The Cariboo Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail is quickly becoming THE place to explore in central British Columbia, especially when it comes to ATVing.
John Giannisis, member of the Prince George ATV Club, recently rode the trail from Wells to Clinton. His experience outlines what you can look forward to when riding this ancient trail.
“We had everything from water filtration systems, cook stoves, compact pots and pan sets, dehydrated food, canned food, dried food, tents, sleeping bags, extra gas cans, chainsaws, shovels, axes, air pumps, small compact air mattresses, battery packs for charging cell phones, emergency communication systems, and helmet-to-helmet communication system.” — John Giannisis — Photo courtesy John Giannisis
What got you interested in riding the Cariboo Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail?
I noticed a post about riding the Cariboo Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail on Facebook with a map and asked my friend Antony Francis to join me on the Adventure.
What kind of ATV did you use?
I did the trip on a 2006 Yamaha Grizzly 660. 16 years old and never missed a beat. I keep up on the maintenance though. You don't need to have a brand new machine to do the trip. Antony was on a 2022 Polaris 570.
Which communities does the Cariboo Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail go through?
Through Clinton to Wells, and the trail is very clearly marked from Clinton to Likely so well that you probably could do it without a GPS. From Likely to the base of the Yanks Peak Trail, the trail is overgrown and impossible at spots. We mostly traveled Forest Service Roads (FSRs) from Likely to Yanks Peak Trailhead. From Wells to Prince George, the trails are clear with no blowdown, but not as well marked as the trail from Clinton to Likely.
As a member of the Prince George ATV Club, John Giannisis is responsible for trail maintenance, bridge repair, and group ride support. — Photo courtesy Antony Francis
How long is the Cariboo Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail?
I do not know the exact length, but we rode 813 kilometres from Clinton to Prince George, with side excursions to Quesnel Forks and up Yanks Peak.
Describe the best trail in detail.
From Lac la Hache to Horsefly, there are parts of the trail that are filled with twisty, windy, muddy, root drops, and hills. This section is definitely not for a beginner rider. In this section, you will pass Moffat Falls. The falls themselves are beautiful to look at, as well as an excellent place to take a dip. Larger side-by-sides will have trouble crossing some of the bridges in this section.
The other section that is an excellent ride is the section around Yanks Peak and then towards the Cameron FSR. This section is also not for a beginner rider. It has difficult, rocky terrain and large climbs. But the views through the valley and along the trail are amazing.
The whole ride itself from Clinton to Prince George is fantastic. The rides up Yanks Peak, out to Quesnel Forks, and the ride up Two Sisters Mountain should not be missed on this trip.
“We rode through lush valleys filled with beautiful greenery and some of the clearest streams you'll ever see.” — John Giannisis — Photo courtesy John Giannisis
What equipment do you need to ATV the Cariboo Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail?
The whole trip is an adventure, you're off the beaten path and fully self-sustaining except for refueling. We had everything from water filtration systems, cook stoves, compact pots and pan sets, dehydrated food, canned food, dried food, tents, sleeping bags, extra gas cans, chainsaws, shovels, axes, air pumps, small compact air mattresses, battery packs for charging cell phones, emergency communication systems, and helmet-to-helmet communication system.
We stopped for gas in Lac la Hache, Horsefly, Likely and Wells. We never used the full extra 20 litres we both carried. The most we used was 10 litres and sometimes didn't need any extra gas at all.
What do you see along the way?
The Gold Rush Trail has some of the most beautiful, amazing views.
The terrain changes so many times along the ride. We rode everything from open forest sandy terrain to very thick forest with lots of mud and hilly terrain. We rode through lush valleys filled with beautiful greenery and some of the clearest streams you'll ever see. We also climbed mountains into the alpine, above the trees where you can see for many kilometres.
We saw black bears, deer, grouse and many other little critters. One night I was woken in my tent by the beautiful sound of coyotes howling across the lake and around me. The birds were also calling out.
On a different night, our tents lit up from lightning and shook from the thunder above us. The sound of the river right beside us was drowned out by the pounding rain.
How do you access the Cariboo Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail?
In Clinton, turn right on McDonald Avenue. Follow it until it turns to gravel and unload where you see GRST signs, or on the side of the road where you have room. Follow the road until you see a GRST sign.
“The whole ride itself from Clinton to Prince George is fantastic. The rides up Yanks Peak, out to Quesnel Forks, and the ride up Two Sisters Mountain should not be missed on this trip.” — John Giannisis — Photo courtesy John Giannisis
Do you have any lasting memories from riding the Cariboo Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail?
Yes, definitely! The ride itself is going to be a lasting memory.
813 kilometres through some of the most gorgeous country in beautiful British Columbia. The amazing mountains, the lush valleys, crystal clear creeks, and lakes like mirrors. Amazing sunsets glowing red pink and purple, the stars, and the glowing light of the full moon. The sights and sounds of wildlife. The howl of the coyote, the call of the loon, and the sweet lullaby of the rivers to sleep by.
On our third night, we planned to camp in a rec site that wasn't there. We went to the end of a small road on Caribou Lake with many cabins and met a very friendly and generous man named Giorgio. Giorgio has a beautiful piece of land on Caribou Lake and he let us sleep in our tents on his beach. It was one of the most amazing camping spots comparable to camping on the Bowron Lake chain. We are sharing our GPS tracks of our trip and Giorgio says people are more than welcome to camp on his little beach beside the green waters of Caribou Lake.
What other trails are there to ride around the Cariboo Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail?
There are many trails on the north side of Wells, going into Prince George and into the surrounding area. The PGATV club works hard and is very dedicated to the maintenance of the trails and the Prince George area.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
The clubs that have worked so hard on the Cariboo Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail deserve recognition on how well it is maintained (100 Mile House Snowmobile Club, Green Lake Snowmobile Club, Williams Lake Powder Kings Snowmobile Club). The signage\directions are astounding. We couldn't believe how often we passed GRST signs with arrows.
We had initially planned on 7-to-10 days, expecting blow down and impassable sections, but we didn't have to pull out the chainsaws except for firewood and then one spot on the north side of Likely.
We traveled 813 kilometres in five days and four nights, averaging 150 kilometres per day. This was only possible because of the dedication of the local groups and the maintenance of the trail system.