Skip to Content

Our Western Canada Road Trip: Tumbler Ridge

This week was probably the most unexpected part of the whole trip. Despite having what I thought was a fairly good knowledge of BC, I had never heard of Tumbler Ridge and knew nothing about the surrounding area.

We ended up spending almost six full days here –  the longest time in one place, with the exception of Dawson City (but you know, that’s just the way of Dawson).

There were three main reasons for this, the first being that the Labour Day long weekend was approaching and we knew we should probably bunk down somewhere until it was all over.

The second is less interesting; we were tired of driving so much in recent days and JR was still feeling the after effects of his illness. The last reason however, is the best; quite simply, there was so much awesome stuff to do around Tumbler Ridge!

Northern Lights Tumbler Ridge
Northern Lights, Tumbler Ridge
Fishing in Tumbler Ridge
Frost Tumbler Ridge August
Wolf tracks Tumbler Ridge
Wolf tracks in Tumbler Ridge

The Northern Lights

We hadn’t even been in Tumbler Ridge for very long before cool things started happening. Our first night camping next to Flatbed Creek, we saw the Northern Lights.

This was my first ever time to see them and it really was amazing. We were celebrating having reached our wonderfully empty (and free) campsite and at first, I thought the green lights were an after effect of the cheap wine we were drinking.

JR, who has seen them plenty times before in his home province of New Brunswick, confirmed that the illuminations dancing above us were indeed real.

The light show lasted around 10 minutes, but due to our excitement (not just me, JR said they were the best that he’d ever seen), we didn’t get our tripod out for a better photo.

So this the best we could do to share the moment with you. We’ve had a lot of people assume that we would have seen the Northern Lights many times over this summer, what with being so far north most of the time.

While we were definitely north enough, our days (20 hours of light and more) were far too long to be able to have any chance to see the aurora borealis.

Frost in August

After the lights ended, we heard what sounded like wolves calling to one another a little distance away (as if they too were disappointed it was all over). I was reassured by JR that they were probably coyotes….until we found some very large paw prints not far from our campsite a few days later.

The aurora was also followed by a hard frost the next morning. On the last day of August. We made a pact to drive as fast as we could to the Okanagan as soon as the weekend was over. Until then, we planned to do a lot of fishing and explore around Tumbler Ridge.

Kinuseo Falls Tumbler Ridge
Kinuseo Falls Tumbler Ridge
Kinuseo Falls, Tumbler Ridge
Kinuseo Falls, Tumbler Ridge

Kinuseo Falls

As it turns out, Tumbler Ridge is known as the ‘Waterfall Capital of the North.’ We chose to visit one of the largest, Kinuseo Falls, reached by one of the roughest industrial roads we have ever driven (130km return….but we did see a family of black bears and a wolf!)

Kinuseo Falls really is spectacular; dramatic, thundering and breathtaking all at once. We followed the steep muddy path down to the bottom of the falls to experience it all from another angle.

Dinosaur tracks

To top that, we combined another waterfall visit with a walk with dinosaurs. No, really. Back in 2000, two young local boys discovered dinosaurs tracks while on a rafting trip down Flatbed Creek (the same one we were camping next to).

Since there, hundreds more tracks and bones have been discovered in this area. I was amazed we could just visit some of the completely unprotected 75 million-year-old tracks next to the river. Very cool.

Flatbed Creek Falls, Tumbler Ridge
Dinosaur Tracks Tumbler Ridge
Dinosaur tracks Tumbler Ridge Flatbed Creek

The Boulder Gardens

Last on the list was the Boulder Gardens. Some 30km south of Tumbler Ridge is a dry valley filled with rock boulders, towers and columns, all seemingly tumbling over one another.

It’s hard to really photograph this place well, with the trail leading past crevasses, over large rocks and right next to small caves. JR did a bit of scrambling around to try and get a better perspective, which also came with clearer views of the nearby coal mine. A strange juxtaposition.

Boulder Gardens Tumbler Ridge mine
Boulder Gardens Tumbler Ridge
Boulder Gardens, Tumbler Ridge
Tumbler Ridge Boulder Gardens
Boulder Gardens Tumbler Ridge

Heading towards the sun

Leaving Tumbler Ridge late on Labour Day, we set course for the Okanagan. As we regained phone signal, we discovered that the frost and low temperatures we had experienced in Tumbler Ridge were part of a wider cold snap which stretched all the way to Alberta.

Some parts of the Rockies (Jasper, Banff et al) were covered in snow. If we hadn’t been sure whether to put off the Bowron Lakes (100km canoe circuit) and the Rockies for another year, we definitely were now. Our new destination: Kelowna. Only 1000km to go!

We started the next part of our journey with a quick visit to the ‘Chainsaw Sculpture Capital of the World’ (really!) – Chetwynd. I met some nice grizzly bears, the only ones I will ever get this close to. Week 20 ended with us trying to escape from a very scary-looking storm in Prince George, before stopping at Quesnel Walmart for the night.

If everything had gone as planned, at this point we would have turned towards Barkerville and spent the next 10 days or so paddling in the wilderness. Next year!

Chetwynd in British Columbia
Chetwynd wooden sculptures
Prince George Railway storm, British Columbia

Week 20: Dawson Creek to Quesnel

1192 kilometres driven

0km paddle (sorry canoe)

10km hiked

Money spent –$70 (back on budget!)

week 20 camping 2

We spent five nights and six days camping at Flatbed Creek Recreation Site near Tumbler Ridge (left), followed by a rest stop near Chetwynd (right) and a night at Quesnel Walmart (no photo).

Read Next: Our Western Canada road trip: Alaska Highway

Visiting Tumbler Ridge BC on Our Western Canada Road Trip

Adventure in your inbox

Subscribe to our monthly email newsletter and receive a round-up of our latest outdoor adventures plus other exciting beyond the beaten path destinations 

We never share your information with third parties and will protect it in accordance with our Privacy Policy

Check out these recently published posts:


Saturday 21st of March 2015

Hi Gemma, my name is Ace and I'm on a very similar adventure. I am currently writing a new blog about it all. right now we are in Tumbler Ridge just like you and we had never heard of it before either. Anyway we were there in winter and unfortunately did not get see the small water fall or the dinosaur tracks thanks to the snow. Long story short I wondering if I could add two of your pics to my blog and of course put a link right to this page crediting you with the pics. Let me know if that ok??



Monday 23rd of March 2015

Hi Ace,

Thanks for commenting! Yes, sounds good! How you have credited the photos right now is absolutely fine, so thank you. I'm glad our summer adventures helped your winter ones! ;)


Wednesday 26th of November 2014

I've always wanted to see the northern lights, lucky you it looked amazing Love to you both xx


Wednesday 17th of December 2014

It was awesome! I'm hoping to see them a few more times this winter