Bella Coola

Top things to see and do in Bella Coola

The Bella Coola Valley is replete with lush scenery and staggering views—here are the top four things to do in this area

From kayaking to snorkelling, leisure activities abound here. — Photo courtesy Bella Coola Valley Tourism

There are few things in this world that soothe our spirits like escaping to a natural paradise. The Bella Coola Valley offers just such an escape, with outdoor recreation possibilities amidst scenery that will astound visitors.

“One of my favourite fall activities is to drive the short distance to the Atnarko River in Tweedsmuir (Provincial) Park to watch grizzly bears,” said Cheryl Waugh, marketing chair for Bella Coola Valley Tourism. “Second to that is choosing a summer hiking trail . . . and marvelling at the night skies without the intrusion of light pollution.”

1.) Walk to the waterfalls

The Bella Coola Valley has several parks and trail networks where one can explore natural alpine wonders. The eastern edge of the valley lies within Tweedsmuir Provincial Park (the largest in B.C.), where visitors can view an ancient volcano, old-growth forests and secluded lakes and rivers. You can take a tour of the old-growth forest along Saloompt Forest Trail or through Snootli Creek Regional Park.

The valley is well known for its breathtaking waterfalls. A short walk from the town of Bella Coola you can see the extraordinary Clayton Falls. If hiking is your passion, hire a guide and trek the longer distance to Hunlen Falls, Odegaard Falls or Schoolhouse Mountain Falls.

2.) Outings for nature lovers

Among the highlights of the valley are the accessible backcountry areas, where hiking and biking opportunities are virtually unlimited in number and appeal. Guides can show you the ins and outs of the plentiful backcountry trails.

Hikers should make time to traverse the Gray Jay Lake Trail or to go above MGurr Lake. These places afford spectacular views of the Coast Mountains and fjords. Purgatory Glacier can be seen up close and personal if you head to the end of Nusatsum Forestry Service Road.

If hiking is not for you, sit back and relax—in the seat of a mountain bike, or even on horseback. The trails accommodate these activities, providing another way to engage actively in the recreational delight that is the Bella Coola Valley.

“I live on the Bella Coola River and the natural rhythms surrounding the water’s flow include bald eagle flights, grizzly bears, mountain goats on rocky bluffs, deer sightings and wolf cries across moonlit fields—and that’s just out my front window,” said Waugh. “The sense of community is also remarkable.”

3.) From bike to boat

For those who enjoy fishing, paddling and other water activities, the Bella Coola Valley is a playground in itself. There are five species of salmon as well as other varieties of fish to be found in the region’s river systems. There is even access to saltwater fishing in the Pacific inlets.

With the appropriate gear, visitors can experience the adventure of snorkelling with the salmon in the Atnarko River.

Wildlife viewing and birdwatching can be done during a rafting excursion down the Bella Coola or Atnarko rivers. Local guides can accompany you; they can tell you more about the ecosystem that makes the valley such a rich environment.

4.) Rev up the RV

Paved and well-maintained gravel roads lead to and throughout the valley, making the trip here decidedly RV-friendly. With scenic campsites and other amenities, this destination is ready and waiting for you.

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