Overlanding in British Columbia is considered to be one of the best to experience in North America. To illustrate, BC offers a wide range of backroads (more than 60.000 kilometers) and many wild camping opportunities in 6 diverse regions.
At Maple Overland, we are happy to help you create your ideal 4×4 adventure travel itinerary. After booking, you will receive a small questionnaire which tells us a bit about your travel preferences, what your outdoor experience is, who you are travelling with, and what some of your interests and specific wishes are. This way we can help you explore British Columbia more efficiently. After all, 1 perfect travel route that fits everyone doesn’t exist.
The 6 regions of BC
- Vancouver Coast & Mountains
- Vancouver Island
- Cariboo Chilcotin Coast
- Northern B.C.
- Kootenay Rockies
- Thompson Okanagan
1. Vancouver, Coast & Mountains
The region BC’s most visited region is situated in southwestern BC between the ocean and mountains. Sunshine Coast with towns like Powell River, Sechelt and Gibsons mark the western side. Hope, Boston Bar and Lillooet cover the east. Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton are some of the must-visit towns, known for their outdoor opportunities in the surrounding backcountry. These towns and cities are surrounded by rugged mountains with snow-capped peaks, rainforests, fjords, rivers and many lakes. Some popular overlanding areas are: the Sunshine Coast, the area around Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park and Harrison Lake. But it can be busy though, because these places are close to Vancouver Metro.
Wildlife: Some wild animals you can encounter: humpback and killer whales, eagles, and black bears.
Outdoor activities: Here are some examples of what’s in store for those exploring the area’s natural surroundings; you can enjoy ocean kayaking in the morning, alpine skiing in the afternoon and finish the day with a plunge in one of the natural hot springs. Many of the numerous trails in the area can be enjoyed by foot or by bike. Also think of: rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, paragliding, heli-biking, ziplining and bungee jumping.
In Vancouver, highlights like Granville Island, downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park and Wreck Beach should be on your to-see list when staying in the city. 1 or 2 days should be enough to see all the hotspots.
The further you get from Vancouver, the more opportunities you have when it comes to exploring forest service roads by 4×4. Many backcountry roads lead you to a variety of breathtaking destinations, from rainforests to waterfalls, viewpoints and lakeside campsites. Just be mindful of logging traffic and if possible, avoid the active logging roads. This of course goes for everywhere in BC.
2. Vancouver Island
The region: Vancouver Island is located off BC’s south western coast. Vancouver Island is renowned for its old grown rainforest and diverse and wild backcountry.
Victoria, Nanaimo and Campbell River are popular places for whale watching, fishing trips and waterplane tours to remote island communities.
Wildlife: Overlanders come here to see whales, black bears and eagles, wild salmon and even rarely seen, cougars may occasionally seen when hiking.
Outdoor activities: Where do we start? The West Coast Trail is a multi-day backcountry hike spanning 75 kilometres/46 miles along the west shoreline of Vancouver Island. Many kayak or canoe trips, salmon fishing, communities to discover, surfing at Tofino. Tofino is an idyllic town on Vancouver Island and is one of the world’s prime cold-water surf spots.
When it comes to outdoor recreation, there is not much you can’t do on Vancouver Island.
The experience with driving on backroads is different than on the main land. The logging companies have established gates on many logging roads and this created restrictions in accessing remote places. Despite many gates, enough of the Island’s backroads are still open and lead to free camping sites, lakes, big tree groves and waterfalls. Popular to explore are the logging roads south of Cowichan Lake.
3. Cariboo Chilcotin Coast
The region: Exploring the backroads of the Cariboo Chilcotin region is a forever lasting experience. From the Pacific Great Bear Rainforests coast to the vast Chilcotin plateau which unfolds towards the impressive Cariboo mountains. Cariboo Chilcotin has a sense of adventure, of leaving behind one world and entering another. Endless forests, hidden lakes, secret valleys, cascading waterfalls, gold rush ghost towns and First Nations cultural sites are just some of the treasures you can find while exploring.
Cariboo Chilcotin is a low populated density region, with roughly 0.7 people per square kilometre. Most of the population is found in the cities of Williams Lake, Quesnel and 100 Mile House, all situated along Highway 97, which connects Vancouver Coast with Northern BC. Without a doubt, our favorite area to explore is Chilcotin Plateau.
Wildlife: Orca’s, whales, Spirit bears, Grizzly bears and Black bears.
Outdoor activities: Experience gold rush history, travel the Cariboo Wagon Road and follow the footsteps of early explorers. Get back to nature with hiking and mountain biking or take a horseback ride through alpine meadows. Drop a line in local lakes for the chance to catch fresh fish. All in all there are so many things to undertake.
4. Northern BC
The region: THERE IS NOTHING ELSE THAN WILDERNESS IN NORTHERN BC! While the entire region is fairly remote, once you head to backroads passed Prince George you enter a truly wild land and backroads that stretch into the distance without a soul in sight. You will pass some small communities but it’s the surrounding wilderness that dominates the north. It is also home to several Indigenous communities, whose cultures and traditions add to the region’s unique character.
One of the advantages that Northern BC is, you never have to drive long before you find a nice, secluded camping spot by a lake or a creek.
Wildlife: It is almost impossible not to observe wildlife as you travel through the North, the so-called ‘Serengeti of North America.’ Mountain goats, bison, moose, elk, caribou, wolves, coyotes, foxes, grizzly bears, and black bears often to be seen alongside roads, foraging for food. Be careful when driving these roads, especially at night.
Outdoor activities: Northern BC is one massive playground for outdoor enthusiasts, and you don’t have to venture far from the beaten path to find remote wilderness adventures. Kayak, Canoeing, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, rock climbing are just a few of the many outdoor activities that Northern BC has to offer.
5. Kootenay Rockies
Home to big mountains, deep valleys and crystal-clear lake and rivers, the Kootenay Rockies, in the southeast corner of BC, is one of BC’s best kept outdoor region. As you explore the backroads by 4×4, you will be tempted to make a lot of stops along the way. The region is full of natural attractions including caves, waterfalls and hot springs, not to mention the scenic lookouts that will have you grab your camera.
The region: In the east, the Kootenay Rockies embrace the Canadian Rocky Mountains where the landscape doesn’t change much. In the west, the Kootenays transition into the wide valleys of the Okanagan. Here you can enjoy scenery in privacy without the crowds like the more popular tourist destinations in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
A long history of logging and mining has created a massive network of backroads which are dotted with recreation sites, ghost towns, old mine sites and secluded hot springs.
The Kootenays’ human history includes thousands of years of First Nations habitation, evidenced by pictographs and archeological sites, as well as a colourful history of European settlement beginning with the wild-west style gold rush of the 1860s. Large-scale mining and the spread of the railroad opened up the Kootenays in the 1890s, and many remains of this industrial boom can still be seen as you travel the winding highways and side roads of the area.
Wildlife: Deer and elk are common throughout the region. Grizzly and black bear roam the mountains—keep your eyes open for these and mountain goats, bighorn sheep and countless birds too! The presence of Rainbow trout, Cutthroat trout, Brook Char and Kokanee enhance recreational fishing opportunities.
Outdoor activities: Summer activities feature high alpine hiking, glacier viewing, the Golden Skybridge, rafting, kayaking and SUP boarding on one of the many lakes.
6. Thompson Okanagan
The Thompson Okanagan name represents two major geographic features: the Thompson River and Okanagan Lake.
The region: The Thompson-Okanagan Region is nestled in the southern interior of British Columbia. Major cities include Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon, and Merritt. The region has a human history dating back over 10,000 years and is rich with Indigenous history and culture.
Thompson Okanagan has rare and unique grassland ecosystems, wet mountain ranges, and some of the driest places in Canada. Major lakes and rivers include Adam’s Lake, Shuswap Lake, Thompson River, Similkameen River, and Nicola River. The Adam’s River supports the second largest sockeye salmon run in British Columbia.
But there is more to this land than just big lakes and big beaches. It is home to the most famous section of one of Canada’s best-known multi-use trails, the Kettle Valley Railway. And no visit to the Thompson Okanagan would be complete without sampling the wine and fresh fruit for which the region is world-famous. There are countless wineries and fruit stands found right along the major roads.
Wildlife: Small mammals, including marmots, beavers, and chipmunks, share the wilderness areas with black bears, mule deer, and coyotes. Moose too, but they are seldom seen.
Outdoor activities: From the impressive Myra Canyon Trestles to the Mascot Gold Mine built high above the small, picturesque town of Hedley, this is a place where history comes to life. There are many ghost towns and old cemeteries scattered throughout the region. Next to exploring the backcountry by Maple Overland Jeeps, it is an absolute must to set aside time for beautiful day hike. The Thompson Okanagan region is rich in gold mining and railroad history, and there are many remnants of this bygone era to be found.
Overlanding is a truly unforgettable experience that combines adventure and relaxation. At Maple Overland we rent out Jeep Wrangler 4-doors, packed with iKamper rooftop tents and all the camping gear you need to explore the wild backcountry of our Province as comfortably as possible. Experience sleeping in a rooftop tent under the stars, build your own campfire and prepare your delicious camping meal while enjoying a gorgeous sunset. Our fully equipped expedition 4×4’s come with everything you need to enjoy your B.C. adventure. Only this year, you can choose to schedule our free 30-minute video call if you like to talk through your travel plans in person.
Click here for some overlanding pics and remote camp spots you can visit with our Jeeps.