Mountain Towns in Northern BC – The Charm of The Wild

July 20, 2016 D'Arcy McLeish

Northern British Columbia has seen a bit of a renaissance in the last few years. While its history is long and steeped in frontier life, native culture and the rugged ingenuity that develops in the hard to reach places of the world, something else has been happening in the wilds of Northern BC. You see, the northern part of our province is home to some of the most pristine wilderness on earth. A half million square kilometres of glaciated peaks, raging mountain rivers, old growth forest and rugged pacific coastline. In short, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, without the crowds of the south. That’s right. There’s no line up on a powder day in the north. You have rivers to fish all by yourself. Untracked snow as far as the eye can see and loamy singletrack that meanders for miles.

The Salmon Glacier Near Stewart, Bc.  Photo - Steve Rosset
The Salmon Glacier near Stewart, BC.
Photo – Steve Rosset

Nestled in these rugged places are a few little mountain towns that offer up character, charm and some of the most epic outdoor sporting opportunities in the world. But more than that, the mountain towns of Northern BC are cultural and artistic outposts that offer inspiration for an intentional way of living.

One Of The Locals Our For A Morning Swim.  Photo - Steve Rosset
One of the locals our for a morning swim.
Photo – Steve Rosset

Road tripping in the north has always made me want to move there and I think at some point in the next few years, I’ll make the pilgrimage like many others have done. It’s wild and rugged and beautiful up there and the north offers something different from the south. There are no big cities. No traffic jams and no line-ups. There are small, quaint mountain towns like Smithers and Terraces and even smaller places steeped in ten thousand years of native culture and history.

Smithers and Terrace have grown considerably in the last few years and both offer a small, rustic charm in some of the most spectacular settings on earth. People in these towns have chosen to live up here and enjoy everything the north has to offer. The summers are beautiful and the winters are epic. Snow is measured in metres here and there’s plenty to go around. The ski hills are owned by the locals. Places like Shames Mountain and Powder King, where storm days are communal affairs and there isn’t a mad rush to get out there with twenty thousand other powder maniacs fighting for fresh tracks. It’s mellow and there is always room for everyone.

With The Pristine Wilderness Come Its Many Residents.  Photo - Steve Rosset
With the pristine wilderness come its many residents.
Photo – Steve Rosset

Further afield are towns like Hazelton and Stewart. Hazelton, home to the ‘Ksan Historical Village, a traditional native village which has been there for centuries, is a window into the past and a people that have lived off the land in Northern BC for thousands of years. Stewart, perched on the edge of the Alaskan Panhandle, is a frontier town on the longest fjord in North America and still has it’s rugged, lawless feel from the days of the gold rush. Further north is Atlin. Sitting at the confluence of some of the largest mountains and glaciers on the continent, Atlin is a small place in a massive wilderness. It’s worth a trip up here just to see what some of the biggest mountains in the world look like.

Another Reason To Visit Northern Bc.  Photo - Grant Gunderson
Another reason to visit Northern BC.
Photo – Grant Gunderson

Northern BC is a magical place, and worth a winter or summer road trip. There are cozy ski towns, rugged frontier towns and mythical places steeped in the mists of time. There’s a reason Last Frontier Heliskiing operates in the north. But don’t take our word for it, come and see for yourself.

Be safe and go on a road trip.