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Tumbler Ridge, A Hidden Gem In The Middle Of Nowhere

If you are on the way to Alaska—stop in Tumbler Ridge and visit the Global Geopark.

Everyone who travels or is considering traveling to Alaska is familiar with the Alaskan Highway and the Mile “0” Milepost in Dawson Creek.

But, how many know about the nearby communities such as Tumbler Ridge? Within an hour of Dawson Creek, the area is filled with recreational opportunities and interesting historic landmarks that go back millions of years.

Tumbler Ridge
Flatbed Creek – Dinosaur Footprint Sites. Photo courtesy of Robert Strusievica/Flickr

Tumbler Ridge is just one of those unique, interesting and worth-visiting communities that RVers will be glad they took the time to explore.

The staff at the Visitors Centre identify their little town as “a gem, amongst some of the best recreational and historic regions in the Province of BC.”  That’s quite a statement and the bonus is that it’s easily accessible.

Tumbler Ridge Town Hall - photo courtesy of Explores/flickr
Tumbler Ridge Town Hall. Photo courtesy of Explores/Flickr

Although the Indigenous Peoples have lived in this region for 10,000 years, the town of Tumbler Ridge was not developed until 1983 when two coal mines were built and the workers needed housing, schools, churches, and amenities. At its height, the population was around 5,000, but today it sits closer to 2,500 residents.

Surrounded by forests, rivers, caves, canyons, waterfalls, marshes, and drum roll please—dinosaur footprint sites—it’s a dream stop-over point for people of all ages.

There’s something here for everyone including a golf course, campgrounds, provincial parks, a community pool, and hiking trails that are easy, moderate, or strenuous. The town itself has restaurants, banks, hotels, a grocery store, pharmacy, and most amenities travelers need.

Tumbler Ridge Dinosaur Discovery Gallery, photo courtesy of Ashley Wiebe/flickr
Tumbler Ridge Dinosaur Discovery Gallery. Photo courtesy of Ashley Wiebe/Flickr
UNESCO Global Geopark

A UNESCO Global Geopark is an area recognized as having internationally significant geological heritage and Tumbler Ridge has the second Global Geopark in North America. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Explore the 34 accessible geosites including enormous waterfalls, looming rock formations, alpine meadows filled with wildflowers, pristine limestone lakes, intriguing caves, and of course some of the most significant dinosaur discoveries in North America.

Monkman Park Waterfalls, near Tumbler Ridge, photo courtesy of Destination BC/flickr
Monkman Park Waterfalls, near Tumbler Ridge. Photo courtesy of Destination BC/Flickr

Not only is the area beautiful, but many sites are culturally and historically significant. The geology of the Tumbler Ridge Geopark covers hundreds of millions of years—something difficult to fathom. The oldest rock is just west of Monkman Provincial Park and dates back over 700 million years.

The range of things to experience here is tremendous and includes following the dinosaur footprints on a Wolverine Lantern Night Tour, taking a scenic walk through a bird sanctuary very close to town, hike a trail leading towards small caves, fossils, tranquil ponds, and awesome viewpoints, and a visit the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery.

Dinosaur Discovery Gallery

Dinosaurs roamed this area quite freely but this wasn’t known until two local children discovered the dinosaur bones and tracks. The Galleries exhibits include a full-scale recreation of a 100 million-year-old dinosaur track environment, plus an interactive theatre.

A new friend - baby dinosaur, Tumbler Ridge - photo courtesy of Andrew Kurjata/flickr
A new friend—baby dinosaur, Tumbler Ridge. Photo courtesy of Andrew Kurjata/Flickr
Driving tours

The highway both north and south of Tumbler Ridge is a good two-lane highway, but for some of the interesting backroads you may want to explore it’s probably better done in a car or truck because portions of these backroads may be gravel. Drop into the Visitors Centre for some interesting suggested driving tour maps.

Tumbler Ridge
Hiking near Tumbler Ridge. Photo courtesy of Zai Khan/Flickr
Northeastern British Columbia Heritage Auto Tour

To experience even more of the communities close to the Highway to Alaska why not take the suggested Northeastern British Columbia Heritage Auto Tour? The highways listed on the Heritage Auto Tour are all well-paved and lead RVers to many exciting and interesting things to see and do.

Mackenzie, the southernmost community on the self-guided tour is the home to the world’s largest tree crusher; Chetwynd has many chain-saw sculptures displayed throughout the town, and of course, Tumbler Ridge is the waterfall capital of the north and dinosaur country.

Included in the Heritage Auto Tour is Hudson Hope, the place to gain access to the W.A.C Bennett Dam, the Village of Pouce Coupe, and Fort St John, with unlimited access to wilderness adventures.

How to get here

The following directions are for those who are traveling north on Highway 97 from the Canada—US Border near Blaine, Washington.

RVers who love the outdoors and want to get off the beaten path must explore the first GeoPark in Western North America and take a scenic drive along Highway 29 from Chetwynd, or Highway 29 from Dawson Creek.

When traveling north to turn off Highway 97 at Chetwynd, travel to Tumbler Ridge and then go through to Dawson Creek, preventing any backtracking. Plan your travels on RV LIFE Trip Wizard to find the best attractions and campgrounds along the way.

Be prepared, you may want to spend a little bit of extra time in Tumbler Ridge exploring the paleontological sites, the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery, or hiking some of the popular trails.

Your RV friends will probably be envious that you found this area first and wish they had taken the time to travel a short distance from the Alaska Highway to Tumbler Ridge.

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