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Trip 130 - May 18, 2018 (Friday)

Trip on British Columbia Highway 20

Williams Lake to Bella Coola (455 kilometers)

Distance From Vancouver to:
Williams Lake (via Highway 1 East and 97 North): approximately 550 kilometers. To Bella Coola: approximately 1,000 kilometers.

Liked: Very light traffic, meeting cows by the roadside, several fine mountain views.

Of note: Considering the substantial length of the highway, good views are few and far in-between. No cell phone signal for most of the highway. Free-roaming livestock by the roadside. Several cattle guards on the highway. A portion of the highway is gravel. The stretch through South Tweedsmuir Provincial Park (closer to the Western end of the highway) features a very long, steep and narrow road, with enormous drop-offs and no guard rail.

Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Backroad Mapbook (2015 edition) BC Highway 20 Coordinates: Pages 28-27-26-13-25-24-38-37-23-22 (Williams Lake to Bella Coola).

Related Trip: Town of Bella Coola Visit.

Related Websites: South Tweedsmuir Provincial Park (BC Parks Official Website), DriveBC (BC highways information).

Our Hikes Off BC Highway 20: Rainbow Range Trail Hike (near Anahim Lake), Tatlayoko Lake East Trail (near Tatla Lake), Crazy Creek Trail (near Tatla Lake),  The Dome Trail (near Williams Lake), M Gurr Lake Trail (by Bella Coola), Odegaard Falls Trail (by Bella Coola), Schoolhouse Falls EAST Trail (by Bella Coola), Schoolhouse Falls WEST Trail (by Bella Coola).

Other Road Trip Reports: BC Highway 40 (Lillooet to Gold Bridge), TransCanada Highway 1 and BC Highway 99 Loop.


British Columbia Highway 20 runs for 450+ kilometers from the town of Williams Lake in BC interior, through a few very small settlements (Riske Creek, Hanceville, Alexis Creek, Redstone, Tsi Del Del, Chilanko Forks, Tatla Lake, Kleena Kleene, Nimpo Lake, Anahim Lake, Firvale and Hagensborg) to the coastal community of Bella Coola, some 455 kilometers away. While the highway itself is by no means a scenic drive, it leads to some of the best BC wilderness, including a huge Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. We drove the entire length of Highway 20 today, and here is our trip report.

1. We are Northbound on Highway 97 in Williams Lake, with a sign showing that the left lane leads to Highway 20.

BC Highway 97 North in Williams Lake British Columbia Canada

2. A few hundred meters later, we are getting ready to turn left. Williams Lake is the right place to fuel the vehicle at the best price of your Highway 20 journey, and to stock up on supplies, prior to beginning the trip. There are very few stores for the rest of the way, and the selection of goods is much more limited. No Wal-Marts, Safeways, Save-on-Foods, Staples, Mark's, or Canadian Tires exist West of Williams Lake.

Highway 97 North in Williams Lake BC Canada

3. Now on Highway 20, still in Williams Lake, with a sign indicating the distances to various destinations.

BC Highway 20 West in Williams Lake British Columbia Canada

4. For the first 25 minutes, Highway 20 goes up and down some hills.

BC Highway 20 West near the town of Williams Lake

5. This cyclist sure got a great workout.

Cyclist on BC Highway 20

6. Then, the Chilcotin area of British Columbia begins, and the hills become less numerous and not nearly as steep.

Start or Chilcotin Area on BC Highway 20 West of Williams Lake

7. There's a lot of green around, and very little traffic.

Highway 20 West British Columbia Canada

8. Within an hour or so, Hanceville Lookout Rest Area features this neat view.

View from Hanceville Rest Area by Highway 20 in British Columbia Canada

9. Passing by an aboriginal settlement.

Aboriginal Settlement by BC Highway 20

10. In Tatla Lake we have encountered dozens of cows roaming freely on the side of the highway.

Entrance to Tatla Lake on BC Highway 20 British Columbia Canada

11. Tatla Lake, BC.

Tatla Lake BC Canada

12. Cows in Tatla Lake. Watch out for cattle guards - there are four or five of them on Highway 20.

Cows roaming on the side of Highway 20 in British Columbia Canada

13. Hello to you too.

Cows by Highway 20 in Tatla Lake British Columbia Canada

14. The first mountain showed up far away on the horizon 171 kilometers after the beginning of Highway 20. And it took close to three hours of driving before really good mountain views started to appear, like the one in the photo below.

Mountain View from BC Highway 20

15. Here is another good view, seen from a pullout.

Mountain seen from Highway 20 pullout Province of British Columbia Canada

16. After Anahim Lake (320 kilometers from Williams Lake), the asphalt is replaced by packed gravel for the next 60 kilometers. There are numerous rough spots on this stretch of Highway 20, usually accompanied by a small "slow" sign nearby.

Gravel part of BC Highway 20

17. About 15 kilometers of the gravel portion of the highway is a very steep descent, which begins after Tweedsmuir Provincial Park entrance (which itself starts 355 kilometers after Williams Lake). A sign requires all vehicles to have chains on drive axles (during the winter season, obviously), but, even with the road being dry, it was far from a serene drive.

Steep hill BC Highway 20 by Bella Coola Valley

18. You quickly lose over 1,000 meters in elevation on this hill. The road is quite narrow in many places, and not that smooth.

Highway 20 near Tweedsmuir Provincial Park British Columbia Canada

19. Plus, there are no guard rails. Driving this road in the winter is not for the faint of heart.

Steep hill on BC Highway 20 by Bella Coola Valley

20. A steep drop-off.

Steep drop off by BC Highway 20

21. The enormous hill ends in Bella Coola valley. The road was a bit flooded at one point, but quite passable.

BC Highway 20 in Bella Coola Valley

22. In the valley, the mountain views get better and better.

Mountain view BC Highway 20 West in Bella Coola Valley

23. One more.

Highway 20 West Bella Coola Valley British Columbia Canada

24. It's a neat drive, once you are in the valley. There are houses on both sides here and there, and, still, very little traffic.

Bella Coola Valley Highway 20 West British Columbia Canada

25. Highway 20 ends at a government wharf, a few kilometers past a small settlement of Bella Coola. Here we are approaching Bella Coola.

Approaching Bella Coola on BC Highway 20 West

26. After this bridge, turning right leads to the center of Bella Coola, while going straight for about three more kilometers would lead to the wharf and the end of Highway 20, both of which we will cover in the next trip report.

Highway 20 West near Bella Coola British Columbia Canada

BC Highway 20 is far from being the most scenic drive in the province, and features a pretty complicated hill closer to its western end. That said, if you want to experience the vast and mostly people-free wilderness of the Chilcotin region of British Columbia, or to visit Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, Highway 20 will get you there.

BACK: Panorama Ridge Trail Page 2    NEXT: Town of Bella Coola Visit

Our Trips off BC Highway 20:

Rainbow Range Trail

Tatlayoko Lake Trail

Crazy Creek Trail


Crazy Creek Trail 2


The Dome Trail


M Gurr Lake Trail

Odegaard Falls Visit


Schoolhouse Falls West


Schoolhouse Falls East


Town of Bella Coola Visit




ihikebc.com Trip 130 - BC Highway 20 Trip (Williams Lake to Bella Coola)