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Cariboo-Chilcotin Backcountry Trail (segment 1)

Updated: May 15, 2021

The Cariboo-Chilcotin-Coast region of British Columbia contains some of the most wild and awe-inspiring wild lands in all of North America. Those that have been know, and those who may not be familiar with this region within Central B.C., will soon realize what they've been missing out on.



Route Overview


Adventure Rating: Epic

Trip Length: 190 miles

Season: June - Early October

Technical Rating: Green to blue. The Poison Mountain area has numerous sections that are off camber, steep, and loose.

Typical Terrain: Graded forest service roads, and steep, loose and off camber jeep tracks in the Poison Mountain and China Head areas.

Recommended Vehicle: 4x4 with all terrain tires.

Adventure Vans: Sprinter 4x4s should be able to to reach Mud Lakes, but are not advised venturing to Poison Mountain and China Head Mountain.

Alternative Routes: Yes! See bottom of route for more details.

 

Route Details

The Cariboo-Chilcotin-Coast region of British Columbia contains some of the most wild and awe-inspiring wild lands in all of North America. Those that have been know, and those who may not be familiar with this region within Central B.C., will soon realize what they've been missing out on. It's a land that's been sculpted by the harsh elements over the millennia-- the real world embodiment of Mother Earth's raw and unharnessed powers in all their magnificent glory. Vast mountain ranges have been thrusted up from the earth's crust, only to be scraped, carved, and polished by the glaciers in the alpine. The snow, ice, and glaciers in the alpine provide a constant supply of water to the streams and rivers that feed into liquid behemoths like the mighty Fraser River. Grizzly bears ramble along the river banks looking for their next meal, eagles soar overheard scouring mountain lakes for fish, and mountain goats skip adroitly along the steep granite slopes. Welcome to Supernatural British Columbia! We begin our adventure in the quaint town of Pemberton before departing north for short stint on pavement. Immediately you'll notice the breathtaking mountains on all sides. While you may be eager to get out into the bush, take the opportunity to snap a few photos when passing through Pemberton Meadows (DP1). From Pemberton Meadows the route crosses the Lillooet river (DP2), and the pavement gives way to a forest service road (FSR) comprised of dirt and gravel. You're now traveling on the Hurley FSR (named after the Hurley River), which is a popular off road route in southern British Columbia. Given the generally good condition of the Hurley, it's easy to travel at an expedited rate of travel-- just watch out for logging trucks and other industrial traffic (something you should always be on the look out for when traveling FSRs in B.C.). The Hurley climbs over Railroad Pass (DP4), before dropping into another stunning alpine valley a surrounded by rugged granite mountains on each side.


If British Columbia isn't home, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the scenery. Like many places in the American West, British Columbia has a rich pioneer history. Your next stop will be the rural outpost of Bralorne and a visit to the Bradian Ghost Town (DP4), home to one of the richest mining districts in Canada, the Bridge River District. In the 1930s, the district produced over $370 million of gold over a seven year period in the 1930s! Today, many of the abandoned miner's houses still stand in Bradian, and you can visit some of the local mines as well. Next up, make your way to Gold Bridge, a more established but still very rural outpost. You may even consider filling up on gas (we hear they only take credit/debit at this unmanned station). At Gold Bridge cross the Hurley River (DP6) and make your way towards Gun Lake.


Gun Lake (DP7) is but one of literally dozens of larger alpine lakes and reservoirs in British Columbia that could easily be qualified as a National Park if the government so desired. As with the Hurley FSR, the FSR to Gun Lake is in well kept condition. There are a couple of great recreation sites along Gun Lake if you're looking for a lakeside campsite. Over the ridge from Gun Lake lies the much bigger, and just as impressive Carpenter Lake (DP8). As you make your way north from Carpenter Lake, you'll notice the route isn't quite as well traveled, the width narrows, and a few sections have been succumbed to seasonal erosion. This is where things start to get really remote really fast. And while you're by no means in no-man's land, it is mostly hardened and experienced adventurers and overlanders who make the trek beyond Carpenter Lake. The track clings to the hillside and follows Tyaughton Creek further and further upstream, gradually gaining elevation. Water and mud becomes more prevalent on the trail as you approach Mud Lakes, especially earlier in the season. Mud Lakes (DP9) seems to be the go-to place to camp along this track, and there are a couple of established Recreation Sites, and a number of primitive campsites in the vicinity as well. You've almost made it to Chilcotin Country! Not far from Mud Lakes (at least as the crow flies!) and at the southern range of the Chilcotin Mountains, sits both Poison Mountain (DP10) and China Head Mountain-- this is where things start to get fun! You've seen how the road conditions have gradually deteriorated, and that trajectory will continue as you leave Mud Lakes and begin to gain elevation as you climb into the Southern Chilcotin Ranges. You'll also notice the geology in the Chilcotins is different from the granite peaks to the South. Reddish hues, serpentine blue-green, and steel grey rocks and soils abound , a product of the heavy mineralization that's so prevalent in the Chilcotin Ranges. Looking at the map, you'll find that the trip to Poison Mountain is an out-and-back, and almost the entirety of this short track is quite steep-- sometimes surpassing 30 degrees. When the trail is wet or muddy, it can be a challenge for vehicles to reach the summit (especially heavier rigs and those without mud terrains), but once you do reach the summit, be prepared to be amazed and astounded by the 360 degree views of the surrounding Chilcotin and Cariboo regions. Adjacent to Poison Mountain and almost directly east of it sits your next challenge, China Head Peak (DP1). The road to the summit of China Head, while steep, isn't nearly as arduous as the Poison Mountain summit trail. If you look to the east from China Head, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the Fraser River Canyon, which you'll soon be descending into. The trail from China Head follows the ridge line for a few miles, before dropping in elevation to Moore Lake, over 2,000 feet below. A few miles from Moore Lake, you'll jump onto West Pavillion Road (Dp13). This is a wide and well kept road, which means you know what-- watch out for logging trucks and heavy industrial vehicles! West Pavillion Road hugs the mountainside above the Fraser River Canyon, and the views are absolutely spectacular-- just remember to stay vigilant and keep your eyes on the road when driving! West Pavillion Road is approximately 50 miles and can be driven in a couple hours, but most folks slow down to take in the views. After those 50 miles are over, you'll have reached the end of the track in Lillooet.


Alternative Routes There are dozens upon dozens of FSRs, dirt roads and trails that cross the route and in the mountains surrounding the track. And while this track isn't clogged with significant amounts of vehicles by any means, if you're looking for a truly solitaire wilderness experience, these roads and trails likely hold the keys to what you're seeking! One such adventure is the Slim Creek FSR, a 30 mile out-and-back to a spectacular alpine valley directly below Leckie Peak. If you're looking for more rugged terrain, consider getting of the FSR network (typically maintained for logging and industrial vehicles) and into the secondary roads that climb into the mountains.

Camping Recommendations

Dispersed camping is permitted in most wilderness area unless marked otherwise. Take advantage of the fantastic primitive camping this route has to offer! Some of our favorite sites include:

  • Gun Lake

  • Noel Lake Rec Site

  • Kingdom Lake Rec Site

  • Leckie Peak / Slim Creek FSR area

  • Mud Lakes


Discovery Points

  • DP1 - Pemberton Meadows

  • DP2 - Lillooet River

  • DP3 - Railroad Pass

  • DP4 - Bradian Ghost town

  • DP5 - Gold Bridge

  • DP6 - Hurley River

  • DP7 - Gun Lake

  • DP8 - Carpenter Lake

  • DP9 - Mud Lakes

  • DP10 - Poison Mountain

  • DP11 - China Head Mountain

  • DP12 - Fraser River

  • DP13 - West Pavillion Road


Recommended Maps

Download GPX file



 

Resources


Land Managers

 

Gallery



Terms of Use: Should you decide to travel a route that is published on Overlandtrailguides.com, you do so at your own risk. Always take the appropriate precautions when planning and traveling, including checking the current local weather, permit requirements, trail/road conditions, and land/road closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, and carry the appropriate safety, recovery, and navigational equipment. The information found on this site is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by Overland Trail Guides, the route accuracy and current conditions of roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.

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