Even though travel is a lot different right now, I suggest visiting at least one Canadian small town this summer. Here’s my favourite, Blue River, BC!
Blue River is inside the North Thompson Valley, about 2.5 hours from Kamloops and Jasper, Alberta. It’s easy to reach via the Yellowhead Highway (Highway 5), and 230 year-round residents call this remote town home. The main industries contributing to the economy are logging and tourism.
If your stomach is screaming for lunch when you arrive, head right to the Don Forsyth Beach House next to Eleanor Lake (see photo above), in the heart of the town. Here you can stuff your face with great food (burgers, wraps, fries, pop, ice-cream, and more!). This is an awesome opportunity to support the local economy, as it’s prepared by lovely volunteers of the Blue River Community Association. Typically, it’s open on weekends from 12 to 4 p.m. in July and August. Then, either chill at the beach for a bit (and chat with a friendly local), go for a swim, or for a walk on Eleanor Lake Trail, or one of the nearby cross-country ski trails.
Left: The entrance to one of Blue River’s trails. Right: Beach Burger, Veggie Burger, and onion rings from the Don Forsyth Beach House. So yummy!
If it’s your lucky day, you might meet one (or more!) black bear(s), that live in this area. They often hang out near the train tracks across the street, as one of their favourite things to do is getting high on grains falling off from trains passing through! Even though they look cute and friendly, please remember to social distance, same as with most humans right now, to not startle these majestic creatures. You don’t have to wear a mask though! You can find more infos on how to behave around bears here: http://bcparks.ca/explore/misc/bears/.
If you feel like adventure and tranquility, get back on the highway, turn onto Blueberry Road, and drive for 10 kilometers. Make sure that your car is suitable for this (mostly) graveling road, that takes you to the Mystery Lake Recreation Site. Not many people know about this gorgeous spot, which is great for water activities, like fishing, kayaking, canoeing or swimming. If you’d like to spend the night and have experience with wilderness camping, there’s a free campsite for two tents, two picnic tables, fire pit, and an outhouse toilet, all only a few feet away from the lake. Bring lots of bug spray though, otherwise, you’ll be eaten alive by mosquitoes and/or black flies!
If you rather want to spend the night in town, check out these places:
- The Blue River Campground & RV Park. This is quite a budget-friendly option, depending on the type of accommodation you prefer. It offers tent or RV campsites (partial or full service), tipis, or cabins. Also, you can rent outdoor equipment, like canoes, stand-up paddle boards, and different kinds of bikes, to explore everything Blue River and its surroundings have to offer.
- The Glacier Mountain Lodge. This lovely hotel is right next to the Petro Can gas station, and is ideal if you’re looking for more comfort, but don’t want to spend a fortune. They offer 35 standard rooms, with one or two Queen beds. Normally, the room rate includes a free breakfast, but because of COVID-19, I’d make sure that it’s offered at this time.
- The Sandman Inn. Like the other places, this hotel is right next to the Yellowhead Highway, and provides one or two Queen bed rooms. Also, Tony’s Grill, a Greek restaurant and local favourite, is right next door. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the portions are quite large.
Unfortunately, the Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing Resort, which offers a variety of cozy cabins, is closed this summer, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This also includes:
- The Blue River Motel and The Saddle Mountain Lodge.
- The Saddle Mountain Restaurant.
Since there’s only one supermarket with a limited supply of groceries in Blue River, I recommend buying everything you need in one of the bigger towns on the way (e.g. Clearwater or Valemount).
I hope this post has inspired you to visit Blue River sometime! In my opinion, it’s a welcoming and tranquil place to relax and recharge from city life.
Until next time, safe travels! 🙂