In years past British Columbia’s Fraser Canyon was the main northern route for traffic travelling from the centrally located B.C. city of Kamloops to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver.
Construction of the narrow gravel highway perched on the lip of the cliffs over the Fraser River started in the 1920’s and constant upgrades lasted through the 30’s, 40’s and 50s. Today it is a modern highway with wide smooth asphalt lanes, passing lanes and lots of pullouts were travelers can stop and enjoy the views.
The most spectacular section of the canyon is between Lytton and Yale, here the river plunges between narrow rock faces and the force of the 122,000 cubic ft. per second of water that flows down the river is very evident, a fall into the river at this point would certainly be fatal.
Over the years I have always traveled from the BC interior to Vancouver and Vancouver Island by the faster Coquihalla Highway or the slower more scenic Crows Nest Highway which parallels the US border all the way from Alberta to Vancouver. I still have memories of travelling from Kamloops to Vancouver via the Fraser Canyon before the Coquihalla was built and feeling like the trip was never going to end. This year with ten free days in July to motorcycle I decided it was time to re-visit the Gold Rush Trail which forms part of the Coastal Mountain Circle Route.
I enjoyed travelling the northern route through the mountains to Jasper and eventually on to Valemont B.C., this route takes me through some of the most impressive wildlife habitat in Western Canada, through Jasper National Park and past the equally impressive Mt. Robson. The highest peak in the Canadian Rockies is seldom seen in it’s entirety as the top 1/3rd of its 3954 m (12,972 ft) is often shrouded in cloud. The trickle of water from Mt Robson’s glaciers soon becomes the headwaters of the Fraser River flowing 1378 km to the Pacific Ocean. Hwy 5 continues southwest to Kamloops and is a great driving road, wide shoulders and open curves make it a favorite for truckers as well as motorcyclists trying to eat up some miles. The only concern with Hwy 5 is the local wildlife population, lots of black bears and deer and early morning starts need to be done with caution.
Heading northwest from Kamloops will take you to the little village of Cache Creek, located at the junction of the Trans Canada Hwy and Hwy 97, little has changed here over the years, it’s still the main Junction for traffic heading north into British Columbia’s Cariboo country or south to the lower mainland and Vancouver. Heading south the Trans Canada Hwy follows the Thompson River past Spence’s Bridge, the Thompson soon meets up with the Fraser River at Lytton and the river and highway flow past the little communities of Boston Bar, Spuzzum and Yale. This is definitely the scenic part of the ride, the canyons narrow and squeeze the river through the narrow passes and the highway drops to run alongside the river then climbs again high over the river, this rise and fall of the highway happens over and over again all the way to Hope where the river and the highway spill out onto the flats of B.C.’s lower mainland.
Technically speaking Hope is located at the bottom of the Fraser Canyon, in the gold rush days those travelling to the Yukon gold fields would travel by water up the Fraser River until they reached Hope, from that point they would overland north up the Fraser Canyon to the Yukon. In today’s modern world of automobile transportation Hope is a quick 2 hour drive from Vancouver but is still considered a transition point, the transition from the busy full service Lower Mainland to the more remote, sparsely populated interior of British Columbia. The interior in places definitely has a more frontier feeling to it, whether it’s riding through the tall stands of pine trees in the Cariboo ranch country or winding your way through the magnificent peaks of the Canadian Rockies there’s something for everyone. Campsites range from full service to forestry sites with little more than a picnic table and a fire pit.
There’s roads and scenery to suit every style of motorcyclist, 4 lane highways all the way to gravel tracts, whatever you’re looking for you’ll find it in British Columbia’s interior and especially the Fraser Canyon.