A perfect road trip can mean different things to everyone. It might be a meandering drive following the coastline of a waterway, a golf tour challenging different courses along a route, a wine tasting excursion, or following the famous Cariboo Wagon Road and Gold Rush Trail in Western Canada.
Gold was discovered—everyone is in search of “Easy Gold”
In the 1850s, gold was discovered in British Columbia’s Cariboo region and rapidly the news spread to the rest of the world. Thousands of men and women were caught up in the excitement.
They quickly traveled either by wagon, horseback or even walking, crossing rivers and traversing mountains through the rugged wilderness while following a path that became the Gold Rush Trail. They were in search of “Easy Gold.”
Not all succeeded in reaching the gold fields. Many died and others stopped along the way building towns, rooming houses, mercantile shops, way stations, and ranches. Very few actually made a fortune in the gold fields but those that did helped make these historic times very colorful.
The perfect road trip on the Cariboo Wagon Road
Today the Cariboo Wagon Road and Gold Rush Trail are paved and part of a major highway system. Many of the roadhouses, original ranches, way stations, historic towns, and buildings are still standing or in full operation, a testament to the determination of those early pioneers and settlers.
Mile 0 of the 1860s Cariboo Wagon Road starts at Lillooet, a small town situated alongside the picturesque Fraser Canyon. The narrow rock gorges and fast flowing waters made it extremely difficult for those heading north by boat or pack horse to the gold fields in Barkerville.
Everyone’s ultimate destination was Barkerville east of Quesnel, often referred to as Gold Pan City. Barkerville is an authentic and very unique living history site with over 125 heritage buildings and is the largest historic site in British Columbia.
You won’t need your own gold pan because they’re readily available if you wish to try your hand at panning for some of that “Easy Gold.” Be prepared to spend some time here so you can tour the town by stagecoach and take a hands-on heritage workshop to learn about blacksmithing or how to operate a heritage printing press.
There was no such thing as “Easy Gold” in spite of tales of thousands of ounces of gold just sitting on the ground waiting to be discovered. It would be nice to have a perfect road trip where a person could discover the gold not found yet, but that isn’t going to happen.
However, the journey along the Cariboo Wagon Road and Gold Rush Trail is just as important as the final destination of Barkerville.
Important stops of interest
Historic Hat Creek Ranch: Some of the buildings here were built as early as 1860 and later are still standing. This was an important transportation stopover for freight wagons and today there are interactive interpretive activities and many exhibits ready to explore.
Marble Canyon Provincial Park: A limestone canyon that’s a rare geological formation with a small 30-site campground and opportunities for fishing and bird watching. At least stop here for a picnic while traveling in your RV.
Wildlife Viewing: The landscape in the Cariboo is diverse and provides a perfect habitat for woodland caribou, California bighorn sheep, moose, and mule deer.
Xatsull Heritage Village: The Xatsull community is open for visitors to experience their traditional way of life with regularly scheduled tours daily.
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