by Andrea Vance
Since the opening of the Coquihalla Highway in the 1980s, many of the tourist areas in Southwestern BC were left in the dust, in favour of the more easily accessible destinations.
Last summer, we decided to ditch the #5 and head along the roads now less travelled to see what we could find. What we discovered was an incomparable historical treasure and breathtaking scenery.
We did some research, looking for a destination where we could stay in our RV trailer and enjoy the outdoors, and still have the experience of a true guest ranch. We stumbled on Kayanara Ranch and knew we had found just the spot.
It’s a fairly long drive at five and a half hours from Vancouver, but the landscape and history you pass along the way make the drive completely worthwhile. Historical Yale, Lytton, Spences Bridge, and Cache Creek are just some of the hidden gems to discover. Anyone who grew up in Southwestern BC will remember these places as summer stops, driving and exploring on your way up to Kamloops, Banff, or beyond.
Driving this route means taking Highway 1 as it meanders along the Fraser Canyon, and the scenery is absolutely spectacular. We were smitten with the historical ranch houses and old churches perched on hills overlooking valleys and the mighty Fraser. The highway is not always for the faint of heart, as the roads are narrow and winding in many spots – but that’s part of the appeal.
As we drove through 100 Mile House, we turned off to head towards Canim Lake and the Kayanara Guest Ranch. It was a little further than we had anticipated along the dark road, and we were happy the moon was bright to light our way. Already, we could tell we would love this part of BC, known as the Cariboo Chilcotin region.
We pulled through the Kayanara gates at about 8pm – easy to find, even in the dark. We found our RV site with no problem, and right away, owners Daniel and Cornelia were there to greet us. They moved to BC from Switzerland after buying the ranch that is 220 acres of forest, river and pasture. We chose a spot that is easy to pull into and were greeted by two beautiful horses in the pasture next to us. The kids were in heaven.
The next day we explored – and there is so much (and so little) to do. There is no cell service there, and the wifi is spotty, which forced us to unplug and relax.
During our three nights at Kayanara, we found beautiful adventures. We rode mountain bikes around the trails and up the road to a viewpoint of Canim Lake. We took the kids on a guided horse ride through the forest trails.
The kids played on the playground and made up games. They watched the horses and cows for hours every day. We even spotted a couple of red foxes that live in the cow pasture! We climbed hay bales, and played horseshoes. We fed chickens, and watched the horse’s shoes get changed. There was no planned entertainment, yet there was no shortage of things to do. It was calm and exhilarating at the same time.
A highlight was the day we decided to take a canoe trip down Eagle Creek. Daniel drove us in the “PapaMobile” (named by his granddaughters) and side-by-side ATV with the canoe towing behind. We made our way along the bumpy main trail through the forest to a spot along the back of the property where we could put the canoe in the creek.
It was just us – two kids and two adults, paddling and relaxing for more than an hour of a winding, peaceful river. Where the winding river passes the main resort, you can stop and end your paddling cruise, or you can continue on to Canim Lake and paddle a few kilometres up the shoreline to a resort where Daniel will meet you with the truck to take you back to the ranch. In warmer, nicer weather, we would have really enjoyed this extra portion. On this day the last hour was a challenge for all but we persevered the choppy waters and ended the day on a high note.
Kayanara is set up for guests to bring their own food for preparation in the cabins or RVs – with one exception. Daniel and Cornelia prepare a gorgeous breakfast buffet with eggs, bacon, cereals and fruit that is worth visiting at least one morning.
Whether you bring your own RV, rent one of the beautiful cabins, or stay in one of the suites, this place will expose its magic to you one layer at a time. The Cariboo-Chilcotin area is filled with history and amazing landscapes, and Kayanara fits in perfectly. From the rolling hills to the 19th century Hudson Bay Company cabin, to the horse roaming the grounds, to the foxes in the fields, the ranch is full of surprises and beauty.