Traveling the Chilcotin by Road
"In those days it took a family
and team a week to reach the Williams Lake Stampede." - Resorts
Welcome to the West Chilcotin - An expansive region cut through
by Highway 20 West, the only paved access along the entire
length of the Chilcotin Plateau, spanning thousands of square
miles. Oh, and not one stop light or stop sign the whole way.
It is 200 miles from Williams Lake to Anahim Lake and just
about another 100 from Anahim Lake to the Bella Coola Harbour.
On this last stretch you will be on the 'Freedom Highway'
and the "Hill", so called because when folks asked
the Government for a road from Bella Coola to the Chilcotin
Plateau in the 1950's, Government refused, stating that the
terrain made it impossible to build one. So...locals got together
and built the road themselves through some of the roughest
terrain in Canada. With grades as steep as 18%, this is judged
to be the steepest public highway in North America involving
a drop of 4000 feet over a distance of only 10 miles.
Highway 20 is mostly seal coat from the top of Sheep Creek
to Towdystan south of Nimpo Lake with some paved sections.
It's paved from Nimpo Lake to Anahim and from Anahim Lake
to the foot of the Bella Coola Hill is gravel road in good
condition. Excellent paved road from there to Bella Coola
There are dirt backroads that swing off of Highway 20 and
then rejoin it farther down but they can be in very poor condition,
if not impassable at times. Check conditions with the local
maintenance yard or RCMP station before proceeding!
There are several ways to get to Williams Lake before starting
out on Highway 20 depending on where you're coming from, obviously.
Coming across Canada via Edmonton, you stay on the Yellowhead
highway to Prince George, and then drop down to Williams Lake
on Highway 97. Alternatively, you can come down Highway 5
just north of Valemont after coming through the park, and
pick up Highway 24 that crosses over from Little Fort to 93
Mile on Highway 97 north. This is a very scenic drive but
the hill out of Little Fort is a long, hard pull for recreational
vehicles and watch out for the railroad tracks. Slow down!
If you're following Trans Canada Highway 1 then you'll turn
north onto Highway 97 at Cache Creek. And if you're following
the Sea to Sky Highway on 99 via Whistler Pemberton, you'll
come out on Highway 97 just north of Cache Creek.
If you're coming from Vancouver on Highway 1 through the
Fraser Canyon, you'll turn onto Highway 97 at Cache Creek,
or take the Coquihalla Freeway to Merrit, on through to Kamloops
onto Highway 1 West and turn north onto Highway 97 at Cache
Finally, if you're coming in from the south through the Osoyoos
border crossing or any points east, you will eventually either
hit Kelowna where you can pick up the Coquihalla to Kamloops,
or Vernon where you will make a connection to Kamloops on
97 which will eventually... you guessed it... take you to
the Cache Creek Junction where you will turn north on Highway
Once you reach Williams Lake you will see a large four way
intersection with a stop light and left turn lanes. If you
are coming from the south you will turn left off of Highway
97 onto Highway 20 to come to the Chilcotin. If you are coming
from Prince George, you will go straight through the light
toward the west. There are large road signs coming up to the
Although of absolutely no use while on Highway 20 because
there is no cell service or Internet service, if you get stopped
somewhere and can access the Internet, or even before you
leave home, Drive
BC is a highly recommended site that gives up to date
information on the status and condition of all highways in