BC's Wild West: Nature and Relaxation in the Chilcotins
The Wild West is a little wilder in British Columbia. In the storied Cariboo Chilcotin region, about four to six hours outside of Vancouver, horse and nature lovers can find everything from rough-and-ready camps to luxe lodges offering spa treatments and massages in addition to horsey fun.
If you’re looking to explore a unique part of BC that’s often overlooked by tourists, this is the spot — especially if you’re looking to get away from it all, even just for a day or two. Giddy-up for an inside look.
East meets Wild West
You may spend as much time in the spa as in the saddle at Echo Valley, a luxury ranch with an Asian twist. After a day on the trails, enjoy Thai cuisine and an authentic Thai massage inside a full-scale log temple. This space also offers a gorgeous lodge and is home to surrounding terrain that’s perfect for everything from hiking to fly fishing — all of which can be provided as guided tours.
Just four hours from the urban bustle of Vancouver, Sundance and its 100 horses cater to explorers of all skill levels. The beautifully situated ranch tucked into the foothills, offers rustic but comfortable accommodations, hearty meals and incredible canyon and sagebrush scenery. Plus, they have a pool for cooling off after a day on the trail.
An hour’s drive from the nearest paved road, Big Bar Ranch is for cowboys and -girls looking to get away from it all. Ride through scenic farmland and hill country or pan for gold along the Fraser River. Then post up in one of their private cabins to enjoy a weekend away in the (very comfortable) wilderness — think woodstoves, log-made beds, and friendly farm animals.
Located near the historic gold-rush town of 100 Mile House, Spring Lake Ranch offers a taste of pioneer life in authentic log cabins. Explore 4,047 hectares of rolling forests and trails, then head back to your private cabin for views of sparkling Spring Lake. Get outside and enjoy hiking, canoeing, or fishing, then head back to the ranch where you can enjoy dinner al fresco at the outdoor picnic area.
Rods and reins
Set on the shores of Crystal Lake, turn-of-the-century ranch Crystal Waters is ideal for horse lovers who also love to fish. Amble through wetlands and forests, then spend the afternoon fly fishing for trophy-sized trout. Settle into the saloon feel and enjoy this space in summer or winter. If you head here during the colder months, you’ll have the option to partake in a whole slew of special activities like snowmobiling, ice hockey, skating, and ice fishing.
Real ranch living
A working horse ranch in the remote Chilcotin region, Big Creek gives guests a taste of real cowboy life. Join ranchers on round-ups or enjoy stunning vistas (and the occasional passing moose) from your creekside cabin. Step outside onto your porch, take in the beauty of the family-owned property, and leave the hustle of the city behind.
For serious cowboys (and city slickers with a sense of adventure), the Flying U Ranch on the shores of Green Lake offers unsupervised riding. Explore trails at your leisure that meander through meadows, forests and aspen groves, then head back to the ranch with its old-fashioned saloon, airy lodge, and log cabins.
Personal attention and intimate adventure are the focus at Free Rein, which accommodates just 12 guests. Small-group excursions—no nose-to-tail riding here—explore thousands of acres of protected hills, meadows, and untouched forest. Located between Vancouver and Jasper, Lake Louise, and Banff, this spot is a perfect go-between if you’re traveling across the country or between Canada’s two western provinces.
Roughing it in style
Rustic meets refined at Siwash Lake Ranch, an exclusive hideaway set amid 32,325 hectares of BC wilderness. Ranch-grown organic fare and luxury safari tents complement a unique riding program. In fact, this the luxe twist (think farm-to-table dining, outdoor yoga, and helicopter adventures), is likely why Siwash Lake Ranch is featured as one of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World.
Where horses come first
Passion for horses is paramount at Terra Nostra, a small ranch on Clearwater Lake in the Chilcotin region. Bond with your steed on long rides to lakes and waterfalls, then unwind back at the cabin or around a roaring campfire. Heli-skiing, ski touring, and more are also available in the winter, making Terra Nostra a destination year round.
BC’s wilderness is best paired with a visit to the city. After you’ve checked out these stunning examples of untouched nature, see what the rest of the province has to offer by visiting the Hello BC website.