Cache Creek/Hat Creek Ranch – Caribou Wagon Road
Round trip from Whistler to Cache Creek = 568 miles
Estimated time: 12 hours+ (summer only)
This is a driving trip that will take an entire day—one glorious day, at that!
Drive north east of Whistler along a portion of the “Sea to Sky” Highway (Hwy 99) deemed the “most romantic highway in the world.” Duffy Creek Road, through Pemberton, gradually gains in altitude as you drive a series of switchbacks through the thickly forested Cayoosh Creek valley offering stunning views of icy glaciers and mountain lakes. (See Caribou Chilcotin Coast) Stretch your legs in Lillooet, but not for long. You’ll want to keep driving, gaining altitude, as you continue toward an arid, highland plateau replete with working ranches, legends of the West and gold rush lore of the infamous Caribou Highway.
From Whistler it is a formidable 284 mile drive to the town of Cache Creek, a lively small town and historic rest stop for First Peoples, miners, fur trappers and visitors drawn to the area’s western mystic of ranches, mining, and native peoples (Shuswap Nation) over the ages. Caribou Highway (Hwy 97) transects the Trans Canada Highway (Hwy 1) at Cache Creek.
Just 11 km north of Cache Creek on Hwy 97 is a popular heritage site, Hat Creek Ranch, a famed historic roadhouse that served the B.C express line stages and supported traffic and commerce associated with the Caribou Gold Rush. Here you can see restored original buildings (still standing as they did in 1901)—some dating to 1860—and antique farm machinery. Guides in period costume demonstrate trades and crafts (mid-May to mid-October; the grounds are open year-round).
Local Stuctwesemc people from Bonaparte Reserve have reconstructed a traditional Shuswap Village beside Hat Creek Ranch. Take the rare opportunity to view an actual kekuli pit house and learn about the crafts and tools of the nomadic Shuswap peoples who inhabited the area for thousands of years.
One of the few remaining sections open to the public of the Caribou Wagon Road can still be seen at Hat Creek Ranch. (250) 457-9722, for details.
Summer visitors enjoy the long, extended daylight hours for more sightseeing as they descend, back toward Whistler, soaking in the mountain and valley vistas of this remarkable area.