The survey map from 1879 shows Tumbler Ridge as an empty space labelled “unexplored area” in small type. No longer a void on a map, this small town has carved out a niche as one of the most unique, yet relatively undiscovered, outdoor travel destinations in British Columbia.
Hidden in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in northeastern B.C., Tumbler Ridge is home to four provincial parks, one of the highest accessible waterfalls in the region and the second Unesco Global Geopark in North America, as well as the first dinosaur bones discovered in this province.
Here are 10 ways to explore this exciting and awe-inspiring region.
Hike Any of the 48 Trails and Routes
The foothills and provincial parks around Tumbler Ridge offer more than 100 kilometres of trails through dense forests, across alpine meadows and along rocky ledges. Developed by the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society, the trails range in difficulty and duration from short, easy walks to multi-day, backcountry treks. For the even more adventurous with good orienteering skills, routes to hidden waterfalls or across mountain peaks have also been included. Guides to all the trails and routes are available at the Visitor Centre.
Walk in the Footsteps of Dinosaurs
In the summer of 2000, two boys tubing on Flatbed Creek discovered what, to their eyes, looked like dinosaur tracks. They were right. More trackways were discovered at Cabin Pool and Wolverine River the following year. Some are accessible to visitors through self-guided hikes, but are best viewed through one of the Museum tours offered by the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery. Particularly interesting is the lantern tour that allow visitors to view the shallow skin impressions left in the stone that are difficult to see in daylight.
Take a Jetboat Tour to Kinuseo Falls
What better way to experience the power and sheer size of Kinuseo than from the pool below? Located at the northern tip of Monkman Provincial Park, Kinuseo Falls cascade 70 meters (20 meters taller than Niagara) over limestone ledges and protruding rocks in a curtain of spray that creates dramatic rainbows on a sunny day. You can also get a good view of the folded rock formations from the river below.
Run the Emperor’s Challenge
Hosted annually for the last 18 years, the Emperor’s Challenge is a 20 km circular route that takes runners up and over the peak of Babcock Mountain. No easy feat, the race boasts an elevation gain of 2050 feet. Registration is limited to 1000 participants and has become so popular in the region, it fills up quickly.
Drive the Monkman Pass Memorial Trail
In the 1920’s, Alex Monkman had the idea to cut a pass through though the Rockies just south of Tumbler Ridge as a means to get farm product from the Peace Region to the coast quickly. The construction of the Pass began in 1936 and continued until the start of the 2nd World War, when the unfinished project was permanently shelved. The drivable portion runs from Grande Prairie, Alberta, to Tumbler Ridge, B.C., with historical stops along the way. If you don’t want to do the entire drive, check out the display at the Tumbler Ridge Community Centre.
The geology makes the region perfect for the development of caves and more continue to be discovered to this date. Two of the easier ones to access are located on the Stone Corral hiking trail. Corral Cave is large enough to accommodate all sizes and contains interesting features such as stalactites and moonmilk. The Porcupine Cave is a little more challenging but a favourite for children willing to belly crawl their way out the back side. Make sure to bring a flashlight!
Picnic at the Waterfalls
Tumbler Ridge is home to approximately 30 waterfalls, some easily accessible and perfect for a quick break or picnic lunch. Quality Falls, just 6 km outside town, and Flatbed Falls, less than a kilometre from the centre, are two of the easiest to access. When the water’s low, the pools below the falls offer a refreshing way to cool off on a hot summer day.
Boulder the Titanic
Climbing and bouldering are popular activities in Tumbler Ridge where unique geological formations create a perfect environment for the vertically-inclined adventurer. Two areas in particular – Boulder Gardens and Shipyard Titanic – offer opportunities for all skill levels, in addition to spectacular scenery and the opportunity to view wildlife. (featured image is of the towers on the Tarns and Towers trail at Shipyard Titanic)
Take a Helicopter Tour over the Cascades
There are only two ways to experience the Cascades, a series of waterfalls separated by tranquil pools. The first is a challenging backcountry hike that will take 3-4 days to complete round-trip. The second is a helicopter tour. The benefit of flying over the Cascades, an area experienced by few, is the opportunity for spectacular photos with minimal exertion.
Get Your Groove on at Grizfest
This annual music festival, now in it’s 15th year, focusses on Canadian artists and has hosted such acts as Tom Cochrane, Simple Plan, Lee Aaron, Carly Rae Jepson and the Real McKenzies. 2016 brings back the Battle of the Bands and Vocalist competitions, giving new artists the opportunity to gain exposure and vie for cash prizes.
The list is only a fraction of the opportunities for adventure available in Tumbler Ridge. Once experienced, the untarnished and rugged beauty of northern British Columbia will draw you back for more.
Take TransCanada Highway 1 to Cache Creek or Highway 99 to the junction and follow Highway 97 north. Just beyond Chetwynd, take a right onto highway 29.
Alternatively, take Highway 99 to the junction with Highway 97 and turn left.
Distance: 1185 kilometers
Estimated driving time: 12 hours, 40 minutes
Follow Highway 43 to Demmitt, then take a left onto Highway 52.
Distance: 665 kilometres
Estimated driving time: 6 hours, 46 minutes
From Dawson Creek, Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway:
Follow the signs to Whitehorse. Just outside town, turn left onto Highway 97 towards Prince George. Take a left at the turn off to Highway 52 towards Tumbler Ridge.
Distance is 118 kilometres.
Estimated driving time: 1 hour, 18 minutes