Route: BC 5 > Highway 16
Clearwater > Blue River > Valemount > McBride > Prince George
Drive Quality: 9/10
Road Quality: 8/10 (Mostly fine, some minor puckering, filled potholes) Mostly 2-lane highway with plentiful passing lanes.
Gas Stations: Sufficient. One 90km stretch w/o services between Clearwater and Blue River & 210km w/o services between McBride and Prince George
Wildlife Spotted: Deer, Black Bear
We got dumped on today, which made for a soggy, cold ride.
The drive from Clearwater starts beautifully, with a few marshes and small waterways eventually succumbing to a more alpine landscape. The air is thick with the smell of pine and spruce; their towering spires covering the surrounding mountains. The road climbs into the clouds, the air often heavy with rain and mist. Much of this high stretch runs directly along the North Thompson River, which is a huge, sprawling river, wide and with roiling rapids at a few points. Had we not been getting poured on, we would have taken advantage of the many photo opportunities along its edges.
We stopped for at Petro Canada in Blue River, which is a small stop atop the mountains with gas and limited food options. We ate veggie samosas while watching the large black bear steal a garbage can from an adjacent motel. (Clearwater>Blue River 1.25 hours)
From here the road climbs up further into West Twin Provincial Park Area. I am sure on a clear day, the views here would have been unbeatable. The rain weighed heavy on us though, and aside from enjoying the look of the haunting clouds and wildflowers that lined the highways, we mostly kept our heads down another hour until Valemount, and then to McBride.
Valemount is a ski town with swiss bakery, coffee shops, motels, and pubs, so it makes for a great stop if you’re staying in this area.
McBride to Prince George is the longest stretch so far without services, about 210km. McBride services many of the surrounding towns and villages and has every amenity one might need. We stopped at a local brewery before finishing the night at an Irish Pub which had (surprise!) live music. (McBride>Prince George 2.25 hours).