If you weren’t aware, Tuesday 5th of June will be World Environment Day. It’s a day dedicated to protecting the most incredible environments on Earth from threats like plastic waste. And what better way to celebrate than by learning about British Columbia’s own pristine environments?
The province of BC in western Canada has some of the most unspoiled wilderness regions anywhere in the country – and indeed, on the planet. It’s varied ecology ranges from alpine mountains to rugged coasts, temperate rainforests and icefields. Needless to say, there is a lot of beauty in the virgin landscapes here.
Read on to find out about the best beauty spots in British Columbia, or click below for holidays in BC.
1. Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which combines the contiguous parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks, and Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber Provincial Parks. With the exception of Banff and Jasper, all the parks sit in British Columbia. This spectacular region is famed for the dramatically rugged peaks of the Rockies, which form storybook pointed peaks throughout the region.
In summer, it’s a real playground for hiking, walking, mountain biking and wildlife. Between them, the parks are home to black bears, grizzlies, elk, caribou, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, beavers, wolves, bison, bald eagles and so many more incredible animals. The glacial lakes are world-famous for their stunning turquoise hues and you can even walk on some of the glaciers here.
2. Haida Gwaii
Off the coast of Northern BC at the most westerly point of the province is a remote archipelago called Haida Gwaii. These lush, verdant islands feel like another world. Here you can dive into some of the most rich and historic First Nations cultures anywhere in Canada. The village of Ninstints located on a small island is home to the SGang Gwaay UNESCO World Heritage Site. The remains of longhouses and totems are reminders of the ancient customs and traditions that still live in the area and tell a richly-woven story of a native communities’ connection to the Earth.
3. Great Bear Rainforest
This luxuriant and fertile swathe of land is as green and diverse as the Amazon, but without the climate. It covers an enormous area along the British Columbia coast, from the Discovery Islands in the south up to the border with Alaska. The temperate Great Bear Rainforest is dense with old-growth cedar and other giants of the woods. At 6.4 million hectares, it is the largest remaining tract of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the world. Moss covers the hanging boughs and sunlight filters softly into a world inhabited by wolves, salmon, grizzlies and the elusive white Spirit Bear. Settle into the solitude and tranquillity, and enjoy the best bear viewing on Earth.
4. Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park
Considered to be one of the most magnificent river systems in the world, Tatshenshini-Alsek lends its name to this provincial park in northern BC. It is part of Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek UNESCO Site, which in total covers 8.5 million hectares across BC, Yukon and Alaska and is the largest protected area on Earth. The dramatic mountain and valley system carved by the rivers supports bears, Dall Sheep, Kenai moose, wolves, falcons and eagles. Although wild and remote, there are almost a million acres of landscape for bikers and hikers to explore. The landscape is characterised by towering mountain peaks overlooking flat-bottomed valley, where impossibly blue rivers wind their way through the rock.
5. Burgess Shale
The scientifically significant fossil bed in the British Columbia Rockies is important for its exceptional preservation of animals with soft bodies. This record of marine ecosystems has been uncovered high in the Rocky Mountains and preserves life in its fossil record from over 500 million years ago. The rare fossils are so detailed that even things like nervous systems, hearts and organs have been captured for scientists to study. You can explore the Burgess Shale for yourself in the town of Field, less than half an hour from Banff.
6. Okanagan Valley
This gloriously sunny region in the heart of BC is characterised by lakes, vineyards and spectacular weather. The Okanagan Valley 1000 miles north of Napa, but remarkably the region is perfect for wine-growing. Lake Okanagan itself is enormous at 84 miles long and offers views of stunning rolling hills and green fertile valleys along its length. Other lakes like Vaseux Lake and Kalamalka Lake are perfect for watersports, from swimming to SUP (stand up paddle boarding). Pick a ripe peach from one of the hundreds of orchards and walk into the green hills to enjoy the area.
7. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
On the westernmost coast of rugged Vancouver Island, this special reserve is famed for its endless sandy beaches and moss-draped coastal rainforest. The surf towns of Tofino and Ucluelet are your best bases to explore the windswept coastlines. Storm-watch, comb the beaches for shells and sea glass or surf in the waves – the options for adventure in the Pacific Rim National Park are many and varied. The ancient coastal rainforests are home to giant cedars as well as coastal black bears, who forage for crabs among the rocks where the trees meet the shore.
8. Sunshine Coast
This 180km stretch of paradise is tucked into the southwestern corner of BC, between the mainland and Vancouver Island. No roads lead here, and it is only accessible by boat or seaplane. Once here, marvel at the green fjords rising from the misty Strait of Georgia. Explore the sculpted shorelines from the Coast Mountains to Howe Sound and hike in the rugged peaks which isolate the coast from the mainland. There are a number of First Nations groups in the region, part of the larger body of Coast Salish people. As well as the stunning landscapes, the Sunshine Coast is a great place to learn more about Canada’s indigenous peoples.
9. Hot Springs Cove
Vancouver Island’s only natural hot spring is in a remote provincial park, aptly named Hot Springs Cove. It’s a couple of hours by boat from Tofino (or you can travel there by seaplane for unbeatable views) but it’s worth the journey. You can even see bears and whales as you sail into the secluded Clayoquot Sound, itself a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Once you arrive at the remote spot, a series of geothermal hot pools wind their way down a cascading hot pool, begging you to dive in.
10. Gulf Islands
The Gulf Islands speckle the Strait of Georgia (also known as the Salish Sea) between Vancouver Island and the mainland. There are more than 200 of these sheltered islands, where whales visit the mild Mediterranean climate and wineries and farms dot the fertile outcrops. Between the different islands you can find wildlife viewing, laidback arts culture, al fresco dining and farm-to-table cooking. The way to explore is by boat and island hopping has never been more serene.
Images © Destination British Columbia.