Friday, July 18, 2008

Driving the Fraser Canyon Highway

Driving the Fraser Canyon Highway

While driving the Fraser Canyon, one cannot help but be impressed by the beautiful views, whether the trip is made in Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall.

We chose to drive home from the coast via the Fraser Canyon on our most recent trip back from our winter holiday in Southern California. The roads had been closed briefly due to severe winter snow conditions and this is something one needs to be aware of when winter driving thru the Fraser Canyon. It doesn’t happen often, but can happen. As it was, the roads were great and the traffic fairly light and we were lucky enough to have some blue skies and sunshine.

One of many majestic mountains in the Fraser Canyon

Hope is at the junction of Hwys 1, 5 and 7, 150 km (94 mi) east of Vancouver, B.C.
It is nestled at the base of the Cascade Mountains and sits at the entrance of the Fraser River Canyon. This pretty little town of 6667 people is considered the Chainsaw Capital of Canada but there was a time it was the Hudson Bay Company fur trading fort as well as a Gold Rush town and with so much history is worth a stop at the Hope Museum.

Our next stop on Hwy 1 is 24 km (16 mi) to Yale, which has quite a history, as well.
The museum is housed in an1868 heritage home and is open for travellers to hear all about the past and what Yale means to the Fraser Canyon. It is one of the oldest and most historic communities in British Columbia. The Gold Fever in 1858 brought 20,000 people to live in Yale, today there are 200.

                                         The light at the end of one of 8 tunnels
Once you leave Yale you will pass thru a total of 8 tunnels on your drive of the Fraser Canyon Highway. We pass by Spuzzum, which you will miss if you blink since the old store burned down a few years ago.

Then onto Boston Bar, 42 km (26 mi) north of Yale, with a population of 890 people. You will find food, gas and lodgings as well as many outdoor activities to enjoy. There is river rafting, gold panning, rock hounding, fishing and hiking throughout most of the year, and snowmobiling and snowboarding during the winter months.

Kanaka Bar is along this part of the road and has been a truck stop for as long as I can remember and likely has it’s own stories to tell, if only walls could talk !!

The Fraser Canyon Highway was completed in 1962. That may seem like a long time ago to the ‘young ones’ but it really wasn’t that long ago that the trip from the Interior to the Coast thru the Fraser Canyon was a long day trip. I remember travelling on this road during construction. I was still pretty young and it was scary to us kids looking over the edge of the road into the deep canyon. We’d have to use the pull outs carved into the banks to allow traffic and the big trucks to go by. It took several years to complete and was quite a feat when one considers the obstacles that had to be overcome.

Another fact that might age me, too, is remembering the walk down to Hell’s Gate before the current tram was there. It took awhile on that hot summer day, but we did it and without the help of a burro or camel, now that would make me really old!!

There are camping facilities scattered along the Fraser Canyon Highway. If you have time to stop and enjoy the wonderful scenery and history of the Canyon, try to get your campsite early and they fill up during the summer months.

There is a day use park at Alexandra Bridge with picnic area, some wheelchair access and hiking trails.

Between Hope and Yale there is Emory Creek Provincial Park with 34 campsites to stop and enjoy the great fishing in the area as well as the hiking trails.

There are four roadside rest areas with toilet facilities between Hope and Lytton, which is 105 km (63 miles) apart.

At Lytton, there is Skihist campground with 56 campsites and some wheelchair access, picnicking and hiking.

Once you reach Lytton, you can follow Hwy 12 up to Lillooet following the Fraser River that will take you for more beautiful mountain scenery and if you wish to complete the Circle Tour, follow Hwy 99 and it will bring you around to Whistler, Squamish and onto the Sea to Sky Hwy to Vancouver.

Or you can stay on Hwy.1 that follows the Thompson River and takes you into semi-arrid country with different vistas. I hope you’re able to take all roads and see all that British Columbia has to offer.

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