these places, but in northern British Columbia, it’s nature that dominates. I’m not saying that the railways, gold rushes, logging, and forestry had nothing to contribute. Many of the towns up here are set on preserving what life was like for the many pioneers that sought to make this area home … even if for a short while.

This is where the most open roads, the most rugged mountains, and the whitest black bears can be found under one boreal roof. From the world’s largest temperate rainforests to one of its most expansive prairies, this part of BC shows us that it holds its own as far as natural wonders go.

Definitely more rural than the south and with a bit of that Oregon Trail-Columbia country in the blood, it’s definitely more isolated than many places on the planet. With that, the diverse people and cultures from centuries over have maintained their mark on this remarkable patch of earth called Northern British Columbia.

**Did you enjoy reading about this remarkable place in Canada? Tell us what you like about Northern British Columbia, and shout out if you’re from there! Thanks so much for being a part of this site and this journey we’re on around the world. Feel free to check out other posts here on Cult-Surf and contact me at tietewaller@gmail.com if you want to have a word, or collaborate! Talk soon. Peace.