The North Thompson Valley
From the badlands and rolling ranch lands surrounding the Lower North Thompson to the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at Mount Robson, the North Thompson Valley stretches over 330 kilometres (205 miles) through the world’s only inland temperate rainforest. Following the flow of the North Thompson River, the Yellowhead Highway connects BC’s Lower Mainland and the city of Vancouver with the Canadian Rockies and Jasper, Alberta. A vast, rugged Canadian wilderness dotted with rural small towns and Canada’s alpine resort, the North Thompson Valley includes the communities and hamlets of Heffley Creek, Sun Peaks, Barriere, McLure, Louis Creek, Darfield, Little Fort, Blackpool, Clearwater/Wells Gray, Birch Island, Vavenby, Avola, Blue River and Valemount.
Sun Peaks and Heffley Creek
Sun Peaks Resort (population: 500) is easy to access from the Lower Mainland via Highway 5, or by flying into the Kamloops airport, located only 45 minutes south of the village, turning off at the hamlet of Heffley Creek.
Set in the heart of Monashees and nestled between three mountains, Sun Peaks’ unique climate produces abundant fine, dry powder snow in the winter and countless bluebird days in the summer. Known as Canada’s alpine village, Sun Peaks is also Canada’s second largest ski resort with some 126 alpine runs and over 30 km (18mi) of Nordic and snowshoe trails. Come summer those same slopes once covered in snow burst with brilliant blossoms and some of the most easily accessed wildflower meadows in all of British Columbia.
Family friendly all year round, come in winter to enjoy New Year’s Eve celebrations, the Okanagan Winter Wine Festival and countless ski races, or visit in summer during one of the Summer Concert Series or the annual Canada’s Alpine Blossom Festival.
Accommodations in Sun Peaks range from cozy bed and breakfasts to mountainside ski chalet rentals, from luxurious hotels and comfortable lodges, to condos, camping and an RV park.
Medical needs can be met at the Sun Peaks Health Centre. Sun Peaks is also equipped with a multitude of services from grocery delivery to currency exchange. Visit the service directory for a complete list of businesses in the Sun Peaks area.
Barriere, McLure, Little Fort
The “Gateway to the North Thompson” consists of the District of Barriere and Electoral Area O (Lower North Thompson — population 2,978) and Electoral Area P (Rivers and the Peaks population 4,081).
Barriere is located 66 kilometres (41 mi) north from Kamloops along the Yellowhead Highway and is set at the intersection of the North Thompson and Barriere Rivers. Barriere and the Lower North Thompson also includes McLure, a rural settlement just south of Barriere, Little Fort at the intersection of the Yellowhead Highway and Highway 24 (known as the fishing highway), some 93 kilometres (58 mi) north of Kamloops, as well as Heffley Creek, located on Hwy 5 26 km (16 mi) north of Kamloops and 40 km (25 mi) south of Barriere.
Encircled by ranch lands, rivers, meadows and lakes, the area between Barriere, McLure and Little Fort features a variety of recreational activities including numerous kilometres of hiking, horseback riding or mountain biking trails. Try your hand at western life with the North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo and Jandana Ranch, where horses roam free. Test your swing at Chinook Cove Golf a 9-hole, championship golf course. If you prefer to play 18-holes, check out Sun Rivers and Rivershore Estates and Golf Links. Like to fish? Embark on a legendary fishing adventure at angling for Kamloops trout at fly-in fishing camps or Johnson Lake Resort, or hundreds of other lakes and rivers
Stay for the night in Barriere and area at locally owned and operated motels and inns, charming bed and breakfasts, RV parks, and fishing resorts.
A medical clinic is located in town, as well as a nearby fire department.
Clearwater, Wells Gray Provincial Park, Vavenby
Clearwater, (population 4,000) the largest town in the North Thompson Valley, is at the confluence of the North Thompson and Clearwater Rivers some 126 km (78 mi) north of Kamloops. This thriving community is the gateway to countless recreational activities both in town, and nearby in Wells Gray Provincial Park, a 5,250 sq km (3,262 mi) wilderness preserve born of volcanoes and carved by glaciers. Fuel up and stock up on groceries in Clearwater if you plan on spending time exploring Wells Gray Provincial Park — there are no such provisions once you’re out in the wild.
If you choose to stay in Clearwater overnight, you’ll find an assortment of accommodations here including modest hotels, motels, RV resorts and family-run bed and breakfasts.
Medical facilities are available and include a hospital, medical clinic and dental practice for the area. Emergency services include a fire department, police detachment and search and rescue operation.
Wells Gray Provincial Park
Wells Gray Park is pure Canadian wilderness with 5,250 square kilometres (3,262 mi) of land to play in. Created from volcanoes and carved by glaciers, this is where both front country and backcountry recreation is found. Explore the stunning waterfalls, including Helmcken, fourth tallest in Canada. Whitewater raft through rapids, or float the Clearwater River, searching the shores for signs of wildlife. Canoe or kayak Murtle Lake, North America’s largest paddle only lake. Hiking, dogsledding, cross-country skiing, horseback riding and many more recreational activities abound in Wells Gray.
Blue River and Avola
The midway point between Vancouver, BC and Edmonton, AB, the hamlet of Blue River (population: 283) has long been known as the jewel of the Yellowhead Highway. Situated at the confluence of the Blue and North Thompson Rivers, Blue River is located 229 km (139 mi) north of Kamloops, in the shadow of the Cariboo and Monashee Mountains.
Explore Blue River’s greatest assets, its unrivalled recreational activities including some of BC’s finest deep powder skiing at Mike Wiegele’s Heli-skiing. Come summer, enjoy hiking, mountain biking, fishing, searching for wildlife on a River Safari, or paddling Murtle Lake, the largest canoe-only lake in North America.
Rest for the night in Blue River, with a choice of hotels, motels, RV resorts, locally owned B&Bs and rugged backcountry campsites well off the beaten path.
A medical clinic services the surrounding area. Emergency services include a fire department and search and rescue operation.
Valemount (population:1,600) sits at the northern reach of the Rocky Mountain Trench, 322 km (200 mi) north of Kamloops and just 120 km (75 mi) from the entrance of Jasper National Park. Mount Robson, the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies, looms over Valemount where outdoor recreation is king. Hike in or helicopter up to Berg Lake (Alpine/Berg Lake) area, where you can explore waterfalls, ice-capped lakes, and camp overnight. Walk, bike, canoe, or cross-country ski through Cranberry Marsh, where three mountain ranges converge and 140 species of bird can be found. Raft big water on the Fraser River in summer, or explore the area via snowmobile or dogsled once winter makes its mark.
Emergency services are available including a Medical clinic, fire, RCMP and search and rescue.