Pemberton, Mount Currie & Lillooet Exploration
Round trip from Whistler to Lillooet = approximately 170 miles
Estimated time: 6-8 hours
Drive about 80 miles northeast Whistler along a portion of the “Sea to Sky” Highway (Hwy 99) through Pemberton towards Lillooet, known as Mile '0' of the original Caribou Wagon Road. One of two first non-native towns in the Interior of British Columbia, Lillooet is located at a stunningly beautiful part of the Fraser River Gorge where the river begins its descent through the Coast Mountains to the Lower Fraser Valley and Vancouver. Lillooet is said to have one of the best climates in all of Canada!
If you like, linger in the area—in rustic Pemberton and the Coast Salish/ Lil’wat Nation community of Mount Currie, just 5 miles east. Those willing and able to traverse a difficult stretch of road may wish to detour here and spend the day enjoying Skookumchuck Hot Springs, located about 35 miles (56 km) south of Mount Currie, on the original Caribou Wagon Road. From the logging road that parallels the Lillooet River, turn west at the BC Hydro tower 682 to experience these popular hot springs, and their beautiful natural setting, next to the Harrison River.
Or, as an alternate road to Lillooet, take the Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park route through D’Arcy, also part of the Lil’wat Nation territory and another historic Gold Rush town on the shores of Anderson Lake. D’Arcy is home to the Anderson Lake sockeye salmon fish hatchery, and is just 22 km. east of Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park, protected habitat for mountain goats, grizzly and black bears, featuring old growth forests and many lakes.
History buffs, rock hounds, archeologists, photographers, golfers—Lillooet waits. Located at the junction of Highway 12 and Highway 99, the town of Lillooet had outfitted over 16,000 gold seekers by 1863 and has interesting sites and local histories to be appreciated.
Don’t miss the Lillooet Museum housed in a former Anglican church and displaying an impressive collection of local and Aboriginal artifacts. Stroll Main Street and visit the town’s pioneer cemetery; experience its wide streets built to accommodate the wide turns of 20-oxen carts. Tour the Miyazaki Heritage House, built by one of town’s first settlers in 1918. Walk to Hangman’s Tree where the famous hanging judge, Sir Mathew Baillie Begbie, sentenced at least 8 “lawless thieves” to die by hanging. Walk across "The Old Bridge, a period suspension bridge built of steel cables and wood in 1913. Grab a bite to eat in one of Lillooet’s Main Street eateries, the Garden Patch Café and Take 5 Café, to name a couple.
Check out the archeological digs at nearby Keatley Creek, about 15 miles from Lillooet. Dating native culture in the area back at least 9,000 years, this is the site of a major pithouse village, excavated during the 1980’s. Thrill seekers can take an exhilarating jet boat tour on the forceful Fraser River from Lillooet to Lytton. (Fraser River Jetboat Adventures /250 256-4180.) Or, golfers—make time to play 9 holes at one of Canada’s most unusual golf courses: Sheep Pasture Golf Course, 250 256-4484. Located on a working sheep ranch, golfers share the gorgeous views and fairways with herds of wooly creatures and ranch hands.