You have to want to go to Bella Coola British Columbia, there is little possibility of accidentally ending up there. It’s a small community at the end of the road in a remote region.

I’ve always had a thing for communities that lie at the end of the road. There is no way out except back in the direction you came. People tend to learn to get along when they can’t avoid each other. In my experiences of similar end-of-the-road communities, Crested Butte Colorado and Norddal Norway, it’s a formula for a hidden gem.

Now that we’re allowed back into Canada, this is a bucket list Canadian experience for you to plan for!

Updated for 2021

The dirt road affectionately called ‘The Hill’ (aka Highway 20) was built in 1953 by local residents (more about that below!), and features a 9+ mile descent of hairpin turns from the Chilcotin plateau to the valley below.

I find that when the journey to get to a destination is hard, the destination is worth it. Bella Coola Valley in BC Canada was no exception.

I spent a week in the valley looking for bears out on the water, in the rivers, on the trails, and in the forests. But it only took me a few minutes of seeing this exotic wilderness and meeting this unique community to fall in love with it.

Bella Coola BC is one of the earth’s last great wilderness areas.

Bella Coola Wilderness

Why go to Bella Coola BC
Bella Coola Valley History
8 Things to Do in Bella Coola
1. Hug an Ancient Cedar Tree
2. View Ancient Petroglyphs of the Nuxalk Nation
3. Take a Boat Trip Through the Fjords
4. Visit the Abandoned Tallheo Cannery
5. Experience the Carving Culture
6. Drive the Famous Bella Coola Hill
7. Go Bear Watching
8. Bella Coola Hiking
Other Activities and Adventures (Updated for 2021)
How to Get To Bella Coola
Where to Stay in Bella Coola Valley

Why go to Bella Coola in British Columbia Canada

Bella Coola has all of the makings of one of my favorite destinations; it’s remote, few people know about it, it has an intriguing mix of people, and quite frankly, it’s one of the most beautiful wildness areas I’ve seen in the world. The valley is surrounded by steep granite mountains with a river that meanders through the valley and into the Central Coast’s maze of inlets and fjords.

It’s referred to as the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest; it’s rich with history and life. People have lived in the valley for 10,000 years!

Know before you go: Make sure you check this resource out prior to traveling to Bella Coola British Columbia. This has updates on COVID, wildfires, and border information for Bella Coola.

Bella Coola Valley History

The first Native People who lived in villages along the rivers and coastline were known as Bella Coola or Nuxalkmc (later shortened to Nuxalk) people. They occupied the area thousands of years before settlers moved in around 1894.

Norwegian settlers moved to the Valley from Minnesota and other US states suffering from a recession. Most were farmers and they settled around what is now known as Hagensborg. They were given free land and took ownership of it after living on it for 5 years. These two cultures were not always harmonious; similar to much of the history with First Nation people and settlers.

The region has undergone a lot of change from fur trade to logging to fishing to tourism. But it’s still chugging along and you can see signs of its varied history everywhere.

bella coloa wharf

Bella Coola Town

You could easily miss the town of Bella Coola; the only way to know you passed it is that the road ends. Bella Coola is only about 3 blocks long! The current population of the entire valley is 2,010 spread out across a number of small settlements. The small town of Bella Coola (aka the townsite) at the end of the road is home to only 148 people.

You can learn more about the fascinating history of the region at the Bella Coola Valley Museum and the Norwegian Heritage House. Do know that these are small community museums – it’s best to call ahead and make sure they are open before you go.

8 Things to Do and See in Bella Coola Valley

I spent 5 days in the valley with a local photographer; the perfect amount of time to get a good feel for the region, meet locals, learn my way around, and eat at every restaurant in the Bella Coola Valley! I didn’t just go bear watching, I found many interesting things to do in the region. Here were my favorite things to do in Bella Coola BC.

1. Hug an Ancient Cedar Tree

There’s something humbling about walking through a giant grove of cedar trees that have been there for hundreds of years. Far from the outside world, it’s easy to get enveloped in their smell, texture, and wisdom; I felt as if I was transported into the heart of Mother Mature. Walking around the big trunks, I ran my hand over their moss-covered bark.

I had a ‘tree moment’.

There are many ‘tree moments’ to be had in the Bella Coola region.

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