A trip up north is equal parts adventure and education

“I was born in June when the spring salmon were just starting to go up the Nass River,” the groundbreaking Hazelton-based painter Roy Henry Vickers once said. And this same season is the perfect time to gain your own inspiration from the culture, cuisine and curated adventures you’ll find in this vast region. 

Spanning close to 570,000 square kilometres and featuring more than 60 major parks and wildlife refuges, Northern B.C. is home to thousands of black and grizzly bears, caribou, and bison. But that’s just the beginning. From stunning Indigenous landmarks to a thriving craft beer culture, the region has plenty of human-made wonders to complement the natural ones.

The ’Ksan Historical Village, which debuted in 1970 on the site of an old Gitxsan village, is a Hazelton-area must-see. Featuring seven replica longhouses, it’s open May to September—and on a guided tour, you can admire and touch traditional warrior armour and intricate leather robes adorned with abalone and mother-of-pearl. Don’t miss the Frog House—which could accommodate up to 80 people—where wolf and bear skins hang on the walls, and a huge feast bowl for serving meat and berry stews is on display.

Over in the Nisga’a Homeland, the two-storey, spectacularly curved Nisga’a Lisims Government Building, opened in 2000, offers a more contemporary architectural interpretation of the longhouse. Nestled in the Nass Valley, the 1,800-strong village of Gitlaxt’aamiks is the centre of power for this self-governing First Nation, set in a territory covering close to 2,000 square kilometres. The Government Building’s elliptical, red-carpeted legislative chamber is impressive, but the carved cedar masks and the exterior totem pole featuring beaver, wolf, and orca motifs work to elevate the facility inside and out.

Destination BC/@calsnapeKsan Historical Village celebrates Indigenous culture in northern B.C. Photo: Destination BC/@calsnape

The Nisga’a Homeland boasts extraordinary natural highlights, too. The Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park (Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’Asanskwhl Nisga’a) is where, some 300 years ago, a giant volcanic eruption snuffed out close to 2,000 lives. Today, this 1992-established provincial park and its carpet of alkali basalt covered in lichen seems like a landscape from a different planet.

Nearby, the cedar, spruce and pine trees of the Drowned Forest sit half-immersed in blue water when the Tseax River floods. The scene’s surreal, translucent beauty is as haunting as any science-fiction movie. But if your taste for liquid runs more toward craft beer, a drive to Sherwood Mountain Brewhouse in Terrace is in order. Yes, the 2014-established brewery’s name pays tribute to the Robin Hood legend, and its German-style lagers—like the Munich and Friar House options—are refreshingly on target.

Another craft-house mainstay is the Smithers Brewing Company. Located steps from the iconic Alpen Man statue, the 10-barrel brewhouse offers memorable favourites—like the Bootlegger Brown Ale, which features notes of toffee and chocolate. When it comes time to eat, start with a breakfast of a hearty vegetable omelette from Louise’s Kitchen, which also dishes up classic Ukrainian lunches, from perogies to cabbage rolls. Or try the avocado toast at Two Sisters, which uses local organic produce, eggs and meat.  

For those with an appetite for adventure, there is, of course, Northern BC Jet Boat Tours. On a guided Skeena River expedition, you might spot bald eagles soaring overhead, grizzly bear footprints in the sand or a CN train passing by over the dramatic and historic high-level deck truss of the Skeena River Crossing Bridge.

But why not wrap it up into a single all-in-one luxury getaway? The secluded, 15,000-square-foot Bear Claw Lodge provides true magic with eight themed rooms, each featuring locally sourced Indigenous and contemporary art. Heli-hiking, kayaking, horseback riding and snorkelling with salmon are among the diversions you can find here. Once you’ve worked up your appetite, feast on smoked salmon corn chowder, bannock with fireweed jelly, or some pan-seared Prince Rupert halibut. 

MORE STAYCATIONS: 21 Hidden Places to Hike, Bike, Paddle and Chill in Your Own Backyard